Priming the Pump

[Note: Various reports and articles indicate that by 2020, as much as 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of freelance workers. I’m already there.–jb]

I’ve been at this free agent game long enough that I should know the routine this time of year. It’s prospecting time. Almost all of my activities are devoted to getting new things into the JBE pipeline.

I’ve been through November and December before, but it’s still a time that requires a measure of mental toughness. This yearly cycle of darkness, my seasonal job moonlighting several nights per week during the holiday season, and moments when I occasionally need to swat away the doubt devils requires vigilance and staying on task.

This year has been my most challenging one since embracing the life of a freelancer in 2012. On one hand, I completed the largest corporate project of my freelance/consulting career. It was a six month-long project requiring coordination and management of multiple moving parts.  The final deliverables, including a video, were things I was proud of and I realized just how far I’ve come since I walked away from being a cubicle jockey at Moscow Mutual, back in January, 2004.

Being a working writer requires constant care of your chops. Over time, you begin to handle writing assignments that used to rattle you. Because I’m now able to handle a much wider variety of work than ever before, I’ve decided to put a few more of my eggs in the freelance writing basket in 2014. That means looking at topics that I want to write about and pitching articles to editors. I haven’t been a regular freelance writer since 2006. I’m a much better writer now than I was back then that’s for sure.  

Recently, I ran across an ad mentioning opportunities to write articles for The Motley Fool. I’ve been a longtime fan of their no-nonsense style, offering investing tips and advice, so I thought, “why not?”

While I’m no whirlwind investor, I’ve learned a few things over the years and I know what I like and I know what I’m not so keen about. I’ll be writing about consumer goods and things like Yelp, of which I’m a fanboy. Here’s article #1 for The Motley Fool.


Apps like Yelp play right into the hands of someone like me who is comfortable with a DIY approach to reviewing food and other places that I frequent. I actually thought I might be able to parlay my reviews on Yelp into a food critic position with the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Maine’s statewide newspaper had advertised for a food critic as longtime reviewer, Nancy English was leaving. I tried to massage a few contacts and wrangle an interview. Unfortunately, a reviewer with much more experience reviewing food won out. Actually, I never even got an interview, so I guess I have a ways to go on the food reviewing front. Or perhaps the food reviewing that appears in the pages of that publication isn’t the best match for the more realistic reviews I’d be more inclined to write. I know food, and I care about it as something more than an exotic item in trendy recipes at trendier restaurants. No bitterness. Perhaps I can take a different angle on food as a writer and find alternate success doing so.

There are plenty of other things I could write about and that’s my plan right now, as I continue to prospect. I also believe having skills relative to storytelling, knowledge of what makes a narrative compelling, and having the savvy of a marketer may allow me into some new places. I’m actually quite interested in helping organizations and others tell their stories more effectively, and for some, figure out for the first time what that story might be.


3 thoughts on “Priming the Pump


    Funny, Hugh MacLeod’s books were on clearance last I looked, now they’re pricey again. Try the library. But I think you might find a lot of his observations useful to you.

    In particular, he responds to the concern, what if a competitor comes along who also does what MacLeod does, imitating his line of business card doodles. MacLeod answers by noting that he’s been doing this for a long, long time, and has a huge back catalog of cards to draw on.

    Now, the Beatles (or who’s left of them) have the best back catalog to draw on, but you, too, have a back catalog. Time to draw together all those taste tests of lobster rolls, fill in the blanks, and publish. Be nice to have a guide to the best lobster rolls in Maine out there on Amazon, advertised on tourism sites, before the next tourist season rolls around.

    Good luck, and don’t let that primeval darkness get you down.

  2. As I read the Motley Fool piece, I couldn’t help but think “this is the perfect gig for Mr. J.” You’re providing “context” for someone who does not have time to investigate all the options. I know you have described yourself as a “weaver” from time to time, and this new “gig” does have elements of this in it. I agree with Reggie, too, on the need for a good book on lobster rolls. You could probably weave some stories into it as well. Congratulations!

  3. @LP MacLeod’s book looks interesting. Just requested it through the Maine State Library’s interlibrary loan program. I like the idea of gathering up my “back catalog.”

    Digital publishing makes it easier than ever to print and produce book. Harvard has what’s called an Espresso Machine, which allows you to go in, with a print-ready file for a book and literally print your books while you wait. I’ve been thinking about doing this and your idea for a book on lobby rolls might be the perfect vehicle, or combine it with some of my Yelp reviews. Maine Sunday Telegram, eat your heart out. Two (or more) can play at this food review game.

    @JAB I’ve been a fan of The Motley Fool’s no-nonsense investing tips. I think I could crank out 3-4 investing/consumer goods-related articles a month and ala Hugh MacLeod and @LP, gather these up, too.

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