Many people respond with awe and amazement when I tell them that I am a writer. People view writing as a dream job especially if you can pull off doing it from home. Every now and then we hear about authors of best sellers hitting the big time with loads of cash from royalties. It is assumed that we all live a lavish romantic lifestyle full of excitement and events fueling the stories we tell. Yes, being a wordsmith can be very fulfilling but it takes a tremendous amount of work to get your name and work out there and make some money doing it. After you’ve convinced people that your words are worth paying for and the first measly figures begin to trickle in, only then do you begin to make your small ripple in the river of media. Here’s a peek at a day in the life of an ordinary freelance writer.
Wake up. Write. You realize that in your line of work quantity equals quality. Even if you have no jobs lined up, write something and publish it somewhere for people to read. You need as much exposure as you can get and the more you write, the better you get at it.
Search the local and online classifieds for job offers. Send emails, your CV and samples to all the advertisers. Some of them may reply and ask for your rate per word/page/article. Sometimes you accept half or less of what you believe your writing is worth because, hey, at least it’s something. Murphy’s Law dictates that the jobs you love the most will pay the least and be offered by the friendliest people who will make payments quickly. The jobs you hate will offer the highest rates per article, you’ll have to deal with people who are hard to please and you may have to chase them for payments. You can’t always be too picky because you need the work.
Contact local magazines and try to sell them your work and ideas. Many of them aren’t interested. Some of them will take a look and maybe feature your article in four months’ time. If you’re lucky, they’ll love it and want you to submit regular features for them. If not, you may even have to chase them to pay you for your article months after they have published it. You wonder why some people are so difficult to deal with since content is what sells their publications.
Edit very poor grammar in writing by other people and wonder if these people ever paid any attention in school or if they are educated at all. Read status updates on Facebook and emails people send you and decide that people are illiterate in general. Pick up on grammar and spelling mistakes in newspapers and wonder why they are getting paid and you aren’t. Recognise mistakes in your own writing and ask yourself if you’re any better.
Write and self-publish your first book. You’re excited but you soon realize you won't make much money from it. However, if it’s any good, people will rate it well, talk and blog about it. Your second book will be better and you’ll see more success if you carry on.
Contemplate becoming a heavy smoker, alcoholic or drug addict. That way you might beat frustration and feeling like people don’t appreciate nor understand your art. Decide against it because it might affect your writing negatively.
Read. Appreciate the work of others. Keep at it because you know that we're all just people. If they could do it then so can you.
While you’re doing research for your next job, have your laptop taken over by a crazy virus and refuse to respond to simple commands. Recall that you didn't back up anything. Wait for two weeks while your machine is in for repairs and experience a mini heart attack when the technician tells you that he can't back up your work. Use a machine that's half your age in the meantime. You can make coffee and a light meal and enjoy them slowly while waiting for it to start up. Type ten words before you see them appear on your word processor. Decide that it’s either you or this old HP. Either you’re going to throw it out the window or commit suicide. Before your decision is made, sigh with relief after the IT guy calls to inform you that he has managed to back up your files and restore your PC. Your battered baby is coming back home and that old lady Heather Peters can go back to the retirement cupboard.
Most days are met with disappointment but you have no choice but to keep going. Some days you wake up and feel awesome because you're working on something you love. Nobody can take that passion away from you and on those odd occasions when your work is appreciated, you feel on top of the world. That is why you carry on.