How I made 10k this year as a freelancer (and a stay at home mom)

Guys, I made ten thousand dollars as a freelance writer, running coach, and (primarily) stay at home mom with limited childcare this year… and I’m going to tell you how.

I’m not saying my magic formula is going to work for you. I’m just saying it worked for me. Are you ready?

I worked really hard.

It would have been so cool if I told you it was all about the Bulletproof coffee I’m addicted to. (I’m actually just starting to get used to it.) Maybe you’d be inspired if I told you I always did my writing from 5 to 7 am before the kids got up and did all my editing between 1 and 2pm while my big girl is at school and  my little one is (supposedly) resting. That’s hilarious because my kids have slept until seven one time each. I could have uploaded photos of pages of my bullet journal, but sadly, no productivity or creativity secrets can be found there, either. Mostly it’s just tasks I need to complete slotted into any available windows of time and reminders about school pajama days, credit card payments, and dentist appointments.

I know my “method” is not cool or sexy or what you wanted to hear but it’s the truth. I also know I’m probably not supposed to talk about money and I’m definitely not supposed to publicly announce how much I’ve earned. And women are never supposed to think (or at least admit) that anything they do is a big deal.

But this is a big deal to me. When I was tallying my earnings to pay my quarterly taxes this morning and I saw how much I’d earned on my un-fancy excel spreadsheet I thought “HELL YEAH.”

Hell yeah because I was it was with no small amount of “who the hell do I think I am?” that I announced to the universe that I wanted to get paid to write five years ago. In 2013 I was an occupational therapist with a blog and a baby and I loved to write but I didn’t imagine that after my second kid was born my scrubs would stay in a storage box and that I’d someday be able to say I was a writer and a run coach without feeling like a complete and total fraud.

Hell yeah because last year I had one kid in preschool four days a week from 7:55 to 10:40 (yes you read that right; not even a full three hours) and one kid in no school at all. Four days a week, I dropped Sweet Pea off at preschool, then schlepped Lady Bug across town to the only gym where I was pretty sure the childcare wouldn’t accidentally send my food-allergic child into anaphylaxis. There, I’d wait ten minutes for childcare to open at 8:30, drop her off, then hide in the cafe with my laptop and a travel mug of coffee until 10:15.

Hell yeah because I this year I have one kid in preschool and one kid in all-day kindergarten, and even though most of the other moms complain about the bullshit 7:55-10:40 am schedule (You can’t get anything done! By the time you drop them off, you’re turning around to pick them up again!), I (usually) don’t. You can actually get a lot done in that short window of quiet, child-free time when you focus.

Hell yeah because my only regular childcare beside the precious hours when kindergarten and preschool overlap is a sitter who comes three hours a week. I struggle with whether I can really afford this, whether I should really afford this, whether a good writer/coach/mom/human being would forgo this luxury in favor of staying up late to work or declaring Thursdays Netflix Day. Dan is adamant that I deserve a sitter one afternoon a week. He says you have to spend money to make money and we both know that I’m a total nightmare when I get less than eight hours of sleep.

Hell yeah because I know I am so lucky to have Dan as my partner. He has always supported my writing and he continues to be my champion. Every time he shares my work on Facebook (even if it is because I expressly ask him to), every time he takes the kids to the gym or the library or to the park on a Saturday so I can be alone with my computer is him saying “I love you and I believe in you” and I am so very grateful for that. I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to dare call myself a writer without his support.

Hell yeah because I’ve read a million and one blog posts and heard dozens of podcasts on how to be successful, how to get published, how to make money, how to do a lot with a little, and I’m sure a lot of that works for a lot of people but the only thing I’ve done that works for me is to just keep working, even if it’s at a snail’s pace. What has worked for me is forcing myself to do things that are scary and then keep doing them until they are not scary, and then find a new scary thing to try.

This is an incomplete list of what has worked for me: Start a blog, start a writing group, co-produce the Listen To Your Mother Show, start a book, submit my work, attend a blogging conference, keep submitting my work, quit writing a book, submit my work to new outlets, start another book, get rejected, create a writing retreat, quit writing another book, be an author, ask stores to carry my book, speak in public, keep submitting my work, ask my editor if there’s room for me to write on a weekly basis, sign up for a writing retreat, sign up for a writing class, create another writing group, keep submitting, get rejected, keep submitting.

I’m not saying you should start a blog, start your own writing group, co-produce a show of your own, or do anything I did. Maybe you should look at my list and do the opposite of everything I’ve done. I don’t know what will work for you. I just know what’s working for me. It’s not magic and it hasn’t been quick and it hasn’t been easy but it’s been slow, steady, and extremely gratifying.

