Reply To: Best Job for ADHD


Hey Mathew,

I’m always happy to talk about myself! I’ve been thinking about finally sitting down and at least outlining a book on all the stuff involved in starting and maintaining a successful freelance writing business. Not for an audience restricted to ADHDers, but anyone. I’ve actually given little talks on it (like in the 90s) and written some stuff. But that story keeps changing and progressing.

I’m great at ideas… and sometimes outlines… actually apportioning and taking the time to write the chapters, well, that’s a struggle. Especially when I have an article deadline five days a week (my part-time gig) and assignments to last me easily thru next spring for the main site for which I write. They both pay, so that’s a big pull for me. It also serves as a wonderful reason why I can’t get other stuff done. 🙂

My transition didn’t come fast and it didn’t come easily. I tried many other jobs, careers, professions, and businesses on my path to manageable continued success as a freelance writer. I’m sure you don’t want to know about didn’t work for me. However, my transition process has been and continues to be about self-discovery. About getting an idea or an opportunity and thinking, “Maybe?” and then throwing myself into it until either I fail or discover it’s not something I really want to do full-time. So I could go way off on that, but I don’t think that’s what you’re really asking.

You asked specifically about marketing and time management. Of course, there are whole books on both subjects for everyone, not just ADHDers. Here are a couple things that work for me, everyone’s mileage may and likely will vary:

Marketing. I have tried lots of stuff. I know marketing at best is a blend of purposeful activities done consistently. And while there are specific modes and techniques, I think what works best for people ends up being personal, because you’re really selling yourself, not your work. Like all person-to-person marketing and sales, there’s a connect-meet-know-like-trust cycle that underlies the process.

First off, for me, reticence is a dirty word. My personal marketing philosophy or mantra is NBNBC – “No balls, no blue chips.” And it’s really about relationships. So if I know people who are or who know or might know people who can help, I ask.

If there’s someone appropriate for me to meet I don’t know, I go after them. Frankly, that approach never worked for me with dating, but it has in business. So I’ll chase someone down on Facebook and/or LinkedIn and find out what I can about them. I’ll look for commonalities. And then I’ll write or call. If I can, I try to find what they need and then present myself as a solution. In an ideal world the activities required to be that solution will be things I like to do and am good at, or at least good enough for someone to pay me.

My freelance writing has been almost exclusively short articles, first with magazines and now with websites. I’ve taken on other types of assignments like white papers or analysis or whatever, and I suck at them. My sweet spot is an article that’s 250 to 600 words long. I discovered that over time, it wasn’t like a choice.

I am not and was not afraid of some honest self-deprecating humor. I remember telling editors, especially earlier in my career as a tech writer, “Look, I don’t know as much as these other people about computers and hardware and software, I don’t write as well as they do, and I’m not as smart. But I will work my ass off for you, I won’t miss deadlines, and I will communicate. If you need something written in an emergency for whatever reason, you get in touch with me and I can possibly do it, I’ll do it. I can be a fallback and a backup. And once I turn in a copy, if you don’t need my further involvement, you can do whatever you want with it. I don’t have ego about my writing. And I promise I will always cash your checks.”

And sometimes when my workload was light, I’d go into an assigning editor’s office (this would be people I knew) and literally get on my knees. They would laugh, I would laugh, and I’d say, “I need work. I have capacity to fill. Can I help with anything?” And I got work.

So that worked for me, Mathew, back in the day when the editors had offices in a central location. I lived three hours away but I’d drive into Manhattan for a lunch meeting to talk with an editor about work.

It’s different now. An editor I worked for from March 2016 until last week just left the major site for which I write. We never met in person. After he realized I was reliable and he could trust me, he let me find my own assignments and turn them in directly to the copy edit queue. And I propose stories for other editors in various sections or subject matter teams. Remember all those jobs, businesses, etc. I tried in my self-discovery process? Well every one of them gave me experiences I find I use, so I can write about a wide range of topics. I also can talk somewhat knowledgeably about a wider range. And I often can BS about the rest. But I laugh as I’m doing it so they’ll know I’m making it up.

That’s just some of the things I can think of about the marketing and continued selling of myself.

Time management? Prior to my ADHD diagnosis, my greatest tool was adrenaline from fear of missing a deadline. If I missed deadlines one of my main value-adds to editors was gone. Since my diagnosis, last November, I don’t need adrenaline, at least not from fear. But it’s still a process because I’m still easily distracted and when I go sideways, I tend to go longer and deeper. Like now, I’m afraid, because I have to stop because I have four deadlines today and so far have met only one.

Hope something, (anything?) above makes sense and might be useful.


p.s. – I don’t know if it’s allowed to give out personal email addresses here, so I won’t. But I’m about as easy to find as anyone can be and you don’t need stolen data from Equifax. I suspect if you looked me up on Facebook or LinkedIn, should you have reason to, it should take much effort to find the real me. 🙂