I suspect the neighbours think I sit on my backside all day long watching TV or playing videogames. Since this day in 2010 I have been earning money from writing, mostly for websites and magazines, and in 2014 I added editing to my skillset.
A key advantage of all of this is that I can keep my own hours. I’ve occasionally worked while on holiday (largely because I didn’t actually arrange any cover), while the children are in doctors appointments, and sat outside dance school while they do their lessons.
But how did I end up with arguably the best job in the world?
How I Learned to Write
I was about 4 when… no, I jest. You see, there is being able to write, and there is writing. That sounds really pretentious, like actors talking about The Method, but there is a definite difference between being able to write a shopping list or school essay and putting your thoughts or directions on paper in a more creative-yet-concise manner.
Despite harbouring dreams of being a writer for years (I have the rejection letters and bonkers handwritten stories to prove it), it wasn’t until I worked in the unlikely location of an IT department of a local NHS trust that things started to happen. This was during the days of huge invstment into IT for the health service, with initiatives such as NPfIT (later Connecting for Health). It was a time of uge change, too, which is where I came in.
As a telephone support person, I would often receive calls from medical secretaries and clinicians in remote sites with no network access; alternatively, there connection was slow, or the site was newly connected. These colleagues were using computers for the first time, or the first time regularly in a work environment, and needed support. Rather than deal with endless calls on the same topic, emails were written, listing steps to solutions, and eventually I found myself collecting these from my outbox and those of my immediate team, revising them, and publishing on the staff intranet.
Writing for Pennies
By 2008 I was working in software support for a payroll app publisher and moonlighting as a writer for various online projects. Along with my own silly website about Doctor Who, I contributed to a catalogue of Eastern European cigarettes, wrote various guides to eBay, and even half a book review for The Man With the Golden Gun (it’s a terrible read and I didn’t get paid, rightly).
Around this time I found a tech website, MakeTechEasier, was looking for writers, so I had a go, and was successful. Unfortunately I couldn’t contribute regularly, and I suspect our fertility treatment was probably getting on top of me around that time, so I stood down.
Collecting myself a few months later, I tried again with a site called Bright Hub. This went better and I continued to contribute there until 2011. By that point, I’d gone freelance.
They’re Not Laughing Now
After a period of dissatisfaction at work, I decided that yes, I was going change my career. In August 2010 I handed in my letter of resignation. And I simply know they thought I was crazy.
On October 4th 2010, after a couple of weeks between jobs, as it were (and a visit from the USA from Brian Terranova), I commenced work as a freelance writer, full time. I was writing and researching and writing more, several hours a day for Bright Hub. I looked elsewhere, too, but I was pretty happy with how things were going.
But I’d Made a Terrible Mistake
While all this was going on, we found that Ceri was pregnant. It was a nice distraction, and a huge relief, albeit one that came with its own pressure. But I had miscalculated income from writing online. I needed another gig. So, I found a site called DeviceMAG, which was looking for writers. Things went well throughout 2011, the twins were born, writing was doing well… and then Bright Hub decided they needed freelancers no more.
What would I do?
Wherever I Work I’m On My Own – and I Love It!
MakeUseOf was a welcome opportunity, coming just at the right time. Thanks to my contributions there, I’ve been able to showcase my writing and get gigs with Android Magazine, Linux User & Developer, Linux Format, various Future titles (including TechRadar) and even Computer Weekly.
Writing on your own is tough. There’s a lot more to all of this, such as editing, video production, podcasting, selling websites, etc., that took place simultaneously. But where I am now, and how I work, is all down to being asked to write and organize guides for medical secretaries to learn to check their email or clear printer jams.
I guess I was kind of writing for money even then. Of course, in those days I had to work in an office. Today I can work anywhere I like. Writing (and editing) for money isn’t for everyone, but it definitely works for me. This is the longest job I’ve ever had, by some margin, and as long as it is supporting our family, I don’t intend for that to ever change.