Why being fired as a freelancer is way better than being fired from a “real” job

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The last time I wrote here on my little blog + portfolio site, I talked excitedly about my 2018 writing goals.

I had set big ones for myself in 2017 and accomplished half of them early, so I revised my goals for 2017 and accomplish most of those too. It felt great. In fact, I felt REALLY GOOD going into 2018. The biggest thing is that I got married at the end of 2017 to the man who has proven, time and again, to be my #1 fan. The second thing is that, after a year of posting about my #yearofwriting, I tallied up the numbers and discovered that I wrote 277,889 words and made $62,381 during 2017.

Again, that all felt GREAT. I was psyched and ready to tackle my 2018 goals. Primarily, those were to: write regularly for Latinx publications, save all of my freelance income for 2018, get an agent and sell my memoir.

Well… Today is it only a month and a half after I set those goals and I have to change them ASAP. Here’s why:

After what I thought was a great start to the year, my main gig (Freelance Editor at Brit+Co) got eliminated due to budgeting issues at the end of January. Beyond that, another freelance relationship (contributor at MamásLatinas) ended too. You could say that I found myself, all of a sudden, up shit’s creek without a paddle. What was I going to do without TWO of my regular three sources of income gone?

Well… It turns out that having two jobs fall through all at once, when you’re a freelancer, isn’t quite the same as it happening when you’re a full-time employee. Want to know why? Because, as a freelancer, you typically have several sources of income. And although that sounds a bit stressful and the reason for it is that you are unsure of payments happening on time, assignments coming through, etc, the truth is also that you diversify because you want to and you have to. But the thing with diversifying your income is that, even when losing something (and even when losing the gig that is 70% of your income), you aren’t FULLY shit out of luck.

The thing about being freelance is that I won’t be going on unemployment because of this loss, since I’m not an employee anyway. Although that may seem as a big loss to some, I’m actually excited because I still have a few places I can depend on to earn me the money I need to survive.

Does that sound like a silver lining? I sure think so.

I don’t have to spend the next few months applying every for any job I see. All I have to do is rework my schedule a bit, possibly write more for one of my favorite gigs (Contributor at Hip Latina), find a couple other steady writing jobs (which isn’t easy, I admit), and otherwise start pitching like mad.

Although the “pitching like mad” might be a little bit scary, and it is, the truth is that it’s something I can actively do every single day to set myself up for success.

When you’re a full-time employee and you lose a job, you have fewer options.

I should know, since that’s basically what happened to me when I lost my dream job back in April 2015. Hey, I’m not proud of that (a lot of it had to do with my alcoholism at the time, which I am thankfully now in recovery for) but it put me on the path to getting help AND to becoming a full-time freelancer. Now, almost three years since that dark time and two years since I moved out of NYC and became a full-time writer and editor, things are different for me.

Not only am I happily married, successful at not drinking, and pretty gosh darn thrilled with my life, I’m also successful in what I do. I earned a bit more in 2017 (my first year of fully freelancing) than I had as a staff editor. And although I sometimes miss going into an office due to my extroverted tendencies, I also recognize that working from home has been absolutely phenomenal for my mental health. And maybe even for my wallet?

Look, here’s the thing: I don’t want to paint all of this as if it is sunshine and roses.

Losing my main source of income, along with another smaller one, is likely going to mean taking a hit on my finances this year. In fact, the writing goals I had so carefully constructed for 2018 are going to have to change a bit.

I’m a bit stressed about making money, too, and accomplishing the big goal of paying off my credit cards in the beginning half of this year. But I also know that I can do it because I know that I did so much last year. I will find new places to write for, I will do more with my time, I will get up at 6 in the morning (something which I usually HATE) in order to blog because I think it’ll keep me sane and give me a little bit of added joy every day.

So, as I finish up my first 6am post and hope to do plenty more in the future, here’s what I learned about being let go of a job as a freelancer versus being let go of a job when you’re on staff: It is a hell of a lot easier to bounce back when you have more than one income stream than when your entire livelihood depends on one company being successful and not having to go through layoffs.

The media landscape isn’t pretty right now. Time Inc was bought by Meredith (both places where I used to work early in my career) and Rodale was bought by Hearst (I’ve written for Rodale and interned at Hearst). Facebook’s most recent algorithm changes are going to make it difficult for publishers to get their content out on that platform and companies might suffer drops in audience size (which is never good for business).

But as for me? I’m doing okay, despite losing two jobs in the past month. I’m still writing for my favorite Latinx website, actively looking for other writing/editing gigs, and have two VERY exciting writing assignments. All in all, things could be looking worse… but because I’m a freelance writer and editor, I have plenty of flexibility as to what I do next. And that, let me tell you, has been invaluable encouragement for both my mental health AND my wallet.

