in Tech

Hanging out the shingle

I’ve been a technical writer for a few years now. While I never pursued “professional blogger” as an income stream, this blog is to blame. (Well, its Tumblr incarnation, strictly speaking.) Folks at RethinkDB found it, liked my writing, and one thing led to another.

RethinkDB ran out of money in late 2016. I spent 2017 at Realm, another startup in a similar space. While they got their neeeded round of investment, it came with a catch: lay off some of their staff. I was one of the lucky ones.

Now, it’s time to find an income stream again, and I confess I’m struggling with how to go about it. Will I take another position that involves an hour-long commute to a giant open office plan? Ugh. (RethinkDB was close by. Realm wasn’t, but they let me work from home three days a week.) I’d have to want to work for that company, with no reservations.

It turns out planting the only on my terms flag in the ground when you’re job-hunting is difficult. Not just for the obvious reasons, but also for some less obvious ones. It takes privilege to say “thanks, but no thanks” to a recruiter—and I won’t have this specific privilege all that long. My non-retirement savings should stretch about a half a year, but that’s never as long as it sounds. (Also, a talk with a company isn’t an offer. I’ve already been rebuffed by one company I assumed I had a pretty solid “in” with.)

So this leaves me tempted to try and forge my own path. Listening to podcasters Marco Arment and Myke Hurley try to convince their fellow podcaster Casey Liss to give up his “real job” and go independent is a contributing factor. But the truth is, I’ve thought about this before. More than once. (I’m also, by Silicon Valley standards, ancient. I have unprovable suspicions that’s already been an issue.)

The truth is also that I’ve done consulting work before, though, and we’ll just say that the Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Workweek® dream proved elusive. I loved setting my own hours and working from wherever I wanted, but those weren’t high-income years. I had no idea what rates to charge and little idea how to rustle up clients; now I at least know how much I should charge. (Okay, I think I know.) Even so, among that set of podcasters I mentioned, I’m temperamentally closer to John Siracusa than the rest (if less particular about pizza). Having a job I enjoy matters, but so does financial security.

And yet. And yet.

I’m inching closer to setting up another small income stream or two, but those won’t be much. So can I make a go of being a technical writing consultant? An awful lot of companies out there need docs of one kind or another. (The subset of companies that both know that and are willing to pay for it is, I suspect, much smaller.) Part of this process involves figuring out what kind of network I have that I can draw on. If you’re reading this, you may be part of that network.

To put it baldly: know anyone who could use some technical writing done?

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