- Posted September 5, 2013 by
Salt Lake City, Utah
This iReport is part of an assignment:
From hobby to job
Writing for my life
In December of 2012, I was working part time in a dead-end job, bored out of my mind. While actively seeking new employment, I was hitting a brick wall. I had applied to, and been subsequently rejected by, over 100 jobs in the past month. I was applying for jobs that weren’t what I really wanted to do, but promised steady paychecks. I was in my second year of a doctoral program and worried about my mounting student debt.
Meanwhile, when I wasn’t slaving away on my dissertation, I found myself writing for fun. I had always been a good writer. My friends told me how much they loved my blogs, but I left it at that. I had always dreamed of writing as a career, but there was no way that I could make it in the ultra-competitive world of blogging. I had been trying to write a book, but became discouraged as my inbox became cluttered with rejection emails. Plus, I was a nobody from North Carolina. Who cared what I had to say?
In early December, a friend had asked me to help him edit a paper, which I gladly did.
“You’re pretty good at this,” he said. “You should put an ad on Craigslist.”
So on December 12, I put an ad up:
Need help editing a paper, document or resume? Call me! I’m available for technical writing, content writing, and editing. Proficient in APA and MLA.
An hour later, my phone rang. An engineer needed help editing a document. He was from India and English wasn’t his first language. I edited his paper and made $160. The next day a woman called needing help writing content for her website. I made $70. By the end of the week, I had made enough money to go Christmas shopping without having to put anything on a credit card.
I didn’t think much of it, but I left the ad up. Pretty soon, people were calling me and referring me to their friends. Meanwhile, I was getting even more discouraged in the job search. A promising opportunity fell through and I sank into a mild depression. Our job had to downsize and my hours were cut. I made up for it by putting a few more ads on the Internet and signing up for an oDesk account, a web site that matches freelance writers with clients.
While I bemoaned my inability to find a traditional 9-5 job and cursed the economy, I didn’t realize what was happening right in front of me. In April, I looked at my bank statement and realized something: I had made more money writing than I had at my “regular” job.
I kept hustling and getting referrals. In May, I got offered a great technical writing position. Although it was only 25 hours a week, I was writing. Plus, I had the freedom to pick other jobs. In July, I moved to Salt Lake City. Whereas most people stress about finding a job when relocating, I didn’t have that worry anymore. I had become my own boss and I was doing what I loved: writing.
I wrote everything: technical manuals, training manuals, web content, marketing materials, blogs, etc. I practiced writing with the dedication of an Olympic athlete. The more I wrote, the stronger I became. I tirelessly edited paper after paper, sometimes getting blinding headaches from the hours I spent in front of the computer. It was worth it, though, the opportunity to do what I loved while my peers slaved away in cubicles and worried about the next round of layoffs.
I didn’t just stop writing when I clocked out for the day. I wrote, edited, and re-wrote the first chapters of my dissertation. Academics aside, I found myself writing for me: I blogged and journaled about whatever I felt. On August 1, I wrote a piece for a CNN iReport that ended up on the living page, and then a few hours later, the front page. To be on the front page of a major news outlet was truly a dream come true. That piece opened up even more doors for me as now I had credibility associated with my name and an example of my writing out there for the world to see.
As I sit here typing this less than nine months after I put up my initial Craigslist post, I reflect on the opportunities that I’ve been given. I had to get rejected from all of the other jobs because none of them were right for me. In my opinion, the only job that’s right for anyone is the job that ignites passion.
My career door has been opened in ways it never has before. Getting published on CNN made me realize that maybe people actually do care what some random girl from North Carolina has to say. It’s my intention to revisit writing my book and work tirelessly until I get it published. What’s the book about? It’s still a work in progress, and like my life, the rest is still unwritten…
- My life