Adventures In Freelancing: Looking Back At 2015

monkey-typing2015 was the fifth full year that I worked as a freelance writer. It’s wild to think about. I got unceremoniously and somewhat surprisingly laid off from Wizard in September of 2009. With no idea what I would do with the rest of my career (a fun thought to have at 26) my friends jumped at the chance to set me up with freelance work. I wasn’t sure if it would stick, but dove in and am still rolling today.

That year I wrote for Marvel.com, Maxim.com, Topless Robot, Wizard, ToyFare, UGO, MTV Geek, Click and even a bit for CBR and realized I could actually do alright for myself with just my brain, a computer and a solid internet connection. Since then, a few of those outlets have gone defunct (I miss seeing my work on the magazine stand) and some completely changed directions since then. These days I find myself mainly working for three sites: Marvel.com, CBR and Geek.com and I’m digging it. Looking back at the past year, it seemed like an okay time to reflect a bit on the ups and downs of the year. Continue reading Adventures In Freelancing: Looking Back At 2015

Adventures In Freelancing: Picking Up What They’re Laying Down

It struck me recently that my last few Adventures In Freelancing columns have not only been infrequent, but also pretty negative. Taking The Good With The Bad was about my insecurities regarding expired contracts, Learning To Accept Workless Days is pretty self explanatory but also about how not working can result in some work and my wife told me that 5 Things I Miss About Working In An Office made her feel bad for me, though that wasn’t my intent. I plan on being positive with today’s post.

Anyone who pays attention to the self serving links I post in the semi-regular Casting Internets will notice that I’m still writing for Marvel.com and doing the occasional list for Topless Robot, but posts for UGO.com and Maxim.com have ceased to exist. Also, ToyFare, the magazine I had been writing a good chunk of ceased publication. That’s the way things work in the freelance biz. I sound pretty casual about such things now, but I was not happy when it happened (hence the almost three month gap between AIFs). I worried incessantly that I wasn’t helping out enough when it came to finances. I made peace with my wife making more money than me a long time ago when she was bringing in more green as a temp than I ever did in my various professions. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to help as much as possible. Hell, we had a kid on the way and don’t want to live in this condo forever. Was it finally time to ditch this crazy dream and get a job at the Post Office?

Thankfully that didn’t come to pass. As it turned out, some people I knew and some I didn’t know were going through some changes of their own. All that shifting created an opening at Comic Book Resources. They needed a writer and as it turned out, I am in fact a writer. It also helped that I’m good friends with one of the editors there. Never let it be said that who you know is not important. Almost all the gigs I have right now are thanks to friends and former colleagues, plus, I hope, some degree of talent on my part. Anyway, I wound up getting a pretty darn fun gig as the Image Comics contact. There were some growing pains as I got used to their style, but I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of things. Better yet I like the job itself because the people working on these books have a lot of enthusiasm and are doing really fun and interesting comics that I feel good telling the internet about.

In a weird reversal of fortune from a few months prior, I was contacted about a few more jobs. One I can’t really talk about yet because I’m not sure if it’s happening or how it will work. The other though is for the next evolution of ToyFare now known as Wizard World, a digital magazine. I started off doing some feature work for them, but now I’m essentially the freelance toy editor. It’s like working for ToyFare again, but without having to get on a train or drive 45 minutes every day.

I’ve talked to a few family members who own their businesses about the ups and downs that come with them. They all say that it’s important to remember that there will be another up during the downs, though it’s sometimes hard to remember. Of course, being the pessimist I am, I worried that all my contacts would dry up, my lack of gigs would look bad for potential future jobs and I would become a has-been in this fickle market. Hopefully next time things take a down swing I’ll remember this. We’ll see. Anyway, I’m going to enjoy this high point while it lasts and continue to work on my own projects on the side. Onwards and upwards!

Adventures In Freelancing: 5 Things I Miss About Working In An Office

After “How’s that freelance writing thing going?” the most popular question I get from people is “Do you miss working in an office?” My usual answer is “I miss working with the cool people I’ve worked with over the years, but I prefer working from home.” I really do love being a freelancer and the freedom it brings. I can get up whenever I want and go to sleep when I want (though that freedom will disappear for a while once the baby is born, I assume). Plus, on days when I’m feeling a little more shut-in than I prefer, I can always run over to the coffee shop, get some amazing coffee, tea or a chai latte and talk with the always-friendly baristas. But, if I’m being completely honest with myself there are some things I do miss about working in an office. Here are five of them.

