How I improved my income as a freelance writer

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When I first began seriously freelancing as an editor and content writer (as opposed to an occasional gig here and there), I was earning roughly $200-300 for editing a 100K-word novel, and about 1 cent per word of original content. If this sounds like total exploitation, it was. But I had been out of the workforce for 10 years, I had no confidence and no references, and I was desperate for money.

At times, I questioned whether it wasn’t crazy to give up so much of my time and energy for such low compensation. But I earned valuable experience and was soon able to move on to better things. It’s an ongoing process, and I would like to share a few things that have helped me along the way.

I keep looking for opportunities. Even though today I have as much work as I can handle, I give job listings a quick look-through every day. When I see something interesting, I apply, even if I don’t feel 100% confident. I’d rather risk hearing “no” than missing out on a potential opportunity.

I value my time. When I started doing this, I knew I wasn’t looking for a full-time position. I wanted to keep staying home for my children. I wanted to keep home educating. I wanted some spare time for creative writing, art, backyard homesteading, reading, and just breathing.

This means that I had to pay close attention to my hourly rate. I have about 3-4 hours of work split throughout my day (1 hour early in the morning, 1 during midday downtime, 1-2 hours after the kids are in bed), and I must make them count. I was never after pocket money. I need a real income for bills and groceries, so I can’t allow my time to go down the drain.

I play to my strengths. While I’ve written about topics like insurance and cryptocurrency on occasion, these aren’t my strong points. On the other hand, I have a degree in nutrition, which gives me a big leverage in projects that focus on diets, supplements, and wellness. Having expertise also means I need to spend less time on research.

I’m not quite making a full-time income yet, but I’m getting close. I know people who are doing this without breaking a sweat. Writing (whether you write fantasy novels or service pages for roof contractors in Michigan) isn’t a get rich quick scheme, but it can provide solid income, and there’s plenty of room to grow if you’re willing to put in the effort.

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Spring is coming

One of our pullets enjoying some fresh greens.

With the days getting longer and warmer, and everything around lush and green after abundant rains, it’s probably the most beautiful time of the year. It’s also the one I hate the most.

From last week: Oznei Haman, the traditional Purim cookies.

Never mind the odd shapes. You know what this means, right? Purim is behind us and Pesach is ahead. A time of chaos and stress in so many Jewish households.

I’ve struggled with this time of the year so long. I’ve tried to embrace it. But now I’m finally done pretending and can say with total honesty – I hate Pesach prep.

I hate what it does to my schedule. I hate that it makes me miss out on beautiful healthy outdoor time at the loveliest season of the year. I hate that it makes me brush my children aside. I hate the exhaustion and rumbling stomach from not having time to cook. I hate having to overhaul my kitchen twice in one week: all-year to Pesach dishes and back again.

I do what is probably considered less than the bare minimum in most Jewish households. And yet for me, it’s always too much.

So I’m done trying to find something nice about this period of intense cleaning. I’ll just mark the end of Pesach in the calendar and wait eagerly for the time when I can get my life back.

I’m still here

Rainy view from our balcony

Yes, I’m still here. Just bogged down with massive amounts of work – something I find hard to complain about, in the current economic climate.

I’m striving to find balance and have enough time for the kids, the house, and just to breathe.

Luckily, after weeks of enticing weather, we’re having some freezing cold, rain, hail, and a promise of snow. I’m a big fan of warm sunny weather, but hey, this is an opportunity to hole up in our cozy home and do relaxing things like reading and crafts.

Hope you’re all having a safe, warm February!

Israel, the COVID vaccine pioneer: an insider opinion

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Disclaimer: all opinions and insight in this post are my own. I make no claims of statistic or scientific accuracy.

Some time ago, I wrote about my personal choice to wait and watch for a while before getting the COVID vaccine. Since I work from home, am not in a risk group, and am a natural introvert, this choice is viable for me.

