I know most of you reading this blog have the eventual goal of becoming professional authors who work full-time doing what they love. One thing that vexes me about our industry is everyone is afraid to talk about money, but money makes the world go round. It’s almost as if it’s dirty to want to actually be paid to write.
Which is just B.S.
What we do is highly valuable. Not everyone can do what we do. Think about most people regarding writing.
My class requires a ten-page essay.
OMG! Writing is hard!
I am assigning a twenty page research paper.
Writing is hard!
Write a short story.
Ugh, writing is hard!
Draft a resume and cover letter.
I hate writing. Writing is hard!
“I’m a novelist.”
Really? That’s a job? Writing is easy.
Thing is, we all need to eat and pay the power bill. Sure, the goal is one day the novels will be bringing in most of our income, but that is just the tip of what is available to those of us with a knack for words.
Open Your Mind
Too many people, when they hear the word “writer” automatically default to ONE vision of writers. If we are not J.K. Rowling then clearly we spend our days writing bad poetry at Starbucks while begging for loose change.
Years ago, my church was offering instruction on financial planning so they had the most successful members of the congregation come in to instruct how to save, invest, etc.
One of the elders happened to be a stock broker and when I told him I wanted to be a novelist, he all but laughed in my face. He told me I needed a “real” job, that writing was a nice hobby but that I had “better odds of being hit by lightning than making any money at it.”
Once the urge to kill had passed, I said, “Really? So I guess all of this reading material I see here in your office magically appeared. Writers didn’t do that.” *points to bookshelves as tall as the ceiling*
“And you like movies. Obviously no one wrote those. Producers just hired a bunch of actors to improv the entire thing, right?”
“And last I checked, you have to navigate the various fields of the software you use. So those instructions just evolved over millions of years of letters rubbing together and eventually growing legs. Web sites don’t have words, ads are all cat pictures and billboards use sign language. Is that what you’re saying?”
Needless to say, he was an idiot. I just pointed it out because he apparently hadn’t noticed.
He also lacked imagination and must have not realized that technical writers like me were paid $45 an hour. Not a bad meantime job.
I know that many of you want to be novelists and that is a fantastic goal and one that I share. But there are a lot of other venues that need writers so when we free up what we think of when we hear “writer” that is going to give us a major advantage.
There Are OTHER Forms of PAID Writing
Once I came to grips with the fact that my first novel, my 187,000 word thriller-suspense-YA-historical-inspirational-comedy was not going to launch me immediately to fame and fortune, I had to make another plan. I was going to need time to build my skills as an author and storyteller. But I still wanted to call myself a professional writer…and eat.
What did I do?
I taught myself how to do technical writing. Now trust me, there is nothing remotely sexy about writing software instructions, company manuals, HR training modules, or descriptions for on-line merchandise. But these jobs are in demand and for those who learn to do this well? The pay can be seriously sweet.
Additionally a lot of the work is from home or even on short-term contract. This means you don’t have to stick with the same company once the contract is up (though if we do a great job, often they will keep offering more contracts because good technical writers who are NOT flakes are about as rare as unicorn tears).
In fact, once companies realize you are good at what you do and meet or exceed deadlines? Word spreads. Eventually I had to turn down jobs because there was only so much of me to go around. In fact one time a hiring manager called me and I was so loaded with work I was only half paying attention to the introduction on the phone. I had no intention of taking yet another contract, but indulged the call anyway.
Manager: (Snooty interviewing voice) We got a recommendation for you via X Company. Why should we hire you to write our manuals?
Me: Because I’m good.
Manager: Why’s that?
Me: I insert random steamy love scenes. No one expects that in a training manual. Like they think, “Oh I’m here to learn about avionics and end up wanting to know if Fabio and Francesca ever hook up!” Gotta have SOME way to make engineers pay attention and actually READ the damn things.
I was just being goofball me and blowing off the job, but the manager? Dies laughing and says, “You’re hired!” It turned out to be a multi-billion-dollar defense company and the hiring manager so loved my confidence and humor she was determined to hire me away. That or maybe she thought I was being serious.
Feed the NEED
All businesses need copy. Most business is done on the Internet and all those words don’t spontaneously appear out of the ether. Obviously the better and more specialized our skill sets? The higher the pay. If you can learn the various forms of software required AND you’re a clean concise writer? Great formula for success because BOTH those skills are rare indeed.