1. Being Able To Blame Someone Else For Getting Me Sick
Seeing as how I only have regular contact with one person (the missus), it’s really easy to figure out who got me sick. When you work in an office there’s always someone who may or may not have gotten you sick, but working from home narrows the possibilities down pretty substantially.

2. Work Parties
Around Christmas time, I actually got pretty bummed out because my company party consisted of the cat and I watching Silent Night, Deadly Night with a Coors Light at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. Hearing the missus come home talking about how she could hardly get her work done because of all the holiday parties she had to attend didn’t help. It brought back fond memories of the occasional holiday party or the company picnic that gave me my last opportunity to play football. Plus, getting a little (and sometimes a lot) buzzed on the company dime was always a lot of fun.

3. Free Donuts
I’m not the biggest fan of sweets in the world, but I do love a simple glazed donut. I miss that thrill of the chase when word got around that free food/candy/donuts were on the water cooler. If you weren’t quick, you weren’t getting a treat (at least in the days when there were more than a dozen people in the office). The other day, I got a real hankering for donuts and realized it was because I hadn’t had one in quite a while. I guess I could start taking advantage of the Dunkin’s right down the street, but food always tastes so much better when someone else buys it.

4. Lunch
I was lucky enough to work with some great people, so our lunch time was actually a lot of fun. We’d either all get together in the office’s lunchroom and talk about comics, TV and life or all head out to a singular location and do the same there. Lunches got a little thin there for a while, but once we moved down to the city I found myself surrounded by a lot of those same people. Sure, not every lunch was amazing, but it was nice to know that I could see some friends and get some interesting food. Now, lunch is just another way to get food in me so I don’t pass out. Without other people involved, I have a tendency to forget to eat until late int he day, which leaves me lightheaded.

5. Free Stuff
Between the free table, people getting rid of their stuff and the constant flow of things into our office, there was always something being offered to you that you’d otherwise have to pay for. In addition to that, we had access to one of the largest comic book and trade paperback libraries around (I’ve never seen a bigger one personally, but I’m sure they’re out there) with nearly every comic printed coming in every week. This might sound strange or greedy, but it’s not easy going from unlimited access to none. I think I’m finally done with the withdrawal that came after that, but I do miss being able to keep up on all the comics I cared about and getting the occasional free action figure. On the flip side, I also miss having a place to get rid of some of my comics. You’d be surprised at how hard of a time I’ve had getting rid of a longbox I’ve had in the backseat of my car for months.

Casting Internets

Not a ton of links today, but I did a few things with the site and some of my friends have some good stuff going on, so it’s worth a CI!

As usual, me first. If you’re looking to read my Photo Diary entries in one easy place, check out the Photo Diary tab up above or click here.

If you’re interested, my buddy Sean compiled a list of all the posts about Wizard and ToyFare’s demise written and Tweeted by former employees and freelancers on Robot 6.

Speaking of Sean and Robot 6, Tim O’Shea interviewed Sean about his excellent comic Destructor which you can and should read here. The Prison Break story is a favorite of mine and can’t wait to see the full thing in color.

Bloody Disgusting says, via Tony Todd, there might be two more Final Destination flicks. I haven’t seen the fourth, but, seeing as how this is my favorite latter day horror franchise, I’ve got no complaints.

Remembering Wizard

I’m filled with all kinds of emotions and have been all day after hearing about the closing of Wizard and later ToyFare as print publications very early this morning. To make matters worse, the missus woke me up very early because she was having trouble starting her car. I don’t know jack about cars, but tried starting it myself, coming in after it felt like my fingers were going to fall off. I took my car to the gas station, filled the flat-ish tires with air and brought it back for her to drive to work. I don’t like waking up early and actually wasn’t able to sleep in this weekend, so I was feeling kind of punch anyway, especially because I had planned to head over to the storage unit place and move our junk from the smaller unit to the new one. Anyway, that’s all a long way to go to tell you that I was already feeling pretty weird this morning. Then I got the news and was floored. I had actually just started writing for Wizard again, though I don’t know whether the piece I finished will ever run or what the deal is. It was fun to write about comics again.