But it is different for many other people in Israel. Quite simply, many will soon have to take the vaccine – regardless of their personal preferences or concerns – to keep their livelihood and avoid restrictions.

Israel has started its vaccination campaign in full force and, so far, has vaccinated about 1/3 of the total population and most people in risk groups. Despite this, COVID continues to spread rapidly, in a large part because of new variants that now target younger people and children as well.

There’s a big – and, in my eyes, very scary – trend of shaming and pressuring the people who are reluctant to get the vaccine for any reason. They are labeled uneducated, scare-mongerers, selfish, unwilling to “do their part”. Allegedly, vaccine refusers are the reason why we won’t be climbing out of this pandemic anytime soon.

There has been talk of making vaccination mandatory but, since legislation for this would likely cause an uproar, there’s an insidious movement to make people get a vaccine by existing legal means.

It started with a “green passport” incentive that’s supposed to give vaccinated citizens access to shopping centers and recreational activities, and escalated to organizations saying their workers had better get the vaccine if they want to keep their jobs. Teachers who have concerns about the vaccine are told “it’s your fault we can’t open schools, kids are missing out on their education because of your silly irrational fears”. I’ve heard local authorities declare that unvaccinated individuals will get no services, no counseling, no assistance when needed. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, but the statements can give you a hint of the overall attitude.

Any concerns about the vaccine are systematically swept under the rug and any reports of possible serious side effects are dismissed as a coincidence. This week I heard a recording of an epidemiologist who had given a radio interview and very carefully and rationally explained why the vaccine might not be 100% safe for everyone. The interviewer, seething with fury, terminated the report midway.

The worst part? Leading authorities are talking about taking the plunge and vaccinating children and pregnant women before any clinical trials have taken place for these groups, because without these populations, Israel will never reach herd immunity.

I am still pretty positive about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. I hope that, in the end, it will prove the solution we’ve all been hoping for. But here’s the thing:

It should be illegal to try and coerce, force, shame, or manipulate anyone into taking the vaccine. It should be illegal to offer external incentives for taking the vaccine.

Any discussion on possible negative side effects should be open and transparent. People shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed to ask questions, or labelled as senseless fear-mongerers when they do.

The demonization of people who are choosing not to take the vaccine yet has got to stop. It appears, so far, that being vaccinated doesn’t prevent someone from spreading the virus to others. Therefore, it has minimal impact on my neighbors and friends whether I’m vaccinated or not. We are not the problem. We were not the ones who caused uncontrolled spread through massive crowded events, parties, demonstrations and (ironically) funerals.

I never thought I would say this, but living in Israel has become scary lately. I have never felt such instability. Not during wars, not during terror campaigns.

I pray that we somehow make our way out of this without forgetting about democratic values like bodily autonomy, critical thinking, and freedom of speech. Because so far, things aren’t looking very hopeful on that score.

Crochet kid hoodie in the Alpine stitch

Alpine stitch hoodie. Took forever but so worth it.

Some crochet projects go fast. Others seem to take forever, growing at a snail’s pace. This cozy kid hoodie definitely belongs to the latter category, but I still loved working on it.

I wanted a pullover that wouldn’t be too bulky and hot, and I wanted a natural fiber blend. I ordered Baby Alpaca Merino Cotton from Ice Yarns, not realizing just HOW thin it was. I had counted on DK weight, but got something more like thick thread. To make up for that, I chose the Alpine stitch, which gives a dense texture.

I love the result. The pullover is not too thick and has a nice drape, but it literally took forever. I had to work on some other projects in between to break up the monotony.

I used my favorite technique, top down open raglan, and then added a hood once I saw I have enough yarn. In total, I used 400 gr of yarn and a 2mm hook.

I had intended this sweater for Israel (6), but his younger sister (soon 3) claimed it. ☺ Guess they are going to share.

Now on to new projects! I can think of no better therapy with the latest lockdown.

