How I Wound Up Freelancing

At my building staff meeting tonight, the question of the week (our little closing ritual) was where we saw ourselves in five years. It being Emory, half the group answered “med school.” I said that I was planning to be working in the Smithsonian by then, but on second thought (after much debate among the med school kids about whether residencies are in a lottery that, I must confess, I did not pay attention to) I said that I might want to run social media outreach for an interesting company. One of my co-workers said that she could see me doing that, and another pointed out that I have job skills that are not like normal college kid job skills.

Though I don’t think I’m unusually skilled, I do realize that my sources of income outside of school–primarily freelance writing gigs–are weird. So, I thought I’d talk a little bit about how I stumbled into getting paid for writing.

I didn’t do paid writing until this year. As a high school student, I spent three years as an editor on the school paper, the last two as the Editor-in-Chief, and that gave me some experience writing on a deadline and a lot more experience with badly-applied AP Style, group writing, and how to manage an illegal install of InDesign and hook up a network the school didn’t want–plus how to deal with our printers in rural Georgia and fiddle with a WordPress supplement that my teacher didn’t want. All of these–particularly group dynamics and learning to work around silly restrictions–were tremendously useful skills, but when I graduated I quit using most of them.

This summer, while working at school, I saw that Kelly put out a call for new writers on HackCollege. I’ve been reading the site since I was in high school (yes, I’m that kid) so I applied. I was accepted, and after a truly geeky happy dance, started writing for the site regularly. I don’t get paid for the site*, but having someone force me to write regularly in a non-academic context made me more confident in my writing abilities and gave me a body of work that other people read.

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