Living The Writer's Life: Brad McMillen
What was life like before you became a freelance writer?
My life before writing was as diverse as you will find. I started in financial services in my home state, Indiana. A chance encounter led to me getting a job managing a factory in Tecate, Mexico (oh, the stories I could tell) and living in San Diego. I earned my MBA at night while working full-time, and then got a job in product marketing when my company moved from Mexico to China.
Around the year 2000, I got my first taste of working in the Internet with a start-up company (hello Internet bubble, goodbye job!), then peddled car chemicals from Seattle to Miami before getting a position with a management consulting firm. After that, with the contacts I had made through the years, I got a position at Yahoo! and learned search marketing.
After the years in Corporate America, and enduring layoffs and several Office Space moments, I find myself today committed to never going back into the “machine.”
What writing path have you chosen?
I love the Internet and writing, so web writing is an ideal match for me. And, I’ve always craved independence and the opportunity to be my own boss. I vow to never wear a suit again unless it’s for a wedding or funeral.
I have not officially declared a niche or specialty, but my strengths lead me to believe it will be in web copy and longer forms of information and content marketing. And, with my search marketing experience (e.g., Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing), I’ve polished my skills in writing Internet ads, and I think there’s real opportunity there and in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) writing.
What’s been your proudest “Writer Moment”?
I think the feedback on my writing from my first client when she said, “I love it!” is at the top. And I wrote “first paid project” on the envelope she sent the $500 in. Even more important and less tangible, though, was the day about nine months ago when I said out loud, “I’m a writer.”
What are your professional writing goals?
My writing income goal this year is $40K since I’m part-time, but I think that’s going to be a stretch. My goal is to spend 30 minutes on focused reading every day (right now I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing and highly recommend it), and 30 minutes of focused writing.
I’m also a minority owner in a start-up digital agency specializing in SEO and Social Media. When the time is right, I’ll make the leap to full-time copywriting and have my own company as a client.
Regarding your writing career — is there anything you’d do differently if you could?
My only regret is that I didn’t find out about this career opportunity 10 years ago. I thought the only way you were a professional writer was as a novelist, TV writer, or journalist. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “It’s never too late to be who you might have been” — George Eliot (pen name of novelist Mary Anne Evans).
What’s your top advice for new writers?
Make yourself a little note to refer to occasionally. On that note should be a message similar to this: I am new at this. There is a lot to learn. I can only go one day at a time. I will not beat myself up for not “getting it” just yet. If I stick with this, and learn every day, then a year from now, life will be different.
I’d also recommend finding a writing group to join for support. If you can find a mentor, that’s even better.
What do you consider the best part of being a freelance writer?
Without a doubt, the flexibility is the most attractive thing. Being able to work when my mind is functioning at its peak is so appealing. And working from home is an incredible plus. When I go buy work clothes, I go to a sporting goods store to buy sweatpants.
Brad's Living The Writer's Life story was originally published in Barefoot Writer. To learn more about how you can start living your dream writer's life too, click here.
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