Sarah DeGeorge is a freelance writer, runner and cat mom based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We talked about overcoming awkwardness, setting boundaries with clients and writing for her hometown’s newspaper. Check out her portfolio and website to learn more about her work.
Sarah, when did you start freelancing?
I started freelancing when I was still in college for a local paper, the Warren Reporter, back in New Jersey. Then from there, I took things into my own hands. Instead of working for a paper where they’re giving me the assignments, I’m [now] actively seeking the assignments.
What was your first paid piece of writing?
It was about Merrill Creek, which is a reservoir back in my hometown. I wrote about what they were going to be doing that summer – their programs and things like that.
I remember being very nervous back then. I didn’t want to call people to ask, “Hi, can I have a quote from you?” I’m already awkward enough, and this is after years of practice. You don’t even want to imagine how those early phone calls went years ago!
You’ve been published on the Write Life, the Freelance Union’s blog and more. Which pieces of writing, or bodies of work, are you most proud of?
I’m honestly most proud about things I used to write for a regional paper, the Express Times. A lot of those pieces actually ended up back in the Warren Reporter, the local paper, because if there was a good, hot story, it was bound to end up there. It’s a smaller publication, and my pieces would always end up on the first page. So I felt cool.
Beyond that, I’m proud of the pieces I do for the Christine B. Foundation, a cancer foundation, because they lend themselves to an important subject matter.
What do you enjoy about freelancing?
I like the fact that I can choose my own destiny and I can work with different clients. Right now I’m writing for a cat blog for Project Meow, which is in West Philly. I was also writing for a company that works with animal products. But then I have a pest control client, a business blog and a cancer foundation [I write for].
I get to dabble in a lot of different things, whereas somebody that’s working in a traditional office might be set with a routine of what they do.
The projects might change, but the content or the expectations may not.
What don’t you enjoy?
I think what I don’t enjoy is the fact that others might not respect my need to have downtime. As a freelancer, some people think we’re on 24/7, 365 days, and that’s not the case. I wish it could be, but I’m not a robot.
Sometimes, I get emails at midnight from people expecting me to do something. I’m like, I’m in bed.
Obviously, I have to set those boundaries, but some people kind of question you on that. They say, “Oh, I thought you worked on holidays.” And I’m like, “I can jump in later, once my parents or my boyfriend’s family leave.” There’s no set start time and there’s no set end time, and some people don’t understand that concept or they take advantage of it.
What values are important to you as a writer?
If I don’t feel like I’m part of the team, if I don’t feel connected, I don’t know if I could do it all. I would continue to work because it pays the bills, but I just wouldn’t feel right about it. That’s a value to me.
I like people who value my time, so I actually just posted something for Freelancers Union titled, “Do you tell your clients you’re on vacation?” And I do. My clients are very understanding. They know that my dad has cancer, for example, so they know sometimes I have to leave and go down to my parents’ house.
They say, “Okay, just get to it when you can.” [This goes] back to being a part of the team. A team is like, “Hey, we all have our own lives.” The boss of one of my companies, his dog just passed away. We all sent him cards. They understand my time, and I understand their time.
What message do you have for the Millennial Freelancer’s audience?
We live in a society where a lot of millennials don’t know what to do, and they’re afraid to take any kind of leaps because there’s no security. With school loans and everything looming over them, they’re afraid to not have that safety net of a 401(k) – [which is] perhaps, not even guaranteed anymore – benefits, a set schedule, etc.
That might scare them. They think, “I might not be able to sustain myself by freelancing.” The reality is, you might do really well, and you might be making even more money because there’s no capacity.
Realistically, it takes people a good amount of time to do their work, but if it’s something they’re really passionate about, I wouldn’t take into consideration those fears that I feel a lot of millennials have.
You know what I mean? I wouldn’t not do it.