Many writers might have great form, but lack analytical abilities and software know-how, so they aren’t going to be considered. They simply don’t have the skill set for the job. Often those who DO have analytical ability and software knowhow are programmers and engineers (NOT writers).
There’s a good reason stereo instructions make your brains bleed.
In fact, that was the very weakness that I worked to my advantage. It’s how I landed a lot of my work. The interviewer would ask, “Why should we hire you?” My response? “I speak fluent engineer and can translate.”
If you are interested in this type of work, do some recon first. Go search for these jobs on the internet and see which ones appeal to you. Then make notes regarding what employers are looking for and learn those skills.
When I was doing this, the program Visio was used a lot. So, I downloaded the 30 Day Free Trial and used Microsoft’s on-line tutorials to teach myself. It was win-win. If I was not able to learn the program? I just wouldn’t buy the software and would try something else. But if I did learn it? I might not even have to buy it if I was working on a company computer.
What could it hurt? I was only out time and maybe a few brain cells.
Not everyone can do this, but a lot of you can and you might not have realized that weird ability to teach yourself to crochet or build above-ground gardens using YouTube might just pay off.
This is an excellent way to keep income in your pipeline while you’re working on being the next J.K. Rowling. Because last I checked, she isn’t exactly starving, either.
I love bringing mentors to you guys because they expand our worldview. My friend, Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg (here last time), has been hammering lately on how desperate the entertainment industry is for writers. There are countless channels all streaming entertainment and this industry is on the hunt more than ever for something new and fresh. They need solid, talented, dependable writers who can help them keep up with consumer demand.
It is a HUGE reason I pestered him to come teach for me. We just don’t know what we don’t know and sometimes getting that toe in the door is the break we need. Joel is going to explore all kinds of other ways to create revenue using speaking, blogging, film and harnessing your work for rights you might not even known you could use let alone HOW to.
One of the reasons I love for writers to blog is if you get any good at it, you are creating revenue streams. Not only is blogging the most stable form of social media, it is the easiest form of social media to monetize. So we can build a fantastic platform, reach out and cultivate an audience for our novels and make money doing it.
This is called working smarter, not harder. I go into how to do this in MY upcoming class Blogging for Authors.
Granted, I never in any way promise “Get rich quick!” But at the same time, it’s easy to be myopic and that could be costing us that regular income to support us on our way to the dream. It’s easy to take for granted how much writing is out there and forget that somebody was PAID to do it.
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for following and as always I reward the faithful!
I love hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
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Writing takes so much time.. wish it was easier 🙁
Great article! Now that I now longer teach and am retired, I earn extra money by tutoring student writers–they need help not just with their essay assignments in all the subjects I’m qualified to teach (Engl. Lit, Art History, Music, Comparative Religion, Psychology, among others) but cover letters, personal statements, and resumes. Most of my work comes through referrals and I do some tutoring via Skype with overseas students.
Reblogged this on MorgEn Bailey – Creative Writing Guru and commented:
Doing what we love and getting money for it!
Reblogged this on authorkdrose.
I find it interesting that when I was in high school NO ONE except my English teacher encouraged my love of writing. After I got my Creative Writing BFA, everyone tells me how they’ve always wanted to write a book. They want my help, and I give them my info, but no one ever calls. I think the starving artist stigma is alive and well, but you’re right. It’s about working smarter.
I need writers of accounting pronouncements to add a few steamy bits to keep me engaged!
Would love to make money off of my blog. Will have to look into this.
Fantastic article. I’m an engineer with an MBA. I hadn’t considered technical writing as a career path, but I will now. THANK YOU!
This was a great article (like they always are =) I’ve been trying to figure out how to make money from writing. Right now, I’m trying to build up my skills in Technical Writing. Also, I would love to make money from my blog, but we’ll see what happens.
Love your blog!! Entertaining and informative 🙂
Inspiring post. It would seem there are many roads.
Another inspiring, educational post. Thank you so much! 🙂
My thanks to you, yet again, for blogging on a topic no one else wants to touch.
You’re absolutely right. I found technical writing drained me just as much as retail, however. Maybe I found the wrong branch (dentistry journalism, what a world) and need to look again. I am lucky to have found a day job I don’t hate, at long last, as a tea merchant.
There’s something about personal blogging that puts me off though, and I don’t feel like an “expert” to blog about opinions or topics that really matter to me. So I’ve always been unsure what to talk about that has merit in being blogged about at all. And no one wants to read self-promotion all the time. There are loads of blogs about “individual writing processes,” so I keep asking: how can I truly find something worthwhile to consistently blog about? Anyway, I look forward to more from you. Thanks for a burst of inspiration.
