A Freelance Writing Guide for the Coronavirus Shutdown

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Friends. I started this blog in 2010 when I was brand new to the city. Back then, I was mainly an actor, which meant I was actually paying my bills by temping, babysitting, and catering/working auctions at events. Any breakdown in social structure–such as our current state with the coronavirus–tossed my budget out the window in just days.

When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, my now-husband and I were both living freelance paycheck-to-paycheck, but our recent move to Jersey City meant that our income essentially halted. The Path trains to NYC shut down for a month, and though private busses started up eventually, you typically had to wait in line for hours to get a seat. Our income was non-existent for about two weeks, which was more than enough to make us scared about groceries and rent. After the whole debacle, we both took full-time jobs and focused away from theatre for nearly five years (and never truly turned back, honestly).

For everyone suddenly separated from their only source of income, I hear you. Times like these are not only scary for next month’s rent, but can scare you out of the field for good. If there’s one piece of advice I learned from our experience, it is to never make life-altering decisions or declare massive changes when you’re in a panic. However, the massive change after Sandy did eventually help me find my current full-time freelance career in marketing writing.

If you are interested in learning a new work-from-home strategy while we all have time, read on!

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Tips for New Freelance Writers: Avoiding Shady Job Posts

Photo by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

Now in my third year of freelance writing, I occasionally catch myself turning down potential clients and invitations to interview for no discernible reason. I’ve been burned more than a handful of times–as many freelancers have–both before and after I’ve done the requested work, so I can be a little quick to judge.

On one hand, just because something sends up a red flag doesn’t mean the client will drag me through the mud if I give them a chance. On the other, finding new work is a large percentage of freelancing, so it’s important not to spread yourself thin if you know the client won’t be a good fit.

So how do you know a potential freelance client is worth pursuing? And once you get started, how do you welcome a potential client while clearly communicating your needs?

UpWork was (and still is) an excellent resource for my freelancing career. However, whenever I speak to new writers looking to break off into freelancing, I say, “There are a lot of garbage job posts out there. Same as any other site, you just have to sort through them to find the good ones.”

Though you may never know if you’re a perfect fit with a client until after an interview or initial assignment, you can pick up on a few clues before getting started. So if you’re just jumping in (or if you’re a freelance veteran and have some to add), take a look at these red-flag job posts I’ve learned to avoid.

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The Darker Side to My Arts Addiction

I started acting in this ridiculous field when I was a kid. Next year is my 25th anniversary of jumping off into the deep end. My parents–both veterans of the theatre world in different respects–warned me from the get-go not to fall into some of the common traps of growing up in theatre. They’d seen it all–the egomaniacs, the obsessives, the bad-mouthers, the creepy men. I lived in fear of becoming one of these spoilsports among an otherwise-supportive and wonderful community. But my parents were always–and remain–very supportive of my choice to follow this crazy business. In a nutshell, my mom often came back to quoting Stanislavski at me: “Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the cure to what seems to be a much larger problem in this oversaturated field today–not so much the over-confidence, but the opposite–the constant feeling that you’re banging your head against a door that won’t open. The complete disconnect between effort and results. The fruitless pep talks after your 3rd audition of the week that leads to nothing but silence. I see less and less puffing of the ego feathers in audition spaces and more exhaustion, self-deprecation, and encouragement of unhealthy habits.

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BRB: Ukulele Parade

Today I celebrated the Summer Solstice by marching in a ukulele parade.  I do not, sadly, play the ukulele, but I did play a mean plastic maraca and tried to sing along.  Also, I broke a curse! This was the first official parade that I’ve ever  marched in.  I’ve been scheduled to march in several parades since I was a kid, but three now have been rained out.  So with my merry band of about 10 people and my awesome coworker Pia, I finally broke my cancelled parade streak.

It’s important to note that I’ve had more coffee today than I’ve consumed in the past week put together.  Reading over the letters of this blog post is like trying to catch sentences bouncing around a screen.  My health has finally improved, and so coffee is my friend again.  Also, I clearly needed an iced coffee to make the ukulele parade an even more beautiful experience.  So if this post doesn’t quite make sense, have a coffee, then reread.

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I Never Wanted a Barbie Dream House

On my drive to work this morning, an old Barbie Dream House had been left out on their curb for bulk trash day.  And of course, it’s raining, so it was a wildly depressing sight. But the size of the thing!  That dollhouse, now crumbling and filling with water, must have been up to my hip and as wide as my car door.  I started to think about a reoccurring memory from childhood–sitting in my school friend’s bedroom, “playing” with that massive Playmobil mansion (I could have sworn it was Lego, but the internet tells me otherwise). It seemed like everyone got the same gift for Christmas that year.  We were barely allowed to change around any of the pieces, so I use the term “play” loosely.  The massive toy house had several floors, an epic front yard, a full cleaning staff, and all of these little lego flowers that you could “plant” around the garden.  I thought about how my cats would probably eat these lego-like pieces in a heartbeat if I had it at home.  To me, sitting there, staring at this untouchable dollhouse, was a rare, mature moment of clarity in elementary school when I thought, “I do not need this bougie dollhouse in my life.”

