Good morning adventurers!
I’ve had an interesting question on my mind the last few days: how did I get to where I am?
Specifically, how did I get to this point in my working life, to my own freelance adventure?
It’s been hovering in the back of my mind because it was posed to me by an acquaintance who couldn’t understand how someone becomes a freelancer (much less a freelance writer — I think the part where I write and actually get paid for it was the most baffling to him!)
So I’ve been pondering my own work history the past few days. It’s pretty checkered, because I’ve been working for years. If you’re feeling a little nosy, read on… you might be in for a few surprises!
The Work History That Got Me Where I Am Today
Age 12: Mother’s Helper.
I watched kids while their parents worke around the house. Sort of like a less-trusted babysitter. I did this for a year until I was old enough to babysit for real.
Age 13-18: Babysitter.
I did this from the end of middle school all through high school, several times a week. Including many weekends. Having spending and saving money was more important to me than going out every weekend, probably because my parents stopped giving me any sort of allowance when I started high school. I knew eventually I would have to pay car insurance (starting when I was 17), as well as part of my college tuition and all my living expenses once I moved out.
Sometimes this job included watching kids for overnights when their parents had to go out of town. That was when I learned first-hand how early toddlers wake up.
Age 16-18: Restaurant Hostess.
I started hostessing the spring of my junior year of high school. I really loved this job, especially because I worked at an awesome Mexican restaurant where I got tons of free food.
But between hostessing several times a week, babysitting on weekends, rehearsals most evening, dance classes 3+ times a week, school work (I was an IB student), and trying to fit in time to see my friends and boyfriend, I became overextended and exhausted. I collapsed at work one day — a complete blackout at the hostess stand. I quit soon after.
Age 18-23: Political Researcher.
This was my first experience as an independent contractor. I did opposition research for a political consultant who worked for campaigns around the country. A lot of my research was either online or at the Library of Congress, so aside from occasional meetings with my boss, I worked when and where I wanted to. I did this full-time in summers starting after high school, as well as part time during the school year and on breaks. I also learned how to pay quarterly taxes.
After I graduated from college, I did this full-time for a year (which meant anywhere from 5 to 65 hours of work a week, depending on the time of year). But I knew I didn’t want politics to be my life, so when I moved to Philadelphia, I turned in my resignation.
Age 18-21: Assistant Office Manager.
By the second month of my freshman year of college, I was antsy and wanted a job. I started working as an office assistant in the theatre department and did that for most of my four years of college, including full-time one summer. By the time I was a senior, I had keys to every room in the building and a reputation for running the department behind the scenes.
I stopped working there my senior year to focus on my honors thesis and auditioning, but I kept the keys to pass onto another student when I graduated. Apparently they are still passed down to rising seniors, which makes me rather proud.
Age 20-22: Lingerie Retail Associate.
The same summer that I worked at the theatre office, I wasn’t getting as much work from my political research job as I wanted. So I applied for, and got, a job as a sales associate and fitter at a local lingerie boutique.
It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, and not just because of the discount I used to buy lots of pretty things. I learned a lot about running a small business, and I’m still more than a bit of a lingerie snob. I did this from the summer after my sophomore year until the end of my senior year of college.
Age 22-present: Actor/Dancer.
My undergraduate degree is in theatre, with a dance concentration (and an extra history degree, because I discovered right before graduation that I had enough credit hours in that department). I started auditioning for professional acting jobs my senior year of college, and a few months after graduation I was a full member of a dance/theatre company in the DC area.
I’ve worked as a professional performer since then, on stage and on film, whenever I can get the work. I love it, even if it is exhausting. Some months it pays the bills, most months it does not.
Age 23: Retail Associate.
When I first moved to Philadelphia, I found myself unemployed. If you look back at everything you’ve just read, you will understand why this was such a shock to me! I took a job at a retail chain (a brand you’d probably recognize, but which I will not name for the sake of good manners). For the first time ever, I found myself in a job that I hated.
As best I can figure, the corporate office required them to have a certain number of employees at any given time because that looked good on paper. However, that meant that most employees never got more than 1 or 2 shifts a week, each shift being about 4.5 hours long. I stuck it out for 7 months before I quit.
Age 23-26: Wedding Makeup Artist.
The second job I got in Philadelphia was as a professional makeup artist. After a brief apprenticeship, I spent a little over three years doing makeup for weddings and other events. This job was really fun, paid well, and left me absolutely exhausted.
It also taught me a ton about the wedding and event industry, which led to my wedding writing work. Plus it gave me the confidence to do my own hair and makeup for my wedding, which my frugal little soul loved.
The second job I got in Philadelphia was as an office manager for a small business. I scheduled client appointments and travel arrangements; took customer calls; wrote marketing emails and the monthly newsletters; handled a lot of the publicity; and edited the blog.
In a lot of ways this position was a lesson in what makes a good job: you need either to be compensated well, to know you are valued even if you are not well-compensated, or to feel so passionately about the work that you don’t care about compensation.
Unfortunately, it ended up being none of these. I quit as gracefully as I could, but it was still rocky.
Still, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work there, because I learned a lot about copywriting from all the emails, newsletters, and blog posts that I wrote and edited.
Age 23-26: Standardized Patient.
This was one of the weirder jobs I’ve ever had: a professional role-player who taught medical students how to interact with patients. It was very flexible, which was good for my acting career.
Working here taught me a ton about the medical world, as well about how patients should insist on being treated by doctors and other medical professionals. I ended up having to leave for health reasons, though the timing ended up working out perfectly for me to launch my full-time copywriting career.
Age 25 to present: Copywriter.
I wish I’d discovered the world of web copywriting when I first moved to Philadelphia and found myself unemployed. Sadly, I didn’t even learn the term until I was describing to someone what I did as an office manager and she suggested that I leave that job and look for work at a copywriting agency.
After trying it out on my own (while still working other jobs) I realized I needed to go back to working on my own schedule. My decision to go full-time freelance happened rather suddenly, but I haven’t regretted a moment of it.
I love writing, and I enjoy my work a good 80% of the time (the other 20% of the time is when I get sick of marketing).
Just looking back at that leaves me a little exhausted.
So how exactly did I get here?
It looks is no rhyme or reason in how that all led me to being a freelance writer. But I think having such a solid work history was it’s own reason:
- I knew that I was disciplined and motivated.
- I had experience working for myself.
- I was used to juggling multiple jobs and responsibilities.
- I knew what I did and did not enjoy.
- I’ve never had a salaried job, so I don’t miss it.
- I understood things like managing your own time and your own taxes.
I also knew that if I wanted to live creatively, multiple part-time jobs was not a sustainable plan. I needed to be in control of my own schedule, and the best way to achieve that was to work for myself.
And I like to think that my very varied work history just means that I have a lot of experience to draw on when it comes to my writing. No matter what company approaches me, I have something in my background that can help me relate to their work.