5 Ways to Freelance in a Small Town

Plattsburgh, NY has a population of less than 20,000 — a city by name only. Now, I realize there are MUCH smaller towns in the world, but compared to places like NYC and LA (popular hubs for artists, actors, writers, and other creative types hoping to make it big) Plattsburgh is an itty-bitty place.

I’ve lived in Plattsburgh (and its surrounding towns and country villages) the entirety of my nearly 24 years of life. Even SUNY Potsdam, where I earned my Professional Writing degree, is nestled in a corner of the arctic tundra wannabe known as New York’s “North Country.” I love Plattsburgh. I currently have no plans to leave Plattsburgh. Still, I’m a writer, and writing jobs aren’t as abundant in small towns as they are in big, bright cities.

I’ve been out of college and clawing my way toward financial stability in the “real world” for almost two years now, and freelancing has been my main source of income for close to ten months. In that time, I’ve learned a few things about surviving as a freelance writer in a small town.

So, if you’re a writer who proudly hails from the middle of nowhere, and you aren’t planning on relocating to somewhere in search of work, here are a few tips for you.

1. Advertise to friends and family.

Let your friends and family know you’re looking for some freelance work! Chances are, if you’ve lived in a small town your entire life, your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins — basically your entire extended family — are within a twenty mile radius or so. It’s as easy as making a quick Facebook post. Let them know what you can help them with. I’ve helped friends, family members, and teachers from my high school days (and all the other characters you run into in small towns) edit resumes, write product descriptions for their Etsy shops, proofread academic papers, and more. And, when you’re working for people you’re close to, it never hurts to entice them with a good friends and family discount!

2. Scope out local publications.

Most small towns have a small-town newspaper. Mine has two, as well as a few small local magazines. Generally, local publications (especially regular weekly or monthly publications) are always looking for writers. Even writing one or two articles a month for a local magazine, at $50 to $150 a pop — well, that’s a couple hundred dollars of monthly income! For me, that pays the electric bill, puts gas in my car, and maybe even covers my internet bill.

3. Reach out to local businesses.

Small towns are usually full of small businesses — and most small businesses are looking to grow. Nowadays, we have social media, which is accessible, cheap (usually free), and relatively easy to navigate, especially for the millennial freelancer crowd. But someone still needs to write the copy for every single post on social media. Twitter a few times a day, Instagram once a day, and Facebook a handful of times every week? That adds up to a decent amount of writing. And even if a small business isn’t using social media, they might need a writer’s expertise for another reason. So, reach out to those businesses. Local businesses are usually more apt to hire local freelancers!

4. Tutor.

My small town happens to have a small college. That means there are college students, and where there are college students, there are essays to be written. So, offer tutoring as one of your freelance services! Some students might just want a quick proofread, some might want more thorough feedback — and some might even want actual, face-to-face tutoring. And if you don’t have a college in your small town, you can always tutor online (try Tutor.com or Chegg), which leads me to my next point…

5. Go online.

The internet is the biggest town in the world — and you can access it from just about anywhere, including small towns. (Believe it or not, we have a Starbucks with free WiFi.) It’s always good to have your own website, if you consider yourself a professional freelancer (I recommend WordPress for affordability!) but the internet has several hubs available for people looking for freelance work. I use Upwork and Freelancer, but there are plenty of sites out there, and a few smartphone apps, too.

If you’re a small-time, small-town freelancer like me, I’m sure you understand my struggle. But, let’s be real — when we chose to be full-time freelancers, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, right? The jobs are out there; just keep your eyes open!

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3 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers (But Mostly for Me)

I know it’s been two weeks since January 1st, but bear with me. I’m still shaking off the holiday hangover.

1. Write more.

This is pretty obvious, right? Write. No matter how much I write, I’m never satisfied with how much I’ve produced, but lately (and for a while now) I’ve been writing next to nothing. I haven’t had the time. Forty hours a week takes a lot out of a person. So, in 2017, I’m going to write more.

2. Read more.

When I was a kid, I never stopped reading. I started reading Harry Potter when I was seven, started reading Lord of the Rings when I was eight. And reading taught me to write. The more I read, the more I learned about spelling, grammar, word choice, character development, storytelling. I learned to write from other writers by reading what other writers had written. But something (and hefty college textbooks are most likely the culprit) stopped me. It’s been ages since I’ve finished a book. The rows and rows of unread books on my shelves need some attention in 2017.

3. Take risks.

This is the real point of this post, I guess. Taking risks can mean different things to different people – and what’s considered “risky” can change throughout the course of a person’s life. Me getting behind the wheel of a car is a bit less risky now than it was when I was four years old (though, that’s probably debatable). For some people, taking a risk this year might mean writing a thriller when they usually write romance, or going to a movie alone when they’re usually too anxious to go without a group. These are worthwhile risks. They’re risks that will probably help a person grow.

My risk, this year, was a big one. For me.

I quit my job. My comfy, cozy, $14.00/hour, 9:00-5:00 (actually, 7:30-4:00, ew), safe, reliable desk job. Only, it wasn’t so comfy, and it wasn’t so cozy. Not for me; not at this point in my life. I’m 22. I’ll be 23 in just about three weeks. How can I already feel like I’m wasting my life when I’m not even one-third of the way through it, when I’ve only been able to drink legally for one-tenth of it, when I’ve spent all but one-fifth of it in school?

When I started, this job was a way to provide for myself, a way to keep my apartment and my car and my internet and my rats while I worked toward the life I wanted. I would go to work during the day, write during my free time. And I did go to work during the day – but I didn’t write.

I’ve been a writer since I learned how to hold a pencil, so how the hell have I spent so much time not writing?

I know it’s risky. I know it takes time to build up a freelancing career. I know my income won’t be as reliable as my not-so-comfy, not-so-cozy desk job.

But I don’t mind pinching pennies, as long as those pennies bring me joy.

Whatever your risk is, take it. If it helps you grow, if it’s good for you, if it brings you happiness – take a risk this year.

 

This Blog Is Looking Pretty Empty, So Here’s a Post

Step One of my (loosely structured) strategy to reclaim my authorial identity was to create this site. Done. Successful. Even one step can be a big accomplishment, if it’s a step in the right direction.

Step Three is to actually write something. I’ll work on that later.

Step Two was to reclaim my writing space, and I took that step this evening. Behold: my “office” when I got home this afternoon.

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Several months of persistent and omnipresent anxiety and depression robbed me of my writing space. I’m a notorious clutterbug, and when my mental health is less than optimal, the clutter consumes all. Anything without a place elsewhere in the apartment went straight to my writing desk – because, well, it’s not like I was actually using the desk to write.

My armchair in the living room (a monstrous, plush relic of the nineties, courtesy of my grandmother on my father’s side) is amazingly comfortable, but it’s not the sort of comfort that lends itself to productivity. It’s the sort of comfort that lends itself to Netflix and naps.

So, if I ever want to do this writing thing, I need my writing space.

Therefore, I cleaned. Behold: my office now.

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And yes, my diploma is wearing a bow tie. It’s my new role model for professionalism.

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Yes. Good.