Interview with Blogger Michelle Goodman: Freelance Rockstar

I first heard of Michelle Goodman’s Book “The Anti-9to5 Guide” (and blog under the same name) just a few weeks after fleeing my staff position for the freelance life when she did an interview with Kristen Fischer on FreelanceSwitch.com. I picked up a copy of the book, which gave me a lot of insight on what awaited me in the world of the self-employed. Michelle’s books are must-have freelance resource guides and they even manage to make you laugh out loud (don’t you love it when books do that?!) Check out The Anti-9to5 Guide and her latest, “My So-Called Freelance Life

I was recently able to interview Michelle, she talks about everything from visiting the beach for inspiration to writing about gadgets to sock-monkey slippers! Check her out…

What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired or burnt out? Do you have any rituals to help you cope? Resources to get you inspired?

My burnout usually stems from overwork and lack of sleep, which is where I’ve been at this past week. So to recharge, I sleep, get outside with the dog, do a little home improvement or watch some Battlestar with my guy (we’re on season 3), read, pop in a movie, dance around the house to 70s hippie rock (you already know about this), or see friends. Basically, I step away from the computer.

Going to the beach, even for an hour with the dog, always helps tremendously. But for serious burnout, a cabin plus a couple nights of 12-hours of sleep does me right. Oh, and I always get inspired when I go to the bookstore, though it has to be an independent bookstore. It’s fun for me to just hang out there and poke around the titles for a couple hours. Not the business/career titles, but the creative nonfiction and fiction ones.

If you could go back in time to the first day you started as an independent – what advice would you give yourself?

“Don’t be such an idiot!” I didn’t plan for the self-employed life. At all. I quit my day job, moved 3000 miles west, and decided to freelance while on the drive out (to California, though I’m now in Seattle). I was 24, broke, really freaking shy, terrified to network or speak up for myself, and really clueless about rates/contracts/taxes? It also did not help that I had the business and marketing sense of a Beagle, no contacts in California, and the skimpiest of portfolios. (This was a couple years before the web.)

Had I planned things a little better, I would have figured out how to get un-shy and networked my ass off before I left New York (I was working in publishing, for chrissakes! a veritable goldmine of freelance work! at least then…) I also would have built up some contacts and better writing credits, and maybe even socked away some cash before embarking on my excellent freelance adventure.

In your books/blog you joke about working in bunny slippers and not showering, how much of this is hyperbole and how much is true to life?

Okay, I’ll fess up. I really don’t shower before I start working. I do it at the end of the day, mainly because I like to exercise after work. And there are weeks here and there where I don’t change out of my pajamas for a couple days in a row—or bathe. But working in the clothes I slept in for two straight does make me feel like a bit of a recluse or mental patient (not that I have anything against mental patients). So I’ve been moving toward cleaning myself up and putting on clothes before I work, sometimes even running out for an errand first (gasp!).

This dressing in the morning thing is more of a recent development. I used to just put on a fresh pair of pajamas before working. As for the slippers, I really do work in them, only they’re sock monkeys, not bunnies.

What’s the work that gets your blood pumping, and what do you consider your more ‘bread and butter’ stuff?

Blood pumping work = writing a column about a topic I feel strongly about—for example, how so many people marry for health insurance (those that can marry, anyway) because it’s so dang unaffordable or how getting paid in exposure as a freelancer is usually a bum deal. Also, having to do interviews on a fun topic that resonates with people, like tattoos in the workplace. But more than anything, I love writing more essay-style pieces for anthologies and kickass media outlets, which I haven’t done enough of lately. Oh yeah, and loved writing the new book, except toward the end where I was freaking about the deadline.

Bread and butter work = the more corporate work I do. Some of the projects are a total slog and you get through them by reminding yourself how much you’re getting paid, and some are surprisingly fun. For example, I currently have a gig writing articles for a tech company about their mobile phones. I get to mess around with the phone and try getting certain apps and tasks to work with it. And then I take screenshots of what I did and write a conversational how-to article about it. To me, this is a lot of fun.

What do you think peoples biggest misconception is about life as a freelancer?

That we’re hobbyists who are either independently wealthy or living off a spouse with a day job and health insurance. So many of us aren’t. I find it so inspiring that so many single folks make a decent living from project-based and other self-employed work—and buy houses and cars and raise kids and take vacations (okay, maybe not this year, but you get the idea).

I did a TV interview a couple days ago and the newscaster said, “I have a tip for people who want to freelance: Make sure you marry someone with good health insurance.” I’ve heard that advice given a lot, especially to women, and it pisses me off. Even though I wrote an article about how some couples hasten tying the knot (or tie the knot when they otherwise wouldn’t have) in the name of one of them not having to drop a wad of cash on health care. If I could game the system this way, I would too; I’m sick of paying thousands a year to health insurance companies who cover squat. But to imply that you have to be married to freelance is just stupid. And pretty insulting to those of us doing just fine on our own thankyouverymuch.

So that I end on a positive note, I will say I’m grateful that freelancing has taught me how to market myself and hustle for work. I know a lot of other freelancers who feel the same way — and a lot of employees who, sadly, feel paralyzed and terrified right now. I’m worried about the crap economy too, but I think I’d be much more worried if I had one employer as opposed to half a dozen or so, and if I wasn’t reasonably confident that I’ll always be able to find some project to do, even if it’s not my first, second, third, or hundred-and-third choice.