Writers seem to have the lowest self-esteem of all educated groups

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  • Just wanted to get this off my chest and sound a warning to all new writers.

    It seems that for such a relatively intelligent and capable class of people, writers are so easily exploited.

    It's all so weird, because there will always be new waves of people pursuing the dream of making a living as a freelance writer. You'd think that the reality of the profession would've been exposed and thoroughly propagated by now -- even in the face of all the outfits "selling the dream" ... After all, we're all communicators at heart!

    It's also weird that for such a smart group of people, writers aren't seeing the light about what the internet represents for their talent. That is, the advantage of the internet for people with writing talent is the elimination of the middle man between you and your ultimate audience. If you have talent, you should roll the dice at creating your own works to sell to the broad audience afforded by the internet, rather than writing for a boss (or client) who resells your work.

    In the former case, you work once and potentially get paid perpetually for that work. In the latter, you work once and get paid once.

    What's more, in the latter case, you're up against a global supply of other writers, thanks to the internet. Many in this workforce have much lower costs of living, so the one-time pay you get is at an all-time low because the global workforce allows it.

    Those are the two sides of this internet that writers fail to see. Rather than exploiting the power of the web, most of us are being exploited by it.

    I'm sorry -- I'm not knocking you guys. Indeed, I'm one of you. I bought into the dream of working as a freelance writer long ago, and dived in with both feet. Now I'm realizing this was not a smart move.

    I'm not kicking myself, because there are a TON of sources out there encouraging newbies to dive in. I thought "surely they can't ALL be lying" and "surely if it was impossible there would be more voices on the web saying so." But I was wrong. There's a weird dynamic in the freelance writing community that when people fail (or give up) they go away quietly, without warning others, maybe because they think it's "just them".

    I see it all the time on a copywriting board I lurk. Noobs come in, bright eyed and bushy tailed, sold on dreams peddled by AWAI and other outfits, asking for critiques of their shiny new website. ...Then after a while you never hear from them again. A year later, you click the link to their website, and it's no longer up. Yet they never come back to warn others.

    Well, I'm here to say to newbies -- it's a very difficult living, and the internet is a hindrance rather than a help if you're looking to make a living working for clients. It's a "buyer's market" bar none, and you WILL answer to the market, no matter what others tell you about "aiming high" for top-paying clients, and the amount of work that's out there, etc. Market forces can't be resisted.

    Now, I'm going back to full time work. I'm not giving up on writing. I'm just going for the approach that I feel will make the internet work in favor of my creativity, rather than against it. If I take another dive at writing for clients, I'll do it while I have the security of a J-O-B -- or even better, the security of a robust passive income, thanks to the internet's power to reach audiences directly.

    Anyway, I'm just posting this for others out there who have been sold on the dream of making a living working for clients. Set up that passive income machine FIRST.

    If you don't have the talent to do that, you probably won't have a good time working for clients anyway. And even if you are very talented, you shouldn't start off with the risk of "burn out" -- working for clients, content mills, craigslist tire-kickers, etc. etc. -- because you need the money.

    Build your empire from a position of security. And remember that people "selling the dream" have all the motive in the world to paint very optimistic pictures.

    I may catch flack for writing this here, but if you're a noobie, take heed. I write from the heart, with your best interests in mind.

    Thanks for reading my rant.
  • What do you mean by passive income? I've never heard of people actually making a good amount of money from the passive income I know of, but maybe you're talking about something else completely. I can say I've been writing for 10 years, and writing has paid the bills for about 8 of those years (and I have a lot of bills, sadly). I'm definitely not well off from writing, but I do make a full-time income working about 20 hours a week. I average about $30-40 an hour and can often write while my kids are home. It took probably 5 years to work up to this, so I often made $10-20 an hour and had to work 30 hours to basically still be broke...but I still consider it worth it while my kids are young. You really have to find the right mix of clients (which is sometimes a crapshoot) but I can't picture giving up at this point. Also, I don't think this issue is unique to writers. Freelance designers and probably a lot of other types of freelancers often go through the same challenges. I would still rather deal with my freelance writing problems than work in an office, at least for now. Granted, I may be persuaded if a job was paying high enough and my kids were both in school most of the day, so never say never.
  • Quote: What do you mean by passive income? I've never heard of people actually making a good amount of money from the passive income I know of, but maybe you're talking about something else completely. I can say I've been writing for 10 years, and writing has paid the bills for about 8 of those years (and I have a lot of bills, sadly). I'm definitely not well off from writing, but I do make a full-time income working about 20 hours a week. I average about $30-40 an hour and can often write while my kids are home. It took probably 5 years to work up to this, so I often made $10-20 an hour and had to work 30 hours to basically still be broke...but I still consider it worth it while my kids are young. You really have to find the right mix of clients (which is sometimes a crapshoot) but I can't picture giving up at this point. Also, I don't think this issue is unique to writers. Freelance designers and probably a lot of other types of freelancers often go through the same challenges. I would still rather deal with my freelance writing problems than work in an office, at least for now. Granted, I may be persuaded if a job was paying high enough and my kids were both in school most of the day, so never say never.
    “Passive income” = do the work once & get paid perpetually ... It’s “passive” because it doesn’t demand much additional “active” work.

