+ CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR: M. Green
Some of my earliest memories are about my parents talking owing a business. Today I am in my fifties. I work as a freelance researcher, writer, and have an online shop. My sister is a freelance photographer. My mother is a freelance Photoshop artist and writer at nearly eighty. It wasn’t always this way for any of us, though, and it hasn’t always been an easy road to get here.
In the 1970’s my parents found a pet store that was struggling but established and they bought it. My mother picked me up from school every day and I worked around the shop. I came to love each and every one of the animals. I eventually moved away to go to college and my parents ended up getting regular jobs to have insurance and retirement packages.
I got a degree in English. I found out that writing novels on a typewriter and sending them off to publishers wasn’t easy. I was going to graduate school and keeping up with family and a couple of horses. Home computers were new and a computer seemed like a cool way to write papers and keep track of expenses. I was good with the computer. When a job opened up for an assistant-supervisor in a computer lab at the college, it seemed like a good opportunity.
I worked with computers in academic environments for years. I had a side job writing animal stories for a local newspaper. Later on, I worked as a technical writer. I found that I had a natural talent for research, so I also did some moonlighting using computers to do skip-tracing. I was buying junk on eBay when the first weeks it was online. The internet just kept growing.
When blogs were new, I started blogs about horses, pets, computers, and private investigation. I found one small site that had caught onto the fact that many companies couldn’t afford their own full-time bloggers. I started writing short articles for a dollar each.
It was around then that the bottom began to fall out of everything. Many new online companies began to fail. They couldn’t pay off their startup loans. Soon enough, the software company I worked for became worthless and I had no job.
Not only did all of that happen at once, but I had a secret. I had hidden it well. Geeks are expected to be a bit odd and most of my working life involved hiding in dark offices. Few people knew that I suffered from serious Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and severe phobias. I had been able to manage given my quiet work environments. I avoided crowds, sick people, and I could avoid the trigger issues that might cause a panic attack.
Luckily, I had kept this well concealed. I thought I’d take any job that paid what I needed, the economy would recover, and I’d slip back into geek life. The first well-paying job I interviewed for was in project management, and they figured that with my IT experience and my communications degree, I could learn. They were right, but they didn’t know that I wasn’t at all good at meetings in closed-off rooms in high-rise buildings. I told my doctor about my plan to just get by and she agreed to prescribe me higher doses of sedatives temporarily. It worked well enough to pass, but my life turned into a living hell.
Daily commutes meant trying to stay awake on sedatives. Three-hour meetings with people shaking hands and coughing were the norm. I had always managed basic grocery stores by wearing latex gloves and even a mask at times, but I doubted these people would love those fashion choices. My physical, emotional and mental state crumbled as the recession and the job went on. I sold my horses since I was exhausted. A day came when I had to call in sick to work. Later a day turned into a week. Eventually, I went on disability leave from work and never left my home for months. Disability leave ran out.
I was without a job and soon, we were without a home. I was too embarrassed to ask my family for help. Computers were my lifeline to the real world. I started to wonder if bloggers were still out there. It was then that I discovered a whole new world online – the world of micro-jobs. One site called these jobs gigs and you could sell any service you wanted at low prices and you only had to pay if you made money. Why not? My first gig offered advice or articles about animals.
The first week, I sold two articles and made a profit of $8. It wasn’t much, but I was thrilled. Weeks went by with no more sales. I made another gig for pet research. There were no takers. I was really frightened to make gigs for things that were more outside of my comfort zone. What if the client hated the work? I was prone to typos and I am a writer, not an editor, so I was worried. I needed cash. I was living with my spouse and two cats at a friend’s house and it was crowded. I gave up and made a gig to research anything or write on anything. Then I started working on an e-book while I waited. Slowly but surely, I made a little money. My confidence grew as the kind reviews came in. After 6 weeks of sales, I was shaking like a leaf at the thought of going outside, but I went with a group to celebrate at a coffee shop.
That was just a few years ago. As of now, I’ve shared most of my fears and my successes with my family. My spouse acquired veteran’s financing and we bought a home close enough to my parents that we can help them. I wasn’t able to make it by working on just one site, but that site gave me a start. Now I freelance for some local clients who need ghostwriting and work on multiple sites. I specialize in animal writing, but I try out new things all the time. I go out in the sun whenever it’s nice out. Some people complain that freelancing makes them feel isolated, but for me, it was the key to gaining the courage to refuse isolation. I will never regret it.