Name: Kristian Wilson
College & Majors/Minors: University of South Carolina Upstate, BA English with a cognate in Comparative Religion and History
Current Location: Upstate SC
Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I'm currently working from home as a writer for two online magazines. I log regular online shifts each week as a Books Feature Writer for Bustle, and I write for LadyClever as an independent contractor. I'm currently gearing up to finish a novel manuscript during NaNoWriMo, but I'll be looking for more freelance work once that's done.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.
I started my blog, Kristian Wilson, Writing, in April 2014. I didn't really know what I was doing at first, as far as narrowing my focus goes, but that actually worked out in my favor. Between my blog and two unpaid websites, I produced a few solid features, which I used as clips to apply for the editorial internship I eventually secured.
While I was interning, I applied for a huge number of jobs I found on telecommuterjobs.net, a site that aggregates all remote job listings from Craigslist. That was in January or February 2015. I didn't hear back from any of them until April, and when I did, three of the online magazines I'd applied to responded within a week! I was sort of overwhelmed, haha, but I managed to type out coherent replies and wound up working for two of them: Bustle and LadyClever.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I sold my first story in March, and I was super excited. It was only $50, to be paid upon publication, but it was my first successful freelance pitch, and I was stoked. I signed all the necessary paperwork, wrote up the article, polished it, sent it off with all the photos and extras to accompany it. Then ... radio silence.
After I didn't hear anything for a while, I sent an email to check in. They'd had some internal change-ups, said my original email had probably been lost in the shuffle, and asked me to resend. I did, promptly. Cue more radio silence.
I've sent several emails and tweets to various contacts with that website, but I've never gotten a response. I stopped sending inquiries in April, after it became clear I wasn't going to get any replies. Because I already signed all their paperwork and sent them the story, they own it. I can't sell it elsewhere, but I also can't get paid until they publish it. I check every so often—they have a policy about filing invoices within 60 days of publication—but so far my essay hasn't turned up.
It was my first story, but it never materialized. I wonder what went wrong sometimes. Mostly I count myself lucky, because I got acquainted with freelance perils early on.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Like any good English major, I read a lot and did research. The director of my senior seminar had us all get a copy of Timothy Lemire's I'm an English Major - Now What?, so that we could see what our options were. That book made me comfortable with putting off grad school until I had more stability. Once I decided that I wanted to go the freelance route, I went to every website I enjoyed reading—which are mostly all about feminism, books, and/or video games—and saved their submission guidelines. I also checked out the most recent Writer's Market volumes from my local library and took notes from them.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Think long and hard about what you want to do, and understand that you can always change your answer. Once you're set on doing something, stay focused, and always question whether or not the commitments and decisions you make are going to benefit you as a professional.
If you want to write, in any capacity, you have to keep your name out there. Take health breaks when you need to, but don't let yourself get stale. You always want to be publishing something, even if it's on your personal blog.
It's OK to tell people who have negative reactions to your college and career choices that they don't know what they're talking about. There's a difference between the jokes students make about hopeless career prospects and the ones people on the outside make when they're trying to tell you that you might as well quit school to manage a restaurant or work in a factory. There's nothing wrong with those choices, obviously, but if they aren't yours, they aren't yours, and there's nothing wrong with that, either.