Is there ever a best time to take a chance on something you always wanted to accomplish? With all the economic chaos right now, common sense and conventional wisdom seem to suggest that we take almost too seriously the roller coaster of the stock market, America's depressing unemployment numbers, the predictions of a double-dip recession, the difficulty in obtaining adequate health insurance for individuals, the ominous news reports about how tough people have it today and all the other things in the world telling all of us we ought to consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have a job and we should do nothing to compromise that.
In other words, your dreams can wait.
I don't buy that. To take such dire warnings too seriously is really to be too frightened to ever take a risk, to be perpetually trapped in a cubicle waiting (how long, exactly?) for the sun to shine again. There's always a reason not to do something, and it's easy to begin believing that the time to take a big plunge will never be right -- because, really, when do any of us expect to return to the booming 90s?
Ain't gonna happen anytime soon.
I don't want to be stuck in a cube at 50 wishing I'd followed that dream I had when I was 34.
So, the right time to take the risk is now. This minute. It's either now or not at all. All or nothing.
Today, I quit my job.
I quit what seemed to be a relatively stable job scribblin' for a newspaper at a time when things for the Fort Collins Coloradoan seem to be looking brighter and brighter. I think that while the newspaper industry struggles and attempts to imbue itself with hope that newspaper newsrooms will still exist in five or ten years (or two or three), it's smaller papers like the Coloradoan that may just survive with a healthy dose of innovation.
But despite that, today is my day to strike out on my own. There is a column written last month on the Society of Professional Journalists' freelancers' blog that sums it this way:
Yes, newspapers as a medium are going away, but the demand for what they try to offer their communities — responsible, accurate reporting — has not diminished and in the wake of social media has grown more acute. Besides personal engagement, we as a society also hunger for dispassionate views that help hone those engagements.
So, yes, the opportunities for freelancers are more and varied than ever. And it’s time to take your shot.
Your goal, then: suck it up. Don’t chicken out.
“But how?” you might ask. “Where should I start?”
The easiest, simplest and perhaps most flippant answer is, “At the beginning.”
Freelancing should be fun, something you want to do every day. Unless you suck it up and clear the road ahead of obstacles, the fun will seem only further and further away.
So, today, I bit the bullet. As of October 7, I'll be a full-time freelancer (and possibly a part-timer at a local coffeshop, outfitter or anywhere that will pay me more than minimum wage while trying to make a living writing words and taking pictures). This adventure is going to start out with a month-long odyssey that will take me to the Society of Environmental Journalists' conference in Miami, then on to Cuba, where I and a group of other SEJ journos will hop a charter flight to Havana and attempt to answer the question: How will Cuba's most pristine wildlife reserves fare once the U.S. flings open its doors for tourists to visit the island?
It'll be fun, and a fantastic way to kick-start the next chapter in my career. I'm confident a bit of imagination and entrepreurial spirit is, at least locally, the antidote for our national malaise. That's where I'm putting my money, anyway.
Meanwhile, I'd be honored if you'd follow me on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to this blog. Feel free to contact me with any story ideas that I could pitch to editors far and wide. Here's all the necessary info and digits: