New Year’s resolutions have been around for ages. According to history.com, about 4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first group of people to make New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure, though, back then, it didn’t look the way it does today. The ancient Babylonians weren’t promising themselves to lose that last ten pounds they gained over the holidays. It probably had more to do with basic survival, like harvesting crops and building their civilization. And here we are, thousands of years later, carrying out an ancient tradition, always trying to better ourselves.
I am someone who has almost always made New Year’s resolutions for myself. Many people aren’t fans of the New Year’s resolution tradition for obvious reasons (which I can understand). Nearly every year, some of us make them, and more often than not, we break them.
In the past, I’ve made long lists with no specific target date or plan in mind. Recently, I’ve been working on goal setting with my students. We’ve been using SMART goals as a strategy. If you aren’t familiar with this acronym, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. That means that identifying a goal you want to work toward is only part of it; the other part is figuring out how you will get there.
This time round, I’m doing things a little differently. So, this year, I thought of some very realistic goals that I’m working on. I’ve separated my goals into two lists: my personal and career-oriented goals. If you are wondering what goals are on my lists, here they are:
Meet new people
Take breaks from working
Take care of my health
Start exercising again
Career-Oriented / Education Goals
Work on getting published again
Continue to build and update my website
Start working on my thesis
Finish my MFA degree
Establish a routine for writing
I know that I need to make some changes in my life and be aware of my goals. I will continually remind myself what I want in my life and ask myself what I will do to get it. Even if we don’t fulfill every single goal by the end of the year, it isn’t bad to write them down and at least try to work on them. It gives us something else to get up for every day.
I have some exciting news to share! About a month ago, I received the message that my essay, “The Courage to Rekindle a Dream,” would be published in The Penman Review. And, sure enough, on December 23rd, it was on their front page! I cannot begin to describe how I feel right now because I am still in shock (in a good way, of course!)—being published two days before Christmas makes it even better!
I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to write about how I overcame college and career-changing obstacles, but I never got around to it. Until last summer when I couldn’t do anything but write.
After being diagnosed with COVID and another common virus, I began writing this essay. Having both illnesses at the same time hit me very hard. Last June, I was in the hospital and missed nearly three weeks of work. Since then, I’ve spent the second half of 2022 recovering from lung and heart inflammation, among other complications. I spent months in bed, barely able to walk to my mailbox or cook for myself. What else is a bedridden writer to do? Write, of course.
This essay is not only a story of my early adult life struggles but also a piece of work I poured my heart into while in bed, very sick. And it happens to be my first officially published piece of writing too! This is a huge accomplishment, but it also means everything to me to share my life with the world. It’s been a long journey to get to where I am today. In my twenties and early thirties, I had dreams of teaching and writing, and now, here I am. Dreams, stories, and publication, in that order!
Last Friday, one of my students gave me a Christmas card. Inside the card, she wrote: “Dear Ms. Ward, I hope your holidays are amazing and healthy! I do hope to continue to thrive in your class. I really believe you can fulfill your dream to be a writer!” I haven’t told my student yet, but I was published the same day she gave me that card. It is so incredibly important for others to support us, and I’m glad she already knows that. And that’s what my essay is all about—dreams, determination, and believing the impossible is possible. So, with all that said, have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2023!
Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, please let me know by sending a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can also subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right. Connect with me on Twitter: @jennwardwrites.
If you want to get your freelance writing business off the ground but aren’t sure where to start, you aren’t alone. Starting a business can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. There’s a lot of flexibility that comes with working for yourself, but with that freedom comes many strange twists and turns. Like venturing into any unfamiliar area, it can be tricky. Where does someone begin? Well, the first thing is to have an idea of your goals and where you would like to end up. With that said, I suggest taking three essential steps to establish your freelance business.
Determining a Business Structure
Understanding how your business will operate is crucial to establishing a freelance business. Will you find someone to partner with? Will you work alone? Those seem like basic questions, but they are big decisions that will significantly impact your business’ labor, profits, and other aspects. Sara Horowitz, the author of The Freelancer’s Bible, urges readers to consider that the choices we make about business structure will affect record keeping, tax procedures, and personal liability, among other things…(262). Seeing which model also fits best with your vision (sole proprietor, partnership, or LLC) will help you figure out what makes the most sense in terms of time, finances, maintenance, and taxes. Whether you are just beginning to establish this business or reconsidering your current model, a business structure will not only influence everything you do in the first few months, but it will also have a significant long-term impact.
Some questions to consider:
Will you work alone?
Will you work with a partner?
Will you establish yourself as a sole proprietor or LLC (Limited Liability Company)?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of registering as an LLC?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of registering as a sole proprietor?
Will you use your name as your business name?
Writing a Micro Business Plan
Writing a micro business plan is basically a small business plan. This will outline what your business will offer, how it will make you money, and who your customers will be. Sara Horowitz mentions determining the tactical things you’ll do in the first year or two (261). That means making sure to include a list of target clients, knowing how you will communicate with them, building a portfolio of work or writing samples, and the professional goals you hope to achieve. As you learn about the industry, other aspects of business can always be added later. But writing out a rough outline of what you will be doing in the first couple of years will be a solid place to start.
