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Why I Hired a Writing Mentor — Part 1: I Wanna Quit My Day Job

Carol Tice

Susannah NoelBy Susannah Noel

Here’s the story of why I hired Carol Tice to be my writing-business mentor:

I need a job that’s flexible and can also pull down a solid income.

A couple years ago, I decided this job could be copywriting. Not anything literary, of course — but business writing, for websites, newsletters, and blogs.

In the spring of 2010, I was lucky to land a 9-to-5 position as a marketing manager for a website developer. Now I write all day, and I’ve learned a ton. But I still need to edit books in the evenings and on the weekends to make ends meet.

Because my job is an hour away, I have very little time to spend with my kids. So as much as I like my 9-to-5 gig, something has to change.

I’ve decided I need to go freelance full-time.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Becoming a well-paid freelancer is a great goal — but how do I take the first step?

Maybe a Mentor?

A few weeks ago, in one of my furtive, late-night surfing sessions, I came across Carol’s article, How I Make $5,000 a Month as a Paid Blogger.

To be honest, it made me a little sick with envy. I blog at my 9-to-5 job, not unlike what Carol does — but even with additional freelance editing on the side, I don’t make nearly as much. But at the same time, I was exhilarated. If someone else can do it, I thought, maybe I can, too.

Then I noticed Carol’s page on mentoring. And my little puff of exhilaration grew into a gale-force wind. I had a plan.

I wrote a quick blog post on my new idea to hire a writing mentor — Carol very kindly posted a comment — and suddenly, I was being mentored. Just like that.

Carol Delivers

After I gathered my samples and sent Carol a list of my interests, she and I got on the phone for a delicious two-hour-long phone call.

It was like drinking a tall glass of water, after years of only sipping it by the teaspoonful. I finally got the nuts and bolts information I needed — not from a book or an online article, but from a real writer, talking only to me and my situation. Here’s what we talked about:

  • Potential markets that make sense for me, and how and to whom to pitch my ideas
  • How to improve my website, including what focus I could give to my blog
  • Creative ways I can network locally
  • The possibility of adding additional services to my repertoire, in addition to writing and editing
  • What I need to do financially to make a freelance business succeed — the rates I should charge and the amount of money I should save before I launch out on my own

Even before we hung up, she’d sent me several lists with resources, tips for how to find writing gigs online, and a list of action items. I suddenly had pages and pages of ideas on how to move forward. Here are the ones that most intrigued me:

Potential markets. For a year I’ve written newsletter copy for a local arts college. Carol suggested I build on that and develop college communications as one of my niches. We also discussed how I could parlay my experience writing copy for an accountant-focused Web developer into business-finance blogging.

Networking. I live in Vermont, a small state with fewer networking opportunities than elsewhere. But Carol had the brilliant idea that I could host a Mediabistro party. I love the way this busts through limitations and makes its own rules. No networking event? So make your own!

Improve my website. Over at my Vermont copywriter website, I had slapped some pages together without too much thought, figuring it was better to have something than nothing. Carol agreed — but she also suggested several easy updates that would instantly make the site more professional.

For example, she pointed out that my landing page would benefit from a professional tone and approach, and I could move the more casual, personal details to an About page. She also thought I could shift the focus of my blog from writerly thoughts to SEO discussion, given that I do SEO work at my full-time job.

The Power of Speaking It

But perhaps even more helpful, Carol directly addressed my disbelief that I could actually do this, actually become a full-time writer with enough money in the bank.

She told me about the Jewish Baruch She’amar prayer:

Blessed is the one who spoke, and the world came into being, blessed is He.

“This prayer is about how God created this world by speaking. We’re created in God’s image, and we speak our reality into being also,” said Carol. “The more you tell people you are making this transition to full-time freelancing, the more it will become real.”

I’m not religious, but this resonated with me. I felt a shift in my mind-set — from wishing, to deciding.

Here I Go…

Of course, for my freelance career to take flight, I need to do more than get my positive attitude on. I need to start marketing, pitching, and, most of all, writing.

So that’s what I’m doing — step by step. This week, I sent Carol my to-do list for December. I’m going to work on my website, research companies and people to pitch, and take a training course on writing for B2B copywriting.

It’s one tiny move forward at a time — but, finally, it’s my reality.

Susannah Noel is a Vermont-based business and marketing copywriter delivering meticulous SEO copy that drives traffic and boosts sales.

Follow Susannah’s journey from day-job copywriter to freelance writer — subscribe to Make a Living Writing.

Are you trying to make the leap from day job to freelance writing? Done it already? Leave a comment and tell us how you did it, or what your plan is for leaving 9-5 behind.