Thursday, March 31, 2011

Being a freelancer.

A little over a year ago, I walked out of my safe (but soul-crushing) full time job, and into the great unknown!

Well, actually.  It was more like ...

A little over a year ago, I walked out of my safe (but soul-crushing) full time job, and into the prospect of becoming a freelance writer!

Ok ok.  Here is the real, naked truth:

A little over a year ago, I walked into my boss's office at my safe (but soul-crushing) full time job, told him I was going part time, and started doing a tiny bit of freelance writing.   You can tell how dedicated I was by my lack of bio on that site.

Walking away from a steady paycheck, in exchange for a life of freelancing freedom, is INCREDIBLY scary.  You think it's going to be liberating, and creative, and that you're just going to sit in coffee shops all day, being your quirky freelancey self.  Like a Carrie Bradshaw or a Joan Didion, only better.  You're going to write for Gawker and Jezebel, with an occasional New York Times "Modern Love" essay thrown in for good measure, and just for kicks?  You'll do food reviews for Texas Monthly.  You'll convince the editor to kick you a per diem for barbeque.  Eventually, someone at Food and Wine Magazine will read that, and invite you to be a guest contributor for a future "Soul of the South" series!  It's going to be great.  Really. 

Only it does not go that way.

Finding steady work as a freelance writer (or, a freelance anything) is hard.  When you're stressed about money, it's impossible to be imaginative.  You stare at a blank screen, thinking: "This article sucks so bad, it's going to be the one that gets me fired."  And then, when you've finally banged out the article, that stupid fucking article that you stayed home on a Friday night to finish, you have zero energy left to go hunting for more clients.  Clients you desperately need if you want to pay for things, like, electricity.   The whole enterprise is less Carrie Bradshaw, more Boba Fett.      

So I was delighted, thrilled, when my friends, local actors Ted Meredith and Erica Lies -- part of the Austin: Mortified team, the latter of whom was my Mortified producer -- created a miniseries based on this lifestyle.  Appropriately enough, it is called "Freelancers."

Here is the pilot.  I LOVE the opener -- I so relate to Erica's character!

Anyone who has ever freelanced before ... is this calling to you?  Do you remember these days?  Maybe you're still experiencing these days.  If so, come here -- let Mama Tolly give you a hug.

Go like Freelancers on Facebook.  Then go watch the second episode of Freelancers, about something almost every Austin twenty (or thirty) something can relate to -- finding a roommate on Craigslist.  

May I just say that in this department, Craigslist hasn't failed me yet?  Ross and I found the coolest roommate ever one summer, an academic Australian named Ben.  We went out with him, we drank with him, we introduced him to our families.  I'm not kidding.  We might ask Ben to return to the U.S. and move back in with us.

I asked Erica Lies how she and Ted conceived of "Freelancers."  Here's what she said:

"Ted and I had talked about creating a web series for a while but hadn't thought of a premise. Then one day we improvised a scene together where he was a yoga teacher and I was a writer. The scene itself was actually an impressively terrible level of mediocre, but we were talking about it later, lamenting that the scene hadn't gone well because we liked our characters. That's when I realized the premise was the perfect (non) workplace sitcom for folks our age and that it could be good if it was written and workshopped.  So we sat down together and wrote it.

As far as conceiving of the various characters, I'd say it was an organic process that involved lots of tea and beer purchased at Thunderbird on Manor, asking ourselves the question, 'How can we make these people more realistically absurd?' and lots of rewriting.  A lot.  Of rewriting." 

I adore the show's theme song!

"It written and recorded by the fabulous Ménage á Twang in New York, who incidentally, have a new album out this week.)"

And that, my friends, is how you start a web series!  If you have time, go watch my other favorite series from the Ted-Erica friend group, "Hey!  The Zooey Deschanel Show."  I posted about it here a few months ago, and we all laughed our faces off.


Hipstercrite said...

great post, tolly! can't wait to check out the video! thanks for sharing.

pinksundrops said...

Here's the question. Would you trade it all for a 9 to 5 again?

This is awesome, though. Of course, we're considering doing our own thing on the side and this makes me think about all the effects of going full-time. Don't want to jump head first in (again) without making sure we can pay the bills!

Breanna said...

This speaks right to my little wannabe-freelancer heart.

Amelia said...

This means so much to me....needed to smile about the soul-crushing I am in and remember that scary can be better. Cant wait for the show!!

Anonymous said...

This is pretty awesome. And yes, I had that "OMG they're never going to ask me to write again after I submit this horrible attempt at an article" moment. :) And Craigslist is how I got all of my roomies in ATX so I'm pretty excited to watch that part. Good post T!

Elephantom said...

This blog is sort of fortuitously timed for me because I'm in the process of seeking out freelancing work in order to leave my full-time position eventually. It's an absolutely terrifying thought that I may be in a position where I don't have a steady income pretty soon but I wonder if that's better than waking up each morning to a sense of dread about the impending workday. What are your thoughts?

Christi @ Rumination Avenue said...

So the grass is always greener, you're saying? Please don't burst my idealistic bubble. My soul is being crushed by the large ass of bureaucracy and all I can think about are my flailing limbs. I will point/click onto the show right now...

Dakota said...

I love Erica Lies and I love Freelancers! and oh, I love this blog. As a former freelancer and current PT freelancer, I identify. You have to be a saleswoman so much of the time that it starts annoying your friends. But hey, being a freelancer and not being able to afford fancy restos beats soul-crushing work on projects you don't care about, any day. But it ain't no Carrie Bradshaw. Try a room with 8 others in Bushwick if you're gonna freelance.

Colleen said...

This post is awesome. Story of my life.