On one of my podcast subscriptions, someone said recently, “Stop waiting for someone else to pick you. Pick yourself.” That dug up a memory from the late nineties, when Mum, Dad and I visited my second cousin Phil and his wife Michelle in Sydney's inner suburbs (started with an E, can't remember what it was now, they've moved a few times since anyway). I distinctly remember having a negative reaction to something Phil said about making yourself marketable.
If you'd asked me to try an explain it at the time I'd probably have put it in terms of making yourself a commodity being a bad thing, but looking back I know that the main reason I felt so strongly against the concept of marketing myself was simply because I didn't believe Robert Farquhar was or could be anything worth marketing.
Here in 2011, I've finally built up enough perspective and confidence to realise that Rob Farquhar does indeed have something to offer, something that I could build a business around.
Have Netbook, Will Travel
I've got two avenues I want to start investigating. The first, naturally, is the written word. While Slamdance, my novel, is simmering away, it won't be ready to put to market for around six months (and given that it's my first novel, it might well get shelved while I improve my craft on something else). In the meantime, I'd like to go freelance. It'll help pay the bills and avoid a problem I discovered when I decided I needed to restart the novel from scratch: not having other projects I could pick up and work on if I run out of steam on Slamdance for a while and need to let it go back on creative simmer for a bit.
For a while I thought I'd be starting any freelance effort cold; I have no formal writing qualifications or paid experience. Then I remembered that I have a portfolio of published work: my gaming and book reviews for The Cairns Post (a News Corporation paper, no less) plus my Starship Troopers RPG article for Mongoose Publishing's Signs & Portents Magazine. I just need to put them up somewhere that prospective clients can readily access them.
The Golden Tonsils
Then there's the other avenue. As you may know, I volunteered for a local radio station for a few years doing a weekly spot reading the news out of The Cairns Post. Although it ended a while ago, doing voice work, like reading of novels and short stories, has been of interest for a good while. People have been telling me I have a voice for radio for years, and most who know me know that I'm a repressed performer, so I reckon I have a decent shot at turning my talent into a source of revenue.
Heck, Tony C. Smith, host and editor of the Starship Sofa science fiction fan-magazine podcast (yes, it's a fan magazine in podcast form, containing short stories, articles on science and genre developments and interviews) has mentioned in the recent past that several of his team of volunteer story readers have gone on to make money as voice talent.
So far this posting is reading like a list of high ideals and not much action; a lotta “gunna”. The good news, gentle reader, is that I have some immediate, concrete steps I can take to kick this all off.
According to some freelance writers whose blogs I subscribe to, the main thing I need if I want to write freelance is a home page whose URL ideally has my name in it. My webmaster Marcus and I had a good long Skype chat Friday night and talked options. I've registered an ABN for myself and am maybe another chat with Marcus away from buying the domain name we picked out. The reason I want to talk with him first is because I'm looking at shifting this web log over from Movable Type to WordPress, which his hosting service directly supports, and part of the setup process involves getting the site's URL established. When I switch the new blog “on”, I want to make sure the URL I buy is pointing people straight to it.
Once that's done, then I set up a portfolio page under the blog so people can get samples of my work and start looking at what's available. I also get stuck back into making recordings for Project Gutenberg's voice recording community LibriVox (I think I can achieve a goal of one short story a week). I may even set a podcast feed up and make recordings available directly on my site, bookended with some updates from me.
Six Months to Save the World
All this work does have a time frame. I have six months to start bringing in a fairly regular stream of income. This deadline is a practical one. You know how I mentioned in the post that kicked all this off that most of our budget goes toward essentials? One of the non-essential costs I identified was my monthly web hosting fees. I even went as far as asking Marcus to pull Vickie's and my files at the end of the current billing period.
Marcus, awesome guy that he is, has offered me a six-month period of credit, after which I'll have to examine my options, be they cull other non-essentials (like Xbox Live) to cover the charges, shift over to a free blogging service somewhere or something else – I wouldn't expect anyone in business with me to let me have a charged service for nothing, much less a mate like Marcus.
One of the biggest worries I have about the above endeavours is that I have no idea what I'm doing. As I mentioned above, I have no formal qualifications in the areas that I want to make money in and, at the moment, no spare cash to invest in training.
Yet that's been my situation for a good portion of my life, and do you know something? That bit about not waiting for others to pick me? When I look back at my life, I mean really look back at it, I realise that I've had a pretty darned good track record for people picking me. Though we've certainly had our issues, Mum and Dad did in many, many ways give me a great start in life – heck, the car I'm driving right now was their birthday present to me in 2004.
The school system picked me to get into North Sydney Boys High School (a major 'selective' public high school, for those outside New South Wales). EDS picked me for a good, well-paying job at the beginning of the decade. The Cairns Post picked me to administer their display advertising department in 2005 and that continues to be the longest full-time job I've ever held.
And most importantly, my wife Vickie decided that an uncertain yet earnest and endearing young man was worth getting to know better and then spending the rest of her life with.
With all these people having picked me, isn't it high time I realised that I'm worth taking a gamble on?
But Enough About Me, Gentle Readers: What About You?
What major, risky and / or uncertain endeavours have you undertaken?
How did they come out for you?
What have you learned about yourself from them?
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