I used to want a high-profile writing career that I could brag about. Now I'm just trying to do this thing--and everything else in my life--with a little dignity.
I've been working in the editorial field in some capacity since 2007. When I started out at a custom publishing firm, I was 23 and eager to please, and building a portfolio felt like the most important thing in my life. By 2009, I was laid off and a few months later I took a position working remotely for a content strategy firm. It was awesome.
Working remotely gave me a taste of what it's like to work without someone looking over your shoulder 12 hours a day. I loved it. I took that freedom and moved to New York for a while, and (long story short) eventually landed back in Nashville with a husband and a golden retriever.
Pretty soon, my career felt stalled, so I quit my job and my boss graciously let me work for her as a contractor. I started working for all sorts of start-ups, apps, and websites, and before long I was completely consumed with two things: Getting new work and making more money.
After my first year working for myself, things started to feel stale again. And so I started trying to convince my husband that we need to move to a bigger city with a larger market so I can do more prestigious work. I got a taste of what it's like to work for larger companies and outlets like USA Today, and I liked the way it felt.
While I had my head down building a business, Nashville grew up around me. Start-ups moved in and they needed editors. The tech field started to grow and new businesses wanted website copy. It started to feel like every corner had a high rise going up where an old house or a parking lot used to sit. Last June, when I was sitting in interstate traffic on a Sunday afternoon, it hit me: I'm in the larger market now. And I realized that I don't like it as much as I thought I would.
The thing is, I'm terrible at networking. I'm terrible at building a brand. I'm terrible at telling people what I'm working on and what's going well. I'm terrible at feeling self-confident. And now I live and work in a bigger market that typically requires me to brag a little bit. The competition is fierce and until about 3 month ago, I was certain that I wasn't keeping up with my colleagues very well.
And then I got pregnant. Freelancers don't have a maternity leave policy, so I saved $12,000 in about 9 months (thank you, Midwestern saving habits) and decided to take some real time off for the first time since I started working at a warehouse when I was 16. I had a baby, and I peaced out. I turned down assignments from USA Today. I handed over my job at a healthcare start-up to a friend. I told the consulting firm I write for that I'd be back later. I told myself, I just need to let all these clients off the hook. We'll all go our separate ways so they can hire better people.
I expected to lose a lot of business and start over doing small projects with less responsibility. But then the opposite happened. Every client came back, and I turned down at least 2 projects a month while I was on leave. And I decided that there's one thing I've been doing right all along: Keeping my head down and doing the work.
So that's the new goal. To worry less about new work and more about getting the current work done. To do things on time and on budget. To do work with dignity.