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The Troubled Relationship Between Time and Art


Back in college, my friends and I invented a day of the week known as Twunesday.   Twunesday fell between Tuesday and Wednesday, and all events that didn’t fit within the constraints of our seven-day week were scheduled on this day.  When will I write that paper?  On Twunesday!  How about taking a nap?  Twunesday is an excellent day for naps!

Nowadays I find myself filling up my Twunesday schedule with all the artistic endeavors only doable on days when I have a clear schedule, void of responsibilities.  I daydream about a clean, cleared-off desk with an artsy looking planter full of succulents, a steaming coffee cup, and a little framed motivational quote about the sun and new ideas, or some other baloney.  This desk does not exist is my house, most of my writing is done at the dining room table with a cat laying half off my keyboard, usually cutting off the use of everything from caps lock to the space bar.  A pile of papers containing theatre mailers, tax documents, and notepads with my husband’s play notes are held down by a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, of which I have read half.

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Day 13: Thirty Lessons Learned Between 20 and 30

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post. 

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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Thirty Lessons Learned Between 20 and 30

  1. How to haggle with a NYC hot dog vendor
  2. How to stand on the right side of the subway platform so you get off on the right side of your stop
  3. Always tip extra
  4. Always double-read a lease before signing it, and for heaven’s sake, keep a copy
  5. There is no way to decide on all your life goals at 21
  6. Gratitude is not the sole answer to anxiety, but it is a gentle start
  7. The third drink is the window between two drinks and six drinks
  8. A lot of famous people are regular, nice human beings
  9. And on that note…there is no magical separation between the Broadway/Hollywood world and the rest of us
  10. I don’t need to try and monetize all my skills/hobbies
  11. A stalled train is not actually the end of the world
  12. Always carry chocolate
  13. Your body is capable of way more that you give it credit for
  14. We have the option to eat a lot of crap or eat food that fuels our body
  15. Sometimes you need to spend a little money to get over your fear of being broke
  16. At times, it’s better to go to bed instead of saying what’s your mind, other times it isn’t, the trick is knowing the difference
  17. Days of rest lead to days of productivity, and you never get a badge of honor for claiming otherwise
  18. You have no control over your audience’s reaction, only over your level of preparation and honesty
  19. Time heals all wounds, if we give ourselves the space and forgiveness to allow it to pass
  20. Nothing good every comes from being snippy to a waiter–or any business you interact with
  21. Living a life without barriers from pursuing your art or passion is the greatest privilege, and one worth fighting for, even if it’s never attained
  22. Go for a walk
  23. The more money involved, the more you need to fight for the project’s genuine, original purpose
  24. Telling someone to “choose happiness” is a lack of awareness of your privilege of stable mental health
  25. You have no reason to feel guilty for taking care of yourself
  26. Hard work does pay off, but it is not rewarded evenly
  27. An arts career is a long-distanced run, not a sprint
  28. How to educate myself during a mind-numbing, dead-end job
  29. Kindness is always the answer, is any situation you can imagine, no matter how many people label you as weak for believing so
  30. Nobody owes you shit

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The Actor in the Back of the Coffee Shop


“It’s just different from what I’m used to,” says the fussy lady in the coffee shop across from me, as she slams down the delicately crafted Matcha latte in front on the barista.  “If you had sweetened it the first time, I would have liked it.”  She wavers between a demanding tea connoisseur and someone who has never interacted with a food establishment before. Luckily, I know the people who work here, and will be able to share a glance of what a pain in the ass when she leaves.  Also luckily for me, she has no idea that I’m sitting here like the opposite of a secret shopper, writing about her unwarranted indignation about what is essentially a cup of hot sugar.

So yeah, not in a super-social mood lately.  Yesterday I told Ben that I would feel much more comfortable with a standard acting career acting if I could make one major change–to remain as introverted and secluded as an actor as I get to be as a writer. I know how to get my thoughts out, how to get to the point of what I want to say, when I sit in a public place with my laptop and write.  Here, I have the societal understanding that no one should mess with me because I’m clearly writing something super-duper important. This, paired with my intimidating resting face, usually assures my privacy.  Fussy tea lady is a reminder that I’m not exactly ready to dive into being a social butterfly to flaunt my acting career.  I used to have a thicker skin for people like this, or at least I thought I had to have one in order to stick with the types of jobs and interactions necessary for a public-facing career.

