This guest post is from Barbara Trainin Blank, author of “What to do About Mama: A Guide to Caring for Aging Family Members” and a recently dislocated freelancer.
Relocation is Dislocation, but…
There’s a Jewish proverb that states: Changing one’s place changes one’s luck—with the implication that it’s for the better.
That’s one way of looking at it. Another is that moving is one of the top stressors in life; some even say the top five. I certainly found that to be so.
Moving away from a city we had lived in for 24 years—even to go to a place that promised to be better overall— negatively impacted my professional success as a freelance writer and editor and hence, my pocketbook. A number of my clients—mostly local and regional magazines and newspapers—decided they preferred writers who still lived in the area and could do interviews face to face.
That seemed to surprise many people, who couldn’t understand why, in this day of the Internet, I couldn’t “work from anywhere.” Well, I couldn’t …
Even though there are more opportunities in our new location (Greater DC), to which we moved for my husband’s new job, they are often very specialized opportunities, such as technical and government jobs. There is also a lot more competition, and people are more “political.” Also, in our particular corner of Greater DC, people typically have been living here 30-40 years, and formed strong connections. It’s hard to break through. Even people who are otherwise reliable friends seemed reluctant to give me referrals if they were in competing fields.
So what to do when you get to a new place? Some of the suggestions I’m giving you, the reader, are ones I didn’t have the courage or wherewithal to follow during the first 15 months of our sojourn here. Hopefully, that will change over time.
1. Tell everyone you meet that you’re looking for a position or for freelance assignments/projects, no matter how uncomfortable you are.
2. Go on “informational interviews” with anyone successful in your field or maybe any field if there’s a link.
3. Work with a mentor coach. Through a psychologist, I was able to find an organization that is flexible about fees.
4. Get involved in networking groups. If you’re shy (like me), try to find a low-key one where people, for example, meet in members’ homes.
5. Approach nonprofits, businesses and associations, as well as newspapers and magazines, that might need writers. Certainly, journalism is undergoing a crisis, but freelancers are still needed in some places, if you can find them.
6. Maybe write for someone who doesn’t pay to collect credits. (I’ve done that for a regional theater guide, because I love theater and free tickets!)
7. Hang out at places where writers might hang out, like writers’ centers, bookstores, and library events. Tell everyone you’re a writer, without shame.
8. If you published a book (like I did a year ago), try to get a reading someplace that charges little or nothing, and be ready, at the drop of a hat, to tout the “wonderfulness” of your book. (This is something I’m still working on.)
9. Don’t overlook (as I too often have) the Internet, both in terms of web sites and listservs that target writers exclusively or partially (like Craigslist), and those that might be looking for bloggers and freelance writers. Some of the latter are not to be trusted, but others might be goldmines.
10. No matter how dark things look, always remember they can change.