Saturday, August 28, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Freefaller

I stepped off the edge, but I didn't fall. Was it a miracle? Was it luck? Was it, in fact what I had suspected all along? That if I surrendered my right to financial security based on working 9 to 5 for a wage, I would survive? 

On April 8 this year I was made redundant. My role as lead teacher was identified by management as one which was unnecessary. I was no longer required. I couldn't help feel, as I still do, that the decision to deem my position surplus to requirements cast a pall on everything I had done during my two and half years with the company. It doesn't mean my contributions had no value, but it's difficult not to see it that way.

Losing my job was a good thing. Even though I enjoyed most aspects of the work, and of course I loved the regular pay packet and the associated tax benefits of working for a not-for-profit organisation, I wanted to leave. I had been praying for a way out.

Ever since I was gifted an old 486 computer, in 1998, and made the subsequent decision that I wanted to be a writer, I have been dreaming of achieving that goal. Of course, I could never pursue that dream full time. For mostly financial reasons, my writing remained a hobby, until April 8, 2021.

The time had come. I once dreamed of being a professional writer, of earning my living exercising my brain and my imagination by tapping on the keyboard of my laptop. Now I dream of more. I am a writer. Although it has taken some time to get used to, I now tell people when they ask what I do. I tell them I am a writer. Thanks for asking, I say then I give them one of my business cards. I'm a writer, but I'm not earning a living...not yet. I'm in a kind of freefall. Financially untethered.

I have six novels and scores of published short stories under my belt, but I've only made pocket money from these works. I have a memoir which is nearly ready to be published, and I've almost finished the first draft of what will be my seventh novel. My most recent short story will feature in an upcoming anthology. This is one aspect of my writing, one half, if you like, of my work as a writer. These are my projects. They bear my name. They carry my hopes. These are the projects will fuel my creative fire.

The other half is the new world of freelance writing: content articles, short stories, longer works of fiction, non fiction books, and even speeches. I get paid for them but none of these works bear my name because I'm a ghostwriter. Someone else gets the glory. I do get paid way more than I've ever earned from those pieces which bear my name though. It's not regular pay either, and mostly it's not big money and a lot of it is just work. The passion I feel for my work is missing with this ghostwriting work. It's just work.

The two platforms I've been using to find freelance writing work since I began my freefall are Upwork and Freelancer. Yesterday I made the decision to leave Freelancer. I apologize for teasing you. I did say in my previous post that I would discuss the differences between these two platforms in this post. However, when I sat down to write, I was carried away to another place. Not far away mind you. Not the bottom of the cliff from which I stepped off. I'm not going to reach the bottom, by the way. I'm on the way up because God caught me soon after I yielded to gravity. I'm safe, even though I don't always feel safe, I am.

I'm a freelancer. I'm a writer. My decisions are based on that fact now. How does this or that support my quest to return to my previous income level, or higher, on the back of my writing? That's the question.

Why have I dumped Freelancer? Why do I much prefer Upwork? How is my journey from hobby writer to professional going? Next time, I promise to lay it all out for you.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Snake Oil: Filthy Rich Writer

Right off the bat, I have to say I am not a fan of the expression 'filthy rich' because it suggests that riches are dirty. That being rich is a bad thing. Wealth is a tool, and tools can be used for good or bad purposes. Generally speaking, I think wealth is good and I suspect it would be a losing and futile search for me to find anyone to disagree.

My post today is inspired by an ad which appeared in my Facebook Newsfeed. (I'm aware of the contradiction. A slightly oxymoronic use of ad and news together.) The headline of the ad is 'Filthy Rich Writer' and it's an invitation for people with spare time on their hands, stuck at home due to COVID lockdowns or some other reason, to write content for websites and make a lot of money.

Snake Oil.

If you've written anything, then you know why this ad is obviously false. It's especially false for ghostwriters, who can make money, but rarely heaps of it.

Since losing my job as Lead Teacher with a not for profit Registered Training Organization, I have been concentrating on establishing a new career as a freelance writer. With six novels, and scores of published short stories under my belt, I'm not a novice writer, but as a freelancer, I'm starting from scratch. Freelancers mostly ghostwrite articles, stories and books for their clients. Most of these clients seem to be 'middle men' who sell content written by others to their own clients. Pay rates range from around half a cent per word up to 2 cents per word. So, a 1000 word article at half a cent per word pays $5. Do you know how long it takes to write a 1000 word article on a subject with which you are unfamiliar? Even at two cents per word, you're talking about an hourly pay rate of about $15. Filthy rich? (writer chokes on a mouthful of tea).

