Hobby Turned Career: When Pastimes Pay Off

mandi-harris-interview
Writing for a living is as risky as being a stuntman. Okay, freelance writers don’t have to worry about something going terribly wrong in a car flip or a fire blaze, but the fear of finding steady work – now that’s a pain in the ass that can cause a mountain of stress. I know because that’s my life, but we’ll talk about me later and talk about Mandi Harris now. She’s a fellow freelance writer I met through Fandomania – a great site we both contribute our fangirl thoughts to.

That’s something we do because we love words, but love doesn’t pay the bills and that’s where freelance comes into play. That’s Mandi’s main gig as she juggles various projects down south in between gardening and playing with pups. Why though? Because words are her passion and when it came time to turn her hobby of putting pen to paper into a career, she didn’t have to think twice. Okay, she’s admittedly thought about leaving it – all freelancers have that thought (more than once a day usually), but she’ll explain why writing, while some think it’s a waste of time, is her true calling.

Kendra: When did you start writing as a hobby and when did it turn into your job?

Mandi Harris: I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid. Make-believe was a storytelling experience for me. About three years ago, I decided to return to that passion. I was determined to turn it into a job. I felt strongly that I had this gift and I needed to do something with it.

Kendra: You must make a living doing it, but are you living as lavish as you could be if you were to go and get a 9-5?

Mandi: Lavish to me means something different. I may not have a brand new car or own a fancy house, but I’m independent. I grew up poor but cared for, so lavish means something else entirely to me. I pay my bills. I have clothes to wear and food to eat. I earn money to support my dog’s lavish lifestyle. But I know of people who work 9-5 and still barely make ends meet. Lavish, I think, is something hard for our generation. We are saddled with student loan and credit card debt. But most importantly, I don’t think in terms of lavish because I appreciate what I have.

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Kendra: Have you ever had someone say to hang it up and just get a “real job?”

Mandi: Yes! So many times. Sometimes it was hurtful to hear it and it made sad on many occasions. There were times when I wanted to give up. Heck, I had one this past Monday. However, my job is no less real than some working a 9-5. I get paid and I pay taxes. How is that not real? The same goes for anyone who freelances or has a job as an artist or a pet sitter. I’m not even sure what constitutes as a real job anymore.


Kendra: I hope not because a life of a writer is a dream. With that, when did you know you wanted to turn your love of writing into what you did as a career?

Mandi: Always. But, I followed different paths in my life for either money or a journey. I’ve been an OL, worked a little retail, catered, and had stints as a teacher. But during this whole time, I always knew I wanted to write for a living. I just had to take the first step. I had to tell myself to get off my butt and start my career.

Kendra: But then again, it can be hard as hell. Have you ever had times where you were like – yeah, I’m over this – time to look for something else?

Mandi: All the time. Some work days are incredibly stressful or I get rejected for a dream writing gig, and I all I want do is quit. Yet, something inside me tells me to keep going. I think about famous authors who were rejected so many times before they got noticed. Or some of my favorite bloggers who turned a hobby into a job. No one said following your dreams is easy. Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Once you donate so many pints, quitting is not an option.

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Kendra: What’s your advice to those who want to turn their hobby into what they do for a living?

Mandi: Be patient and keep focused on your goals. People will try to drag you down but you need to keep going. Ask advice from people in the field about how they got started to give you a boost. Most importantly, never stop creating!

Kendra: Lastly, what’s the biggest high and lowest low of turning your hobby into your career?

Mandi: This is a hard one. It’s hard to pick a single moment from either. I think when Anne Rice acknowledged something I wrote for Fandomania. That was a huge deal for me and I never expected it. It wasn’t a monetary high, but I was giddy for days. It was a big deal when I got paid for my first writing job. As far as my greatest low, it’s actually being rejected for two writing jobs I felt qualified for. It was blogging for two different companies for topics I’m passionate about. It made me feel like I wasn’t qualified to write anything. I had my heart set on these gigs, and it really hurt when I didn’t get them.

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