How I Became a Writer

“So, how did you become a writer?”

I get asked this all the time.

My response, “I was always a writer.”

It’s true. But it wasn’t until I was 10 years into a professional career and 30 years old before I became a paid writer and then a full-time freelance writer.

As a child, I wanted to be a singer and a writer. Instead, I went to college with no clue what I wanted to do. I started as an Advertising major and quickly realized it was not right for me. It wasn’t as creative as I thought it would be, and the classes were boring.

By chance, I took an Anthropology course as an elective with my best friend, Peter. I was captivated. The biological and cultural study of human evolution is amazing.

How anyone can truly not “believe” (as if it is something one can believe or not) in evolution is crazy to me. I have held evidence of our evolution in my hands and studied it, trying to learn the how, why, when, and where of our history.

It is an incredibly fascinating science. And while I loved learning about Anthropology, I knew even then that I would not be pursuing it as a career. To be successful (make decent money) in Anthropology, you really need a Ph.D and several years of field work, which I was unable to commit to at 19 years old.

Instead, I wallowed in learning as much as I could. I have always adored learning. I love to read and grow and develop and Google it every time I don’t know the answer to something.

But Google couldn’t answer what my career choice should be.

As happens to many people in sales, I accidentally fell into an inside sales job at a local company after I graduated from the University of Florida. It is so funny how many salespeople have no idea how they ended up there! But sales can be fun, creative, entrepreneurial, and lucrative!

Sales did well by me. I advanced in my career, made more money over time, and it allowed me to move to New York City a few years later and get another sales job here. I later got another sales job in a completely different industry, where I met the man who would be my boss for the next 5 years, who encouraged my growth and learning, gave me the autonomy I needed and craved, and became a close friend.

I’d had a blog for many years, and when I got a little more serious about trying to write more and publicly, I went on the hunt for opportunities. When I got accepted as a contributing writer at Lifehack and Huffington Post, I still wasn’t thinking about making writing a career. I just thought it was so neat and I would get some great exposure!

I woke up one Monday morning near the end of 2016 and decided I would try to get paying clients, and within three days, I had four clients. Dan recognized it as the beginning of the end of my sales era, yet he still supported me in chasing my dreams.

My husband had been encouraging and was one of the maybe 7 people who read my old blog. Geoff was so excited for me when I got my first paying clients, and when I quit my day job three months later to be a full-time writer, he made me feel like I could do anything.

So, how did I become a paid writer?

I asked for money.

My first four clients came from Reddit (the r/forhire sub, where I responded to a person looking to hire a copywriter), Craigslist (someone responded to my free ad I posted), LinkedIn (I messaged contacts directly asking if they needed a writer or editor), and direct marketing (I reached out to a small business and said I noticed they hadn’t updated their blog in over two months).

I didn’t beat around the bush. When people asked me “how much for a blog post?” I gave them a number. I didn’t say that I was new to this or I didn’t know. I was expert from the very beginning and demanded fair pay for the value I provided. If everyone could do it, no one would need me.

I eventually filed as an LLC, found a simple contract template online which I still use, and streamlined my pricing and services.

And even now, I try to keep my business processes simple. I love talking to people and finding new clients and new projects, and I think it shows how much I enjoy what I’m doing.

I didn’t hate my life or job and resort to entrepreneurship because I saw no other options. I didn’t do it as a lark or on a dare or because I thought I “should.”

I became a writer because I was meant to be one. I found a way to make it work and to make money because that was the only way to commit to it.

Being an entrepreneur allows me to live my dream, not the other way around.

Figure out exactly what it is you love to do and then work on finding a way to make it your career. Don’t start a business for money or because you think you should or because everyone else is doing it. Do it because it allows you to live the life you always secretly wanted and makes you happy.

Running and building a business is tough and lonely sometimes. But I do it because being a writer was the realization of a lifelong dream.

Confucius is wrong.

Do what you love and you’ll still work really hard at it, but it is more satisfying for your soul and you wake up not dreading work.

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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