One year ago this week, I stood on the porch of my beloved old farmhouse in Leesburg, Virginia, sweeping off the steps in the sunshine, when a moving truck pulled up and a guy stepped out. His U-Haul at the bottom of the steps matched mine in the field, as he was the new tenant moving in that day and I was moving out. We chatted for a few minutes, and since I was there, he asked if I could show him any quirks with the house that he might need to know. I agreed, and we spent a few minutes walking around and talking about how to keep the pipes from freezing, where he could find the breaker box and water shut-off valve, the cheapest place I’d found to buy firewood for the two wood-burning stoves and a few tricks I’d learned to help coax the stubborn old lawnmower into submission. He thanked me and began carrying in boxes while I swept off the last few steps, then I hit the road.
As I drove away, it didn’t escape me that I knew how to manage that house I was leaving, but by and large, I had no idea how to do the thing I was leaving it for — a life of freelancing and freedom and travel. Sure, I knew how to pitch an editor, write an article, book a night at a hostel and find a cheap shower on the road, but I didn’t know how to monetize a website, publish an ebook, pay taxes as a full-time self-employed person or do lots of the million other things I needed to know to become successful as a freelance writer. Essentially, I had decided to jump and hope the net would appear. And I had no idea whether, or how, it would.
It’s been a year, and although I’m definitely still figuring it all out, it turns out I knew enough of the ropes to make my own net, and I had plenty of family and friends who helped me get started on weaving it all together. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more to help make it bigger and stronger, and I have plans in place to continue to do so, all of which help me feel significantly more confident as I fly :).
Ironically, the seven-month gap since my last blog post on here goes to show how busy I’ve been. When I started out, and again when I began planning my national parks travels for this year, I assumed I’d be blogging on here way more than I’d be working on paid writing assignments. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot more actual work than I thought I’d get in my first year, which is fantastic, but as a result, I’ve left this blog in the dust. I really enjoy blogging — it gives me an opportunity to write creatively about experiences with room for first-person perspective, but without the constraints of deadlines or needing to fit a certain tone or style. It’s also the front page of my website, and a stagnant blog isn’t a great advertisement for a writer :). So, I’m picking it back up and brushing it off, and if all goes well, it will slowly become a viable outlet of its own. I plan to share insights on intriguing destinations, profile interesting people, review products that travelers might find useful and generally shine a light on some of the amazing things our world has to offer. I’ll start with a few posts about some places I’ve visited in recent months, then pick up with current posts as I continue to travel.
All in all, this first year of freelancing has gone really well. Since this time last year, I’ve visited 32 states (all but one by car) and a few dozen National Park Service sites, completed at least 33 articles or other paid writing assignments, gained hundreds of new followers on social media, attended six travel/outdoor writers’ conferences and successfully paid off a new (well, used) laptop completely on freelancing income. I’ve also lined up a few really exciting long-term projects, and a professional writers’ association I’m in even profiled me in the organization’s magazine :).
It’s been an incredible year, but unfortunately it’s also been plagued with some recurring health issues that manifest with symptoms of frequent headaches, persistent fatigue and more, none of which have made this transition to a freelance career any easier. In my efforts to make this new business as successful as possible, I said yes to every opportunity that came my way and at times became unhealthily overwhelmed with juggling travel, writing assignments, family commitments and my own-well-being, and often, my sleep and sanity became the first things I sacrificed.
So, I’m slowing things down a little and spending most of September off the road and without any big assignments on my plate. I have a few short articles I need to finish up, but then I’m taking the next three weeks to spend time with my grandma, catch up on sleep, update my clips page, work on this entire website, make a long-term plan for this blog and my social media accounts, start working on the ebook I’ve been meaning to publish for years, follow up on opportunities and connections I’ve dropped the ball on, and purge a lot of the stuff that’s been sitting in boxes for the past year that I clearly can live without. But then I have a solid month of travel planned to Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and (if all goes well) Antigua and Barbuda, so it’s just a short hiatus :). After that, who knows?
This blog post is a little rambling — I guess I’m out of practice :). That should improve with a little time and dedication, and I hope you’ll stick with me as I go.