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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An update to my Writing Goals for 2017 [#yearofwriting]

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When 2017 started, I deemed this my #yearofwriting and gave myself some serious writing career goals for the year. I created a basic business plan, hired a writing coach to take my career to the next level (which she did), organized my published clips and planned to do five *major* things this year.

My BIG goal for 2017 was to be published in 17 publications, and I am THRILLED to say that I accomplished this goal! It was actually done by August, thankfully. Here is what I wrote per publication:

Other than my goal of being published in 17 different publications in 2017, I also planned to save for taxes, launch a newsletter, write #52essays2017 and finish a book proposal.

But as the year wore on and I was accomplishing my #1 goal, my priorities start to change and shift. For one, I wasn’t really writing my 52 essays… and I’ve basically given that up now. I also didn’t really have time to focus on the newsletter or book proposal… and we used my tax savings to pay off a hefty credit card bill.

So you would think that I was kind of failing at my writing goals, right? Well, the truth is that I wasn’t so much failing as I was realizing that I wanted to shift my goals and give myself something new to accomplish. In this vein, I gave myself some adjusted goals.

I still plan to save for my taxes (which I “paid back” with some of my extra income from those 17+ articles), but now I am actually working on my book proposal. For my third goal, I wanted to still launch my newsletter but am holding off until the end of the year to do that. And for my last two goals, which are the ones that are new, I want to earn $2,000 per month in freelance income and I want to write five travel articles.

The freelance income quote is in order to make up for the money that I am no longer making since I let go of my gig at Romper at the end of August and the travel article bylines is because I have decided that I’d like to do more travel writing in general (especially since I just came back from a wonderful 2-week trip).

The main thing I learned by adjusting my writing goals is that I need and want to focus more on my freelance career rather than the writing I am doing at home. When I was setting some of those goals at the beginning of the year, I hadn’t yet realized that I do better with outer expectations than inner expectations. But thanks to me following the writing of Gretchen Rubin, in particular her work with The Four Tendencies, I now know why I do better with work deadlines and how crucial it is for me to make sure I get them (from others).

Basically, I was setting myself up for disappointment by saying that I will do all this writing for myself, including the #52essays2017, my newsletter and my book proposal. Instead, I am now focusing on goals that are actually achievable for me: Earning a higher income with freelance writing and doing more travel articles.

So far I actually have my first travel byline, WOO HOO. It’s an article I wrote for HipLatina that I am very proud of: 7 Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale When You’re Tired of SoBe.

And now… to tackle all those other writing goals in these last three months of the year!

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August Writer’s Life: New gig, letting go & mental health [#yearofwriting]

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I don’t know how to say this other than to say it: August has been a very, very difficult month for me. It’s not because I didn’t have any work and was suffering financially (thank goodness) but because there were some changes and adjustments at Romper that seriously affected my mental health.

Without going into too many details and completely acknowledging that it is nobody’s fault, my life became extremely stressful this month. Not only was Romper completely overwhelming me, but there were other things in my life that were weighing heavily on me and seriously impacting my work. Not only was my workload basically unmanageable, but my health began to suffer too.

What I am finding out is that my mental health suffers greatly when I am feeling overwhelmed by work and it leaves my general health in shambles. Whenever I am stressing out, the first thing I reach for is soda and candy… so there was a LOT of unhealthy eating this month. After much deliberation, reconnecting with my therapist and support from Adam, I decided to let go of my PT writing gig at Romper (for now?).

What was published: 

Romper, specifically: 

Clearly, I still enjoyed writing for Romper. There were so many fun articles that I got to do this month, so quitting was a difficult decision. But, as I had predicted, the minute that I did, I felt a huge relief off of my shoulders. Romper was great for my career and I loved my time there… But, ultimately, it’s important to do what’s best for me and what is best for my mental health. I’m proud of this decision.

How much I wrote: 24,237 words

How much I made: $1,545

Because I was so overwhelmed with my Romper work this month, I didn’t freelance much and I basically didn’t pitch… Except one.

Pitches sent out in August: 1*
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 1
Pitch reply with question: 0

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

*This editor received 8 pitches, accepted them all, and then asked me to write for them regularly, so…. Pretty good start, I think!

In other MUCH more exciting news, I managed to send one pitch out this month (or, rather, eight pitches to one editor), they were ALL accepted and I am now going to start being a regular contributor to the site in question: HipLatina!

I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled about this, to be honest. I have really missed writing personal essays during my time at Romper and I have also missed doing more cultural identity pieces, both of which are going to be very welcome at HipLatina. Hopefully, you’ve already seen some of my first pieces above—but get ready for more.

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