Online writing...How I got Started
Like a lot of people, When I was in my early adult years I had no clear direction. I was going to College for Criminal Justice Administration but had no real plan other than "Get a degree--get a job." The biggest thing I got out of my time in college had nothing to do with my degree program. It was the knowledge that I had a skill for words. Writing English papers and excelling in English comp 1 and 2 showed me where my talent was. I continued to pursue Criminal Justice which lead me to a job in which I would ultimately stay too long. Most of us know what it is like to have a job that pays the bills but doesn't fulfill our desires and doesn't give our lives meaning. That is exactly where I was. I was stuck in a job that was not for me.
For years I stayed at this unfulfilling job. I did online writing on the side. My first real foray into this kind of work was on a website called Associated content which later became The Yahoo Contributor Network and then later Yahoo Voices. This site helped me to learn more about the craft while making a little extra money. The way Associated content worked, writers could create articles on anything they want and get paid a certain amount per 1000 page views. If you reached a lot of people you could make good money, if you didn't then you wasted your time writing and publishing your content only to earn little to nothing. I had some big successes and many more flops. What really helped me on my path as a writer was being able to see what works and what doesn't. Associated content was great for learning. I realized, however, that when I created great content that got a lot of views, the website was making a lot more money off of it then I was. It seemed pretty obvious that I would be much more profitable if I published my own content and collected all the ad revenue myself. I decided to become a blogger and make money at home.
Blogging, much like my Criminal Justice career, suffered due to a lack of planning and direction. A successful blog requires attention to detail, planning and structure. Most importantly, you have to know your audience, what you want to say to them and how to convey it in a new and compelling way. I fell flat on all of these. I created several blogs which I largely neglected and when I did write on them my approach was lazy and did not bring in the traffic I wanted. The important lesson here was that blogging is not an easy way to make quick money. It is an opportunity to make a decent income with freedom and independence but only if you are willing to work. My blogs did not succeed because I was trying too hard to not try. I was trying to find the thing that would make me the most money in the shortest time with the least work. After too many times of looking at my blog post with 2 views and no sign of success on the horizon, I let the blogging idea die...or at least sleep for a while.
Becoming a Part Time Freelancer.
After more time went by at my job that I still hated, I started to think Freelancing was the answer. I read about these freelance writers making a living off of their own writing skills. I read about freelancers making hundreds of dollars per article. That sounded like the way for me. I learned a lot from reading other people's success stories I tried it part time around my work and family schedule. You know what happened next? Nothing. It went nowhere, I barely put in the effort because i was always either working, taking care of my kids or exhausted. I spent my days going to work and dreaming of something better. I spent my evenings trying to get the kids fed and myself to bed so I could get up at 4 in the morning and go to work again. I was stuck knowing that I didn't have the time to build my writing career because of my job, but I couldn't leave my job until I established myself.
What I realized was that it wasn't about the hours I worked or the demands of my home life, It was about my happiness (or lack thereof.) I could work two jobs and raise a family, many people have. The problem was that my job was toxic. It destroyed my motivation, it made me miserable and hopeless. What I figured out was that if you want to climb a mountain, you can't stay on the ground waiting for a rope. Getting there is going to be hard and grueling. You are going to have to suffer to get there, but it's better than standing in the shadow of the mountain saying "I'm going to stay here where it's safe." This told me everything I needed to know about my next step.
Don't Try This at Home
I realized that I was about to do either the dumbest thing ever or something genius...I looked at my house payment, my car payment, my two kids and figured out the numbers I need to just be able to maintain. I then figured out how much time I would have to spend writing low paying copy for the content mill sites to scrape enough together alongside a part time job so that I could live free from my toxic work environment. I left a higher paying career with job security for an idea; the idea that I could trust myself, and that I could climb that mountain if I put everything into it. I did what I've always said you shouldn't do. I left the security of my day job for the uncertainty of following my dreams. It's thrilling, exhilarating and a bit terrifying. I'm nowhere near the top, but I'm too far up now, and my only option is to climb.
I didn't write this to encourage people to quit their jobs. But What I do want to say to anyone reading this is that if there is something or someone toxic to your success, don't be afraid to trade that security of the familiar for something new and terrifying. Don't be afraid to take a risk because a life without risk is a life you are not living for yourself.