Ladies & Gents:
Hello! As I wrapped up the only thing I have due today, I saw a flurry of new newsletter subscribers. I suspect you're coming from the fabulous The Professional Freelancer newsletter because she said some very nice things about me.
So again: hello! And hello to my long time subscribers too! I'm not one to toss you off for the new model(s).
If you are new here, all you need to know is that this is a thing I do in my spare time. I don't get too hung up if there's a spelling error or a typo. I send it out when I have time or something to say. So I'll be popping into your inbox at irregular intervals – which I hope you enjoy!
I am putting this edition of the newsletter together as I get ready for another grand adventure: I'm taking thee weeks(ish) off to drive to California and back. This isn't just a trip where I'll speed west, touch the Pacific Ocean, and turn around. I'm taking my time, and spending four days in Disneyland with my dad and sister in the middle of the trip (and yes we are going to Galaxy's Edge).
Long time subscribers may remember that I spent the summer of 2017 seeing the 18 states I hadn't been to yet (#jenin50). Then, I worked as much as I could along the way. That's not the case this time. I'm dedicated to only writing the New York Times running newsletter (because I love it, and it's fun to write about when I'm running in different places).
So how will I do it? Well with my dog and my Jeep Wrangler (stick of course). But how will I do it work wise? Even if you're planning on taking a shorter vacation, I think these tips can help:
1. Tell your clients way in advance. I let them know six weeks out – in emails that had nothing to do with assignments. I added that if they wanted to load me up with assignments before I went, I'd be happy to comply. Two took me up on that offer – I went from one story a month to four for one client; and one story a month to three for another. This is a bit of dumb luck: the first client needed help before the new staff writer started; the second was thinking of assigning some stuff early so they'd have stories while staffers were on vacation. But like a lot of things having to do with luck, I also benefited from it because I put myself into the position to receive that luck by letting them know I'm available.
2. Let less regular clients know when you turn stuff in. So when I go away, I'll tell and editor so that they don't plan to work on the revision with me at a time I'm not available. So with every assignment I've turned in since April, I added the line: "Just an FYI: I'm going to be away [start date] to about [end date]." That's it. I have also been upfront about this with every potential new client I've talked to. With one, she said the story wasn't time relevant and said we'd talk when I get back.
3. If you do plan to keep writing for someone in that time, let them know too. As soon as I told some of my New York Times editors that I was taking time off, I made sure to email my newsletter editor to tell her I planned to keep writing the newsletter, stressing that I wanted to. I didn't want her to hear about my trip and feel left out I hadn't told her – or also think she needed to scramble to get someone to cover for me.
4. Turn down work. Ugh, I know, a tough thing for any freelancer. If you decide to take time off – and be truly off – you'll have to do this. I've only had to do it once so far. I thanked the editor, told them why I wasn't able to take the assignment, then asked if they were looking a recommendation for another writer. I'll make sure to send her a note when I get back.
5. Up your savings. "Duh Jen," you're saying. But it's true. For every payment that hits my bank account, I've been sending 20% into my tax account, 10% into my "Fuck You" (i.e. emergency) account and 5% into my retirement account (where the money gathers before I ship it off to Vanguard). So to get ready for this trip, I upped my "Fuck You" account percentage to 20% (and retirement to 10% because I've been very busy and doing really well these first two quarters and want to make sure I am putting money away and not spending it all on ShopGoodWill).
Is it nice that I can take this trip? Sure! But I've also worked to get here, not just in the last year or so as I've really ramped up marketing and signed a bouquet of good new clients, but in the almost 15 years I've been at this freelancing writing thing. I saw a tweet about this Medium piece the other day asking when, as a freelancer, you know you're successful. Being able to take this trip is a good sign for me.
Before I get to the usual recommendations, a mega shout out to Hot Topic. Yes that hot topic. I knew it in high school, of course, and bought some Lilo & Stitch from them in 2017 while on #jenin50, then didn't think about them until I wandered into the Cherry Hill, N.J. location recently. It's become a place for me to buy not too expensive things that are associated with things like and it into my daily wardrobe without screaming "I AM A DORK!" I keep getting compliments on my Captain Marvel wallet (including from the fancy sales lady at Nordstrom, who had no idea it was Marvel-related) and a few Captain Marvel rings at a conference as basic gold (toned) jewelry (and matching earrings, which a fellow fan said she noticed). I'm wearing these right now. And also this – this is what I look like when I work, a true professional!
"After a Runner's Fracture Heals, Fighting the Fear of Re-Injury" for The New York Times
"May the Fourth Be With You: the Science of Star Wars" for Michigan Tech News
"Biometrics in Schools to Yield Security Benefits and Privacy Concerns" for EdTech
"Buy, try, return, repeat: How fast fulfillment gives beauty retailers a competitive edge" for Supply Chain Dive
"Hardware as a service makes inroads beyond printers" for CIO Dive
What I've Been Reading
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I've had an interesting experience with this book. I enjoyed reading but just couldn't find time to read it – which is not typical of me. I realized that sitting down with a meaty book like this does not match with travel. Now that I'm home, I've been flying through it, and I'm glad I didn't give up on it.
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Washington. I've been switching between these two audiobooks as they become available through the library (the Libby app). I only get seven days with each at a time, so I try to get as much in as I can!
- A House With a Clock In Its Walls. So……..I can see why this didn't do too well. WAY to much "children in peril" for a movie marketed to kids. I think you can only do that with horror movies. This just didn't work for me at all.
- Bride & Prejudice. This is one of those movies I hate that I didn't see earlier. Thanks Hoopla Digital! (also through the library).
Jen A. Miller