One year in: Reflections on life as a full-time freelance writer

February 7, 2019
Desserts at La Voya Restaurant
Job perk: dessert sampling at La Voya Restaurant

It's been a while since I've written about life as a full-time freelance writer—since quitting my paralegal position last February, I've touched on some of the initial challenges and the ups and downs.  Now that I've passed the one year mark, I wanted to look back and reflect on how my life has changed since making the leap.

My life is rich in experiences.

There are so many amazing things I've been able to do in the past year.  I've taken hosted trips to cities large and small in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.  On a press trip to Winnipeg, I relaxed at a Nordic-style spa and took a wine pairing class with one of the world's top sommeliers.  A speaking gig at the International Food Blogger Conference brought me to New Orleans.

Closer to home, I got to preview restaurants and food halls before they opened to the public (most memorably, Keg & Case, Lat14, and Pizza Karma).  I sampled incredible tasting menus.  I had a romantic staycation at a floating bed and breakfast.  Heck, I even cooked steak on a rock.

Pear in hand
Sometimes, part of my paycheck comes in the form of produce

The paychecks are small (so I need a lot of them).

Going in, I knew that it would be unsustainable to rely solely on journalistic work, but I didn't know exactly what that would look like.  I had a vague plan to supplement my journalism income with corporate copywriting gigs for businesses and organizations, and I did land a gig writing the blog for Visit Inver Grove Heights.

One year in, my job is even more eclectic than I thought it would be.  I've done one-off projects for a scholarship foundation, a Fortune 500 company, and an agriculture bureau.  I have an ongoing relationship with Barlean's (a natural products company) via their blogger program.  I do freelance paralegal work remotely for a small law firm. 

As someone who spent the majority of my professional life feeling bored, I love that I always have something different to work on and so many new things to learn.  However, I'm well aware that one of the main reasons I'm able to freelance full-time is that I have a spouse who can support me through the leaner times.  This is a fortunate and privileged situation to be in.   

Cappuccino at Spyhouse Coffee Northeast
Cappuccino at Spyhouse Coffee Northeast. If I lived closer, this place would be my office of choice.

Working at home was more of an adjustment than I thought it would be.

I am a very introverted person, so the loneliness took me by surprise.  Most days, I'm on my own from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.  I don't have coworkers to commiserate with or Mike to chat with during our carpool rides.

Lately, I've started going to my local Caribou Coffee to work for a couple of hours on days when I'm not otherwise leaving the house for work.  Spending $15 on coffee each week makes my inner cheapskate cringe, but I really need to leave the house and spend time among people, even if I'm not talking to them.  (I have tried the local library, but it's too quiet and hanging out with the senior citizens and toddlers is demoralizing.)  Other survival strategies: getting dressed by 8:00 a.m. in an outfit that doesn't include exercise clothes, wearing eyeliner, and taking a walk outside every day.

I don't know what's next (and that's not as scary as it used to be).

I am a person who prizes stability and hates uncertainty.  That makes me somewhat ill-suited to life as a freelancer, where you never quite know where your next assignment is coming from and actually getting paid for your work can be an undertaking in and of itself.  But I'm getting better at rolling with the punches, letting go, and coping with difficult emotions instead of crumbling. 

I don't know what my long term plan is, and I'm mostly okay with that. 

Cocktail at Feller
Toasting the freelancer life at Feller in Stillwater

The best part is the people.

My absolute favorite thing about food and travel writing is that most people I interview are in their particular career because they love what they do.  That might be cheese logistics or salmon fishing or making ridiculous desserts.  They might be an entrepreneur at the very beginning of their journey or an award-winning cookbook author.  But they all share a certain enthusiasm once they start talking about their work.  It's exhilarating to experience, and I do my best to convey their energy in my writing.

A couple of months ago, I covered a restaurant preview that went late into the night, and then I had to spend a couple of hours writing it up afterwards.  But as I drove home, outlining my story in my head, trying to decide which of the chef's quotes would be my closing line, I couldn't have been happier. That joy I see in the people I interview?  That's something I have about my job, too.