Hard Knock Writing?

I read on three different blogs today how hard it is, these days, to make a living as a writer. Then I laughed hysterically at the grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes in the blogs that commented about that. Probably is hard for them.

I want to tell you a story about the time I walked 10 miles, barefoot, uphill, in four feet of snow just to sell one article.

Before the internet, before email being what it is, as recent ago as a few years, writers didn’t have the opportunities to write and sell their writing the way that we do now. The internet has changed–and some might not agree for the better–the face of writing as a whole, and in particular, the meaning of what it is to be a freelance writer. There was a time when freelance writing meant you actually went on location, interviewed, researched, dug deep and then wrote, revised, edited, perfected, and then edited some more, before you dressed in your best interview clothes, trekked your way in person to an editor’s office, praying to get your foot in the door, on the off chance you MIGHT make a few bucks on your writing. If you didn’t go in person, then you typed it up, printed or typed it out, carefully put it in a large envelope, meticulously wrote and edited a query and cover letter, addressed the envelope, added the appropriate postage and trekked your way into the post office to deliver the package. Then you waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.

This was the face of freelance writing for the newcomer not so long ago.

Today, the internet and email both have radically changed how people make money writing. The meaning of ‘freelance writer’ has changed so dramatically that, quite frankly, I am no longer proud to tell people I’m a freelance writer. I find I want to excuse it, say, “I’m a freelance writer, you know, a REAL writer.”

So what exactly makes up a real writer?

I’m not even going to get into it. I think a real writer is as a real writer does, not to be too Forest Gump on you folks.

Am I negative about freelancing? Absolutely not. I have made a career out of freelancing, and I’ve make a decent income doing it, doing what I love, and quite frankly, the internet aspect of freelance writing really helped me at a time when my health wouldn’t have allowed me to trek in the snow to an editor’s office any longer. Fortunately for me, I had some contacts already before my health went bad, and that helps.

So when I hear people say, ‘these days’, and that freelance writing is soooo hard now, I just die laughing. It’s easier now to be a freelance writer than ever before, in my humble opinion. People say, “Oh, the competition is fierce!” No, it’s not. The competition is huge, but it’s not fierce.

Let me explain. I have talked to many editors, acquisitions and purchasing editors/agents. Most of them tell me the same thing. Less than 10% of what is sent to the is publishable, or even close to publishable. Less than 10%.

I want you to really think about that.

Because the internet, email, and websites make submitting to publications and publishers so much easier than ever before, the competition has gotten much larger, but it’s not getting any better, not significantly, statistically. Yes, there is the rare person who might get discovered through this relatively new venue who would have been missed before because they didn’t know HOW to break into the market, but statistically speaking, the pool has simply gotten larger, more fish have been thrown in the pond, but the size of the fish have really all stayed the same. Only about 10% of the fish actually swim around and eat the good food. The rest are just chum.

Regardless of how much money you make doing it, web content sites are NOT the same as freelance writing of yesteryear. The absolute best freelance writers who make 6-figure incomes at print publications would not be successful using the same type of writing on web content sites; people who write for web content sites will not be successful in print publications with the same writing used on web content. Which one is a real writer?

Well, I guess they both are, but just different types of writers. I just don’t know any web content writers making 6-figure incomes exclusively from writing web content. I do know multiple freelance print writers who do, though.

If you think writing web content is going to give you the experience you need to write for print publications, think again. It’s not. It’s not even close. In fact, the way you write web content, submit it, and get paid for it is radically different from the way you write for print publications, submit to them and get paid by them.

Trying to ‘learn the ropes’ of freelance writing by writing web content will not prepare you for the world of freelance print writing. Period.

Am I saying this to discourage or disparage web content writers? Heck, no. I’m a web content writer. I’m also a freelance print publication writer. I’m also a paid and published author. All of these are different things, and all of them require a different type of skill and writing style. I think it’s important to note that some freelance writers will never make it as web content writers; some web content writers will never make it as freelance writers. Some authors can write web content and freelance, while others can’t.

Not every writer can do every type of writing, anymore than every painter can do the same type of painting. Someone who paints houses might not be able to paint masterpiece landscapes, and someone who paints landscapes might not even know how to hold a roller brush. Both are painters. Both are real painters. Both make comfortable livings doing what they do. Both provide something of value that someone wants. Different markets, same principle.

That’s what I see with writing. One type of writing doesn’t naturally lead to another. If you suck at web content, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful writer. It just means you suck at web content. Maybe you can’t get a single piece of writing published in print. That’s okay, because you might be just perfectly suited for writing web content and makes tons of page views and money from that.

But don’t expect to jump into writing web content as practice for writing print, because the two are as different as painting landscapes and painting houses–both necessary, both rewarding work, both paying gigs, but radically different in substance, style, and execution.

If you want to write fiction, write and submit fiction. If you want to write for Reader’s Digest, then write and submit to Reader’s Digest. If you want to make money sitting at home writing content articles, then do it. But don’t expect one to lead to the other, or one to be practice for being a ‘real writer’. The only way to do the type of writing you want to do is to just do it, practice it, read about it, research it, and do it, do it, do it.

You want to be published in print? I have news for you: it will never happen unless you submit to print publications! One sure fired way to guarantee your success will never happen is to DO NOTHING to make it happen. Abundance begins with divinely inspired action.

Until I stopped freelancing for online content websites, I did not realize just how lazy my writing had become, and how hard it would be to get back to good, quality, print-worthy writing. I’m not putting down content writing on the internet. It helped pay my bills and kept my family fed when I needed it. But it has hurt my writing, made me lazy, made me forget all the important and necessary parts of writing. It’s also artificially inflated my ego. There’s a lot of bad writing on the web. It’s much easier for a decent or good writer to build a following on the web and be a big fish in a huge pond. But writing for print, you soon become a tiny fish in a small pond, where there’s not much room for big fish, so only a select few get to swim.

The way to swim with the big fish in the elite pond is to practice, write, submit, practice, write, submit, lather, rinse, repeat.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again: you won’t get published in print if you never submit. I know you might need the income from content writing to make ends meet, but if you EVER dream of making more money for less writing and being published in print, you must find the time. Set aside ONE HOUR per week, just ONE HOUR. It won’t make the difference between eating or not eating or a bill being paid–we’re talking one hour here, that’s all. Keep it in perspective. One hour to research, focus, write and submit to a print publication. The next week, spend one more hour. Then, when you do finally sell something, figure how much the money from that can allow you to take more time. If you make 10 bucks per hour with web content writing on average, and you get 100 bucks for a print article, you can spend NINE hours writing and submitting to print publications that week and still come out ahead of just writing web content.

There’s nothing wrong with only writing web content if that’s what you want to do. But if you dream of being published in print, if your writing career and dreams extend beyond the boundaries of the virtual world, YOU have to DO something about it.

Start here: Michy’s Paying Print Leads.

Just one hour, one writing, one submission.

Do it!

Love and stuff,