“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Out of all the interview questions I’ve gotten, this is always the toughest. It’s hard to imagine what Future Me is going to want, or how her priorities will have changed.
That’s why it’s a little hard to believe that here I am, SIX years later, working on a project I started when I was 23! No matter what other forms my work has taken, writing in this blog has been a constant.
I like to say that blogging changed my life, and it really has. Without Otaku Journalist, I would have never gotten the visibility I needed to find clients and win contests and book deals, or the clarity to figure out what I want to write about about how to help others do the same.
Technically Otaku Journalist’s birthday is November 14. To commemorate it, I wrote a brief timeline of how blogging has shaped my career.
One of the professors in my journalism master’s program urges every student in class to buy a personal domain name. I buy LaurenRaeOrsini.com and begin blogging about my journalism projects, most notably my Anime USA mini-documentary.
On my 23rd birthday, I set a goal to double my portfolio and to either find a job or start freelancing. This is the first time I consider working for myself.
As my master’s program winds down, I take on internships first for the Newseum and then video game blog Kotaku. All the while, I attend dozens of fan events as a reporter, from a Lolita picnic to a cosplay meetup, plus Otakon, Anime Boston, T-Mode, and so many others. I also make a documentary while working as a Katsucon maid. I also make an effort to visit as many Japanophile landmarks in DC as possible, like Hana Market and Ginza (closed now). It’s safe to say I blog more prolifically in 2010 than I ever will again.
I graduate in spring and I can’t find a job, so I work part time at a gym while applying to 30 jobs in 30 days in November. By December, I’m working as a web designer downtown.
By March I decide that web design isn’t for me, so I look for ways to become a full time freelance journalist. I read tons of books about building a career (like Steven Savage’s Fan to Pro) and double down on my reporting for Otaku Journalist, hoping it catches somebody’s eye. Even when I break my foot on a Metro escalator and can’t put pressure on it, I still report on Katsucon’s copyright woes the following day—just in a wheelchair. (Poor John wheels me around the entire time. It’s no surprise I married him.)
I find out about a contest that Forbes contributor Susannah Breslin is holding for female journalists under 25. I win and get to publish an article on Forbes. “Journalism jobs are dead. Journalism opportunities are everywhere,” I write. Later that week, Owen Thomas offers me a job at the Daily Dot and proves me wrong. Thrilled, I accept.
When you’re an “Internet Community And Fandom Reporter” for the Daily Dot, you don’t need your old blog half as much as you used to. I definitely slack on Otaku Journalist this year. That said, this is the year I began to define myself with my reporting, covering communities other people didn’t, like “bronies” and this new site called Pinterest. Working professionally pushes me in ways that blogging didn’t, and I still have some 2012 clips in my portfolio today.
In between the hundreds of articles I write for the Daily Dot (up to 27 each week), I get an opportunity to travel to San Francisco for work, where I finally meet my mentor, Steven Savage. I make my first trip to Japantown, followed a few months later by my second, because I was so blown away the first time that I had to show John.
And then, in the middle of December, I quit the Daily Dot.
I’ll never know if quitting the Daily Dot was a smart idea, because that site continues to grow enormously. But after writing more than 500 stories in a year and a half, I’m burnt out. I want to find a way to build a freelance career on my own terms. I pick up a slew of writing clients, including PBS and Otaku USA, but after my former boss, Owen Thomas, becomes the new editor in chief at ReadWrite, I pick up a new full time job there after just four months.
This year I revitalize Otaku Journalist by deciding to give away “Geek Journalism Guides,” 15 to 18 page PDFs that will eventually become the first eight chapters of my first book. Instead of trying to write Otaku Journalism all at once, I release it in chapters throughout the year.
ReadWrite gives me a place to write about the niche technology communities I love to cover, only without writing or traveling half as much as at the Daily Dot, so I have time to pursue other freelance work, too. I become a regular contributor to Anime News Network and I finally publish my first book, Otaku Journalism, followed by work on my second, as a co-author to a Raspberry Pi tutorial guide, and third, Cosplay: The Fantasy World of Role Play. To cap off the year, I discount Otaku Journalism to $3, or $0 on Gumroad.
This is the year I ask myself, “what is my biggest regret?” and decide it’s that I never learned Japanese. So I do, and it really is that simple. Years of blogging have taught me that I can be my own editor, my own book publisher, and now, my own accountability coach while learning a new language.
After ReadWrite is purchased by a larger company, I leave to freelance on my own, and finally, finally it sticks! It’s a year of going full circle as I return to Forbes for the first time since winning Susannah’s contest, and returning to a surprising place—code. This has been a slow build over time, but now I willingly take on web design and development clients while learning new development skills, just like I did in my very first “real” job.
Bolstered by my new independence, I decide to make Otaku Journalist a more helpful resource for fellow geek writers. That’s the thinking behind this year’s redesign, the publication of Build Your Anime Blog, and my recent webinar.
Looking back at how Otaku Journalist changed my life is revitalizing my goal to help other writers do the same. Here’s to another year of publishing helpful but geeky advice for writers who know they can make a career on their passions, they just aren’t sure how yet. No matter how long you’ve been reading, thank you for being here today, and I look forward to seeing you in the comments.