Mark Terry

Friday, October 21, 2011

7 Years

October 21, 2011
Today marks the 7th anniversary of me writing full time. On October 21, 2004 I was completely done working at Henry Ford Hospital and was a full-time writer. In June of the same year I had gone part-time, working at the hospital 2 10-hour days a week. Ian was 11. Sean was 7.

I haven't looked back (except for an occasional stress dream where I'm working at the hospital).

What have I learned, if anything?

- I like being self-employed.

-Things change, sometimes for the better, but not always. Very few of the clients I started with are still with me. Only one, I think. Maybe two.

-The Internet giveth & the Internet taketh away. It would be extremely difficult to do the work I do without email and the Internet. I also do a fair amount of work on website copy, e-newsletters, and online publications. That said, there's been a growth of so-called "content farms," like Demand Studio that churn out crap to jack up their search engine optimization so they can charge higher ad rates, and they pay their writers pennies. So although it might be a place for beginning writers to get paying clips, I personally feel it's driving down the overall market for paying work for writers. (It's also cluttering up the Internet with a wealth of really shitty journalism with bad writing, few if any references, reliable quotes, or reliable information. My brother joked recently that the Internet was 65% cat pictures, 34% porn, and 1% outdated user manuals. Increasingly I'm seeing so-called news stories that don't quote anybody, don't name sources, don't have reliable information cited - like the name of the organization they're writing about - and include typographical errors and bad grammar).

-There's still paying work, a lot of it, and some of it pays really well. You just have to find it. Usually it's business related.

-I'm making good money writing things I never even knew existed 10 years ago, like white papers. I'm guessing in another 5 or 10 years I'll be making money doing things I hadn't thought of yet (or hadn't been invented yet), too.

-A couple years ago I had a client I'd had for a few years - that year that client earned me $57,000. One client. Then they restructured, the editor/publisher I worked for left, they pretty much stopped working with freelancers, and as of today, I've done $200 of work for them, and the replacement editor left as well. Along with "things change" I would have to say "shit happens." I've picked up several clients to replace that one, and I'm happier having, say, 3 or 4 clients that pay $15,000 or so a year instead of one big client.

-Priorities change. Maybe this is just life in general, but things you thought were important 5 or 6 or 7 years ago as a writer don't seem as important to me today (say, fiction, for example).

-There's more to life than writing. That's been a big surprise to me. I knew it intellectually, but I'm not sure I really knew it emotionally until the last year or two. Really.

-Book publishing is going through a huge upheaval right now. In a lot of ways, it really sucks for writers. In a lot of ways it's really good for writers. For all of those writers who are praising e-book self-publishing as the solution to all their problems, let me personally refer you to my point above about content farms. Nuff said.

-I'm happy to be where I am and look forward to the next 7 years.



Blogger Kath Calarco said...

Mark, congratulations on seven years of freedom from "the man." And thanks so much for sharing your insight. It is valuable for us "self-doubters," especially in the ever-changing face of publishing.

You give me hope. Nuff said. :-)

6:10 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Of course, now I am "the man." Or as I tell friends, "Yeah, my boss is a demanding asshole."

6:12 AM  
Blogger Travis Erwin said...

Congrats on having the talent, testicular fortitude and perseverance to successfully do what lots of us dream of.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Congratulations! A huge anniversary. I still have nightmares about being back at the office. Too many people are living those nightmares. I hope the next seven years go even better and I'll bet they will. As for e-book publishing though...who knows.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Thanks, Travis.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

My stress dreams related to writing seem to follow 2 routes. Dreaming I'm back at the hospital, or dreaming I'm back in college looking for a job in cytogenetics. Often that one ends with me realizing, why the hell am I looking for a job in cytogenetics? I'm a freelancer, go write something.

I actually had a similar dream this week (not entirely sure what I'm stressed about), where I was going to go back to school to get an English degree to help with my writing, then I got into an argument with the professor about what was needed to be a professional writer and what the hell made him think he had any clue about what was involved. Which I take, ultimately, as a good sign, that some part of my psyche thinks whatever my problems are I already have the tools to solve. At least, that's my interpretation.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Happy 7th freelanceiversary (uh, to coin a word)...

12:57 PM  

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