What Have I Done? (Three Months into the Great Freelance Experiment)

Three months—give or take a day or two here. A quarter of a year (I think that’s right. Math’s never been my strong suit, since around the time they introduced long division in the second grade…) Regardless, it’s now been about three months since I left the security (Ah, salary! Ah, 401k! Ah, health benefits!) of a full-time job as an editor, and set off on the freelance path.

It’s a decision that was not made lightly. Believe that. I’ve been working in publishing since 2006—going from textbook to academic to trade publishing. Each step along the way, I learned a great deal and built up a network of contacts on both sides of the process (the in-house folks I worked with day-to-day and the authors, artists, scholars, experts, etc., etc. whose work I played some small part in bringing to their audiences).

That’s not even scratching the surface of having to live in New York and the Bay Area for those publishing jobs (thus necessitating holding onto said jobs and their benefits). But my thoughts on the problem with publishing jobs being largely limited to the most expensive housing markets in the US is probably best saved for another day…

Particularly with the last full-time role as editor I had, where I got to acquire and develop comics-making instructional titles and (eventually) graphic novels (both of the non-fiction and fiction varieties), I was damn proud of the work I did as an editor. I mean, I got to help bring a graphic novel history of professional wrestling to life (check out Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno, et al.’s The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling to see what I’m talking about). There was plenty to feel good about, plenty to look back on and say “Hey, that’s not half bad.”

But then, when the opportunity came along—to leave California, to leave my full-time job, to move to the Twin Cities, and to take the plunge into the freelance waters—it was too damn good to pass up.

Thanks to an extremely generous and successful (and gorgeous and smart and wonderful and many, many more superlatives) partner, I’ve been afforded this chance to, well, take a chance.

And the results so far?

Well, it’s like old broken Magic 8 ball used to say, “Ask Again La[weird water bubble that disrupts the text]”

I didn’t exactly leave my full-time position burning bridges along the way. So I’ve been able to retain a select number of editorial projects (primarily graphic novels) for which I’m serving as a development editor/project manager. It’s interesting to be on the other side of things with this work. Having to be dependent on pages being delivered and similar goalposts rather than simply getting a regular paycheck every 2 weeks, certainly does change things in terms of financial planning and goal-setting. (Definitely cuts back on spontaneous purchases).

But the upside has been the ability to sample the wares (i.e. the available freelance gigs) at other publishers. Thanks to connections made at cons and festivals and through online connections, I have been able to find a small number of freelance editing/project management (and one transcribing gig) jobs with other publishers. It’s been eye-opening to see how these other publishers work.

These editing gigs—they’re kind of the meat and potatoes stuff. And, look, I like meat and potatoes. Can’t eat ‘em forever, but they fill you up, right?

But the dessert—with the cherry on the top—of this big change has been the ability to get some writing done. Right now, I’d say I’m dedicating about 10 hours a week to pursuing my own writing projects—including pitching, networking, writing, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. And that’s during the week day hours kind of work now.

Honestly, that’s the part that’s made the biggest impact for me. I’m not squeezing in writing time when the kids go to bed (well, I mean, I AM—but I’ve scheduled for it in this particular scenario) or on the weekends. I am able to enjoy time with my family without this overwhelming cloud of “Should I be writing? Why am I not writing?” sort of guilt hanging over the proceedings. Having that balance of editorial work and writing work, of assignments and personal, has really made a huge difference.

And that’s not even getting into the fact I live near a lake now and can just pop out in the middle of the day to walk around and see ducks and robins and cranes and this one big ol’ turtle one time on my walks around it.

So that’s the view from 3 months in, folks. What do I want next?

More editing/project management gigs would be great. If you know of any publishers or individual creators/creative teams looking for help in that department (particularly for comics/graphic novels or illustrated/giftbook projects), please don’t hesitate to send them my way. I’ve got an updated resume and everything.

Writing work would be even better. Comics, prose, whatever. I’ve got a lot of short fiction pieces out on submission, along with some comic pitches. I don’t know what others can do to help with those outside of clapping their hands and believing in fairies and hoping my writing’s at least as good as I think it is. But I’m also available for work-for-hire and writing assignments, so again…if you know someone AND you like what you’ve read of my work (some of which is available on this site or can be read via links from this site), then don’t hesitate to share. (But if you don’t like my work, SHHHHHHHH.)

I want to continue to grow and to sustain. To build on what I’ve already done and forge new paths ahead.

I also want to blog more. So hopefully the ones coming after this monster will be a tad more breezy and manageable.

Until next time…