By Kim Herrington
For most people, making a living as a writer is a far off dream in another world where they don’t have bills to pay and can live a life of leisure mulling over the perfect words to start their novel. However, good writers can make a good living with their skills—but it does mean giving up some of the fantasies you may have about what the writing life really is.
Some writers may believe that using their skills to make a living, and not just to create the next great American novel, is dirty or “selling out.” But writing is a marketable skill.
To a person who can’t write but needs to produce writing of some fashion, a good writer is just as valuable as an accountant is to a person who can’t manage the books. Taking a look at the reasons why writers supposedly shouldn’t sell out, such as making positive contributions to society, reveals something about why we think selling out is bad—and also shows that writing for hire still does many of these things. So how do you actually become a writer for hire?
Release notions of “creative” writing. Part of being a paid writer means you’re for hire—to just about anyone who will pay you. This equates to writing well about things you might know little about or care for even less. This also means you can’t writing leisurely when the fancy strikes. Concern yourself with things like billable hours and helping clients achieve their goals. Let your own goals run secondary to theirs in your writing.
Hone your craft.Writing well about any subject and doing so with correct grammar takes time to learn. Editing your own writing and looking for weaknesses or repetitive mistakes is the best way to improve. Using poor grammar will not keep clients happy or bring in more business. Take time to develop your professional writing skills and you’ll do better at making a living as a writer for hire. Selling your skills means being at the top of your game all the time, not just when you feel like it.
Don’t get lazy. Always take the time to edit every piece of writing you send out. Would you want a client to get an email from a reader that points out a stupid error you easily could have fixed? Remember that someone is paying you for your product and expect quality. Clients view your work the same way they view a chair they might buy for their office—they expect it to not fall apart underneath them.
Do it for the money. As a writer-for-hire don’t expect you probably won’t be writing a lot of socially important, world-changing content. Instead, you might be trying to craft appealing descriptions of frozen chicken nuggets. Remember the reasons why you’re writing for a living when you have trepidation about writing something with little value. Some of the best writers in history wrote copy for a living while burning the midnight oil on their novel—writing for money is a way to pay the bills while training yourself to be a better writer and serve your ultimate goals.
Kim Herrington, a graduate of Hendrix College, is a professional blogger and link builder for Haden Interactive and lives in Arkansas. She writes on her personal blog, The Made Thing, about blogging and SEO, food, and life in Arkansas.