I am often approached by friends and even some strangers about how I do this. How I do this writing thing. This word thang. Freelance. Contract. Solo Pro. “Not Working for The Man.” Gigs. Projects.

This is a fair question…how does one get the super awesome life of a freelance writer? (And my version of super awesome might look wildly different than yours, but c’mon, try it on, you might like it!) The answers I give to this innocent question are both simple and complicated. I’m going to cover one answer today and likely a few more several months down the line and definitely more in a few years.

Why the many drawn responses? Duh, because life changes up. If it were static and predictable I’d first want to take a long nap for approximately 100 years and then I’d cry while trudging back to the same-old, same-old life life life. But life is neither static nor predictable but instead brings all that ooey, gooey unpredictability which I love and loathe (sometimes all in one bite).

Professor Woes. Whoa.

My very first reason for becoming a freelancer was because no one would hire me. Well, that’s half true. I was a professor of English for three years at University of Northern Iowa (no, not the Cyclones…that’s Iowa State. Uh, no, not the Hawkeyes, that’s Iowa University…I think UNI is the Panthers, but I know almost zero about sports so back to being a professor…).

I was a professor (loo-li-loo) teaching for two days each week and then having my summers off to hang with my daughter. But then it happened: my daughter turned 3 and then 4 and then…Kindergarten was looming and when I looked around Iowa I wasn’t seeing the kinds of opportunities I wanted for my Latina daughter so I trekked back to my homeland, set down in Minneapolis, put her in a Spanish immersion school and started applying for teaching jobs.

There were no jobs for English professors in Minneapolis. I mean none. I mean there was maybe like a distant relative to an English professor job as a linguistics department office assistant that barely required me to have a pulse in order to be considered. All the jobs had been snapped up! Even with all our amazing networks in the Twin Cities (and the state, really) of private, public, universities, colleges, tech schools and community colleges no one was hiring (not even an after-school tutoring position [I tried everything]).

No one was hiring, so I hired myself.

I figured that since I had been asked by several colleagues to review their dissertations or their master’s theses as favors I could turn my expertise into a career.

I was right.

You can turn your skill and writing aplomb into a career if you choose this life. Choosing to live with realization that there may not be a feast at the end of every month is both powerful and frightening, but if you’re choosing it there is possibility in that.

Choosing. Powerful. Frightening. Possibility.

Now, don’t worry, this isn’t a conversation that will end with tips on how to find your center or a deep discussion about herbal remedies. I actually do mean you will have to choose this life in order for it to “work.”

I could have gotten a different job but I wanted a particular life. I wanted to be a professor because it allowed me to be available to my daughter (same vacation schedules). Being a professor of English in Minneapolis in 2007 wasn’t a possibility so I had to move in to a position that would allow me to continue the particular life I wanted: to be available to my daughter.


I talked to a new neighbor who happened to work as a designer for MRM Worldwide. She connected me with their Creative Director. I went to this man’s office downtown Minneapolis and I had ZERO experience as a freelancer.



I had ZERO things in my portfolio. I didn’t even have a portfolio. My master’s thesis was a collection of short stories, okay?

He took a chance on me because when he asked me about my stories and what I cared about as an individual he saw potential.

He challenged me to write three ads for products I loved and get them to him in two days. It was a test, yes, but I worked so hard on those ads for the next two days, I can’t even tell you. I was doing writing work I’d never done and LOVING IT.

I turned in my work and BAM: I was hired as a freelancer writing banner ad copy for General Mills Betty Crocker Cupcakes. And then I wrote for Hamburger Helper…and then Simply Potatoes…and then Better’n Eggs…and then Crystal Farms Cheese…and, you get it. (Oh, and check out those first Betty Crocker storyboards below…how fun is that!?)

Easy Writing Life

Did I have it easy? Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe part of the reason I was able to flow into freelance writing is because I had an intention that I stayed committed to.

Sometime I’ll tell you about clients who demanded I work on site for 40 hours each week, no more, no less.

But for now…just consider the possibility that a writing career is available to you if you create the kind of life you want to live into…and then commit to it.

BC_Cupcakes_Storyboard_2(2) BC_Cupcakes_Storyboard_5 BC_Cupcakes_Storyboard_5b



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