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January 2018 Writing Life: My new year has kind of hit a snag [#yearofwriting]

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It’s the start of the year and it felt like a really exciting time when I wrote down all of my writing goals for 2018 recently. One of the things I didn’t consider at the time, though, is that I’d still like to continue doing these #yearofwriting posts because they have been a really good for me. I really enjoy keeping myself accountable with all of my work and still putting all of my clips on here. It’s very encouraging, and I hope to keep encouraging myself. So without further ado…

What was published: 

HipLatina, specifically: 

Look at all of that! Definitely a great way to start the year, I think. However, there IS a big change from the way I tracked #yearofwriting last year to the way I want to track it this year… Last year, I tracked the number of pitches (and assignments) that I received and I also tracked my word count. It turned out that I was able to write 277,889 words and sent out 92 pitches (with 16 acceptances). Although it was great to track all of that, it also took a LOT of work and that’s just not my focus this year.

Instead, I am focusing more on growing my business as a freelance writer and editor, and I want to primarily track my income. This month was really good for me because I spent 70% of my time (and had my earnings come from) my Freelance Editor gig at Brit+Co (more on that later) and the rest came from my steady freelance writing gigs (HipLatina and MamásLatinas), which is great.

How much I made: $5650

So all of that is great… EXCEPT that this is my last month as a Freelance Editor at Brit+Co. Unfortunately, I heard about a week ago that my position was being eliminated due to some budgeting issues. That’s a huge bummer and, honestly, I am kind of freaking out… But I am also still kind of processing and will likely have more to say about this in a bit. In the meantime, I’m still writing and… Trying to look forward to starting February on a less-than-stellar-but-hopefully-still-nice note.

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My writing goals for 2018 and the
future of #yearofwriting

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Well, it’s a new year so HAPPY NEW YEAR and all of that!

I’m starting off 2018 in a pretty exciting way, to be honest, by spending most of the beginning of the year by celebrating my new marriage to the love of my life and the most supportive partner I could ask for. After getting married a few days ago, Adam and I are off on a honeymoon cruise to Cuba tomorrow… But, in the meantime, I am taking some time today to think about how 2017 went and my plans for 2018.

All in all, 2017 went really well. Although 2016 was a rocky year for most of the nation but a very happy year for me, 2017 is my first full year of being a full-time freelance writer and editor and I had some hefty writing goals for myself. Towards the end of the year, after I accomplished most of them, I revised my writing goals and set about accomplishing them.

As you can see by my final #yearofwriting report for December, I did! I even did the math on how much I wrote (277,899 words), how much I made ($62,381) and how much I pitched (92 sent out and 16 accepted for a 17% acceptance rate). So, all in all, my #yearofwriting went well… But now what?

Well, I thought long and hard about this during the last month of 2017, but I’ve come up with some new writing goals for 2018. Here they are:

1. Write regularly for Latinx publications: At the end of 2017, I had started to write a lot for HipLatina and really enjoying everything that I was doing there (from the newsy posts every day to the personal essays to the well-researched pieces). I also am continuing my work with MamásLatinas and seeking out new opportunities to write in this space. Although I will continue to freelance for other publications, too, this is going to be my major focus for my writing in 2018.

2. Save all freelance income for L.A.: One of the BIG things that my (new) husband Adam and I want to do in the long run is move to Los Angeles. We’re not yet sure when that will happen but another goal for me this year is to FIRST pay off all of our current credit card bills (with my freelance income) and then put all of that same money towards saving money for the move. Even though I’m not sure when I will officially be a West Coaster, I’m excited to start taking real steps to making it happen someday.

3. Get an agent and sell my memoir: Last year, my goal was to finish writing my book proposal. And I did it! I still have to do some editing on the thing, and get a professional editor to take a look too, but after that… I am going to be going out to agents hard. Basically, this means that I think Moscow Chica: How Growing Up In Russia And Cuba Made Me An American is soon going to be ready to see the light of day—and so I am making this a huge focus too. Get ready for 2018, cause my memoir is coming!

To be honest, I actually decided on most of these goals a few weeks ago. As the year was ending and I was reflecting on everything that is going on, I knew just what I wanted to make happen in 2018. As Adam and I talked about our marriage and what we wanted our mutual goals to be, I knew that I wanted some of that reflected in my writing goals for 2018 too (such as the L.A. savings). And, most importantly, I wanted my goals to reflect a certain kind of focus that they didn’t have the previous year.