My history with Wizard is similar with a lot of other peoples’ up to a point. I discovered the magazine at a bookstore in the mall. The issue had a Rob Liefeld/Jim Lee Heroes Reborn cover and announced the new JLA lineup by some guy named Grant Morrison. I instantly fell in love with the mag which was my only source of comic book information and soon enough I devoured each monthly issue. I read the mag all the way through college, never leaving it for the internet. Heck, I didn’t even know there were comic book websites because Wizard was the perfect amount of everything for me. I’m not obsessed with comics, I just wanted to read something fun and find out what’s coming up. My junior year of college I sent a lot of letters and resumes around to Marvel, DC, Rolling Stone and also Wizard to try and score an internship. I heard back from Wizard and that’s when it all began. I spent nine weeks working for them that summer. In addition to being on the inside of a lot of interesting meetings and cutting my teeth writing about comics and doing interviews, I met some rad dudes.

I went back to school, graduated and sat around Toledo for a while before finally hearing back from Wizard, they had a job opening and were offering it to me. Soon enough I moved out to New York and had a gig working in the research department. Like any other job there were ups and downs, but there’s no way I’d be where I am right now without someone at that company deciding to give me chance. Eventually I worked my way up to being an associate editor for ToyFare. I rocked that job and learned a ridiculous amount for a year before being laid off. Sure, I had problems with aspects of that as well and can empathize with the mysterious former employee who talked to iFanboy. But, even then, I was immediately offered the opportunity to write huge chunks of ToyFare, which facilitated my freelance career. I’m hoping that things work out for everyone who’s still there and for everyone who’s not. Again, I can understand that post-firing/lying off feeling and it’s awful and I hated hearing this after I got bounced, but they’re solid dudes who will quickly bounce back.

So, while battling feelings of sadness for the end of an era, compassion for my now jobless friends, fear for the ones I didn’t know about and worry about my own standing with the company that makes up a huge part of my income, what did I do? I built a dresser from Ikea. It helped keep my mind off things and gave me something to do because I had planned to work on my next Wizard feature today.

Casting Internets

Woof, what a day. To be completely honest, I knew about this before the internet and have been losing it on and off all day. I actually just started writing for Wizard again after a hiatus and it doesn’t sound like my work will get published. Strength to all my brothers who were still there and those now looking for other work. I urge the internet to remember that these are real people dealing with real problems. I liked both Tom Spurgeon and Rob Bricken‘s posts about the subject. More on this from me in a bit.

Happy birthday to my buddy Ben Morse, sorry it was tainted by such craziness. To lighten the mood a bit, check out my boy Rickey‘s version of Lil’ OMAC and his cat friend.

Seems weird to hype my stuff after today, but I need to pimp myself now more than ever considering I have no idea where I stand. Hey look, I wrote a thing on the history of Bane for MTV Geek.

I also wrote a list for Topless Robot about 10 awesomely geeky movies for sale via Warner Archive. There’s a lot of good stuff on the site. It’s funny, one of the commenters mentions Green Slime, that was honestly number 11 and didn’t make the cut.

Over at cxPulp the latest edition of Twisted ToyFare Theatre (Volume 11 to be exact) got a 4 exclamation point review! That volume was a ton of fun to work on. Wrote this one last night, it’s bittersweet now especially considering I haven’t gotten myself a copy yet. Fabio Moon drew Sandman! That dude needs to draw more comics.

It’s cool that Kevin Smith decided to take Red State on tour as part of the distribution as /Film reported (see the dates here), but I’m not sure what the point of saying he was going to auction it off and then auctioning it to himself was. Even so, I’m considering seeing the show in NYC if at all possible.

Interesting timing that a few days after getting caught up on James Kochalka’s intriguing American Elf diary comic that he gets named Cartoonist Laureate. Once again Spurge has the deets.

My Favorite ToyFare Feature: We Want Action (TF #139, March 2009)

I worked as an associate editor for ToyFare for about a year. I had written articles for them before that and have continued to do so as a freelancer. I love writing about toys and finding out what’s coming up from companies, but I also really like delving into the history of toys. My absolute favorite thing was coming up with an idea, pitching it to my boss, having it approved, writing the whole thing, editing it and seeing the finished product.

Enter what we dubbed the action feature feature, the idea being to compile a list of the coolest things that toys can do aside from standing there and having joints. Eventually named “We Want Action” the feature is my favorite non-interview piece I’ve done for TF. The list was a ton of fun to write, but then we had to find images of the toys included, which wasn’t always easy. Sure, we had the big ones in the ol’ toy library, but we also asked a few freelancers to send in pictures, talked to some websites with pics and–coolest of all–I had my dad send out some of my toys which actually made it into the mag. You can see a “Thank You” included there in the last picture for him. If you’re curious the Swamp Thing, Computer Warriors, Karate Kid and Beetlejuice figures are all mine. So much fun! Click the thumbnails for much larger versions you should be able to read!