Beginning Freelance Writers & Gamblers Have Too Much in Common
Freelance writers never completely take a break. I just took my first true vacation in three years, and am in fact typing away at 1:35 a.m. after getting back from Las Vegas, which was one of the best vacations I've ever had. Aside from a long list of articles and reviews that I'm going to write for Constant-Content, Associated Content, and other possible venues (some print), it was impossible to not notice some of the similarities between the thousands gambling on slots and the expectations of many beginning freelance writers that causes them to give up way too early on the dream of becoming a full time freelance writer.
In Las Vegas they sell the dream of becoming rich with one push of the button, pull of the switch, or roll of the dice. Many freelancers mistakenly have the same idea about writing, and the same can be said about creative writers, as well. If I just sell that one book I can quit my day job…or if I take that one big trip National Geographic won't be able to say no…I just need that one big break.
Sound familiar? If you think I'm criticizing you, relax. Writing is hard. Freelance writing is hard. We all think that at one time or another, it's simply part of the growth process. The thing is, it's never about the jackpot.
The way you get rich in Las Vegas is the same way you make a great living as a freelance writer. Want to know the "secret?" Here it is: hard work and avoiding wasting money on get quick schemes. That's it.
In Las Vegas you don't make a ton of money gambling…but you can make a lot of money working a high tip job. Some of the better waitresses and bartenders can take home a couple hundred dollars cash a shift. If they don't put that on the roulette wheel or video poker machine on the way out, then over time that money can add up real quickly.
The same applies to writers. If you work on building a solid base, building a reputation, and hammering away even on those frustrating and gloomy days, then eventually between active income and passive income (and we'll discuss a lot more on this second one in later posts) you will start making a good living by not giving up and not wasting money on rip-off e-books (there are some good ones, but why waste that money when you're getting good info here for free?).
That's the key. Freelance writers who write and are persistent are the ones who learn all the nuances needed to succeed as a freelance writer. The same applies to creative writers who want to get published. In graduate school I heard over and over again: "It's not the best writers who publish, it's the most persistent ones." That doesn't mean you can get away without some level of base talent, but as a writer you need to constantly work and refine your style and get your name out there, get feedback.
Another bit of advice for those who are trying to sell their creative writing for money: go ahead, but it's A LOT harder than becoming a freelance writer. Some websites estimate that as few as 200 individuals can make a full time living writing just fiction. That doesn't mean this isn't a goal worth pursuing, but if you don't mind doing article, copy, or technical writing, it's much easier to make a living as a freelance writer and work on the creative stuff as a side project.
But don't expect a big break. If you put everything you have into a big break, you're going to be disappointed. Get your name out there, find work and do a great job, get paid, and repeat. The average paperback up front payment for a first time author is something in the range of $2,000-$8,000. That's not a big break, and 95% of books never sell enough copies to earn royalties.
So if you are a beginning freelance writer who wants to learn how to make a living as a writer, take a tip from the smart people in Las Vegas: work, save, and repeat. Build a reputation, and in the same way paying off debt in real life tends to avalanche for the better when you have good habits, you'll find as your reputation grows as a freelance writer grows, the jobs, money, and payment per hour avalanches for the better.
You might not have wanted to hear about hard work and persistence, but beginning freelance writers need to know this, and time is on your side. Just keep plugging away, and overtime your situation will just get better and better. More advice will come weekly on this blog.
Best of luck, and happy writing!