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How Writers Often Steal from Themselves
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Jen, attached you’ll find a piece that I’ve been working on. Can you read it, revise it, and then see if you can market it for me? Thanks.”

This recent message, for another “freebie” came from a friend of mine who easily earns about $80,000 a year on her 9 to 5 gig. She’s been trying to break into writing for awhile, and through my assistance, has actually garnered a few publishing credits. I’m happy to oblige.

Here’s the problem. She wants me to work for free. Again.

Funny thing—most folks wouldn’t dream of asking a barber for a free hair cut, a mechanic for a free tune-up, a doctor for a free physical—but, for some reason, the professional services of writers are different.
Which got me to thinking—if I had a dollar for every unpaid hour of consulting, “donated” article, or marketing assistance I’ve given since getting my career off the ground, I’d truly be a mega-rich writer.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe in helping others through charitable acts, and I love sharing my gift and the joys of writing. But, as I have gotten a little wiser, I realize that I’ve been stealing from myself!

Imagine that. And if you’re like the average writer, you probably have too.

Think about it.

It’s the little things we let slip away that really add up. It’s the almost unnoticeable ways in which we often fail to honor and protect our craft that cause us to devalue our work, and lose time, peace, pay, and productivity.

Here are a few of them:

  1. Working at the same rate for years—At the beginning of 2009, I made a commitment to revisit some of my previous assignments and relationships to decide what needed to be purged or pursued for future growth. I discovered that I hadn’t had a raise in three years from one publisher, who was already paying me way below what I deserved.

    Even on 9 to 5 gigs that pay minimum wage, there’s usually an increase for cost of living, performance, or to provide competitive wages. By readjusting my thinking, I was able to increase my earning potential.

  2. Submitting to free article directories just to “keep my name out there”—In my formative years as a writer, these directories were invaluable in creating a web presence and even perfecting my craft. As such I would still recommend this marketing tool to any aspiring writer. But there should be a cut-off point. Unless it’s for a good cause, I’ve determined I’ve reached mine.

  3. Working for copies—You do the math. The average magazine costs about five bucks. If you write a 1000 word piece for two “complimentary copies,” there are migrant workers in factories that will be out earning you!

So act accordingly.

By modifying these three small areas, you’ll greatly increase your productivity and your bottom line.

In the sage words of Dr. Phil, “We teach people how to treat us by the things we accept.”

© Copyright 2009, 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

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