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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