Having just three writing goals for 2018, I think, will make some things a lot easier for me. I know that if I begin to go off of any of these goals, it will be easy to spot. I know that if I start to look at other forms of income that, say, aren’t Latinx publications, I need to make sure that they’re not taking attention away from my main focus. And I know that I need to put some serious time into doing whatever needs to be done for my baby, my memoir Moscow Chica, and to make sure that I keep my promise to myself about getting the thing edited and in tip-top shape to send to agents.

As for the #yearofwriting… Well, I want to continue documenting my progress in my freelance career, so you can expect to see more of that here. Although they won’t be quite as extensive as they were in 2017, I will still be tracking what I wrote every month and how I am doing on my writing goals. There’s a lot more to say here but for now, let me end it with: 2018, here I come!

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December Writer’s Life: How much I made & wrote in 2017 during the #yearofwriting

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Well, here we are. It’s the end of my #yearofwriting and I have some hefty writing goals to live up to. I’ll get into more of that later in this post, but first I just wanted to talk about December. What happened in December?

Well, for one, it was a VERY busy month for me personally. Not only did I have plenty of socializing and family things to do (what with the holidays and all) but I also got married at the end of the month. Yes, that’s right, I did a big thing and ended my year as a married lady. But enough about that because, really, you’re here to read about my writing, right?

So here’s the deal: December was pretty much a wash for me, work-wise. I didn’t really pitch (except follow-up with a couple of editors) but I did write a ton of stories that were previously assigned. The one new story that I wrote was actually for Glamour, which is one of my absolute favorite magazines. THAT was a huge win. I also started a new blog on Medium called Married Feminist and wrote my first post the day before my wedding. Hooray! Otherwise, here’s what I wrote this month.

What was published: 

HipLatina, specifically: 

The month definitely went very well for me, honestly. Although I didn’t have a huge variety in where my pieces were published, the pieces that I did write and see published were very, very exciting. Other than loving my Glamour piece, I am also particularly proud of my story on 2018 health trends, writing about Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Rosa coming out as bisexual, what it’s like to date an introvert when you’re an extrovert, and why it’s really not cool when people try to label me a “half-Latina”. Plus, I finally go to write about my Copenhagen trip!

All in all, I am increasingly proud of the work that I am doing for my regular publications, primarily HipLatina and MamásLatinas, and plan to continue to do more for and with them in 2018. And, above all, as I was hoping for last month, I hit my financial goals once more AND also a pretty sweet word count.

How much I wrote: 27,828 words

How much I made: $2000

I’m really curious to see what my “how much I wrote” and “how much I made” totals are for Q4 and for the year but, all in all, November and December went really, really well for me. It’s been really fun keeping track of these numbers to see how successful I have been.

If I were honest with myself (and with you), then I would say that this hasn’t been easy. Keeping track of everything I wrote and how much money I made was kind of exhausting, but really fun too. I was nervous a lot of the time and didn’t have solid financial goals for each month until the end, but it still feels like a HUGE accomplishment to have tracked the entirety of my 2017 to see how everything went down. And YAY for making my financial goals in December!

Pitches sent out in December: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 2
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 1
Pitch acceptances: 1

Okay so pitch-wise, I didn’t do much in the month of December. What can I say? It was a busy month and… also, I didn’t really plan on pitching. I was busy just keeping up and doing everything that I needed to do for work while simultaneously putting the finishing touches on wedding planning and doing holiday stuff and I don’t even know what else.

I think it’s absolutely okay, though, that pitches were just not on my priority list this month. The good thing I did is that I followed up on some of my pitches and got an acceptance from Glamour for doing that. Woo!

And now, for the big math…

Quarter 4 totals: 

How much I wrote: 78,045 words
How much I made: $5,325
Pitches sent out: 10
Pitch acceptances: 1

I have to say: Quarter 4 went really well! Not a whole lot of pitches or acceptances (as predicted) but my word count was high and the money I made was pretty sweet. I think the biggest thing I learned is that I *can* do it. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, a lot of days of being stressed and overwhelmed and needing to practice self-care, a lot of naps and sleeping in because I need the mental break, and a lot of freaking out to my wonderful (new) husband Adam (who is thankfully always there to listen to my rants, no matter how often or how lengthy they get).