Read my book, LOL. You have a lot to write about you just need help harnessing it.
I just looked it up, and hilariously, your book has been in my wishlist for ages. I will get on that today. Thanks!
That’s exactly my problem! I don’t feel expert enough to talk about the things I care about and therefore I never know what to say! What I end up doing, when I blog at all, is talk about random stuff I notice or things that have happened to me.
Some of the biggest most popular blogs are just opinions. Writers who have a talented and unique take on life. Go read The Bloggess and you will see what I am talking about.
I will definitely look that one up.
Update: I looked at her blog and she breaks the “don’t talk about your political opinions” thing very quickly.
Great blog, as always. Thanks for sharing some out of the box ideas!
My brother’s a technical writer. I figured you had to have a degree to do it. Hmmm…
Kristen, do you have a book on Blogging for Authors? I’m not sure I’ll be able to take the class ’cause of small kid and work, it’s a bit hard that way this year. Always reading your articles 🙂
Not really, but I am working on one. The class is recorded and that comes with purchase if you can’t make it live. But if you can’t make the class at all then “Rise of the Machines” does teach blogging, just not in near the depth as the class. But it is a good starting place.
I have Rise of the Machines 🙂 I bought and read it six months ago. I’d love to read something about what writers could blog on and similar. You always have good advice, so I thought I’d turn to you 🙂
I loved your book, but you’re right, it raises more questions for the technically impaired. That class sounds good.
Introduction: The TCP/IP stack models the electronic signals that carry data across the Internet. It encompasses several layers, each of which describes a specific set of functions for each part of that signal. In this chapter, we’ll discuss a scenario where data is transferred from one point to another on the Internet and how these layers correspond to that process. … Oh yeah, I’ve done that. Fun. Nobody has ever offered to pay me for it outside a consultation context, though. I guess that makes me a self-published technical writer. heh.
Always entertaining reading, I’m lucky to have a flexible non-writing day job, don’t know how well I would do in the technical writing.
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
Check out this great blog post from Kristen Lamb on getting paid to write.
Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
Some great information and suggestions.
Great post! I would like to write form home and am probably one of the few that doesn’t really want to write novels. I am asked by others at work to write projects and letters so I know I can write pretty well. I thought everyone could but apparently I was wrong. Great advice in how to find work as a writer. Thanks!
Thank you for pointing this out, Kristen. Last year I decided in January that by October I wanted to close my Internet retail business to pursue writing full time. Scary, since I had only one published novella that brings in less than $10 most months. So I kept my eyes open for opportunities while I plugged away at my second novel. 2 months later, I saw a billboard in my town for a regional magazine. I misunderstood it–it read “Creatives for hire”, which I took to mean that they were looking for people to work at the magazine when they meant that their company will do advertising and graphic design work. I’m so glad I did, because I called them and they hired me to write. I did four pieces in my first issue. On the last, I did eight, including the cover feature. And I was able to close my Internet sales business in October. I have recently begun looking for other types of paid writing to supplement my income, and considered technical writing because that is also something I could learn (thanks to years writing knitting patterns and learning to code my own websites.) Or copy writing for other retailers–writing product copy was one part of Internet sales I enjoyed. I love that you are helping others to realize that there is more than one reason people can proudly answer the question of what they do with “I’m a writer”–and know you have the cash in your pocket to prove it.
Love the gifs in this post! And the advice. But mostly the gifs. 🙂
Nice post. It really would be the dream to make enough money from blogging to sustain yourself. The good news is that many people are already doing this.
Technical writing comes much easier for me than novel writing. I should look into this.
Freelance journalism is pretty easy to hook up. If you pick up a mag or newspaper and say to yourself ,”I can write that,” by all means submit.Corporate news letters are good too. However, if you blog and the editor you’er dealing with reads and doesn’t like your blog, kiss that job good by. Blogging is good if you haven’t hooked up gigs, but once you start down the dark side path, “the dark side of the force will forever control your destiny,”–just kidding. Blog away just don’t do anything controversial–unless there’s money in it.
Just discovered your blog. I am still trying to get paid to write. I am learning the craft of copy writing. It’s been exhausting just trying to get one assignment. I needed your post today, I am glad I found it. I do have a blog and write about random stuff on becoming a copywriter. My positivity on getting that first assignment is wearing thin. Thanks again for the reality check. By the way my blog is wordgripactioncopywritingservice.com