Aspen Princess: When you’re self-employed, there’s no such thing as maternity leave
When you work for yourself, there really isn’t such a thing as maternity leave.
First of all, you guys probably don’t even really know what it is I do for a living anymore. Gone are the days of my glamorous career as a magazine journalist, when I traveled the world on someone else’s dime to write about snowboarding and surfing. Gone are the days when I was invited on media junkets and press trips and offered free rooms at five-star hotels. Gone are the days when I was invited to every party, event, concert and show. Bye-bye, green room and VIP section, velvet rope and backstage pass: My status as a member of the media has gone from all-access to general admission.
Everyone said online media would be a good thing for us writers because there was more constant demand for content than in print. But what we didn’t expect was for so much of that content to be free.
Then there’s this ubiquitous thing called a blog, so that now when people write me emails about my column they say, “I read your blog in The Aspen Times,” which infuriates me to no end. You sure as hell don’t need any writing credentials to be a blogger; you just need a free blog account. And don’t even get me started about social media. Anyone with a smartphone and a pulse can publish their content, however inane, to the world.
So where does that leave me? The girl with a degree in journalism, the girl with almost 20 years of experience as a writer and editor, the girl who has honed her skills as an interviewer, who has learned how to research and synthesize information on just about any topic, has learned to take the information and flesh it out into a cohesive piece that might even be fun to read.
Well, let me tell you.
One day not that long ago, I got an email from the online editor of Elle.com who had read my column when she was in Aspen and wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing for her. This is Elle magazine, with more than 1 million readers around the world. Sure it’s for the website, but still. It was big. Huge.
Until I found out that it paid $150.
So I adapted. I decided to embrace technology and do what I had to do. I would not be bitter. I would be sensible and practical. I would not let my ego or my idealism get in the way.
So I started my own little business, writing blogs and newsletters for anyone who needed them. I set up packages for people so they would pay one fee per month for my services, no surprises, no hourly invoices.
To my surprise, my idea took off. I had no problem getting clients. People know my writing, and no one wants to deal with the constant demand of maintaining a decent online marketing campaign. Soon I had a pretty decent roster of clients I enjoyed and was making more money than I’d ever earned as a freelance writer. So what if I was writing commercial copy? I could still be creative, I could still write some interesting pieces, and I could work with people I like.
Things were going pretty well. The paychecks were coming in, and they were steady. I was enjoying working with my clients and being productive.
Then I went and had a baby.
My clients all eyeballed me nervously as my belly grew, wondering how I would cope when the baby came.
“I’m not getting a lobotomy; I’m just having a kid,” I told them.
They laughed and nodded with their arms folded across the chest, the mothers among them with a knowing glance that didn’t require words.
I was determined. I got a good start, hello. I wrote my column from a hospital bed when I was in labor, and even though I don’t remember doing it, it came out pretty good.
I gave myself a few weeks after Levi was born to adjust and recover. I sent all my clients a birth announcement with a cute photo and a note that basically said, “See how cute my baby is? He’s going to cost us a ton of money, so please don’t fire me.”
I’ll admit it: It was hard to focus. If I’m being honest, my short-term memory was better after a bong hit than it was after a baby.
Like, I ran into my friend Jeff who works at Whole Foods a few weeks ago, and he looked at me funny and said, “I just talked to my wife. She’s on her way to your house right now.”
I smacked myself in the forehead. “Oh shoot!” I said, darting out the door before I had a chance to blow 75 bucks on some olives and a container of almond milk. I had totally forgotten Carolyn was coming over to bring us some food. I called her from my cellphone. “I’m right behind ya!” I said, letting her know I’d be there 15 minutes after her. When I got home, she was still in her car, napping in my driveway.
Gradually though, I came back to life. I started to get things done. The baby was sleeping longer, and so was I. My amazing in-laws came to town. I was able to hold regular office hours again.
My first day back in Aspen was Tuesday. That’s when I learned I lost two of my favorite clients. In my monthlong absence, they’d hired full-time marketing people.
I nodded and smiled. I could find other clients to replace them. Better yet, I could just run home real fast and stare at my beautiful baby.
The Aspen Princess is going back to yoga Tuesday and can’t wait. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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