For my next post, I'm gong to write about the two platforms that I currently use to find freelance work. Upwork and Freelancer. My experience with these two has been mixed. I'm getting work, but I'm missing out on a lot of jobs as well. Why? I have no idea, but I suspect it comes down to money. Doesn't everything, come down to money in the end.

Platforms like Freelancer, Upwork and Fiverr are not charities. They are businesses. The primary aim of most businesses is to make money, not to help people. Not to make other people rich, but to make themselves rich.

No one who bought and read the book Three Easy Steps to Unimaginable Wealth got rich. You know who got rich? The author of the book did, because he preyed on people's laziness and greed, making ridiculous promises about how easy it is to get rich, in order to make money for himself.

Wise writers, who've been around for a while, know that 90% of services offered to writers to help them write and sell books, are, in fact, only designed to make money for those providing the services. That guy on Fiverr, who's a book marketing genius, makes extravagant promises about how many people will find out about your book. You pay your $20, which covers hidden costs only added in after you're committed, and get nothing but a screenshot of an anonymous Twitter account which mentions the title of your book but doesn't have a purchase link.

Less than one percent of writers get rich, and they don't even have to be good writers to do it. Lots of good writers do earn a reasonable living though, and I aim to be one of them. I love writing, and am enjoying the challenge of a being a freelancer which offers many opportunities to write in genres apart from those with which I am comfortable. It's stretching me, improving my skills, but I'm not going to get rich.

Honestly, a think the ambition to get rich is unworthy of humanity. If riches come, thank God. If they don't, thank God. It's not my goal to get rich. Of course I want to earn a good living and consequently have a degree of financial freedom, but wealth is not the goal. My goal is to connect with people and to make a positive contribution to the world. 

I reckon if you make love your goal, you will always be richly rewarded.

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Mirror: Gullible's Travels

Three hundred years ago, Jonathan Swift wrote a fantasy novel which his protagonist called a travel diary. He visited five fantastic lands during his travels, describing them in excruciating detail. He also recorded the ill fated journeys which took him to those places. The novel is a traveller's journal which the writer asserts is completely true despite the absurdity and impossibility of those places existing. When he told people back home in England what he had seen and experienced, some people believed him, but only because he presented physical evidence. Some who heard his tall tales might have simply humoured him during his recounts, privately dismissing him as a madman.

We basically only have two sources of knowledge. First, what we have personally experienced involving input from our five senses, six, if you want to go there, Secondly, we have what other people tell us. We might hear or read the knowledge of others. Now without diving into the deep ocean of epistomology, the bottom line is that we accumulate knowledge either from ourselves or from others, and the acceptance of what others tell us depends on authority. In other words, we incorporate other people's knowledge into our own if we trust them. Theories of knowledge are much more complicated than that, but I'm a simple man, and that's how I nutshellize the concept as I understand it.

People often tell us things which contradict our knowledge which means that someone is wrong and someone is right. The local bookshop either sells my book or they don't. Rain is either wet or it's not. This isn't such an issue because most people happily adjust their thinking when confronted with fact. Knowledge is one thing, but experience is a different beast altogether. The biggest challenge we face is when someone tells about something they experienced, something which from our experience we know can't happen. For example, my friend tells me he saw ghost. I've never seen a ghost and I don't believe in them, but I trust my friend. That's when it gets tricky.

When Gulliver told people he lived among the thumb-sized people of Lilliput for two years, they would have thought he was insane, but what about his wife? She who was in effect Gulliver's mistress, because he was married to adventure, and spent most their marriage in foreign lands. What did she think when her husband regaled her with stories of a land inhabited by giants, and another ruled by a race of necromancers?

On Gulliver's final journey, the one which arguably had the greatest impact upon him psychologically - for of course he always managed to maintain his physical health in all these strange, mythical lands - he arrived in a land where horses where at the top of the societal hierarchy. They were the most intelligent, wise and benevolent race Gulliver had ever met. When Gulliver told them about how it was at home ,in England where horses were dumb, subservient beasts, his words were greeted with not only indignation, but disbelief.

I'm not sure if Gulliver's Travels is intended to be read as satire or not, but it sure came across that way to this reader. In any case, many people (tiny and enormous), and horses evidently believed what he was saying. Well, I said as I got to the end of Gulliver's Travels to discover that Gulliver was disgusted by people, even his own wife, when he returned to England, some people will believe anything.

Knowledge must be tested. If you believe everything you hear and read, and one day you write a memoir, you'll have to call it Gullible's Travels.