You Might Not be Cut Out for a Writing Career

Categories Writing Life

The writing community, as a whole, is very supportive to writers who are new or struggling. I’ve received support and I’ve paid it forward,too. But, I’d bet that a lot of writers will agree with me in what I’m about to say. Many writing communities are littered with complaints about editors, about rejections, and so forth. But it seems like a lot of the writers out there are afraid to say the obvious..

Not everyone is cut out to write for a living.

Only you can decide this, of course,and I’m not here to tell any one person what they’re cut out to do or not to do. But…

Maybe you’re not.

I have supported my family with my writing business for over 5 years, had an ongoing and evolving writing team for almost 4 years, and now employ my husband and my teenager (part-time). My business has seen a lot of ups and downs. Like any job, there are days when I can’t imagine doing anything else and days where I want to pull my hair out. Throughout this time, I’ve had rejections, I’ve had kudos, and I have seen a lot of writers come and go.

I’ve had some startling realisations over the years as some writers have come to me for assignments with talk of how experienced they are. In more cases than you’d expect, I’ve realised that despite how someone portrays themselves online, they’re not always cut out to do this professionally.

Some don’t really write all that well, some aren’t conscientious enough, and some just aren’t putting the effort required into it unless it has their own name on it. Not everyone can sit and focus on creating with words day after day to eek out a living. They’ve got to research and write and make it read well, worry about keyword density, lexical density, and meta data, tags and yada, yada, yada… Then, after it looks like it meets the brief it has to be something the client actually likes. It ain’t always easy!

But just because some people are doing it doesn’t mean that everyone should. Some of the writers I tried out a few years ago are still chasing the penny-per-word gigs today. Maybe they’re happy with that. Maybe they should see that as a sign that either they aren’t cut out for this or that they’re just not putting enough effort into it to make it a real career.

Are you cut out to run a freelance writing business?

  • Do you like negative feedback? Probably not. But you’ll get it. If you can’t handle it (and learn from it) at least sometimes, you’re not going to excel.
  • Are you willing to write about something that’s not in the least bit interesting to you and produce something that looks like you loved every minute of writing it? If not, you should just write for fun.
  • Are you prepared to take really shitty-paying work at times so you can get food on the table? And are you prepared to put polish on that work just as you’d do if you were being paid double or writing about your life’s passion?
  • Will you stay up until 3:30 AM to hit a deadline when you have to get up at 7?
  • Will you sometimes write despite being as sick as a dog because you just have to?
  • Will you do 5 rewrites of something until they client (difficult as they are) is finally happy?

This ain’t the glamorous life. Sometimes it’s a roller coaster. I’ve seen freelance writers produce work that makes my jaw drop because it’s so effing good. I’ve seen work turned in that isn’t worth selling on one of those five dollar job sites (by writers who claim they’re professionals). I’m sure I’ve produced some winners and some lukewarm stuff over the years.

Not everyone wants a business. Some just want to write a quick article and get paid for it. And, that’s ok. But you’ll only get out of it what you put into it.

What’s my point?

If you find the process truly frustrating, are continually being rejected for web writing jobs, keep getting fired after you do a job for a new client, or find that people who try you out once, pay you and then never come back again…. I’m going to tell you what many won’t…

You might not be cut out for this.

Yes, you might love writing. Sure, you might want to find a way to make money from your computer with the ability to set your own schedule. But maybe this isn’t your thing. Maybe the editors aren’t mean megalomaniacs. Maybe you just aren’t that good. Or maybe it’s something you, deep down, don’t really even want to do and that’s why it’s not wowing anyone.

Is it time to assess your business, your income, your hours, your job satisfaction? Success is subjective but passion fuels success. Do you have a passion for becoming great at what you do?

So, while people on the forums might say “there, there” or “Nazi editors!” when you’ve complained for the tenth time this month I’m going to say,

If you’re going to be a shoemaker; strive to be the best damn shoemaker there is. If shoemaking isn’t a labour of love that you’re willing to work at becoming a master at, maybe it’s time to find something else.

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