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03/30/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Kevin Hogan

Today's Tuesdays with Friends guest is, Kevin Hogan, a single dad working to make it as a freelance writer. Today he shares with us the difficulties of breaking into the freelance writing market. Thanks for being our guest today at KdBlog, Kevin.

BREAKING INTO THE FREELANCE WRITING MARKET

There is a blank screen staring at me when I wake each morning.  It is usually around 4 a.m., a few hours before my daughters wake and are looking for juice and cereal or wondering where the red shirt I was supposed to wash is.  A year ago I was laid off from my job as a manager of a hardware store and my wife, their mother, had left us. I was a little lost as to what direction to take and how to go about supporting, financially and mentally, my daughters. I turned to the one thing that I had always loved and wanted to do, writing.

Ten years ago I graduated with an English degree from the University of Maryland.  The only problem I had was that the concentration was in poetry, possibly the only thing less marketable then a degree in philosophy. I had watched the internet become a boom for writers with the advent of blogging and online publishing, so a few months ago I figured that I'd give it a try. It's been hard trying to break into this new frontier and I've had more disappointments then triumphs.  The one thing I have found, the most important thing, is that you have to keep your eyes open and never stop writing if you want to have a chance at making it as a freelance writer

Subjects to write about are everywhere and I find that if I spend 2 hours a day, put down a thousand words, I am then at least remaining aware, even though I may not be making money. You hope as you send articles out and troll freelance job boards that you can make a couple dollars here and a few more over there, but most weeks nothing much comes in.  It becomes a labor of love and you just have to be willing to keep several plates in the air.  I am working on two young adult books, a memoir, and several poems while writing for my two blogs and keeping an eye out for an opportunity like Kadi has given me to guest blog.

All writers hope for the big break, to write a novel or movie script that propels you to the upper echelon of writers and frees you from the fiduciary responsibilities we have to our families and selves. This probably isn’t going to happen and the best I can hope for is to make what I would working a 9 to 5 somewhere.  Being a single father I have to hustle to make ends meet, but I am at least afforded the opportunity to be there for my girls (besides saving me the cost of before and after school care) by being a stay at home dad and writer.

I have joined several listserves to keep my eyes open for opportunities and to find from others what they are doing to farther their careers as freelancers. Some focus on mechanics, some on publishing, some are just like minded people who act almost as cheerleaders when you feel like you might not make it. These are great jumping off points but are in the end just that and it takes tenacity to keep your fingers tapping the keyboard and sending things out.

This is where job boards for freelance jobs come in.  They can point you toward opportunities but it is highly competitive and takes some marketing of yourself.  I have several articles about different subjects that are solely used to send out as examples of my writing. It also helps to have a presence on twitter and facebook, places where you can network without much forethought. There are also sites like Suite 101 and Factoidz which, if an article is accepted, will pay you a percentage of the adsense revenue.  No way is this enough to live on, but if you can bring in a couple hundred extra a year it helps.  The best thing about sites like these is coming in contact, networking, with other writers and editors.

Ultimately for me it has come down to weighing how much I am willing to sacrifice for the satisfaction of being self employed.  I work tending bar when the girls are visiting with their mother and will paint houses and do other handyman jobs to keep the electric on, but I still put in my time filling the blank pages each day and hope that if I can get a few books published the royalties will ease our burden a little.  If it doesn’t happen and I can keep getting my work out piece by piece, and my girls are healthy and happy, I guess I still feel that I have succeeded as a freelancer.

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