    Writing a book, for example, can bring you “passive” income (“passive” in quotes, because you still have to promote)...

    Most people don’t make much passive income, but even if you make just a little, it adds up — especially if you keep a number of projects going.

    Creating streams of passive income should be the first step toward a freelance career (imho) because it both “tests your powers” and sets you up for greater financial security (if your projects are successful). Some creatives find they’re so successful at these passive income projects that there’s no need for working with clients.

    I think the internet is a blessing for people who want to build a passive income... & far more of a mixed bag for people who aim to work for clients ... You mentioned graphic designers. Designers are a good example in fact of how the internet can undermine creatives who aim to work for clients. They’re now competing with outfits in third-world countries. Those easy jobs that once went to beginners now go to third-worlders on bidding sites.

    Anyway, it’s good to hear that you’re making it as a freelancer... I’ve made it fo a while, but it’s a precarious living... especially without a spouse’s second income.

    The proverbial “feast or famine” of freelancing doesn’t work for me — especially if the “feast” means writing all day & all night because all your clients want their stuff by yesterday... and the “famine” means not being able to vacation or splurge once in a while because no “cushion” is big enough & you have to constantly prepare.

    ...So it’s back to having a boss for me! I will continue to try to get rich though... :^)

    I just think beginners need to hear a more realistic picture than is currently being painted around the internet. People make career decisions based on this stuff — so more balance & less “pie in the sky” serves them better I think.
  • Hopefully people aren't believing the "pie in the sky" ideas of freelancing being a get-rich-quick type of situation. Not everyone has the circumstances to succeed in an entrepreneurial venture. There are feasts and famines, which means people have to be able to roll with them. "Feasts" should not mean working all day and all night... it means you book out a few weeks in advance for non-urgent projects and charge extra for rush jobs.

    All that being said, yes, passive income is a great additional way to get income flowing. I wouldn't say it should necessarily replace client work, but whatever works! The main takeaway is to not put all your eggs in one basket, whether it's passive income, one particular client, one particular content mills, content mills in general (Google algorithm changes can take out more than one at a time), etc. Diversify as much as you can.
  • Quote: Hopefully people aren't believing the "pie in the sky" ideas of freelancing being a get-rich-quick type of situation. Not everyone has the circumstances to succeed in an entrepreneurial venture. There are feasts and famines, which means people have to be able to roll with them. "Feasts" should not mean working all day and all night... it means you book out a few weeks in advance for non-urgent projects and charge extra for rush jobs.

    All that being said, yes, passive income is a great additional way to get income flowing. I wouldn't say it should necessarily replace client work, but whatever works! The main takeaway is to not put all your eggs in one basket, whether it's passive income, one particular client, one particular content mills, content mills in general (Google algorithm changes can take out more than one at a time), etc. Diversify as much as you can.
    This is great advice!

    Decent earnings from passive income (which meant rev-share for most writers here in the past) pretty much died out with Google Panda and similar algorithm changes. I haven't read much about it here in at least five or six years.
  • "Passive" in quotes because there is actually no such thing as passive income.

    Same thing goes for "Overnight Success" or magic push button opportunities. It's all hype to lure in the gullible. A good example of an overnight success is Willie Nelson. He worked 20 years as basically an unknown until he recorded one song that made him an instant super star in the country music industry.

    I think it's a great idea to try to warn newbies against that junk Bigpicture. They need to be aware. Problem is, I think, that very few will actually listen to or believe your words as they're so distracted by that "pie in the sky" fluff.

    You mention AWAI. I studied with them along with a number of other copywriter training sources. The information they provide had value in my opinion. But I studied it for personal use and not so I could work for others and I think the competition is pretty heavy for finding clients for those skills unless you're already a proven writer.

    Actually I believe that the AWAI courses are there for AWAI itself. The training provides it with an ideal straining technique to find exceptional writers for their own employment needs.
  • Yes. I also agree that writers are not getting much when compared with other jobs. Especially for beginners, it is very tough in the beginning to get a constant income.I think the writers should play a dual role. They can write for others to pay the bills. Also, they need to have their own blog or website and learn to promote their content.

    A writer needs to learn the marketing strategy for their work, in addition to creation.
  • A pretty good example of "pie in the sky" is the Writer's Market list of what to charge for services, which is available all over the internet.