 

how i made 10k in one year as a freelancer

I turned “I can’t” into “I did” (without vomiting)

Three years ago, I sat at a table with a successful, smart, genuine woman at the BlogHer conference. I met many amazing women that weekend but this one said something to me that I’ve held close ever since. Her blog was huge, she was traveling the world sharing her message, and she had a book deal with a major publishing house. She was doing things I never even dared imagine doing. I was still hoping to someday get paid to write (which for the record, I did for the first time, just a month later).

She said, “If something makes me feel scared, that’s how I know I should probably do it.” I’ve been trying my best to embrace the scary ever since.

Which is how, on a random Sunday night, I ended up on stage in front of 200 strangers, under hot lights, with a microphone in my hand, and some words in my head, telling the story of how my attempt to act like the grown-ass 27-year-old woman I was, ended with me crying buckets of tears in the ladies room at work.

Dan and I attended Truth Be Told, Boulder’s bi-monthly story slam, an event where audience members may put their name in a hat (of note, it was an actual hat) for a chance to take the stage and tell a five-minute, true story, without any notes. Afterward, the audience would vote on their favorite.

When we bought tickets, there were two weeks until the slam. Coming up with a story could wait until I’d resolved the pressing issue of finding a sitter.

With one week left, I made a mental note to stop procrastinating. I successfully ignored the mental note for three days. Four days out, I was confident I could repurpose a blog post for my story. But nothing came to mind and I didn’t feel like sifting through the archives. Three days out, an idea I’d never used as blog fodder came to me. All I had to do was write it down and practice a few times. I had plenty of time. Or so I thought.

After you subtract the hours you spend doing necessary life activities —sleeping, eating, bickering with your spouse about stupid shit, asking your kids for the bazillionth time to find their other shoe, picking up the rogue doll shoes waiting to poke sharp holes in your feet, venting about the stress of your life on the phone with your sister, hugging your husband and apologizing for haranguing him about the pile of papers on the credenza, doing laundry, exercising, showering, and reading one more chapter of The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo— two days leaves you exactly four free minutes in which to contemplate the Very Important Matter of Your Entertaining Story Slam Story.

With 48 hours to go, I discovered “just writing it out” was a horrible plan. There was no “just” about it. Like every time I write, demons possessed my fingertips, keeping them turning the genius ideas in my brain into the perfect, beautiful words they were supposed to become. I forced myself to vomit whatever shitty words I could come up with onto the screen and clean it up later.

But dealing with it later became less realistic with every passing hour. (See stresses and time-sucking necessities of my life, above). My first draft was boring, rambling, and well over the five-minute mark. I locked myself in our bedroom, whittled it down and tried it on Dan. We had to stop the timer a few times to field requests for snacks, incident reports regarding serious matters such as “she hit me on purpose!” and “I had it first!”, but eventually I got to the end.

Dan said it had the elements of a good story but needed work; polishing, more details, and more tension.

I hid in our bedroom, set my stopwatch and tried again. I wrapped it up as the clock turned from 4:59 to 5:00. It was within the time limit and not horrible. I made Dan listen again.

“I need more details. More context. Like, why should I care about this?”

Details and context were parts of my story I’d included in the original version and deleted. I cut some pieces out to make room for the discarded nuggets, added them back in, and tried again.

I liked it.

I asked Dan if I could try it again. Dan is many things, but a multi-tasker he is not. At this moment, Lady Bug bounced on his lap while Sweet Pea interrupted us every five seconds to offer insights into her imaginary world. Now I’m pretending my baby is sick and I’m taking her to the doctor. Now I’m pretending I have twin babies. Now lets pretend me and Lady Bug are twins. He made a face like “Are you crazy?”

Once we were alone in the car en route to the show, he was captive. I practiced once more. Dan said it was really good. With twenty minutes until show time, my story was presentable. And with precisely twenty minutes until show time, the idea of putting my name in the hat made me want to puke.

As we handed the ticket taker our tickets, Dan gently shoved me over to the table in the lobby, where I filled out a white slip of paper with my name, my story’s name, and a “fun factoid” about me, and placed it in the hat. Dan has been gently shoving me toward stuff I’m scared of but should definitely do since 2008, starting with learning Excel so I wouldn’t run out of money (again). I’m used to it.

As we took our seats, I officially hoped they would not choose my name.

The 250-seat theater was nearly full. The first storyteller was hilarious. The second was ok. The third was a riot. The fourth blew my mind. The fifth broke my heart. The sixth was me.

As they called my name, Dan gave my hand a squeeze. I whispered, “I’m scared.” Then I stood up and scooted awkwardly across half my row to the aisle and walked down to the stage. I took the microphone and told my story, The Day I Acted Like a Grown-up at Work.

I began just as I’d practiced.

“It was 2007 and I was working as an occupational therapist at the shittiest hospital in the world.”

