By Rich Bailey
They say it’s all about the networking, and I had the best inside connection.
As a long-time English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, my wife and I had moved to rural Michigan to be near family in 2002. Hardcore rural Michigan. Dirt roads. Wild turkeys in the front yard. Coyotes howling at night.
With little to no work for an ESL teacher in the area, I was exploring how to leverage my knowledge of grammar, spelling, reading, writing, and ‘rimathatics. At that time, my mother, an editor for a publishing company, was working on an 8th-grade social studies textbook. She offered me the chapter on Missouri.
Did you know the first successful parachute jump from a moving plane happened in Missouri in 1912? Of course, that begs the question: Were there unsuccessful ones before?
With some trepidation, I jumped in with both feet.
First challenge: remember the rural Michigan thing? Well, let’s just say the internet connection was a real turkey, like the ones gobbling outside. Before venturing online, I needed to be on point with an organized plan of attack. There was no luxury of idle surfing or tangential excursions.
I also had to learn all the rules and regulations specific to the state educational guidelines and the publisher. This was a valuable lesson in paying attention to details and triple checking everything.
And, of course, deadlines. With teaching, there’s always a little wiggle room, right? If you don’t get to the next activity, you can push it to the next lesson. Or the students’ favorite: make it into a homework assignment. Not so much with freelance writing. Time and project management became my best friends.
It was a steep learning curve, but I got the job done on time. My mom said I did a good job, but then again, moms always say that to their kids, don’t they?
It also gave me the confidence to keep trying. Next was a press release for a yoga equipment company, then technical editing for metallurgy journals. Most recently, I worked on a Japanese-English translation about a new bitcoin endeavour.
I don’t know what’s next, but I’m sure I’ll meet the challenge head on. Or figure out how to.
What was your first gig? What got you started?
I look forward to reading your story in the comments below.