Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Part 2 Of Michelle Goodman Interview

Here's Part 2 of my interview with writer Michelle Goodman (part 1 is here):

Q. What was the catalyst for you going freelance?

It was a hasty decision. Like many twentysomethings, I hated working in an office five days a week. As far as I was concerned, 9 a.m. was the middle of the night. At the time, I was working as a publicist at a New York book publishing company. A newspaper I had interned for after college offered me some freelance work writing advertorials about clothing trends (basically ad copy disguised as journalism). New York is of course very expensive and some of the pieces paid more than I made in a week at my publicity job, so who was I to say no?

I researched and wrote these articles evenings and lunch hours, loving every minute of it. So much so, that when I moved to San Francisco at age 24, I decided to do everything in my power to avoid getting a staff job again. After a couple years of working odd part-time jobs to offset my initially paltry freelance pay, I was off and running as a full-time independent professional.

Q. When did Michelle Goodman become more than just a personal brand? When was Anti 9to5 born?

Even though I’d written for national media outlets before (magazines like BUST, Bitch, and The Bark; book anthologies; and websites like Salon.com and Playboy.com), I don’t think I was really a “brand” until my first book was published. I started my blog,

Anti9to5Guide.com, a few months before The Anti 9-to-5 Guide hit bookstores to generate some advance buzz, and it was like instant platform. It was definitely a case of “if you build it, they will come.” Only problem is, once you build it, you have to maintain it. (More on this below.)

Q. As a freelance copywriter how do you set your stall out, what makes you different in the marketplace?

It’s helpful to have a specialty or two, as customers love an expert. If you’re a copywriter, you might specialize in software and other high-tech marketing, as I’ve done. Or you might specialize in small business newsletters, retail catalogs, ad agency work, or something else. If you’re a web designer, you might specialize in blogs for small businesses and creative agencies (or freelancers!). If you’re a virtual assistant, you might focus on working with authors and designers. Besides assuring clients that you’re familiar with the particulars of their industry, you save yourself time (and consequently make more money) by not having to learn a new field from scratch each time you take on a new client.

Q. Are you ‘freelance’ or an entrepreneur? How significant is the mindset difference between the two?

I’m a freelance writer. My “product” is my writing; that’s what I sell. My overhead is minimal; I didn’t need to obtain a loan to hang my shingle, and my publisher distributes my books for me. That said, the freelance mindset is very similar to that of a small business owner or entrepreneur who has employees, a product line, and a business loan. We’re both relying on our skills and reputation to make a living, and we’re both hustling for new “sales” every week or month.

However, I can’t hire employees or subcontractors to write my columns, essays, or books for me. Nor would I want to. When an editor hires me to write an article or longer work, they want to know that I’m the one writing it. So that’s a big difference: A creative freelancer like me who’s putting their credit line on their work can only make as much money as the billable hours they’re able to work, while an entrepreneur can hire all manner of staff to execute their idea and grow their business. I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a creative agency and I have subcontracted corporate work to other freelancers before, but that’s not the route I want my career to take. (I’m moving away from the corporate work.) Instead, I hire assistants and consultants to help with my taxes, web design, admin work, research, etc. so that I have as much time as possible to focus on my writing.

Q. How do you juggle the day job with the blog, writing the books? How do you survive?!

My day job as a freelance writer entails writing a column for

ABC News and blog posts for the Seattle Times each week, as well as contributing articles to media outlets such as CNN and Yahoo! HotJobs. I’ll occasionally do a bit of corporate and consulting work for variety (and because it pays so much better). And when I wrote each book, that was pretty much all I did for a concentrated six months.

I must admit that promoting a book on top of a full-time freelance workload is pretty tiring and I often wish I could clone myself, or just sleep eight hours a night. As for my own blog, I’ve had to cut back on posting in the past year, as I don’t always have the time. Rather than writing new posts for my blog these days, I’ll often run an excerpt of a guest post or Q&A that I’ve done on another high-visibility blog to spread the word about my books and tout the benefits of freelancing.

Q. The books are targeted at women and I like that focus – you have a big market out there. But do you welcome male readers, is there something in it for them? are they welcome?!

I do welcome male readers. Most definitely. There are about two out of 225 pages in My So-Called Freelance Life that speak directly to women (pep talk for getting paid what you’re worth and not feeling “guilty” for asking for it). But men can benefit from that message too. The reason the book is gendered is because my publisher’s niche is “books for women.” (For what it’s worth, it’s pretty well documented that women buy self-help books far more than men do.) But I wrote My So-Called Freelance Life for everyone because I think it’s silly to cut out half the audience, especially when the advice is the same for all. Lots of men read The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and said it was really helpful to them.

Q. Tell me about My So Called Freelance Life. Why ‘my so called’?

It’s a riff on the nineties TV show “My So-Called Life.” And a bit of a nod the fact that like, any job, even my dream job of being a full-time freelance writer has its ups and downs, as the book describes.

A BIG thanks to Michelle for taking part in this Transatlantic Simulatenous Blog Post/ Interview. Read Michelle's interview with me at her blog.

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