I kept talking. I kept breathing. I kept my voice from wavering. I paused when the audience laughed. (They laughed!!). At the end, they clapped. I went back to my seat. At intermission, strangers came up to me just to say they liked my story. At the end, we voted. I voted for myself. Dan did, too. Maybe no one else did. I will never know. I don’t care.

Boulder Story Slam

One of the luxuries of being an adult is, to a great extent, you get to control your environment. You can make your environment as comfortable as you want. Which is awesome if you’re talking about creating a tranquil bedroom motif based on the mood board you’ve been Pinterest-ing for six months. But when it comes to actual life… it doesn’t work that way. As far as I’m concerned, comfortable is boring. I don’t want to stop learning and changing and growing just because I’m a grown-up and no one is forcing me into scary situations anymore. I’m not on this earth to lie on a couch with a fleece blanket and a Real World marathon (although that would be nice once in a while). I’m here to stretch myself, to explore my limits, to learn about myself, to explore the unknown and the uncomfortable, to feel the exhilaration of turning “I can’t” into “I did.”

I’m here to try and embrace the experiences that scare me.

My Impostor Syndrome Workshop at the DU Women’s Conference

If you haven’t used Powerpoint in over ten years and if you’re giving a 90-minute talk for the first since, well, ever, then there are no words to explain how highly I’d recommend choosing Impostor Syndrome as your topic.

If you don’t know what Impostor Syndrome is, in a nutshell, it’s a fancy way of saying insecurity. It’s when you feel like you’re out of your league, like you might fail at any moment, or like you are a fraud. It’s extremely common. A recent study found 70% of people experience it. Everyone I mentioned my talk to said they have felt it. And now that you know the term, you will hear it everywhere. I was probably way more jubilant than was reasonable when I heard Lena Dunham mention it in the post-show interview on a recent episode of Girls.

About six weeks ago, a friend asked me to submit a proposal to present at the 21st Annual University of Denver Women’s Conference. I was flattered. I was thrilled. I love talking. The idea of talking to people who had an idea of what I was going to say and who would willingly show up, just to hear it? Amazing. I should  add that just a couple weeks prior, a good friend got me to admit I have a secret desire to someday get paid to be a speaker. So this felt like the universe telling me, “Great idea, Pam!”

So after hours and hours of researching, then writing and rewriting and Google searching various aspects of Powerpoint, and practicing alone, trying again on a friend, and then another friend, and practicing it I swear for the last time in front of Dan, and telling Dan I hated him and why did he have to be so mean when he told me part of it was boring and then apologizing because actually I wouldn’t want to be married to someone who has low standards, poor taste, or who would rather yes dear me than challenge me, and then re-writing the boring part… the day arrived.

I was nervous and I was excited and I felt confident but not confident to the point of arrogant. I wasn’t afraid I’d forget what I was supposed to say because I’d been engrossed in the material for a month. I wasn’t afraid people wouldn’t be engaged because I was going to make them pair up and converse every so often (and converse they did. I heard lively discussion, laughing, and even sniffles). And every time I did get afraid…

How am I qualified to talk about Impostor Syndrome?
Why should anyone listen to me?
I’m never going to organize all this information and give it to people in a way they’ve never heard before?
And Oh My God the person who basically INVENTED the term Impostor Syndrome gives talks on Impostor Syndrome so why should I bother??

… I was able to avoid spiraling down the self-doubt spiral because all of my reading, copious note-taking, TED talk viewing on the topic of how to keep Impostor Syndrome from holding you back, served as my mostly impenetrable Impostor Syndrome armor.

The talk was Friday. I will have to wait till later this week to receive any feedback from the attendees, but I think I nailed it.
Here’s why:
-I got a lot of eye contact.
-Phones remained out of sight (which I did not specifically request).
-People took notes.
-One of the organizers said she heard people saying it was great.
-Several people stayed after (on a Friday afternoon) to chat with me.
-Three of the twenty attendees bought my book. (I would have been happy to sell one. I schlepped twelve along, just in case).

Dan gave it a B+. (Dan came!). I don’t think that means I didn’t nail it. I just think it means I could improve (he gave me a few specific pointers), and that Dan is like a Russian judge when it comes to certain things. Also, I know a B+ isn’t a bad grade. I’m just used to getting A’s or working at jobs where no one has a clue what I am doing so my performance review is like, “You were not late too many times. So… that’s good. And no one is getting raises this year, which includes you. Thanks for everything you do for our team.”

I’ll write a few follow-up posts to share some of the content of my workshop but for now, here is my first slide.

Impostor Syndrome- Pam Moore talk

I guess the name of my workshop was catchy because it was one of the most well-attended sessions of the afternoon.

This was the description of my workshop on the conference website:
When the term Impostor Syndrome was coined in the late 1970’s, it was largely considered a women’s issue. Subsequent research reveals that most people- regardless of gender- experience Impostor Syndrome at some point in their lives. If you’ve ever doubted that you deserve your success, didn’t feel you truly earned your title, or attributed your achievements to luck and/or an error…. you’ve been victimized by Impostor Syndrome. But you don’t have to be anymore.

