|Courtesy of Healthmad|
I left the service in 2008 with a nasty case of back pain. It had actually started two years before I got out, but I couldn't do anything about it because I was still working as a jet engine mechanic. That required crazy, twisted positions in addition to hauling heavy toolboxes and equipment while wearing less-than-stellar boots.
But when I look back at those years and the first onset of back pain, I can tell you that I'm 100% better than I was thanks to hard work, good advice and a general hatred for pain.
In a strange way, getting to this point is a lot like how I became a freelance writer. I look back and I can see how reaching my level of comfort today for both required the same steps.
Identify the problem. For my back pain, it seemed obvious at first: my back hurt! I also noticed the pain was largely on the lower left side of my back.I had visited two different doctors while I was in the military and they did not much beyond showing me two or three stretches and giving me some painkillers. What I wanted was for the pain to go away permanently and not just on a temporary basis.
When I started freelance writing, I thought I was a good writer. I know I was. But I was only writing for online publication sites and my page views weren't earning me a lot of money beyond a few upfront payments.
Why wasn't my talent level matching my earnings? No editor could really tell me at the time because for them it was about getting published pieces out that earned ad revenue. Quality-shmality!
Come up with a viable end goal. I had a feeling that my back was never going to be 100 percent healed. I reflected on all the things I did to stress it out. Military service has a funny way of putting you in uncomfortable positions with heavy equipment for long periods of time.
Yet I knew that I could somehow reduce that pain dramatically on a more permanent basis. Nothing was ever broken or torn. I never needed a major surgery. I just hurt every morning I woke up.
I knew I could put out better articles with more views than I was getting. I just didn't know how to promote them on my own. I knew very little about SEO and keywording because it wasn't really emphasized by some of the sites I worked for. So long as I provided the bare minimum (keyword in title, 2% keyword density), I would get paid. If I learned more about those two, I could have a better freelance writing career.
Look at what the pros do. Some of my friends recommended going to a chiropractor. They said an adjustment might relieve pain off of my nerves. Others recommended Yoga as a way to stretch and promote circulation. That could also loosen up pressure. Strength training was another option I came across. The same with acupuncture, deep tissue massages and a change of diet. None of these ideas were completely bad ones and made sense.
I joined some professional writing forums and community boards to see what people were doing. I ran across a few SEO, keyword, and marketing specialists. I looked at what they posted. I rarely posted any questions because many people wanted to know how they can do what they do better, just like me. I learned about how to make titles more intriguing, about H1 and H2, and longtail keywords. I read about how to acquire private clients. Social media was also another way to make your freelance articles known to the universe.
Experiment. So I tried just about everything for my back pain. The chiropractor made an adjustment and noticed that my left leg was locked up and most of my walking pressure was actually happening on my right leg. That imbalance was a probable source for the pain. However, when he unlocked my leg, it caused some sciatic pain that I still deal with today.
Yoga was also a good idea that worked but I wasn't sure if I could commit to 45 minutes of it every day. Strength training was also a good fit for me, although it was very painful to do. Deep tissue massages were too expensive to have every week. And no way in hell was I going to get a bunch of needles on my body.
I tried to find private clients by advertising my services on message boards. I would sometimes correct people's grammar on their web pages if they asked for an opinion. I also signed up for other online publication companies that had different requirements. I did product reviews, how-to articles and mini-guides. I started to use Facebook to promote some articles. I created a Twitter account. I dumped Myspace. I started a blog.
Don't be afraid of mistakes. When I figured out that Yoga and strength training were the best options for me, I tried all forms of both. I used weights. I did interval training. I tried aerobics. All of them worked but I hurt myself pretty bad when I lifted weights more than twice a week. Pain was expected since I had weak core muscles, but I overdid it a few times and ended up missing work and valuable family time. I learned to scale back and stretch more before, during and after workouts.
For freelance writing, I figured out really quickly that not all of my friends were into every article I promoted thanks to their valuable feedback. I started several blogs on topics I loved, but I was horrible about posting consistently on them. I think I had 15 blogs going at the most.
Celebrate what works. Eventually I went to see another physical therapist. She discovered the exact source of my back pain: my glutes. They were pulling hard on my back. I needed to first stretch them correctly then do strength training to rebuild not just my core muscles but my support ones as well. She taught me stretches that target my sciatic nerve. Two years later, I wake up nearly every morning free of back pain. I use interval training instead of traditional weight lifting because it's much easier to manage yet I get the same results. The only thing that slows me down on the basketball court is age.
I cut my blogs to about five, and any other blogs I wanted to start I made a rule to come up with five, 400-word posts before doing it. Otherwise I wouldn't follow through. When I wrote for one publication company, I unlocked a time efficiency secret that got my works published at twice the speed. I actually made more than 10 grand working with them 10 hours a week. I even published a book about how to use my techniques with that company.
One of my friends noticed some of my publications and hired me to write for his company. That led to referrals with other friends. I also learned how to set up blogs that generate income. One of my other buddies heard about this and hired me to start and manage blogs to maintain his business.
In the meantime, the company I wrote the first book about cut down on their production so I work very little with them today. Yet the first book's success and my other writing experiences inspired me. I wrote another book (Write Your Life:The Beginner's Guide To Freelance Writing Online) because in six years' time I had worked in virtually every freelance writing arena, from web content to content editing to self-publishing. I even got paid to write about lip gloss!
Never stop learning. I haven't mastered my back pain. There are still mornings where it absolutely sucks. But I've learned that as I age or make significant changes to my body, my back will also have to adjust. So I try new methods to manage the pain or strengthen my core. I couldn't do a sit up without support while I was in the military. Today I can rattle off 10 while holding a 20-pound weight. I don't carry a six-pack around my waist, but I'm stronger than I was. If I keep the fat off thanks to interval training, basketball and Just Dance 3, I don't put additional strain on my back.
Search engine requirements change on a constant basis in the freelance writing world. Yet if you stay true to producing great content and make the right social connections, you will ultimately succeed. I learn new techniques for social promotion every day. I've learned about sales copy. I feel like I have content producing down pat; it's the promotion that's new and exciting to me every day.
I feel blessed that I've learned how to manage back pain and my freelance writing career. It took a lot of hard work and time, but in the end, I feel better about both. Maybe you'll find some inspiration in this post.
If you do, write about it. Just make sure you stretch first.
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