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Oh good, I’m super great at the wrong thing

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Last night I had a dream about eating a sandwich with my grandma.  She passed away a little over two years ago, and had one of the best kitchens on earth for snacks and conversation.  In the dream, she made me a huge but simple ham and cheese sandwich on really nice bread that she said she specifically bought for my visit–something she was known for doing.  However, in real life, I haven’t been able to eat gluten recently in an attempt to figure out why I’ve been so sick.  So in the dream, I start to have this huge dilemma–I’ve been so good about getting healthy.  I’ve been disciplined, I’ve been taking care of myself properly.  If I give in to eating this bread, I’ve gone backwards again.  I’ve failed at my goal.  But in the dream, I stop myself from giving my grandma the gluten speech and eat the damn sandwich.  We have a nice talk before my brain drifts away into the another storyline someplace else, leaving me wishing the elusive and comforting dream had continued a little bit longer.

The significance is due to the infuriating exhaustion I’ve developed this summer.  I just finished another acting class, and though the class was incredibly helpful, I still walked away feeling like I have frozen in my growth as an actor.  Without a show, without the time to find a consistent project to throw myself into, I stall.  Throughout it all–the juggling, the pushing, the planning–I’ve worn myself down further and further, constantly attempting to do everything that I do well.  Or actually, better than well, perfectly.  And yes, I have become very very good at creating stability–financial and otherwise–so good that I have ended up in the place where my art that I’m fighting for barely exists.

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Two parks, three trees, and a mighty fine popsicle

As I get older, I am constantly reminded that a day can take unexpected turns when you let it.  I began today with an overly structured plan to make it past the morning surprise that I awoke feeling like had spent the night rolling down a rocky, jaggedy hill–a reminder that either my mysterious illness still lingered or that I had quite an adventure while sleepwalking last night.  Either way, I rolled out of bed and committed to my plan to work diligently at my office until I couldn’t see straight anymore–something that’s been kicking in around 2pm each day–and then head home to try and rejuvenate myself for my acting class tonight.

Yet alas, as I approached the school this morning, a large jackhammer-type-creature was ripping off the facade of our school’s porch directly outside the hallway of my office.  Within one hour, we were all told to go work from home due to the noise and dust.  And so, my wacky, unexpected day of reflection was kicked into motion.

Tree #1


Have you ever tried to sit in public and simply do nothing?  It’s surprisingly bizarre. My final task of the morning was to drop off a catering order at a nearby restaurant, which happens to be positioned next to one of the most delightful little parks in Montclair.  Motivated by my recently fuzzy brain-fog, I zombie-walked into the park paths and plopped myself down on a bench to stare of into the distance of the Tuesday morning.  Since this is a pretty froofy suburb, there were a surprising amount of people out and about–all of which either on their phones, jogging with headphones, or pushing a baby stroller of some sort.  Then along comes Ginny, throwing off the whole social construct of how to act in public.  I didn’t have a book to read, didn’t play with my phone (since the recent political sludge of Facebook has only been adding to my tension), and didn’t really have anything to do other than wonder in the beautiful sunny summer morning that I hadn’t expected to be a part of.  Well, the wild thing is that people are uncomfortable with this unless you’re a little old man.  Perhaps it’s my tragic resting face or the fact that I always look a little bit lost, but not a single person passed without looking at me as if something had just gone terribly wrong. All I was doing was sitting on a bench, staring into nowhere, and suddenly the world wonders why I am outside without a purpose, without a goal, without an activity.  If someone had asked, I would have just said, “I didn’t think I’d get to sit outside today.”  It reminded me a bit of all the people chasing Forrest Gump when he starts his cross-country trek:

Newsman: Sir, why are you running?

2nd Reporter: Are you doing this for world peace?

3rd Reporter: Are you doing this for women’s right?

Newsman: Or for the environment?

Reporter: Or for animals?

3rd Reporter: Or for nuclear arms?

Forrest: (voice-over) They just couldn’t believe that somebody would do all that running for no particular reason.

2nd Reporter: Why are you doing this?

Forrest: I just felt like running.


I find people are confused by actions taken without outright gains or outcomes.

Anyway, I wandered home, still hobbling, and tried to keep my mind fixated on work for several more hours, all the while balancing the endless list of tasks outside of work I had on my list this week.  As you can expect, I horribly failed at this attempt as my eyes started to glaze over and I felt the all-too-familiar urge to climb into bed and try, yet again, to feel better.

Around 2pm, something struck me.  A breaking point came in my frustration, and I put on some pants, got in my car and headed back to a park–a different one this time–to try and regain that perfect moment of equilibrium I had seen poking through the clouds earlier today.  Because while sitting on that park bench, doing nothing, I felt like myself for the first time in perhaps a two months.  So gosh darnit, I was going to go find that again.

