Working For Free Can Be Worth It In The Long Run

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In the past I swore that I would never work for free. Giving my time away was anathema. I have to pay rent and time is money. However, it seems this stern declaration is now void as I have become a web intern with Dandyhorse magazine. Much more than just doing circulation when I go to Montreal, I’ll also be devoting eight hours a week to copy editing blog posts and contributing my own content gratis. I’ve even updated my LinkedIn profile with this new position.

Although it isn’t paying me any money, there is a distinct advantage here. It adds something real to my resume. As it is now, my only experience as a professional writer is my self self-employed position running my own company of sorts, Riddell Creative. This internship allows me to gain some real industry experience and also offers a venue for me to make some contacts in the publishing world. Yes, real people who work, live, and breathe in the publishing industry could be added to my rolodex. It’s pretty exciting, and with any luck I can leverage this experience into landing a proper staff position somewhere out there, be it in Montreal, Toronto, New York, or god-knows-where.

You see, I’ve been finding it hard lately to focus on this freelancing stuff. Maybe its just the impending move to Montreal weighing down on me with extreme force, but one of the biggest challenges for a freelancer is staying disciplined and motivated. A couple weeks ago my workload slowed down as it always does in the summer, and I was sending out pitches like a maniac. I landed a few contacts, but many of the seeds I have sown have yet to burst through the top soil of the pitch farm and blossom into the fragrant flowers that yield the nectar of paying assignments. It takes patience, sure, but in the vacancies between bursts of work I become aloof, wanting more and becoming weary of the four walls I confine myself to everyday.

The other big challenge of freelancing is that you spend a lot of time at home by yourself. This aloneness isn’t that huge of a problem for me, it’s more so that being confined to one place for so many hours a day is driving me stir crazy to the point of bursting. Often I smoke a joint or have a drink to calm down, take it easy for a bit, but this is only a temporary fix. It’s the situation that stirs me, and I need something more in my life.

That something more is a staff position of some type, and with a little perseverance and luck the internship can lead me there. I can’t imagine myself freelancing for the rest of my life, but I definitely see myself writing for the rest of my life. Fiction is what I crave, but I’m finding it almost impossible to make the time to write it when I have to spend all day doing journalism, blog posts, press releases, and pitches. It’s exhausting and translates to spending entirely too much time on the computer every day. A thing like that will turn a man into a fat slob with ergonomic injuries. Me no gusta.

Not that it isn’t possible to make a living as a freelance writer, but as I have illustrated before, to make it in journalism you need industry contacts. You can make a living blogging too. There are many people who make over $5k a month blogging. The problem with being a pro blogger, however, is that when you’re only getting $50 a post you have to do 3+ posts a day to make a decent living. That is some serious volume. For me, that would be a quick route to burnout city. Another thing is that a lot of the time blogging isn’t really writing. Mostly you’re just regurgitating information that is already found somewhere on the web. It’s just researching and recycling what you learned. The process is easy, but it’s downright mechanical and there is no creativity in it. Overall, I find blogging in this fashion unfulfilling. It leaves me wanting, and I know I can do more. I know I am capable of more than just relaying facts and information.

So I think the time will eventually come when I leave this freelancing business behind and go back to work a normal job at a magazine, newspaper, agency, or website of some description where I’ll be working on real journalism or copy writing. This freelancing can be a really tough grind. Going to the office everyday is starting to look like it would be a relief!


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