Gareth Jones: October 2014 Barefoot Writing Challenge Winner

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Congratulations to Gareth Jones for Winning the October 2014 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The Challenge was to write an essay that answered this question:

What obstacle have you overcome — or what do you hope to overcome — as you build your writing career?

Gareth wrote on the value of self-worth for anybody looking to make a comfortable living as a writer … rather than the meager existence so many people mistakenly think is the only path for someone in this creative field. Here is his winning submission:

The Revival of Worth
By Gareth Jones

Obstacles. They’re all around us, every day. Nearly every action we take must, in some way, overcome or go around a physical or mental hurdle so we may complete it. A writing career can be littered with them, but in today’s Internet-smothered modern age, one particular hurdle stands in monolithic fashion before the new freelancer: a damaged sense of worth.

That’s what I’m going to overcome.

Like many, I’m sure, I’m new to the freelance copywriting market. Having written for the Web for years in return for token payment, I decided to take the leap and make a shift from the IT industry — in the wake of my second corporate lay-off inside a decade — and take a stab at getting properly paid for doing something that actually feels rewarding; something I am undoubtedly skilled at and enjoy. Sound familiar to anyone?

Your sense of worth takes a knock when you’re let go from a long-time job — sure, the severance package can be nice (and in my case, enabled me to pursue my freelance ambitions), but it still comes as a jarring reminder that the safety of that reliable salary was earned by acting as a cog in a machine. A machine that could break down and spit you out at any time, through no fault of your own.

And so, reeling from that uncomfortable reality, the aspiring new freelancer gets themselves prepped (I hope); reading the books and taking the courses from leaders in the field like John Carlton, Bob Bly, Steve Slaunwhite, and Andy Maslen — learning the craft, building a portfolio, and a website to match.

Then, in this neatly connected world, they search online and find sites like Elance, Freelancer, and Fiverr. Sites that take everything that skilled creatives have to offer and whittle it down to little more than a hasty race to the bottom, where a sea of clients are apparently interested in little more than getting a complete advertising campaign for the price of a Big Mac.

It’s ruthless, shocking, and more than a little off-putting. It creates doubts, fears — how can it possibly pay enough to forge a career in writing when someone else will do it for less than it costs to buy some milk? But that fear is just part of the obstacle.

These aren’t the clients you’re looking for. As those masses of struggling writers, readers, and designers scrabble for scraps in virtual workhouses, you hold your head high, brush off your jacket, and hit the pavement in a flurry of business cards. Those who truly see what you have to offer will respond with zeal — and they won’t just be offering to treat you to some fast food.

Worth can be what you ascribe to yourself. If you feel it, you have it. If you’re new, remember that.

I’m trying to, and it can be hard … but I’m almost there. Maybe I’ll see you at the finish line.

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