Share this article on Facebook
Success Made Simple: An Interview With Wendy Burt
by Jennifer Brown Banks
Wendy Burt is truly a "Jill of all trades."
A former newspaper editor, she has now carved a very successful career
as a full-time freelance writer and author.
Wendy writes the advice column "Ask Wendy" for Writers
on the Rise. She is the co-author of Oh, Solo, Mia.
WFD: Can you describe a typical writing day?
Actually, a typical writing day is quite varied – in a good way.
I drop off my toddler at a home daycare down the street, stop at Starbucks
and then get back home around 9 a.m. to start answering emails. Emails
are a necessary evil of being a writer/editor, because while 50% of your
time is spent writing, the other half is spent managing. By managing I
mean interviewing, coordinating other writers, doing follow-ups with clients,
compiling pieces of edit, marketing your work, invoicing, etc. Once the
actual writing kicks in, a “typical” day might include writing
greeting card copy for a client, working on press releases, editing articles,
working with clients on ad copy, writing articles and doing a phone interview
or two. I usually take a 15-minute break for lunch and watch CNN to get
the highlights of the day’s news. At 3:30 p.m. I leave to pick up
my daughter, and I usually do another two hours of work after dinner.
WFD: Your BIO states that you doubled your income when
transitioning from newspaper editor to full time freelancer. While other
artists are "starving" you seem to be thriving. What's your
It’s cliché, but I love what I do now, so it’s natural
to make more money because it doesn’t feel like work so I stay motivated.
Also, I love being in control of how much money I make. What’s your
incentive to stay up till midnight if you’re on salary working for
somebody else? Also, I do not embrace the stereotype of the poor, starving
writer. It’s a lame excuse for writers to feel ok about not valuing
themselves and making money. There is absolutely no shame in making good
– or great – money for creativity. Read The War of Art
(not to be confused with The Art of War) to get a good get-off-your-butt
lesson on what it takes to be a professional (read paid) writer.
Financially successful writers (think mass market authors) are
often called sell-outs. I think that’s BS. I can be a great writer
and make money. We shouldn’t be made to feel like we have to choose!
WFD: From your experiences, what's the most lucrative
field of writing?
Well, that depends. In terms of how much money you can make per hour,
greeting cards, bumper stickers, and the like can be incredible. I once
made $225 for about 5 minutes of brainstorming on one-liners. I made $150
for coming up with a name for a new card line and $100 just last week
for emailing someone a suggestion for a name for his product. The down
side is that greeting card work can be sporadic if you don’t work
for a company as a contractor. You can certainly have some hits selling
one-time ideas, (and it’s still good money), but you might sell
one or two per month. The best consistent money is in copy writing
(ads, Web copy, brochures), fillers and articles. Personal essays can
pay well but it’s hard to find markets. I’ve also made money
selling short stories, poems and nursery rhymes, but again, not a lot
of paying markets.
WFD: What are four major strengths that every good writer
- You must be organized. Remember, as a freelancer, it’s
not just about writing. It’s about keeping track of your submissions,
your deadlines, your invoices and your expenses.
- You must be motivated or you’ll sleep till 3 p.m. every day.
Sometimes this means working at another job to support your family and
then writing at night, on weekends and on your lunch break.
- You have to be confident in yourself. It takes a thick skin to get
through rejections when you first start. Learn from your mistakes and
stop expecting people to hold your hand and telling you how great you
are. Tell yourself how great you are.
- You must have a strong desire to learn. This means taking classes,
reading books/newspapers/mags, attending writer’s conferences,
interviewing people who are interesting and listening to people who
are successful at what you want to do.
WFD: I'm a big fan of the book Oh, Solo Mia.
How did it come about?
Thanks! I was teaching a night class in Denver called “Breaking
Into Freelance Writing.” My (now) co-author, Erin Kindberg, took
the class and we became great friends immediately. One day I said, “We
should write a book together.” She laughed. I said, “I’m
serious!” … and so we did! We pitched the idea to about 30
agents, one bit and she sold it to McGraw-Hill. A year later we sold them
a second idea and our book, Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working
Chick was published in 2003.
WFD: What advice can you give to writers wanting to
become full-time freelancers?
Don’t rely on your income when you first start or you’ll
quit early. You need to have another job, a spouse who can support you
for a while or several months of savings to live off until you build your
clients. Also, don’t keep shooting for one-off deals – like
getting an article published in a big magazine. They’re very competitive
so only dedicate a small percentage of your time to getting in there.
Instead, look for the smaller, most consistent-paying gigs, like local
and regional pubs, blogs or assignments for clients who need content for
Web sites and newsletters. I’d rather know I’m going to make
$200/week than get that big, one-time clip that paid $1,000… but
will probably not buy from me again for years.
© Copyright 2007, Jennifer Brown Banks
Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com
Other articles by Jennifer Brown Banks :
Check out the latest articles in
How to Promote Your Book BLOG
Find out what works.
Join the Writing for DOLLARS! group on Facebook.
Writing for DOLLARS!
is a publication of