In this workshop, you will:
• Learn to identify Impostor Syndrome
• Discover strategies you can start using NOW to minimize it or even eliminate Impostor Syndrome
• Be able to determine when Impostor Syndrome can in fact be useful and how to let it motivate you.
• Take action to start moving toward your dreams and goals today.

I am available to do this talk, or a version of it for your group. I am also happy to speak on other topics, so let me know if you have else something in mind. Feel free to email me at pam(dot)sinel(at)gmail.com.

 

Win a Copy of There’s No Room For Fear in a Burley Trailer

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m giving away a copy of my book, There’s No Room For Fear in a Burley Trailer.

I admit I love Valentine’s Day. Certainly I’ve had my share of shitty Valentine’s Days, like the one when I went out with my hot best friend and every guy at the bar wanted to talk to her and no guy wanted talk to me, and I was miserable and lonely and even though I’d eaten nothing but a tangerine and a Morningstar Chick Patty for dinner, I solved the problem by having another drink, and then another and another, until I created a whole new problem for myself in the bathroom of the Orange County Social Club. But I’ve had good ones too, like the one when I got a new door instead of flowers, and of course the one when Dan and I met.

To enter to win, click over to my Facebook post and tag a friend in the comments (also feel free to like my page if you haven’t yet). The contest ends at midnight MST on Saturday 2/13 and I will announce a winner on Valentine’s Day. 

Win a copy of There's No Room For Fear in a Burley Trailer

The book is a collection of stories chronicling my journey from amateur triathlete to rookie mom, and all my misadventures along the way (and there are many). And speaking of Valentine’s Day, as much as professing my love for my husband  on social media is not my jam, I have to admit the way the book came about was incredibly romantic. Dan compiled 266 pages worth of what he considered to be my best blog posts and surprised me with this book for my birthday. You can watch my reaction when I opened my birthday present here. Yes, it was the best birthday present ever. No, I do not ever hope to receive another birthday present that can match this one. And if you want to know how he did it, it was a very involved process, of formatting, and copyediting, and style editing, and all kinds of other details that he graciously shared for this guest post on Beyond Your Blog.

The Story Behind There’s No Room for Fear in a Burley Trailer

Not long after Dan and I met, he said, “It would be so fun to publish a book of your best blog posts.”

I said, “Yeah!”

And then after I thought about it some more, I said “No!”

Dan kept bugging me about it, and I kept saying no, and after a while he started threatening to just do it anyway. But Dan is really busy earning a living for the four of us, updating his online CSA directory (check out farmshares.info!), writing his own e-book (do you know what cross-platform mobile apps are? I don’t. I proofread his book anyway), digging in our garden, teaching Sweet Pea to ride a bike, and taking insanely long baths, among other worthy pursuits, so I never thought he would actually do it.

He said he had something up his sleeve for my birthday. I thought it was maybe diamond earrings.

But no. My husband went and published a book for me. It’s made up of what he considers my best blog posts, professionally copyedited. It has a pretty, professional-looking cover. It has a foreword by the lovely, talented Joelle Wisler of Running From Mountain Lions. It has blurbs on the back written by writers Ann Imig (the creator of Listen To Your Mother), Michele Mariani Vaughan (owner of A Storybook Life), and Stephanie Sprenger (blogger at Mommy For Real and editor of The HerStories Project).

I am an author!

 

Here is what happened when the surprise was unveiled:

PS Don’t all 37 year-old women wear cupcake jammies and open gifts in bed at the dawn’s first light on their birthday?

Click on the picture to see what happens when Dan surprises me with the Best Birthday Present Ever

Click on the picture to see what happens when Dan surprises me with the Best Birthday Present Ever

After I got over the initial excitement, I freaked out. Now what? Would I try and sell this book? Would anyone care? What if they didn’t? What about the fact that I would have done it a little different if I’d been in charge? What about the fact that actually I wouldn’t have done it at all if I were in charge? What about the fact that I’d be winging everything about selling a book? And was it too late to add a dedication page?

Dan told me to relax. He said that if I only printed copies for my parents that would be ok. He said I could do whatever I wanted with it, or nothing at all. And that I should at least read it before I freaked out any further. That night I stayed up well past midnight reading the book, and almost made Sweet Pea late for school finishing it the next morning. Is that weird? It’s not like I didn’t know the plot.

So… I’m scared and I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing but I’m going to go for it anyway. Which is actually, the basic gist of the book and it’s how I try to live my life.

You can buy it through my e-commerce site.  BUY THE BOOK

The book is also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble (both in print and as an e-book), and for order at your local independent bookstore.