by Jan Scott
Seven months ago I quit my job to become a full-time freelance writer.
Prior to leaving my job, I worked in the food industry for five years as an event planner for one of Toronto’s private caterers. I spent my working days planning events, and I organized everything from weddings and corporate functions to fundraisers and in-home cocktail parties. I loved my job, but after two years I decided it might be fun to write about food and share some of what I had learned from working in the business. I had absolutely no idea how to go about doing this, so I signed up for a food writing class at George Brown College.
In the class, it was suggested to me that I start a blog. I hadn’t really thought of it before, but the idea was that it would be a place to share articles, and hone my writing skills, while simultaneously building up a portfolio for potential editors. I embraced the idea, and launched Family Bites back in January 2010.
I learned a lot from the teacher of that class, a former restaurant reviewer for Toronto Life magazine, and if taking a course is in your time and financial budget, I highly recommend it. The teacher nicely informed us that while wanting to be a food writer was great, virtually no one makes a living just by doing that, unless they have a desk job working for a magazine or newspaper. Now that I know a lot of other food writers, I do believe this is mostly true, but please don’t let that discourage you.
What I decided to do was take my other skill – party planning - and see if I could somehow turn that into a freelance writing career as well. It turned out to be a very good decision. While food writing makes up half of my work and income, the rest comes from writing party-related content. Some of it is about parties and food, and some of it is about parties and kids – I’m the mom of two boys - but the two topics work well together, and have provide me with more writing opportunities.
All of this is to say that, if you can figure out how to write about food and something else together (i.e., food and travel) there are likely to be many more writing assignments available to you.
Once I figured out what I could write about, I sent emails to a variety of editors to see if they were looking for writers within my target subjects. I made a list of both print and online publications that I thought I could approach, figured out whom to get in contact with, and emailed everyone.
A few people said "no thank you", but most were receptive, and I found that getting work with an online publication was much easier than I thought it would be.
I didn’t quit my job until I had steady assignments that paid the equivalent to half of my then-salary. My husband and I decided that it would be a good time to give my writing career a shot, and although I was incredibly nervous, I resigned from my job.
I’m happy to say that my first official day as a freelancer was in October of last year. In that time I have almost tripled the number of individual monthly writing assignments I have, and I’m also now the food editor of online magazine, a job I’m able to do from my home. Food writing makes up 50% of my work, and the rest of the time I focus on party based content, including a column in a bi-monthly print magazine.
I really believe that the most important aspect of making this successful career change came from having a plan and sticking it to it. I didn’t rush the process, but instead focused on what I was good at and what I could bring to the table.
If you’re giving a freelance career some serious thought, I say go for it! A lot of people aren’t sure if they are “good enough”, but the truth is, you’re often good at the things you are most passionate about. With a little work, and a lot of patience, I’m sure you’re capable of doing it.
So, what’s stopping you from trying?
Jan Scott is a food writer, event planner and blogger. She is the Food Editor for www.savvymom.ca and in addition to creating the tasty recipes and pretty pictures in the food section of the website, she is also responsible for producing the party content for the website’s popular Party Savvy, a monthly birthday party feature. She also writes The Party Planner column for What’s Up Families magazine, is a blogger for the Huffington Post and regular contributor for iVillage Canada. Prior to making the transition to freelance writer, Jan was an event planner for one of Toronto’s top private caterers. Jan lives in Toronto with her husband, Rob, and two tween boys, Ben and Jackson. Follow Jan's blog, Family Bites and follow her on Twitter.