Thursday, 31 December 2009

So 2009 finishes... and thank you to everyone who's followed this blog this year

I can't believe 2009 is nearly over - in around two hours from now, in fact. It's been a rollercoaster of a year for me, feel free to let me know what it's been like for all you guys!

Thinking back to the start of the year, I can't believe how different my life was back in January to what it is now:
  • I was an accountant in a reasonably well-paid (but temporary) job working in a bank
  • I was totally bored in my job
  • Actually, I hated my job
  • ...and possibly feeling slightly bitter about having ended up as a chartered accountant when I'd never really wanted to be one
  • Didn't really "fit in" with many of my accountancy colleagues (at any of the places I worked at, come to think of it)
  • I hadn't had any writing published since 2002 when I wrote for my university's student magazine
  • I knew that I wanted to change career, but had no definite plans of how to do it.
Actually that last bit is probably slightly inaccurate: I was saving money from my job every month "for the day I change career", but I had no idea when and if that day was going to happen. I had vague ideas about maybe being a journalist, and vague ideas about needing money in savings to retrain as a journalist, possibly even getting a second degree, and funding myself through the low-paid journalism employment every school and university careers book says you must do before actually being able to earn a living from being a newspaper or magazine employee.

Then from February onwards, things changed. I lost my job.

As you all know, I figured that I'd soon get another one, so that I could keep saving up for the "big day" that I finally changed career. To pass the time while I was jobless, I decided to do some distance learning courses in English Literature and Sociology; partly because I'd always wanted to do them, and partly because I figured they'd come in useful for "the day I do a journalism-related degree".

I also started this blog in March, just for a bit of fun. Even though I don't post here very often (I know, I know...) I underestimated just how much effect simply writing this blog would have on my life.

I think I can honestly credit you guys, all of you who have followed this blog, left comments, and given me your time and support, for the direction my life took after that - because without it all, I think I would still be stuck moaning about hating being a chartered accountant!

You guys encouraged me to take a chance. You guys encouraged me to overcome my fears and just go for it. You guys did your best to keep my spirits up when I hit roadblocks in my initial job hunting. And your feedback made me realise I needed to stop wishing for a change and come up with a definite, concrete plan on making it happen. Sometimes I wonder why the hell I didn't do this sooner - I'd already quit my job once before, only to take up the same job but in a different organisation (i.e. the temp job in the bank until this February).

I think I can honestly say that, once I'd taken stock and decided to pursue the journalism idea, I might not have got the confidence to approach a national newspaper for an unpaid two-week work experience placement in June if I hadn't had so many of you rooting for me in your blog comments.

It also encouraged me to get my arse in gear and do something about this flippin' career change - after all, what would be the point of any of you reading about my career change if I wasn't actually doing it?

By the end of my two-week work placement in June, I was still jobless and with no hope of getting a job either in the dreaded accountancy profession or any of the newspapers in this recession, it was suggested that I try going freelance, and breaking into journalism that way.

After some research (well, mainly reading "The Freelance Writer's Handbook: How to Make Money and Enjoy Your Life" by Andrew Crofts - which I thoroughly recommend for UK readers, by the way, though there are some really good US books too that I'll go into another time) not only did I realise that it WAS possible to make a living as a freelance writer, but also no extra qualifications were required as long as I was prepared to be persistent, professional, imaginative and able to market my current knowledge and skills - nope, I didn't even NEED a journalism (or English) degree! I couldn't help thinking back to my rant on the value of education on learning this!

So here's where my life stands now, in December 2009:
  • Four articles published in a national newspaper during the work experience in June
  • My first paying client - an accountancy magazine who were happy to take on a former chartered accountant with a small portfolio of published writing for a two-day paid trial in their offices in July
  • Being commissioned again and again by that accountancy magazine as well as pitching an article to them that I wanted to write at home
  • Being self-employed, as opposed to being employed - and having to be completely responsible for EVERYTHING now, rather than my employer being responsible for everything
  • Actually GETTING PAID to write - the joy! I'm actually a writer now!
  • Winning my second and third paying client this month, in quick succession. And looking forward to payment for my articles for those publications in January.
The second publication was a tax-related magazine that I pitched an article to, where they only pay on publication (fortunately they published my article in December) and with much more favourable contract terms, meaning that I get to keep the copyright in my work and can re-sell it on to other publications if I wish, as long as they get First British Serial Rights (i.e. the right to publish that article first in the UK before any other publication, usually for a limited amount of time, after which it can be reprinted elsewhere. Like how First North American Serial Rights works for articles published in North America).

The third publication was the sister publication of the accountancy magazine - a monthly magazine which will publish my article at the beginning of January 2010 - and came about because the editor of the accountancy magazine recommended me. Hooray!

I really couldn't have done it without knowing you were all rooting for me every step of the way. Of course I have the support (and grocery money!) of Lovely Boyfriend to be grateful for too, but I honestly, actually don't think I would have achieved any of the things I have this year if I hadn't had this blog to focus me on my goal, and all of you to sympathise, joke, encourage and give me the occasional kick up the arse along the way.

So for that reason alone, I hope you all have a brilliant New Year's Eve and an absolutely bloody fantastic 2010 in which all your hopes and dreams come true. Thank you again xxx
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