One valuable lesson I hope my children learn

Flower growing in a rock crevice: blooming in hard circumstances

I started my married life with a mortgage-free home, a husband who had a nice, stable job, and a great deal of optimism bordering on self-assurance. I mean… things were looking so great, so why would anything ever go wrong, right?

Then, for almost a full decade, I had done my best to ride out one financial crisis until another, facing the loss of the income and the house that had seemed so secure. Having chosen a remote lifestyle, I had very limited employment opportunities, a bunch of kids, no reliable transportation, and no steady internet connection. So my only available strategy was, tighten that belt… and tighten it more… until it nearly suffocated me.

I believe my great epiphany came at the moment when I was scouring the corners of my freezer for the last bit of flour to make one last loaf of bread. I was feeling utterly helpless, vulnerable, and desperate.

And I realized I don’t ever want to feel this way again. Never. Never.

Today, I am lucky enough to live in improved circumstances and enjoy wider opportunities. I’m in a safe, settled place and am successfully employed in writing and editing. But often, it still feels as though I first shot myself in the foot and then spent years trying to repair the damage.

In a few years, my older children will be starting on the road to adulthood. It’s a sobering thought; they’ll get to make their own choices – and their own mistakes. And if there’s one message I hope to convey to my kids while they are growing, it’s this:

“Don’t be afraid to envision a bright future in which all your dreams come true, but also make a Plan B in case the you-know-what hits the fan. Believe me, you don’t want to burn all your boats and then discover you’re stuck on an island.”

Though nobody like to think of unpleasant things, it’s wise to think of how you’d handle sickness, prolonged unemployment, or the breakup of your marriage. This does happen, and it’s important to have an emergency fund and employment opportunities on the back burner.

I love attachment parenting and will never regret the years when I was “just” Mom, not a freelancer juggling an intense work-from-home situation. But I’ll never forget the panicky feeling of “I need to make an income and I freakin’ don’t know how, and I’m afraid this ship is going to sink if something doesn’t change soon.”

A few years ago, a building contractor in our community, a young and healthy man, fell down from a ladder to his sudden and tragic death, leaving behind a widow and six children. The widow was devastated, but at least her established high-tech job enabled her to keep providing for her kids. Things were horrible for that family, but they could have been so, so much worse if the mom had had no education or employment opportunities.

Be safe. Protect yourself. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” had never gone wrong yet.

When it rains, it pours

From last season

During the previous couple of weeks, we’ve had such lovely sunny weather that I was finally tempted to go out and start planting some things. Yesterday and today, we’ve had a sharp overturn toward torrential rains and howling winds, and now I’m afraid all my poor seeds will be washed out. Reminder to self: never trust the weather at this time of year.

What I’m happy about is having had time to line my chicken coop with a nice, thick layer of dry leaves prior to the rains. I expand on this in my latest Mother Earth News post:

Using dry leaves for chicken coop bedding has numerous advantages:

1. It’s free: just grab a bag and haul all the leaves you want.

2. Leaves are plentiful and readily available

3. It will entertain your chickens: a bag of leaves will always contain tidbits like seeds, grass stalks, bugs, and other edibles your chickens will enjoy unearthing. 

I’m also proud to say that my post about preparing your chicken coop for the spring has made the latest MEN newsletter:

Our chickens pick up the cue of longer days and generally resume laying around February, even though it’s still cold. The young pullets hatched at the end of last season – say, September or October – are generally ready to start laying in February or March.

I can hear some of you laughing hysterically, saying “Cold? You guys don’t know what cold is”. True, we rarely get any snow, but the shorter winter days still affect our egg production. Come spring, I look forward to:

  1. Having all the omelets we want
  2. Raising baby chicks
  3. Planting
  4. Hiking

I’m not looking forward to:

  1. Passover cleaning.
  2. Uh… no. Nothing else. Just the cleaning. 🙂

Stay snug and warm, everyone!