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Profit from Your Writing, by Turning Down Work
by Christine Buske
This may seem like an entirely counterintuitive idea to you, but for the beginning writer it can make the difference between writing success, and hitting a career plateau within low- or non-paying markets.
Increasingly, ads pop up around the Internet looking for "writers," promising cash in exchange for "an easy job anyone can do from home." Whether you are an experienced writer, or just have a clip or two in your name, you know just as well as I do that professional writing is not a job just anyone can do. These ads become particularly insulting when they add "no skills necessary" to the job description.
Aside from these obvious scams, it can be lucrative to turn down a paying job once in a while. Making money from your writing is part marketing, but also part mindset. If you sell yourself too cheaply, or take on work that does not result in respectable clips, then you will not move forward in your career as a writer.
As with anything, the return on investment needs to make sense. When you are investing your limited time, and skills, is the payoff really paying off? Aside from the financial aspects, is that assignment you landed going to lead to more or better work? Sometimes a low paying market, can pay off in terms of strengthening your portfolio and creating a relationship with an editor.
Low-paying work is acceptable, as long as it fits your career strategy by providing you with leverage to break into better paying markets. There are some so-called writing jobs that will not achieve this. They include SEO or "web content writing," or writing for certain information websites. I took a job like this once, thinking I would be writing real articles. The articles looked more like encyclopedia entries, or elaborate dictionary entries, than clips I could show a magazine editor. Creatively, I was entirely boxed in by rules about keyword placement and quantity. By the end of it, I was miserable and quit. I'd rather give up the extra few hundred dollars a month, and instead submit my work for free but have good clips. This is what I did, and I ended up selling my work to FOX News and print publications after this.
If you want to profit from your writing career, you will have to treat it like a business. This includes having a strategy, and any publication you submit to or writing job you apply for should fit your career strategy. If you want to write magazine features, it means you should spend more time marketing yourself and writing on spec than taking on (poorly) paid SEO writing jobs. Some may argue that taking on these jobs as 'fillers' while looking for better work is a good strategy. To each their own, but if you have only a few hours a day to hone your craft and sell yourself, perhaps you should be spending more time doing that rather than collecting fractions of a penny per word. When the pay is low, and the work is boring, what is the justification?
In light of this, I would like to give you one piece of advice: all jobs have their ups and downs, but nobody becomes a writer to be miserable, or to work for free. So, write for profit, but keep in mind that profit is more than just a (low) cash payout. You should profit financially, but also in the form of good clips, experience, and ultimately writing should make you happy!
© Copyright 2010, Christine Buske
Christine Buske is a freelance writer, consultant and PhD Candidate based in Toronto, Canada. Her work has been published on FOX health, Advance Magazine, Funds for Writers, and the Coffee House Digest among other publications. When she is not writing, she enjoys consulting and working on her research projects.
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