    Here's a link to the 2006 list: https://www.writersmarket.com/assets...d_i_charge.pdf . These rates are unrealistically high, imho.
  • The "low" hourly rates for most of those are $20-40. That's absolutely reasonable--and on the low side for many types of copywriting. I make significantly more in an hour for copywriting. When I quote a price, though, I (and many other writers) don't bill hourly; I bill by the project. I'm a fast worker, so there's no reason for me to be penalized for my efficiency. For example, I have one client in an industry I know like the back of my hand who needs 10 300-word blog posts per month. I can knock one of those out in 15-20 minutes, so for me to bill, say, $25/hour would be grossly undercharging for my work.

    It might help to keep in mind that clients are not purchasing man-hours; they're purchasing a solution to their problem. The problem might be, "I don't have time to keep my blog updated," or "I don't know how to write copy that converts," or "I have a hard time crafting engaging copy on a dull topic." Sometimes the problem is, "I don't know the difference between they're and their and I don't want my customers to know that." Professional writers/editors sell solutions to those problems. Whether it takes you an hour or five hours or ten hours doesn't matter to the client; either way, the solution is worth whatever the two of you agree is a fair price.

    Are there clients who think you're going to charge $10/hour or $5 for a 500-word blog post and balk at paying $50-100 for the same post? Of course. That doesn't mean that that's who you need to work for, though.
  • Long time no see! I only recognize you, Michelle.

    I came back out of lurkdom to reply to this specifically, because I disagree with almost all of it (respectfully, of course), and I don't want new writers to get discouraged.

    First of all, I think we need some perspective. Freelance writing, like anything you do in exchange for money, is a business. New businesses, by and large, fail. Only about 20% survive beyond one year. Many more will fail within five years. That's true of most industries. But nobody would say starting a restaurant/boutique/law office was a sham. I think anything conducted via the Internet is automatically seen with an air of suspicion. But it's just the nature of starting a business. You might succeed. There's a good chance you won't. Some of it is due to lack of skill, marketing ability, business sense, etc... A lot of it is more due to just plain crap luck. It is what it is.

    Secondly, I think starting out and relying on "passive" sources of writing income is a terrible idea for a newbie. For one, you learn A LOT working with clients. And editors. Without a good editor ripping into you a few times at the starting line, it's harder to improve enough to offer something worth buying (those who work a 9-5 as a writer beneath an editor might be an exception to this rule).

    I am grateful for every persnickety content manager and editor I ever had.

    For another thing, the vast majority of self-pubbed books/articles/blogs also fail. You only make an income if people read what you've written and/or are willing to pay for it. To manage that, you have to understand marketing, copywriting, SEO, social media, etc... Some way to get your voice heard. And you can learn that, once again, through working with knowledgeable clients who are able and willing to teach you. I've had the opportunity to work with several.

    In my experience, you can also make an income much FASTER writing for clients. Passive income streams can take YEARS to build.

    Third, I don't feel like people overseas offering writing services are competition for me at all. Anybody charging $2 an hour, quite honestly, isn't offering the same thing I am. You're not going to get the same level of quality, experience, and marketing knowledge at that price. If that's what you want to pay, fine. Those aren't the clients I"m looking for. And I'm not the writer they're looking for either.

    My first real writing gig, I was averaging $30 an hour. That was with zero prior experience, no college degree, and no earthly idea of what I was doing. My income has risen steadily since then, and now I usually hover at around triple that amount hourly up to over $100/hour.

    I think the biggest mistake these "pie in the sky" offerings make is that they make it all seem easy. I know the book I read about copywriting that got me started did. "Practically snooze your way to 30K a year." It's not easy. In the beginning, it takes long hours and a whole lot of learning the ropes. Everybody has to pay their dues.

    But these clients DO exist. You just have to find them. Get off Craigslist. Get off Upwork (though I routinely find clients willing to pay $60+ an hour there... it's not a good idea for beginners). Get away from content mills (if there are any left).

    I would also wager that a decent percentage of people who attempt writing as a profession just aren't very good. Courses like AWAI never seem to mention that talent is still a requirement, even if the minimum amount is all that's required for certain tasks. If American Idol has taught it anything, it's that people have a tendency to grossly overestimate their own talent.

    I once came across a guy who had SUCCESSFULLY completed the AWAI course, set up a website with his samples and promptly listed his rates at $120 an hour. The only issue? His samples were just awful. His sales letter began with telling the tale of how pioneers traveling west would often get crushed beneath their own wagon wheels (in painfully graphic detail), and somehow ended up talking about becoming a writer. Da fuq? It didn't speak to his target audience at all, and mostly made no sense. Yet nobody sat him aside and gently told him that maybe, possibly, writing just wasn't the career for him.

    On that note, I agree with you about the companies encouraging anybody and everybody to become a writer as if it's the easiest thing ever. Or anyone who makes it seem like a get rich quick venture. But to say that working for clients is a bad idea seems to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Just my two cents, for what they are worth.

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