Chronicle of the Unemployed

It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, and it’s time for some introspection. I’ve realized I haven’t really talked about what I’ve been up to in a while, and it’s probably a decent time to bring people up to speed. I’ll be seeing family I haven’t seen in a year this week, so I need to practice up anyway.

I’m still unemployed. But I don’t really think of it that way anymore. Since about mid-October I’ve been getting a lot of freelance jobs. Enough so that I’ll be taking a small business course soon and giving full-time freelance a go.

In some ways it’s very scary. I have a lot of work and deadlines to shuffle, being productive at home is a constant battle, and I have to hope that the work will keep coming in. But it’s also very cool. My wife says I don’t complain anymore. I’m doing work that for the most part I enjoy (some jobs are better than others). A lot of the details work out nicely thanks to my wife’s full-time job. Insurance and cash-flow aren’t a big deal because of her job.

It’s a different kind of life, and except for the uncertainty, I enjoy it. There is kind of a dread hanging in the air wondering if I can meet all my deadlines, and wondering if beyond the deadlines I’ll be able to get more deadlines. Sometimes you have to trust.

And as I said, being productive is incredibly difficult. Right now for example, I’m typing my blog, which is incredibly unproductive. Earlier today I folded and put away the laundry. I shoveled the sidewalk and part of the driveway. All things that should be done, but the question is when. It’s a balancing act, and I’m learning.

I also have these get-rich-quick schemes. They’re more like pay-the-bills schemes, since it’s doubtful I’d make any money, much less get rich. I just have these grand ideas of things I like to do, and not having a job makes those dreams a little more plausible.

Freelancing is one of those dreams. I wanted to do this back in July, but it just didn’t seem possible. Now it’s happening without a lot of effort on my part, so it seems worth pursuing. And I’m thinking of these other ideas. The main idea was sparked by the youth pastor at my church (technically the Associate Minister, but whatever), and I’m probably sharing it against common wisdom. It’s a business idea, and traditional wisdom would tell you not to publicize such an idea so people won’t steal it. But I guess I’m idealistic, and this idea is starting to flicker, like so many of my ideas, so I want to share it and see if some broader wisdom can overcome the conventional wisdom and maybe jumpstart my idea.

It started when my youth pastor asked if I’d contribute to a newsletter for the youth group. In high school I edited my youth group’s entire newsletter, and I loved it. I volunteered to do the same this time around, pretty much surprising my youth pastor. The 411, the newsletter of Messiah’s youth should be mailing this week (and I suppose I’m ruining the surprise if any of them read this — but I highly doubt any of them even know about this blog — yet). The 411 sparked memories of my youth group’s newsletter, the Ozone, and some of the ideas I had back then.

My brilliant business idea was to make youth group newsletters. It’s something a lot of youth pastors would love to do, but don’t have the time, the skills, or the equipment. Or they want a newsletter so bad they just do it, and the results are so-so. I’d love to do the design, layout, editing, and even some of the writing for youth group newsletters all over the country. I could syndicate my writing, offer template layouts, and offer to design their youth group specific content.

It’d be a lot of fun. The problem is my perspective audience. Churches aren’t exactly loaded, and youth group budgets don’t have a lot of flexibility. I’ve looked at the numbers, and so far I’d end up being a huge budget item for the average church and barely making money worth my time on my end. So I’m still working on that one.

Of course there’s lots of other fun ideas to go along with it, like a national newsletter and a web site component, but those are more complicated. And frankly, there’s lots of companies offering web site services to youth pastors, most of them much cheaper than I could ever hope to be. So my brilliant business idea is still just an idea. I’m hoping my small business class will help me refine that idea and see if it’s worth pursuing. I really hope it is, partly because such a venture would require a new computer and lots of fun graphic design software. Without a feasible business plan requiring such an expense, I just can’t justify it.

So that’s where I’m at. I’m not really looking for a full-time job anymore. I have my eyes open, and I check the job listings every now and then, but nearly as often as I did before. I feel like this is the way to go, so for now I’m taking the open door. We’ll see what happens.

One thought on “Chronicle of the Unemployed”

  1. Have you thought of broadening the idea until focusing in on one area is probable? Perhaps you could just do newsletters (in general) for churches that also contain an insert (or separate newsletter) for their youth groups. Maybe you could do the youth groups free if they sign up for the general newsletter. Put a ton of examples up on your site, then market away.

    Most churches have their secretaries do hokey newsletters with cheesy clip art. Many people think this is sufficient. What things can you provide that goes beyond this?

    I know that our school is hooked up with some newsletter-creating people that do stuff for us. I’m not sure who they are though. They put together newsletters that go over common issues parents have raising middle schoolers & stuff. It gets sent home about every month. I think it’s a great resource for parents & is really useful. So, someone out there is making a newsletter business work. I haven’t heard of anyone doing it for churches though…sounds like a new road to travel. Best of luck to you.

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