Notes From an Accidental Economist

I have about as much background in economics as that hamster who eats things on YouTube. Maybe less since, given his pageviews, Chicken the hamster often deals with much bigger numbers than I do.

But I still write about money a lot. So much that I’ve developed an entire sub-specialty in economic policy and finance at which I flatter myself I’ve gotten pretty darn good.

I also write about technology, travel, security, gadgets, humor, holidays, corporate content, human rights and, well… just about anything else that comes across my desk.

Here’s the thing about being a freelance writer. It’s not just that you have to be willing to write on just about any topic in the world, although that’s true. It takes a lot of good fortune to make this a career, and you need to take the work when it comes. This is a business, after all, and there aren’t many businesses out there that can afford to shut the door on paying customers.

That’s not enough though. You have to love writing on just about any topic in the world.

Being a freelance writer is a process of constant education. Today you’re writing about tax policy, tomorrow it’s the history of Mother’s Day. You have to be willing to learn just about any topic on any deadline, and make no mistake: that’s an enormous amount of work.

It isn’t enough to do that for a paycheck. You have to genuinely love the constant learning, and need to be excited about going out and finding the resources to teach yourself anything from astronomy to astrology. If that learning process isn’t fun then this job is going to absolutely suck for you.

Writing as a freelancer has made me an accidental expert on a pretty wide range of topics. Don’t get me wrong, I do have specialties (economic policy and global affairs). And if someone comes along with a piece I genuinely can’t handle, I’ll turn it down. The only thing worse than losing work is turning in a poorly written or poorly researched piece. (And God help you if that piece survives editing and gets published with factual errors.) So, no, I won’t be cranking out a treatise on topology any time soon.

That’s a pretty high bar though. Half of this job is becoming an accidental expert on pretty much any field out there. I love taking on work that will teach me something new, let me meet someone new or take me to new places.

To write for a living, you kind of have to.

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