By Sharon Hurley-Hall –
“I don’t think I do business very well.” That’s the last thing you would expect to hear from Anne Wayman, who has been running a successful freelance writing business for a couple of decades. Despite her self-proclaimed lack of business nous, Anne has been a beacon to hundreds of freelance writers online, showing them by example that it really is possible to make a living doing what you love. But if business skills aren’t her forte, what is? The answer is writing, which for Anne is as natural as breathing.
Writing – A Hidden Vice
“I can hardly remember a time when I wasn’t writing,” she says. “According to a family story, I talked about being a freelance writer when I was in the 6th grade. By the time I was in the 7th, I was working on the school newspaper.” In spite of this early start, though, it would be a couple more decades before Anne turned her secret passion into a bona fide business. Instead, her writing was swept under the carpet and she would sneak out to buy copies of Writer’s Digest.
Anne’s dad had a real estate firm and the ups and downs of household income as she was growing up prepared her well for the vagaries of freelancing. Ironically, it was while working in this firm in the 1960s that Anne honed the writing skills that would make her the successful writer and self-publisher she is today. She was a ghostwriter for newspaper columns and wrote all the sales and advertising copy for the firm. “I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work in marketing,” she says. But she still didn’t acknowledge herself as a writer. No one thought that was “real writing”.
A Wall of Rejections
The landmark moment for Anne came when she made her first submissions to Family Circle and Women’s Day in 1974. “I traveled 15 miles from my home town in Oceanside to Vista to mail my submissions, because I was afraid,” she recalls, “but I understood that submitting work was significant.” Though her initial submissions were rejected, Anne pasted all the rejections on her bedroom wall and kept on writing and submitting. A year later, she had her first acceptance, a piece in Runner’s World.
The 1970s saw Anne married, divorced and with three children as well as successfully emerging from a 12 step recovery program. That would lead to writing and selling a pamphlet called Successful Single Parenting to Hazelden, as well as three subsequent booklets on various aspects of recovery.
One of Anne’s key skills is technical writing, which got her started in freelancing. “In 1980 I bought an Apple II and was in tears trying to set it up. I went to a computer show in San Diego and conjured up a job documenting printers, so I started technical writing on a freelance basis.” She followed that by a job as a technical writer for KayPro, shifted to a magazine role at ProFiles, then went freelance because they failed to promote her work. Anne comments: “I was a good worker but a lousy employee and since my dad sold real estate, dealing with uncertain income wasn’t a problem for me. That’s how I grew up.”
Challenges and Opportunities
So how did Anne shift from freelance technical writing to the writing, ghostwriting and self-publishing career she has now? In order to get fully into writing there were three things Anne had to address. “My first major challenge was getting over myself and all those self-worth issues. I had to learn not to apologize for my rates, undertake a long journey of self-discovery via 12-step programs, counseling and meditation. And I had to stop negative self-talk, using the rubber band trick.”
She also stayed alert to opportunities and there were plenty of those. “I recognized that the web was another publishing medium and I wanted to be a part of it. I was excited about it. I still am.” That excitement made Anne teach herself HTML and the other skills she needed to set up her own site. She has had AnneWayman.com since the 1990s. She says: “It’s the most successful thing I have ever done. Most of my clients have come from there.” That in turn led to another strand of business developing websites, and to a lucrative career of blogging and ghost writing. Anne was also an early self publisher, with one of her top sellers being Powerfully Recovered, a book that targets 12 steppers. “The net has made it possible to market to groups like 12-step groups that are hard to identify.” The book was launched in 2001 and continues to sell well.
At 69, Anne is in the position many aspire to, with a successful career and no need to chase clients. Anne’s business consists of ghostwriting, coaching and mentoring, writing ebooks, blogging and copywriting. Variety has been the hallmark of her career, with publishing credits including being the About.com Freelance Writing Guide for more than 3 years and being part of the founding team for Match.com.
Committing to Business
Ironically, it’s only now that she is taking a more businesslike approach to her business, with the help and inspiration of Molly Gordon’s Improving Profitability course. “My big challenge is that in many ways I have never treated my writing as a business. I have a huge resistance to the business side. I have now made a commitment to be IN business. I don’t know what that looks like yet.” One thing she is sure of though, is treating her business as a business will make it more successful and more profitable.
Anne has never really sat still: “I run a complex to-do list & I give myself permission to not get it all done.” She has also always done things other than writing, whether that’s been working in real estate or varnishing boats. “I learned to be a commercial fisherman in my 40s,” she throws in offhandedly. She enjoys her grandchildren, her cats, the canyon view from her San Diego home, walking by the ocean and writing that’s going well. “People perceive me as a serious person, but there’s an awful lot of gladness in my heart.”
She writes Gatha poetry and is working on a family history. One of the backbones of Anne’s life is helping others, which she does through her blog, through her books and through her Twitter stream. For some years now, her first question is ‘who can I help today’, which she started in answer to a challenge from Jonathan Fields. “I wondered if I would get overwhelmed,” she admits. “It doesn’t serve others for me to get overwhelmed, but the response has been positive.”
Looking Beyond Writing
So what’s next for Anne Wayman? Anne wants to do her bit to heal the planet, shown in her “When Grandmother Speaks” blog, and contemplating a new edition of Powerfully Recovered and is thinking about working more with the seniors market. She concludes: “My mind is opening up to things in addition to writing. I’m looking at what I can offer the planet in a whole new way.”
Sharon Hurley Hall has been writing professionally for almost 25 years, and she does it because she loves it. She is a word nerd, a Scrabble fiend, fanatical about grammar, and is fascinated by learning new things. Since 2005, Sharon has mentored other writers at Get Paid to Write Online to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Sharon subscribes to the ‘fine wine’ theory of aging – getting older also means getting better! Find Sharon on her website, Twitter and Facebook.
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