I felt inspired to interview Deborah Ng for this week's column because like Eliza, Deborah quit her day job to become a freelance writer.
Despite having a young son at home also clamoring for attention, Deborah has enough freelance work to keep her busy fulltime. "Bills are being paid and money is going into the bank or being put towards 'extras,'" says Deborah. "I'm taking this month's earnings and buying myself a new stove! A big one with lots of burners and two ovens!"
Deborah spent 12 years as an Administrative Assistant for a publishing house in NYC, after which she worked for four years in the accounting department of an upscale bath and tile chain. Her publishing house experience helped Deborah learn what editors looked for, and she also did some writing and proofing in her job.
What prompted her to make the leap to freelance writing? "I always loved to write and I hated office work. When my son was six weeks old we moved to another state. I didn't want to return to filing and typing, so I gave myself a year to find enough work to pay the utilities."
Deborah's strategy: troll markets every day, be professional
Success didn't come right away, and Deborah found herself facing more rejections than acceptances in the first year. The following year, however, her career "really took off." Deborah read every job board she could find, made sure she submitted a query or answered a call for writers every day. It took a while, but she was able to build up a good reputation and a strong client base.
"I think my career took off because I worked so hard. I had options, I could either be a stay at home (or work at home) mom, or I could go back to working in an office. How could I do that when I hated office work so much? I just kept conjuring up images of all of the mean, snippy bosses I had before. Fear is a great motivator! Half my time was spent writing, the other half was spent looking for work. I took the job hunt seriously and didn't stop looking just because one client called. I still take at least an hour each day to troll the markets. I also do what I promise. I do the work and I do it well. I don't flake on editors just because a task is unattractive and I proof my work before turning it in. It's important to be professional."
Deborah says she typically wakes up at 4 a.m. (yes, I said 4 a.m.!!) and works until 7 or 7:30 a.m., when her husband and son wake up. "If I was working late the night before or if my son had a rough night, I might sleep later. On preschool days, I work another couple of hours while my son is in school, otherwise I work sporadically throughout the day if my son is keeping himself occupied. I'll also work in the evening anywhere from 1 to 5 hours depending on my workload and most weekends are also taken up with work."
Challenges of being a work-at-home mother
Her biggest challenge? "Convincing others that I needed time to work. People really don't believe that you have a job when you work at home. At first my husband didn't 'get' that I needed time to become successful and it could take a year or more. Now that I'm bringing in a nice income, he understands and helps out more with our son." For phonecalls, Deborah says Caller ID helps, and says she doesn't usually pick up the phone unless she knows it's work-related.
Another challenge Deborah faces at home is balancing her work with the needs of her three-year-old son, but she says, "I primarily left work to stay home with my son. That means that if he needs me I have to be there. I do try and encourage him to keep busy with art projects and fun activities, but for the most part I'm there for him when he needs me, no matter how busy I might be. Sometimes that means I won't get any work done until my husband gets home. In a couple of years he'll be in school every day. I want to enjoy every minute with him I can until then."
Deborah does her work on the kitchen table. "I have a laptop on the kitchen table and a file cabinet in a spare bedroom. My husband is renovating but it's been a slow process. Hopefully when the house is done, I'll have an office."
Here are just a few of Deborah's online projects:
Writers' Row: "Writers Row is a community made up of other writers in various stages of their careers. Most, like me, write mostly web content. We all have blogs and websites offering advice and information to other aspiring writers. There's also a forum and my job leads blog."
Love To Know: Deborah is a Group Editor at this site, which she describes as a "wonderful up-and-coming Wiki community."
SURVEY FOR NEXT WEEK'S COLUMN:
How do YOU find time to write? Please post your answer below.
Some reader feedback for previous columns:
From Mari, who says she likes the writing prompt calendar at the Toasted Cheese community.:
"I have this quote pasted up on the sidebar of my blog: "When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.' Neil Gaiman
As for where I get my inspiration? Honestly, most of the time it's 'out of thin air'. For example, yesterday I was sitting working on one thing, when a scene for something else sideswiped me. And sometimes, the characters I'm writing get into my head and just won't shut up. The only thing to do is to get the pen out."
From Dan McGee:
"Just found your site through Writer's Weekly and am bookmarking it. Inspiration is where you find it. Like being on a bus and hearing a woman, who was not all there mentally, but was giving college everything she had.
Less than an hour later being on another bus and finding a beautiful woman, who proved to everyone on board that she was an idiot. Cellphones are great for that as their users always seems to yell.
Keep up the good work, liked what you wrote."