Living the Writer's Life: Tom Gerencer
A Life of Adventure Was Calling, and He Answered
Tom Gerencer always had an eye for outdoor fun and committed to living where he could satisfy that need. But when money grew tight at the same time his family expanded, he needed a reliable fix. His two requirements were better-than-minimum-wage income and not being tied to an office. Not only did writing satisfy both needs, but he took it to a whole other level. Read on to discover how this born adventurer is making the most of his writer’s life.
Take me back to your prewriting life. What were you hoping to get away from when you switched careers?
I’ve always been self-motivated. I had a video production business shooting weddings and corporate videos for about eight years up in Maine. Then I moved to Fayetteville, West Virginia, because my wife and I really like white water. So we went down there, but it was the middle of the woods, really, no place to have any kind of clientele to do video production. I started writing because I was chipping away at my savings and didn’t want to go work at a minimum-wage job.
That shows very concretely that you can live where you please based on your interests and still launch a writing business.
That was definitely the attraction of it, but when I started, it was scary, because I was making pretty good money as a videographer and I didn’t think I could make that much as a writer, plus we had a kid on the way. I thought, This isn’t going to work, but I’ve got to do something. And then it turned out to be a lot better than I thought.
I know you transitioned from doing the writing yourself to hiring other writers. How did that come about?
First, it was necessary that I be successful as a writer myself. So I started with a client in personal finance who hired me full time for a couple years. Then I got a second client in the career space, and then an agency client who asked, “Can you write about tech?” I said, “I think so,” though I really couldn’t. I had to learn how to write about tech. But that was a nightmare, because whenever you learn a new niche, you’re spending 10 times longer than you should on an article because you have to deeply research everything. I did it because I really needed the client, and I killed myself on the first 10 articles.
Then that agency client kept coming to me and saying, “Hey, can you write about fintech? Or poker?” And I said, “Now, I’ve got to be honest with you, I can’t. I don’t want to go through that again.” But he kept asking about all these topics. Finally I asked, “Can I hire somebody to write it for me?” He said, “If it’s as good as what you write, yes.” I said, “Okay, because I think it would be way easier if I just found somebody who’s a poker expert and a really good writer, and I’ll take a small cut of it to edit their work.” And that’s how it built from there.
I admire how your approach was conscientious without arrogance. Tell me, how are you able to make the most of life thanks to running your own writing business?
After we moved to West Virginia, my wife wanted to come back to Maine a lot. We both have family here. But, geez, it’s a 17-hour drive. We’d come for a week and lose four days driving back and forth. So I thought, Well, now that I’m writing for a living instead of working a full-time job, we can go to Maine for longer and I can have a remote setup.
Now we’ll go stay on a lake for two weeks and my boys can be out swimming and I can be out on the porch, watching them and working. Yesterday we went to a beach and turned over some rocks and caught some baby lobsters.
Then in the winter we have a little house near Sugarloaf, Maine, and we go there for a month or two in the winter and ski for four or five hours, then come back at around one o’clock in the afternoon and I work while they do schoolwork. It’s kind of hectic and stressful, but it’s also very worth it.
It sounds magical. Now, because you hire writers directly, what standout skills do you value in someone you hire?
It comes down to the same thing I just mentioned, which is doing the absolute best work you can, and being engaging. When I’m trying to find a new writer, say a new IT writer, I’ll go look at 150 IT writers online. I’ll skim a few articles from each one. Often many of the writers are just going through the motions. They’re just writing this article and they’re not caring about their reader.
And then you come across this writer where you feel like you’re in a room with them and they care about you. You can tell they worked really hard on it and researched it until they understood the reader. If you do that, you’re going to stand out like crazy, and you’re going to get work.
Tom'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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