But ultimately, it was a big year of learning and I am glad for every step that I took to get here. My original writing goals for 2017 were difficult, but I accomplished almost all of them. And the ones I didn’t accomplish was mostly due to me changing my mind or deciding to take my career in another direction, and that’s okay too. So how did I do over the year, overall? Well, let me take a DEEP BREATH and tell you:

Year-end totals: 

How much I wrote: 277,889 words
How much I made (freelance writing): $19,451
How much I made (freelance editing): $42,930
How much I made (total freelance): $62,381
Pitches sent out:
 92
Pitch acceptances: 16

WHOA.

Just… whoa. Looking back on the year, I honestly cannot believe that I wrote almost 300k words. Do you know how much that is? That’s, like, three to four books. I basically could have written three or four full-length books in the year, and it’s absolutely insane to think of it that way.

As a journalist, I have honestly never thought about tracking my words in this way. I know that I have written a lot in years past, especially in my time as a staff writer for MamásLatinas, but this felt ASTOUNDING to me. I mean, truly astounding in that I could have never imagined that I would write this much in a single year. Doing this—truly doing it—during my first full year as a full-time freelance writer and editor, I’m so very proud for how much I was able to accomplish.

Beyond the word count, though, is looking at my finances.

My goals for this year was to save for my taxes (which I did!) and to publish in 17 different publications (which I also did!). I also wanted to launch a newsletter (which I didn’t) and finish my memoir book proposal (which I did, though I am still editing it). When I revised my writing goals for 2017, I added earning $2k a month in freelance income and also publishing five travel articles before the year’s end. Here are those articles:

All in all, I think I did pretty well. My income this year is pretty much in line with what I was making in my last year as a full-time staff editor, which was a big (secret) goal for me this year too, so I’m very glad for that. And, beyond that, I also had a 17% pitch acceptance rate—and that’s pretty awesome, too.

There’s a lot more I will be reflecting on in the coming weeks and likely months and even years, but all in all I would say that my #yearofwriting was a HUGE success. When I started this, I really wanted to know exactly how much I was writing and how much money I was making. It was all in an effort to improve my writing and grow my career, and boy did I!

For now, I will close out 2017 and say this: If I can do it… Start cold pitching for the first time in my life, give up a good career in NYC to freelance, work on a memoir while also working, get part-time and regular writing gigs, and earn a real living… All while having a personal life and taking plenty of time for self-care, not working evenings or weekends, enjoying my life AND my work… Then you can too, baby.

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November Writer’s Life: Finally hit my financial goals! [#yearofwriting]

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Last month, I wrote about a serious lack of motivation after a very crazy and busy September (due to Hurricane Irma and a 2-week vacation). I had recently updated my writing goals for 2017 and was hoping that November would go much better… And guess what, it did!

One of my BIG goals for the end of the year was to finish my memoir book proposal, which I did with one month to spare! That’s right, the Moscow Chica: How Growing Up in Russia and Cuba Made Me an American book proposal has been written and is now safely in the hands of some trusted editor friends. It feels absolutely incredible to have gotten this far with the book, even though I know there is still a ways to go. Right now, my big goal is to get the proposal back from friends and edit it again, before I can get it ready to actually seek agents and a publisher. So stay tuned!

What was published: 

HipLatina, specifically: 

The other big goal I had for the end of 2017 was to make $2,000 in freelance income a month. Although I didn’t quite get there in October (which I figured I wouldn’t due to the previously mentioned motivation issues), I was pleasantly surprised that I just made it in November. I honestly had no idea I was so close! So to see me back to my earning potential felt GREAT.

How much I wrote: 32,603 words

How much I made: $2025

In terms of my writing, I not only made my financial goals but I also wrote quite a bit. Most of that was for work, of course, but I also spent time working on the memoir. In fact, for my memoir, I wrote 10,341 words. That’s basically 1/3 of my writing productivity for the month of November and that feels SO good. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels to get this far on something I have been dreaming about for over six years.

Pitches sent out in November: 6
Pitch rejections: 2
Pitch non-replies: 4
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 3
Pitch rejections: 3

When it came time for pitches for November, I didn’t get very far. But then again, I didn’t really intend to. I basically took a “meh, if I have something really good” approach. Since I was confident that I would fulfill my financial goals just on my current regular work at HipLatina and  MamásLatinas , I only pitched when I *really* wanted to. It’s a strategy that served me well, in term of the time I spent, but I didn’t actually get any acceptances (yet) so I may changed my thinking for the last month of the year.

All in all, I think this has been a great month. I am truly excited to see what the last month of the year will bring. Having my writing goals for the year, along with writing these blog posts, has really taken my career to the next level. That’s not the only thing that’s done it, of course, but I  feel like I am slowly figuring out more and more about my work style, preferences, talents, etc. There’s a long road to go (I hope!) but, well… so far, so good!

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