Some questions to consider:
Who will be my target audience or consumers?
How will I communicate with my consumers (email, phone, etc.)?
What will be my hours of operation?
How will I secure the funds to start this business?
How will I charge clients for my work? In other words, will you establish an hourly rate or request a specific amount for the entire project?
What will I include in my writing portfolio?
How will I market and brand myself?
What do I hope to achieve in the first three months of operating my business?
What do I hope to achieve within the first year of operating my business?
Understanding How You Will Support Your Business
Supporting yourself financially is another crucial step toward starting a freelance business. If you are working full-time, perhaps your income from your day job will provide enough support to pursue your freelancing business before it takes off. I teach English and Drama classes, Monday through Friday. I am a public school teacher and do not earn a high salary. However, my teaching job has provided me with a steady income, which counts for a lot. For me, it made the most sense to continue teaching and let this be my primary source of income—supporting me personally and funding my freelance business. Having multiple income streams is an excellent approach if you can manage it. You will survive the dry spells when you have less freelance work or no work at all. Having multiple income streams means having security and something to fall back on.
Some questions to consider:
How will I support myself while building my business?
How much capital do I need?
How will I secure the funds?
Will I develop multiple income streams? If so, how?
Will I have enough money to advertise on social media and other platforms?
Where do I want to be financially five years from now?
I suggest diving deep into the big parts of your business, like money, structure, and a plan. The other smaller pieces can be figured out later on. What new business ventures will you embark on in 2023?
Horowitz, Sara. The Freelancer’s Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams on Your Terms. Workman Publishing Co., 2012.
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“Education is one thing no one can take away from you.”
Many of us who were English majors might have heard: “Well, I guess you could always teach,” or “Are you sure a degree in English is worth it?” While I was an undergraduate student in my twenties, I was questioned a lot, and it didn’t feel good. There were times I doubted how useful my degree would be post-graduate life. Would I end up working as a barista? I thought. I hoped not. As much as I love coffee, that would be a nightmare. The angst of figuring out what I wanted to do career-wise was part of it. Though I’ve wondered why we often question the valuable skill set we acquire with an English degree and all that we have to offer the world. Today, I argue that those of us with an English degree hold a remarkable advantage over everyone else—we can write.
While pursuing my bachelor’s degree, I worked as an administrative assistant for a large hospital in Midtown East. After a while, I didn’t like my job. I wasn’t valued there, and the work became tedious. It became my personal hell from 9 to 5 within the small confines of my cubicle, and I knew I wanted to do something different. But I wasn’t sure yet what that was. After earning my degree, I used my communication skills to land an administrative role in another large hospital on the West Side of Midtown. I was offered a higher position and a considerable salary leap. Because of my degree, I earned enough to support myself and pay for college with no loans.
As an assistant supporting the hospital’s chief staff, one of my responsibilities was editing the hospital’s newsletter. I reviewed written submissions and planned the newsletter’s layout. I’ve taken various English courses—journalism, literary theory, linguistics, and creative writing. They’ve helped prepare me for the multiple professional roles I’ve taken on. Although my knowledge of feminist theory or Marxist theory in literature may not have been something I needed to know in the office, the analytical and writing skills I gained were quite valuable. Around this time, I began looking at graduate schools. I had considered pursuing an MBA or MPA and thought about law school. I eventually knew my heart wasn’t in healthcare administration. So, I moved on.
Soon I started working as a substitute teacher, and before I knew it, I landed a permanent position teaching English to seventh graders. The most rewarding parts of teaching are getting to know my students each year and sharing with them what I know about literature and life. I didn’t become an educator because I had to; I became an educator because I wanted to.
Today, I’m teaching at the same public school in Brooklyn I was when I began my career. I’m also spending time with my other passion—writing. I am building a small side business as a freelance writer. In my spare time, I write fiction and creative nonfiction as I work to develop my presence as an author. Soon, I will be completing a second master’s degree—an MFA. I’ve learned over the years that an individual with a background in English or creative writing is quite marketable. Teaching has been a wonderful, stable career for me, but there is so much more out there in the world. Why stop there? A degree in English for anyone could mean working as an author, a freelance writer, an editor, a social media marketer, a literary agent, a journalist, a technical writer, a copywriter, and the list goes on. While some of these industries are challenging to break into, it is possible to be successful. While most of us with a humanities degree will never be rich, we will acquire a wealth of transferable skills we can bring anywhere. To anyone who wants to undermine the value of an English degree, I say, “Stop and take another look.” Much of it boils down to one primary skill we all need for any career—communication. And that’s an area any English major would undeniably shine.
Hey there! Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this story, please let me know by sending a like or comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts! This article has been updated. The original story was published here. You can also subscribe to future blog posts at the top of the sidebar to your right. Additionally, you might enjoy the excerpt from my personal essay “The Courage to Rekindle a Dream.”