In other words, I've been trying to launch a writing career.
No, I am not one of those who thinks they have the "Great American Novel" buried somewhere in their imagination and need only to find the proper tools with which to dig it out. Perhaps in the heady and self-centered days of my youth I did--I distinctly remember telling my high school friends I would have a novel published by the age of 20. (snicker) As you can surmise from the fact my name appears no where on the best sellers list (or, for that matter, on Google) I never wrote that Great American Novel.
That's okay, though. Over the years I've gotten some perspective on both my dream and my writing. I love to write. In fact, I do have several stories and even a completed novel hidden away. None of them are terribly good, but writing them was both cathartic and a lesson in reality. I like re-reading them and remembering who I was when I wrote them. Much of what I wrote was based on what I was going through at the time (the ones written in my mid-30's are about as full of upper-middle-class housewife angst as you can get--a fictional affair with an 18-year-old grocery store bag boy? Really? Yet my friends will remember the crazy crush I had on "Sancho the bag boy" at the local Vons when I was 35)
But one thing I was always really good at was public relations writing. During my 20s and earliest 30s, I worked for a variety of public relations agencies and companies as a PR and marketing freelance writer, creating brochures, news releases, white papers, corporate positioning papers, mission statements--you name it, and I wrote it. And I loved doing it. I loved the challenge of shaping an image out of words. I liked putting my clients' ideas into words that their target markets responded to. It was almost like not working. I made decent money, too: $50 - $75 an hour depending on the project. It was almost ideal (except during those dry spells with which every self-employed person is intimately familiar and, of course, at tax time).
So it was with these things in mind that in December 2008 I decided to re-start my PR and marketing writing business. I didn't imagine it would be that difficult--after all, when I did it in the 90s, getting clients was pretty easy. What I had forgotten was that at the time I started my writing business in the 90s, we were in the midst of the Internet Boom and anybody who could string three words together in a cohesive sentence could be hired as a PR writer. Well, maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit. I was a good writer. But times were different, and there was more money around to hire people like me.
So it was with a bit of over-confidence that I launched the current incarnation of my business, Kim Haman, Writer. I sent out dozens of letters, cards, and writing samples to businesses that were similar to the ones I'd worked for in the 90s--mid-sized companies with small marketing departments and PR and ad agencies that needed extra help.
Ah, the brick.
My follow up calls revealed that 10 years is alot of time to be out of a business like mine. (Intellectually I had known that, but somehow I thought I'd be above the fray) Of the few people I was actually able to talk to (I'm assuming the rest were trying to spare me the humiliation of being told "No" in person, as opposed to just letting me draw the conclusion on my own), almost the first words out of their collective mouths were "What's your website address?" There were also unfamiliar terms like "SEO" and "Social Media Optimization" and "Keyword Stuffing." Huh?
What a difference a decade makes! So I found myself not only back at square one, but actually less prepared when I'd been a 25-year-old with nothing but a little talent and alot of hutzpah. I realized I needed to study up on all that had changed in the corporate writing biz over the last 10 years.
Despite my grumblings, I found much of it pretty interesting. I bought a couple books called "The Freelance Writer's Bible" by David Trottier and "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" by David Meerman Scott. These were amazingly helpful to me. These two books more than anything else I read or researched helped shape my business plan. My plan is to get back in the game sooner rather than later--although right now, I'm still the dorky kid waiting on the sidelines to be chosen for a team, praying I won't be subjected to the humiliation of being chosen last.
So that's what I mean when I compared building my business to teaching a brick to fly. It's not getting off the ground nearly at the speed or height I would have thought after working at it steadily for six months. Granted, the brick/fly thing probably isn't the most accurate analogy out there--after all, I do have a few clients right now, terrific small companies that have been gracious enough to give me the opportunity to help their businesses grow. It's just not going to be as easy as I thought it would be.
See? You never stop learning. If it was too easy, I probably wouldn't appreciate it as much, just like in the 90s I just took for granted that the first prospect I called would hire me on the spot--because they usually did. This time, it's gonna take just a little more, like becoming much more Internet-savvy, launching a website (finishing it up this week: www.kimhamanwriter.com) and figuring out what SEO means.
And who knows? In years to come, the Great American Novel might squeak out of me. But for now, I'll be thrilled--more than thrilled--if Kim Haman, Writer stretches its wings and flies.