Q&A with Amanda Marie Layman
Author of The New Freelance: A Book for Writers: The Honest Guide to Freelance Writing in the 21st Century, Amanda is founder of Tigris Content Marketing Strategies. Follow her @AmandaMLayman.
Can you tell us more about your background and professional experience as a woman in the workforce?
To be honest, I never thought I'd be doing professional work in the sense I'm doing it today. I wanted to be a writer since I was eight, but I always imagined that would mean being a stay-at-home mom, writing fiction while my gaggle of children played at my feet! But after I graduated college, I was working as a waitress and realized that writing a bestselling novel wasn't the only path to becoming a working writer: I could be a freelancer, if I could just learn how to write nonfiction. So I read a few books, did some really terrible bottom-barrel jobs for the first couple of years, and then started building industry connections and working my way up. Nearly a decade later, I have a daughter, I'm still freelancing, and I'm the sole income earner in my family -- and I love it! It's incredible when I stop and think about it, and I take my work-life balance for granted way too often.
What led you into the freelance writing and consulting industries?
I'm not the type to wait until things are miserable to make a change; in fact, I have this character flaw where I preemptively make changes because I think things are about to go terribly, horribly wrong, and I have to get the upper hand! So, before I started freelancing, I was working as a waitress and bartender at Red Robin, and I had just asked to be considered for a management position. However, I realized I would probably never have time to work on my writing if I was putting in 50-hour weeks as a manager. I put in my two weeks' notice, set up a home office, and started stumbling around trying to find work. It was horrible the first couple of years, and I talk about that a bit in my book.
What are some of the biggest rewards and challenges you’ve experienced in transitioning from a "standard employee" to a freelancer/independent contractor?
I don't have much to compare it to, since I've never worked in a traditional office setting. But one of the bigger challenges - as an introvert, especially - is that I'm not forced to go interact with a regular group of people on a daily basis, so I tend to just "hole up" and get isolated. Going to the rock climbing gym almost daily helps a bit, and I have some family here that I see every other weekend or so. But, I do think I'd be better off psychologically if I had to interact with more people. The rewards are plenty: taking weekdays off when I can, getting to spend all day with my partner (he works at home, too), not having to jump through a million hoops to coordinate my schedule with my daughter's school routine. Oh -- and being in control of my own destiny. I am a bit obsessed with being in charge, and so my brand of "solopreneurship" really helps quench that obsession.
Have you ever encountered gender discrimination/bias or sexism in your line of work or in your professional experience? If so, how did you process it and deal with the situation? Any advice?
Not overtly, but it's not often overt, is it? I've had a client refer to me in a discussion thread as "girl," and later, "lady" (I joked with my partner that I got "upgraded," so my work must have been improving in his eyes). In seriousness, for me, the sexism comes from within. Sometimes I sell myself short because I never expected to be here, and I come from a loving but traditional family where there aren't many examples of women in high-power positions. I can say it does get easier with time: at 31, I'm far less concerned with being liked by my clients and more concerned with delivering content that "wows" them. I push back, respectfully, when I disagree, and I ask for more money when it's owed. Every time I do something like this, it empowers me to do it again, and do it better next time. So for women who are worried about being seen as "bitchy" for being assertive, I'd suggest practicing assertion in your personal life and it'll translate over into your professional life. It's no coincidence that as soon as I started advocating for myself and defending my stance on certain topics to my friends and family, I started walking a little taller at work, too.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business ventures and what you're working on currently?
In 2017, I published my first book, The New Freelance: A Book for Writers! I also shifted my freelance business into a consultancy, where I'm now offering website owners both content marketing strategy and development. In 2018, I'm really honing in on my specialty, which is website content development. I have a very small team: one full-time freelancer and a couple of part-time writers and designers.
Can you talk about your process in writing and publishing The New Freelance: A Book for Writers?
Getting this book done was the result of a million tiny nudges over the last few years. I started outlining and writing it way back in 2014, but I shelved it until 2016. I'm glad I put it away for a time, because I learned so many valuable things over those two years that wound up being some of the core content of the book. I was living in a compact car in Colorado for most of the writing period: I would do my client work during the day, and often cozy up in the back of the car with the curtains drawn at night and write. I hired an editor, Tatiana Ryckman, who helped me see the major flaws in my first draft, and I reworked the thing through 2017. I struggled a lot. At one point, I started breaking the book up into short blog posts and thinking I'd launch as website instead of publishing a book -- but ultimately, I realized a website would be a massive ongoing project with no end, whereas a book might provide more of a reward because I could hold it in my hands, and officially call it "done." Of course, now I'm looking at it and thinking, why didn't I add more on this topic? Couldn't I have expanded this a little more? Is this useful at all? The sigh of relief and satisfaction never did quite happen!
What do you think can be done to encourage more women to “lean into” a career in independent consulting, freelancing, content development, and/or writing and editing?
I think hearing the stories of women who are doing it successfully helps you to visualize yourself doing the same. I grew up reading Anne Lamott and always thought it was so cool that she was both a working writer and a single mom. It's also important that women realize the world doesn't owe them anything. If you want something, only you can wake up in the morning and go after it. People won't just hand you things, and blaming your circumstance, no matter how dire, on something external does nothing but hold you back. Setting a big goal, however, and mapping out the priority level of all of the tiny goals you have to achieve in order to get your big one, allows women (people, really) to do incredible things.