Don’t Be Ridiculous! Nobody Makes a Living As a Freelance Writer
My writer friends like to swap tales sometimes about people ‘unclear on the concept’ of freelance writing. These are the people who say to you at cocktail parties, “Are you still pursuing that writing thing?” (as if anyone would ever ask an attorney, for instance, “Are you still pursuing that lawyer thing?”) or “You’re a writer? What a wonderful hobby!” My own mother-in-law struggled to understand and artfully explain what I do, so she resorted to introducing me to her friends this way: “Beth is my daughter-in-law. She doesn’t work.”
When people behave like this (and they will; oh, trust me…they will), you have a few options. You can throw your martini in their face. You can get offended and stalk off. You can stab yourself in the eye with a fork.
Or you can shrug, secure in your own knowledge that what you do is valuable and lucrative. Who cares if anyone else understands what a freelance writer does?
The myth of the starving artist
American culture is rife with the myth of the starving artist. The average person can’t conceive of what a freelance writer’s work life looks like, so they conclude it must not be a ‘real’ profession. After all, we don’t work for a corporation. We don’t work in office buildings. We don’t commute.
Even people who can conceptualize other entrepreneurial professionals, like independent insurance agents, often fail to accord writers any respect. Unlike insurance salesmen, writers are viewed as artists. And artists are always starving. Aren’t they?
Ignore what popular culture says
If you take away nothing else from these blog posts, I hope you will fully embrace the idea that freelance writing is a viable profession, and that many people support themselves and their families quite nicely on the money they earn from their career. You could be one of them, regardless of what your family members, friends, or random cocktail party guests tell you.
Meet a (very) successful freelancer
I’d like to introduce you to my friend Jennie Phipps. This past July she celebrated her 19th year as an independent writer and editor. Nineteen years! Jennie mainly writes about retirement, but she blogged some advice that can help any freelancer, at any stage of their career. I encourage you to read it.
And I also encourage you to ignore what popular culture says about the financial prospects of a freelance career. If you can do that, then the next time some joker says to you (as one said to me many years ago), “Don’t be ridiculous! Nobody makes a living as a freelance writer,” you can simply smile and walk away…to deposit the most recent check in the bank.
What’s the most ridiculous thing anyone has ever said to you about freelancing as a career choice? Please share in the comment thread!
Wishing you well,