Planting the seed (or, why I chose to be my own boss)

Photo by Judit Peter on Pexels.com

I’ve been a freelance writer and editor off and on since 2005. It happened by accident. We were living in Germany at the time, and I had a travel blog to keep friends and family updated on our adventures around Europe. Because of that travel blog, I was approached to write some travel guides for pay (not book-length – just short travel summaries for websites). It eventually snowballed into assignments with other companies in other industries. 

It was the ideal way to make money as a military spouse. It’s difficult to maintain a career when you move every four years. But freelancing was done virtually, so my location didn’t matter. 

It’s worth noting that I didn’t make a lot of income from doing this. I didn’t need to. My husband’s income at the time was more than enough for us to get by, plus I wanted to devote most of my time in Europe to actually enjoying Europe. But it supplied me with fun money to go on short trips with friends, go out for lunches and coffees, and buy books. I also enjoyed the work … most of the time.  

Doing it wrong

It’s also worth noting that I did freelancing wrong for much of this time. I did a lot of work for content mills, which notoriously underpay. I rarely sent pitches, which is what I should have been doing. And I lowballed myself for fear of not getting the gig. I was basically the poster child for everything you shouldn’t do if you’re serious about freelancing. 

I got lucky from time to time – two articles for The Seattle Times jobs section, and a full-time gig for several months writing facility descriptions for recreation.gov. But most of my assignments were nothing to brag about.

It was only a matter of time, especially once we were staring military retirement in the face, before I realized that freelancing wasn’t sustainable. Or at least I didn’t know how to make it sustainable. Once my husband became a civilian, I would need to work full-time, too. If we wanted to buy a house and have money to travel and enjoy our lives. 

Changing my path

Not knowing what to do, I decided to get a paralegal certificate. At least it was a plan. And it led to a fulfilling, full-time job that sustained me through my husband’s final two years in the Air Force. 

Then retirement came. And moving out of state. And leaving that job. And starting over again. There was no job market for that type of work here in Columbus. (Note: I didn’t work as a paralegal, but my legal knowledge helped me get that job.) Actual paralegal work paid well below what I had been making. So I thought I’d rely on my writing and editing background once again. That’s always been my first love anyway. 

Not getting ahead

I’ve done some in-house work in marketing and communications since we moved to Ohio in 2016. But the corporate world has not treated me well. I haven’t been able to realize my full potential, even after getting my master’s degree in marketing and communications. I seemed doomed to be stuck in the same position at one company, unchallenged and unfulfilled, despite doing excellent work and asking for a promotion. (And not even being granted an interview when I applied internally for a position I was qualified for.)

I transitioned to another company in December 2021 – a better title, at least on paper. But it was clear right away that it wasn’t a good fit. I’ll say no more than that.  

Discovering my why

At the same time, we moved to this house with over 5 acres of land and a lot of fruit trees. I didn’t know at the time we were under contract that this was basically a small-scale farm. I only learned that on the day of the inspection when the sellers informed us of all the fruit trees and fruit-producing vines we had on the property. It occurred to me immediately that profiting off of this land is my future. Selling at farm markets – fresh, whole fruit and/or fruit products. I never considered it before, but I decided to lean into it. This is now part of my journey. An unplanned part, but one that I embrace. (It’s hard work, but I love it.)

A few weeks ago, when the apple trees were blooming. (We have 8 of them.)

But the farm market thing won’t happen for at least a year. I need to go through one growing season first to see how much we produce. I need to go to farm markets, talk to other small-scale farmers. I need to figure out how this all works. 

And I knew I could have multiple streams of income working for myself – not just the farm, but writing and editing, too. I was coming up with a plan to do all of this gradually over the next few years. It wasn’t something I planned to do overnight. 

However, my full-time job wasn’t working out and was causing me an incredible amount of stress. And as spring arrived, I realized that I needed a lot of time to get this property in shape. A LOT of time. It’s planting season now, and I have a lot of weed removal to do in the vegetable beds before I can finish planting. (Fresh-cut flowers may also be part of the farm market plan, but the flower beds are choked with weeds, too.) 

Taking the leap 

I left that job a month ago. Thankfully, we have a safety net. Had it not been for that, I might not have taken the leap. And the thought of that is even more terrifying than the fear I am currently feeling.

At the end of March, I registered a trade name with the state: Words in Bloom Writing and Editing Services. My aunt (a graphic designer) designed a logo for me.

I started reaching out to people in my network and other professionals in my field. 

So, I’m back to freelancing. For real this time. No content mills. I am using my connections to line up work. This is week 4 since I left corporate life, and I lined up two clients already. The work will be varied, so it should keep me on my toes. And since things are a bit slow at the moment as contracts and onboarding are finalized, I’m spending a lot of time working outside. 

I come in from a day’s labor in the yard, covered in mud and sweat. But I’m happy. And I can hop in the shower and be online for a Zoom call with a client or spend some time writing or sending emails.  

I think this is where I’m meant to be. 

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