I still write letters to my best friend…

Marilyn's Letter
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Well, I still write letters to one person :).

When I lived in Detroit, there was a church just two doors down from the house Mama and I were staying in. It was one of those big, beautiful churches with a pipe organ… It was as pretty as you could get in the Mexicantown neighborhood. I think I was in the 5th grade.

Marilyn was the friend of someone who held bible studies for the homeless on Vernor Ave, a meeting we would go to every week. She soon became a friend who I spent my weekends with, just driving, talking, having discussions about Harry Potter and my beliefs. We’d go visit Windsor Canada and ride bikes, or play Rummikub on the beach. She took me out on her boat, taught me how to sing, and took me on adventures. In a time when I had very little stability at home, when I had one, Aunt Marilyn was my one positive solid figure.

She was much older, 50-something to my eleven, but we had conversations like long-lost friends. And when we were apart, either because Mama and I moved suddenly and I didn’t know my address or because of school, we wrote letters. I have stacks of letters from her since I was a kid, shipped to Italy, Georgia, various places in Detroit, and everywhere since.

No one writes letters like Aunt Marilyn. Usually amounting to 10-15 pages front and back and of the same print as that notecard above, the longer we go without writing, the longer the letter.

She calls me on my birthday to sing to me.

I worry sometimes, when she hasn’t written in a while. If it’s been more than a month I begin to wonder, is she okay? Is she sick? Overworking herself (she’s nearly 70 now)? She’s been my grown up friend for so long, always talked to me like a grown woman talking to another grown woman… She’d tell me if something was wrong, right?

Thankfully this month I’ve gotten three action-packed letters from Auntie M, this last one illustrating a burglary down her street in which the owner chased after the thief, caught him, and gave him a “stern talking to” until midnight before letting him go.

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Are you prepared to work from home as a writer?

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Everyone wants to work at home in their pajamas, typing away while watching soaps and feeding the cats.

Or they want to be one of those people who drink lattes at Starbucks all day while doing research on their laptops. From afar, it looks to be some strange inner-circle of people that somehow managed to get an “in” so that while the rest of the world is stuck behind the counters, cubicles, and cars, they’re making money (usually much more) just by being near the internet.

I’m one of those people, sitting in a coffee shop or bundled up in my robe with Netflix going somewhere and the teapot on. Even if I have errands to run, as long as I have service I’m working.

This is both a blessing and a curse.

1. Be able to work remotely

This doesn’t mean that as long as you have an office with a web connection you’re set. This means that you need to have the discipline and professionalism needed to work, unsupervised, and meet your clients’ goals as if you were right there with their other staff.

There isn’t a single job you can do at home, that makes money, that doesn’t require meeting deadlines and expectations. If you have a reputation for missing deadlines or not being on your game at all times, and an employer writes about it on a profile of yours somewhere, finding more work will be nearly impossible.

2. Have an excellent work ethic

In most day jobs, you can lose yourself in your tasks, keeping busy and doing your work until 5PM rolls around and you can get out of dodge.

When you work at home, especially in content, you have to be prepared for disaster at all times. Ready at a moments notice to make edits, be available, give up your free time to make things right for your employer. You can’t pawn things off to others or let things go over the weekend–you have to be ready to deal with issues, and now, as well as you can.

3. Give up your personal time

If you’re not just a hobby wahm, and don’t just make a semi-part-time income doing small projects every once in a while, then you’ve likely got a full plate that takes up your entire day and then some.

Most people who work at home for a living are constantly working, and don’t often get days off, holidays, sick days, or even vacations. I can’t remember the last time I went out of town and didn’t have to get online at least twice to do follow-ups, editing, or some form of team management.

When I said that having the versatility of being able to work whenever there’s internet isn’t always a blessing, this is what I was talking about. As long as you have service, internet, or even pen and paper ready, there’s really no excuse not to be working if you have the time and work needs to be done. At least that’s how I see it, and I’m not one to let things go until Monday. If I get an email at 6pm on Friday, even if I have plans, I either cancel or work well into the middle of the night to get whatever needs to be done completed (or at least prepped for someone else).

Most people don’t think they’d miss a 9-5 for the chance to sleep in, work whatever hours they want, and still manage to get in a little fun. That is the ONLY thing I miss about working in a cubicle–being able to wait out the clock and leave all thoughts of work behind. Having my weekends to myself to do anything–go camping with no service, go out of town, stay in bed watching Dawson’s Creek and eating… whatever.

4. Forget anonymity, autonomy

There is some autonomy in content writing, I admit. Get an assignment with a deadline, write it as soon as you can, move along to the next. But each and every one of my writers is accountable for every article they send my way.

Does it need edits? Does it not make sense? Is it too formal, opinionated, jargon-y, or poorly put together? There is nowhere to point the finger when the name attached to the article is yours. You can’t disappear and try again tomorrow, or next week. If I need something changed by a due date, I trust the writer to still get it to me on time. If there are issues or questions, I trust the writer to ask before getting too close to a deadline.

There’s a lot of mental preparation that goes into truly working, full time, from home. Thankfully the whole point of working from home, at least in the beginning, is to change your lifestyle, switch up your income, and explore your talents in a new way.

Freelancing isn’t for everyone, and most people can’t handle the pressure, the tight schedules, and the ridiculous amount of responsibility that comes when you’re actually relatively successful. I’ve actually failed many times at this, not able to withstand having to constantly be working, or ready to work at a moments notice–even in the middle of the night. The stress gave me panic attacks.

But at least for now, I’ve figured it out.