I hate this line of reasoning more than you could ever guess. This line of thought is the biggest reason that there are poor writers out there, in a time when J.K. Rowling has made more than $1 billion on a series of children’s books. There are copy writers worth millions, columnists who do pretty damn well for themselves and plenty of writers who are making a respectable income for themselves. And yet, the mindset that writers are a bunch of starving artists hidden away in their garrets persists.
Here and Now, Let’s End It
Let’s be honest with ourselves. There’s a reason that writers perpetuate this mindset. It’s convenient. When everyone you know thinks that writing won’t bring in a single cent, making ten grand a year from it suddenly sounds almost respectable. Low expectations make anything look better.
But here’s the thing: despite my hatred of bid sites and content farms, if you sat down and worked an eight hour day at most of them, you’d at least beat minimum wage. That’s over $15,000 right there. And that’s one of the least lucrative ways to go about writing. It’s not hard to get to a higher level of income, by marketing yourself and reaching out to prospective clients. If you’re charging what you’re worth and making sure that you consistently have work, hitting forty or fifty grand a year is more than possible. If you charge $50 an hour for your time and line up 20 hours of client work a week (not even a full forty!), you can break $50,000.
If you’re willing to build a real business, reacher than just search out client work, the sky is truly the limit. So let’s stop thinking of ourselves as starving writers. Let’s think of ourselves as working in an incredibly lucrative industry and start reaching for those upper reaches.
Let’s Change Our Image, While We’re at It
I’ve had plenty of discussions at parties when someone first finds out what I do for a living. ‘A writer — you must work very hard to get enough work’ is not an uncommon comment. Something about how hard it is to find work right now is often a close second. As a matter of fact, I find writing to be relatively easy: in high school and college, I worked jobs like tutoring for standardized tests (quite difficult), renting apartments (also not too easy) and dressing up as a tomato to hand out flyers (not only a bit embarrassing, but I also got heat stroke). Writing is easy. I just have to plant my rear end in my chair. There’s no heavy lifting, annoying children to work with or extremely hot costumes.
On top of that, I am getting more work than I can handle right now — and so can you. There are new websites every day and they all need written content. Some of them are even looking for fiction. Now is a fantastic time to be a writer.
So let’s tell people that. Every time someone asks if you live on ramen noodles because you’re a writer, tell him that you’re doing pretty well. Make it true, as well: the best way to really rub it in is to make more money than whoever you’re talking to.
Image by Flickr user Raul Arrieta