Those in the know know that I’m taking a travel writing course through Matador U, a new online social media school for starry-eyed writers and photographers. This week’s assignment posed a simple task: “Imagine you’re about to quit your job to become a freelance travel writer. Map out your expenses for the past month. What can you cut out to reduce costs?” Part two involved researching payment information for publications that I deemed as accessible income sources.
I already collect receipts like a magpie gathers shiny objects. I’ve been an independent contractor for a dozen years and have every bloody receipt from hot air balloon rides to a single banana for .26 cents from the fruit market on Front street. I am my very own spending app.
Determining my monthly expenses was something I already had documented, and this is a sample October (coincidentally this October)–
Rent: $1,180 for posh Annex pad, plus $38 apartment insurance
Utilities: Included (thank god, because I do love to keep Florida-type temperatures with my gas fireplace).
Phone/WiFi: Old-school home phone with long distance plan $39.33/month, WiFi included in rent.
Food/Booze: $180.43 for groceries, $152.50 for red wine cellar stocking, import beer sampling and a bottle of champagne, just because.
Restos/Bars: $166.21 (includes swishy, boozy dinner at Byzantium to celebrate brother’s PhD, take-out pad Thai & green mango salad, spring rolls for two, a chicken, swiss & bacon panini from La Prep, bacon and cheddar stuffed waffles with baked beans at The Starving Artist and two egg salad sandwiches with two cold tall boys at the club house of my dad’s golf course)
Entertainment: $68.59 includes movie rentals (High Cost of Living, Tree of Life), Jann Arden’s memoir Falling Backwards and new CD Uncover Me 2 and nine new iTunes purchases
Travel costs: $82 for lazy and/or late-night subway rides, and four roundtrip GO train tickets to visit gorgeous suburban girlfriend
Health: $200.50 for broken dental retainer replacement, even with generous discount from dentist friend
Coffee-to-go: $34.73 (which equates 11 medium drips at Jimmy’s , four orange zest & sea salt or date citrus bran muffins and a Le Gourmand chocolate chip walnut cookie at $2.36 each).
Extras: Massage Registration Renewal: $560, Matador U tuition: $315 US, tanning bed package: $85.88
Whopping October Expenses Total: $3,103.17
So, if I quit my semi-lucrative job as a massage therapist right now I, hold on, can’t breathe, having panic attack! Deep breath. One more deep breath. Yeah, it’s not realistic.
I’ve written a few book reviews for The Vancouver Sun and know that they pay out $150 for 700-word reviews. Could I do 20 book reviews in a month?
If I won the ROOM annual fiction contest, that would give me a quick $500. And if I could turn around and win the Writers’ Union Writing For Children Competition, I could net another $1,500 (and I would still have to do seven book reviews).
Other sources of income? The Matador Network pays $30-50 an article. So, if I wrote 100 posts a month, I’d almost break even. Canadian Running pays out $100 for 600-800 words. I could do 90 hours of ad copy for the spa I worked at on the west coast, charging $35/hour, which would cover all their ad copy needs for the next 50 years. Erotica anthologies offer $50 a story and two copies of the book. Which I could then in turn, review for the Sun. Surely I could come up with 62 unique sizzling sex plots!
Which leads me to thinking that a wiser solution to all this would be to commit a small crime, serve some jail time and lose all my expenses for a few months and write a book in a jail cell. If I was extremely diligent with my time, I could possibly complete a degree too, in between learning the art of tattooing and bench pressing, and come out way ahead after my sentence.
However, I love my girlfriend too-co-dependently-much to live in prison. So, if I crunch the numbers again and estimate earning $25 minimum per post, I would need to write 124 articles a month. Which makes me throw up in my mouth a little until I use the division sign on the calculator and realize that 124 articles a month means 31 articles a week, which equals an output of 6 articles a day.
Can it be done? Probably. I might have to design new business cards promoting my new handle: Laptop Dancer. But the suffering, the strife? (Insert dramatic moaning here).
Or, I cut the fat: Import beer at $13/6-pack, smoked gouda cheese $8 (for a mousetrap amount), Terra Chips for $4.99 a bag, those fancy pants Leslie Stowe Rain Coast Crisp crackers at $6.99, no more bottles of red over $10 (boo), no more choice deli meats (goodbye rosemary ham and prosciutto, hello bologna). Instead of the $2 coffee reprieve I find on my spa breaks at Jimmy’s, I could drink water, bite my nails and stare at my co-workers. I could give up $10 gourmet hot dogs at Fusia Dog, carrot cake whoopee cookies, pulled pork sandwiches, movie rentals and gently used books. Instead I could make my own flour biscuits like a pioneer, pirate movies on my laptop, write my own book while sleeping and use my library card (which I won’t have time for anyway because I’ll be reading 20 books a month for my meagre income).
To save more money, I could stop saving money and hope for a philanthropist to step into my life so I wouldn’t have to rely on my RSP account. Instead of tanning I could mix Kraft Dinner cheese powder with a little water and apply that to my skin during the winter months. I’d have to give up Aveeno for sure, because the soothing oat essence and shea butter are like covering my body in beluga caviar on a daily basis.
Instead of drinking red wine or beer and enjoying myself with loved ones on a Friday night, we could sip on apple juice and play simple card games, discuss our feelings in a sober, grown-up way and make tiny origami birds out of newspaper.
I could eat Mr.Noodles, heads of iceberg lettuce and radishes, because they are relatively cheap. Instead of my premium trail mix with cashews and Smarties in it, I could raid bird feeders in the Annex for free sunflower seeds and peanuts.
Better yet, while procuring trail mix from bird feeders, I could look for missing cockatiels and budgies for owners offering huge reward money to supplement my 20 monthly book reviews.
Yes, it is possible! Who knew it was so simple to be a freelance writer! Why didn’t I quit my job before?