How do you work full-time while you homeschool full-time?

Parental Advisory: Earning all the money and taking care of the kids by yourself at the same time is hell. And only crazy people do it. Really. Less than 1% of white college-educated women raise kids alone. That statistic makes sense to me. Because 2% of white college-educated women get divorced. All these statistics come from the Bureau of Labor. Most of the women in this demographic get remarried. I am convinced that the women who do not remarry and actually do the whole child-rearing thing alone all have Asperger’s. Read more

This course includes four days of video sessions and email-based course materials. You can purchase this course for anytime, on-demand access. The cost is $195.  

Sign up now.

You can judge if you are one of my good friends by whether or not I’ve fired you. Melissa, for example, is my really really good friend because I’ve fired her three times.

I fired Cassie twice. In fact, I was going to throw out that picture up top because it was from when she was working for me, but before I could even get to my delete button, she had reinstated herself as my favorite freelancer. Read more

After a long break from new courses, Melissa and I did a course on how to start freelancing. This is especially timely because over the last six months while I have been rejiggering my online courses Melissa has launched a freelance business.

My first thought was: Oh. Crap. Melissa is too busy to do courses with me. But she says that will never happen.

So join me for Get the Guts to Start Freelancing: it’s a four-day online course with chat and constant chatter from me, and from Melissa who will sometimes moderate and sometimes cut me off to make her own points. You’ll learn how to make a strategy to start and create tactics for attracting more clients as you grow.

This course includes four days of of video sessions and email-based course materials.  You can purchase this webinar for anytime, on-demand access. The cost is $195.

Enroll now. Read more

It’s another post about Melissa. But before I get any more emails asking if Melissa is single, let me just say that the single life of Melissa lasted exactly three days.

I could see it coming, really. She said, as she was trying to figure out if she should break off her engagement, “I always think I should just go move in with his best friend.”

Okay. So fine. It is not normal to have these thoughts so close to the wedding. So she moved out. And then, just as she was gearing up to tell the best friend that she wants to be more than friends, he volunteered to help her move her stuff into a new apartment.

I’m skipping the part of the story where they make out on the sofa and I’m going to straight to the official blog photo of him.

You will notice that he has set boundaries with me via Melissa, so I am not putting his picture on the blog. It’s probably better. Because the last two guys Melissa dated had their pictures on the blog, and then look what happened. Badness. For both. Read more

I am in Boston having post-traumatic stress syndrome from being too close to the town where I went to college. The kids are doing a music workshop and it’s in Newton, which is very close to Waltham, which is where I went to college. So I thought travel planning would be easy since I know my way around. But the cab pulled up to the hotel and I realized it was the hotel where I lost my virginity.

It was not a good scene. Well, the first time I was there was definitely not a good scene, but this time was not either.

“Mom! I don’t want to leave the hotel!”

“Mom! I like this hotel! I want to lay in bed and watch TV!”

I took half a Xanax and we changed hotels. Read more

This is probably what you think self-employed looks like:

I’m at an amusement park with my kids, in the middle of the week, and I’m on a conference call while I watch my son try to get on a ride.

Being self-employed looks so nice at an amusement park. The self-employed are always free to go on a vacation. They pick up their friends at the airport in the middle of the day, they show up for poker night because they can stay out late, and they can plan their wedding without having to pretend they are working.

Close up, though, most self-employed people are completely stressed about money.

That money part is what I hate about being self-employed. Anyone who says they don’t love a steady paycheck is lying. A paycheck is so nice. It’s reliable like a friend, it makes you safe, it gives you a way to organize your life.

Here’s how I deal with the worrying: Read more

We have been snowed in for three days.

At first, it was just a hint of being snowed in, people stopping and talking in the grocery store. Not that I would know. Because the farmer told me I should probably go buy extra food in case we’re snowed in and I ignored him. Melissa and I were too busy scheming, figuring out how we can do a business together. Finding a good idea for a business takes a lot of thinking, and arguing, and diagramming failed ideas on big sheets of paper.

Then it started snowing. A lot. At first it was fun. School got out early so the farm kids could get home before the roads were unpassable. Unpassable spellchecks as not-a-word, and my editor hates that, but I swear that’s what they call snowed-in roads in the country.

The blizzard was fun. I tucked in my goats and then my kids and then Melissa, who is from Texas, needed extra layers and long underwear to sleep. I told myself it was okay that I was getting no work done. Some days are like that. All days cannot be equally productive. And anyway, I’m an ENTJ, so I’m happy as long as I’m taking charge of something—starting a company, running a family—so as long as people follow my goal, I’m just fine.