Tree #2


When I reached Edgemont Park, three books and a journal in tow, I located what appeared to be some sort of fig tree and laid down beneath it–as far away from anyone else in the park as possible.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this weird illness–which is looking more and more like Fibromyalgia every day–it’s that I am becoming even more of an introvert than I was before.  Every sense is heightened.  Sounds are amplified to the point where I can’t decipher two people talking at once, bugs landing on me don’t stand a chance, and I can smell food cooking across the neighborhood.  As you can imagine, I am also overly affected by crowds–especially the loud, smelly, noodgy ones of NYC.

So here we are, ditching my work email and laying on the ground in the middle of New Jersey.  How did I get here?

I closed my eyes and felt the back pain of the morning sink into the supportive ground beneath me as the wind blew through the fig tree, making the thick, bowl-shaped leaves clap together like an encouraging audience.  I open my Anne Lamott book, a woman who has become a member of my imaginary lady-writer friends, whose voice I only dream of mirroring, to a chapter about forgiveness.  After an hour or so of absorbing the healing voice of lady-wisdom, I sit up and peer out into the uneven nature of the park, reminding myself that my original goal of this life was not to spend time in a career that would keep me from the beauty of the day.

This is my idea of freedom.  My freedom is not about saving up enough money to go to Key West once a year and try to turn off the part of my mind that curses Mondays and deprives itself from Vitamin D behind a tower of files and perpetually refilling inboxes.  It’s about living a life of creation, within the world that inspires me to create.  I may never go fancy places or purchase a fancy home, or hell, even retire with the well-balanced portfolio of a retirement fund, but at least I would have fought for the freedom to live in a way that reminds me that the sun rises each day and that there are so many possibilities for change.

In need of movement, I pried myself from my grassy knoll and made the executive decision to call out of class this evening.  My bones still don’t feel like they’re properly connected to one another, and I don’t need to throw myself into the fiery social hell of NYC just as I’m starting to improve.

In my lofty, “the world is my oyster” trance, I wander toward an ice cream truck playing “It’s a Small World After All” to get a popsicle.  Because I’m an adult, and I can buy a damn popsicle from an ice cream truck.  On my walk there, I begin to feel better again.  The words of Ann Lamott float through my head about self-forgiveness, and the blog wheels begin to turn.  When I reach the truck, I buy a phenomenal chocolate-caramel-double-layer thingy, basically made of sheer magic, and exclaim that I have exactly $4 in cash to buy it.  At this, the delightful Glinda-esque ice cream lady answers, “Even if you didn’t have the money, you could always take what you need and pay me another time.”  Did the ice cream truck just offer me the option to open a tab?  Yes it did. Some people are just great.  I then headed out into the sunny afternoon to eat at least the 5th-best ice cream of my life.


Tree #3

I find a new sunny spot, feeling rejuvenated by my sudden decision to scrap all the plans of the day, and lay down under another tree. With my book in mind, I start thinking about my least favorite question when I was a child actor: “Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?”  This is what most theaters asked kids to make them relax and show their personalities to the audition panel.  Well, being the pessimistic Wednesday Adams that I was, I saw this question as an unfair way to brand myself, to essentially provide the adults with an elevator pitch about how much of a quirky, put-together kid I was.  It was a way to quickly label yourself.  In adult life, we call this small talk.  I hate it just as much.

My recent exhaustion, which I have no doubt contributed to this weird illness, had been partially brought on from many years of desperately trying to fit into many different comfortable artistic, and non-artistic boxes.  Since college, all I’ve wanted is to exclaim “I am an actor,” “I am a writer,” “I am something that people respond to and understand and respect.” And yet, here I am at 29, still completely unable to answer, “Tell us a little about yourself.”  Because I may never be able to fit into a comfy box, I may never be able to explain which career path I am banging my head against a wall to achieve, and I may never be able to say that I know where I want to be in five years.  As I left the park and headed for home, the heavy exhaustion of carrying around this misunderstood responsibility became an obvious contributor to my problems.

Many very caring people have offered practical and lovely advice to help me feel better.  Most of them, if not all, involve suggesting that I take a vacation.  To all of them, I say this: I don’t need a vacation.  I don’t need a temporary escape from a lifestyle that we are told to maintain until we’re 65, when we are finally allowed to get on with the living part.  I need a new way to see the world, and a new view of what I want to do while I’m on it.  And it may not fit into a career category, and it may not be able to explain at auditions or a Christmas party.

That’s all.  If you find me sitting on a bench staring off into space on a summer day, I’m totally fine.  I’m just figuring out what to do next.