Taking the Plunge – With Tips for Those Who Might Want to Do the Same
By David Geer
http://www.GeerCom.com

Four years ago I was an employee with a regular job – for the last time. Why did I take the risk, take the plunge and go it alone with a technology writer start-up company? The drivers for me were job security, necessity and desire.

I was working as a technician for an ISP. I also wrote for a company newsletter, the technical support database, and a technical training manual while there. Some months after another company bought us out, we were all laid off. It was difficult to find another technology job, and nearly impossible to find one that paid a living wage.

I had been writing online and for a small magazine on the side in addition to my writing at work. When I got laid off, I got by on my retirement investments, savings and severance pay, and started proposing articles to consumer magazines, business magazines, trade publications, websites and online publications that I thought would pay. I was writing mostly about technology because of my previous work, which I had enjoyed. This eventually helped to establish me as an expert technology writer.

As time went by, I was more and more determined to make a living as a full-time freelance writer. I also had to pay the bills, and the longer I was off work, the harder it would be to be re-employed. The need for income, the desire to be my own guarantee of steady work, and all the pride and emotional rewards of business ownership kept me going. I’d say that there was definitely a strong push and pull going on, moving me in the direction of independent business success.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this way of life.

Advantages include:

  • Cutting out the middleman. There is one paycheck and it goes to me. What I earn I get. After taking care of expenses, the rest is mine.
  • Overtime whenever I want it. If I want to make more, I can decide to work longer. If I don’t have additional work, that overtime can be spent finding it, and then doing it.
  • Feeling more secure and in control of my destiny. I can work weekends or not, take off a little early or work late. I can take a vacation or take a working vacation that pays for itself (work a little, play a little). So long as the customer is taken care of, all is well.
  • The pride and power of business ownership. I and those around me respect it as an accomplishment. Friends admire it as a way of life.

Disadvantages?

There are none. I have no regrets. I miss nothing about being an employee. Believe me, if there were any disadvantages, this would be my chance to share them with someone who might listen, and I’d gladly tell you.

Others may feel differently, complaining about:

  • Having to pay their own medical premiums
  • Not feeling as secure as they would in a regular job
  • Not being able to count on the same paycheck at the same time every given period.

Not me. I’m where I want to be and well on my way to more of the same.

Here are some more advantages:

  • I can introduce my thoughts and my talents to hundreds of thousands of readers.
  • I can go to Google anywhere, anytime and type in my name and produce samples (also called clips or clippings) of over a hundred articles, as well as other references to my work.
  • Through my work I provide important input, I make a difference.

The only difficult thing about my profession is that no matter how hard or long I work, or how established I get, some risk will always be there. But I assume, expect and accept that part of it, so I still have no complaints.

Here’s Some More Background and Tips to Help You Along.

Having a Web presence is an important part of self-marketing. My most recent Web design was outsourced to Pamela Sinclair, who did a wonderful job. I wrote the content and she provided an appealing, professional design. I’m very pleased.

I started out designing my own site, working from a template and design done by my friend, Carl Rief. I picked up skills and code from him, from others I had worked with at the ISP job, off the Web and by using Arachnophilia’s HTML (version 4) editor. All other tech knowledge I got from being a technician (DSL, routers, simple business networking, etc), from working on my home network and on friends’ computers, by reading and through personal interest.

People find my site through Google, online business directories and the Open Directory Project. Other sites have linked to my site. I proactively contact people for work. As part of assessing my skills they often visit my site, which is linked in my e-mail signature. People find me through online articles or personal recommendations. I have also been quoted in a few books on writing. Some of my articles about writing have been used in college coursework as well. Others have quoted me online or used my articles to promote their corporations.

My top tips are:

  • Plan it – If I had it to do over, I’d save a great deal more, get a business loan or grant, then go into business full-time when I had enough money to live and work on for three to four years.
  • Do it – If you never start, you never succeed.
  • Take Risks – Use your best judgment and take the necessary risks.
  • Persevere – This gets you through when you take the wrong risks and suffer loss.

Expect to learn more by doing than by anything else. If you start out knowing nothing about your new profession, you are just about guaranteed all the failure and humiliation that comes with not knowing what you’re doing. But if you persevere, you will learn, and you will succeed. You can’t really learn what you need to know to succeed except by failing time and again in the attempt.

© 2004-2006 David Geer and Geer Communications. http://www.GeerCom.com.

David Geer is a technology writer who specializes in print and Web magazine features, corporate writing and other copy. Clients include IEEE's Computer Magazine and other business, trade and consumer publications found online or at your local newsstand.

Contact: David Geer
Geer Communications
2312 Ashbrook Drive
Ashtabula, OH 44004-9158
440-964-9832


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