When we woke up, the blistering wind made the house feel cozy warm. I showed the kids how to build obstacle courses through their bedroom and we invented recipes for cookies that sometimes came out right.

We baked and baked until we ran out of the sprinkles.

Then I started sneaking glances through my in-box between movies that I warned the kids were too gruesome to watch. But that was before it was a snow day. Read more

I have this idea that I am going to start working from home. I tried to go into the office. But the only alone time I have in my day is the time I'm not with the kids, and if I spend my alone time with other people, then I don't have alone time and I start to panic, and I do things like tell the guy in the cube next to me that he can't talk to me.

1. Get a spot where you can concentrate.
So I tried working from home, but then I started feeling like I am the most alone person in the world. So I thought I'd change it up a little; I'd work from home, but the farmer's home.

I call him to tell him I'm coming to his house early.

“How early?” he asks.

“Now.”

“Don't you have to work today?”

“I'm not going to the office any more. I don't want to talk to people.”

There is a beat of silence, and I think the farmer is going to say something. Or maybe the silence is long enough that he is thinking I am going to talk. He has asked me to not talk over him, but I have a hard time telling if it is his turn to talk or mine. I start to panic because the rhythm of conversation is getting irregular, so I say, “Okay. Bye.” And I hang up before he can say anything else. I note to myself that this is the fourth conversation in a row that I did not talk over him. Read more

Here’s how I became a writer. I started writing when I was six and wrote nonstop, about things no one cared about.

Nineteen years later I thought, I like to write, I should get paid for this.

So I went to graduate school for writing, and the first day, the teacher said, “If any of you can imagine yourselves doing anything but writing, you should do that. Writing is hard, and lonely and full of rejection and you’ll never make any money.”

I stayed in school (I had a fellowship – who can give up free money?) but after school I got a job in marketing at a Fortune 500 company. And I made a lot of money.

But I kept writing. For ten more years. I wrote after work, and when my jobs were slow, I wrote at work. I used my vacation time to send writing to publishers who rejected me. But then they stopped rejecting me. And slowly, I realized that I could support my family with my writing. So I took the leap. (And, note, a huge salary cut.)

If you think you want to be a writer, first pay heed to my teacher’s advice. If you still want to write, remember that most writers spend years and years writing before they get published in a national magazine. So keep your day job until you’re sure you won’t starve. Here are three other things to do as well:

1. Rethink your ideas about time and space.
The best way to build up a freelancing career is to have another job with a steady paycheck, to support you while you’re honing your skills as a freelancer. This means that you need to be able to write in small, disjointed spurts of time, because you have a day job, and responsibilities, and you don’t have three days to craft each sentence.

But maybe you’ve already quit your day job as an expression of commitment to the freelancing. That’s fine, but maybe you don’t have a lot of money. Writers do not need their own pristine office and gorgeous PowerBook. I wrote for years on my kitchen counter because our New York City apartment didn’t have room for a desk. It wasn’t great, but it was fine.

2. Accept self-promotion as a way of life.
No one likes to do self-promotion, but the people who really, really want to work for themselves force themselves to be good at it. There is no one to get work for you except you. And it takes a lot of time to get the word out about what you do and why you do it well.

There are a ton of freelancers who can do a competent job at any given job. The freelancer who gets the work is the one who is best at marketing herself. So don’t talk about the injustice of the world and how you are too much of an artist to promote yourself. Instead, set aside 40% of your day for self-marketing. I used to think that as I got to be a better writer I would do less self-promoting. But in fact, it never happens, as far as I can tell. It’s forty percent forever.

3. Give up the notion that there’s one, perfect way to do it.
Not that the perfect word doesn’t exist. But it’s in the eye of the beholder. Who, in this case, is your editor. But look, you’re not writing the next Magna Charta. Maybe you’re writing a how-to piece for a men’s magazine. Or, if you’re lucky, you’re writing some travel piece about a hotel that’s giving you free lodging. What I’m saying here is that the stuff you’re writing isn’t so precious that the editor can’t rip it to shreds and rewrite it in his voice.

So what? You still get a check. You still get to say you were published in that magazine. Don’t write for that editor again if it’s so upsetting to you. But remember that the best money does not come from the best assignments, and there’s a reason for that.

So be flexible. I have found that when I took assignments that I didn’t like, I still learned a lot, even if the editor didn’t love my word choice. Focus on the learning, and the side benefit will be that you’ll have better relationships with editors. For a freelancer, the steady work comes from a combination of good work and good relationships.

Other posts from “A Week in Journalism” series:

Why do journalists misquote everyone (and how I met my husband)

How to move from print journalism to online journalism

Seven ways to get an agent’s attention (by my agent, Susan Rabiner)