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Surviving as a Writer in this Digital Age

Updated on October 4, 2014
Source: Morguefile
Source: Morguefile

Many writers today are going it on their own. Without a fulltime employer, they’re working as freelance writers, self published authors, writing coaches – you name it. Like many whose professions have been affected by advancing technology, writers are finding it is not business as usual.

Fortunately for the writer, there are plenty of options. We can specialize in everything from copywriting and marketing to writing the text for children’s picture books. We can, and often do, have a few areas of specialty.

But surviving in this digitial age requires skills some may not have. This Hubpage will give you an idea if you have what it takes.

Have a Reliable Source of Income

If you have a job, in or out of the field, you may want to hold onto it while you transition to your own writing business. It may take awhile to develop regular revenue streams.

In the meantime, you’ll need money to pay the bills. And eat.

So if you have a full- or part-time job, try to build your writing business on the side. If not, a working spouse may make enough to carry you. If that’s not an option, dedicate yourself to landing a major client or two that can keep you afloat while you build the business.

Clients like those are easier to get if you’ve been working for a newspaper and magazine. Maybe your employer will consider hiring you on a contract basis. Maybe some business contacts will be eager to hire you for projects. Or you may consider wholesaling – or taking on a contract jobs through a public relations firm, ad agency, or other firm. You’ll be paid at a reduced rate, but there can be a steady stream of work. Just make sure you can make enough to make it worthwhile. And don’t give them all of your time if you don't really like the work or the rate isn’t high enough.

Building Multiple Revenue Streams

Having one great client is a good place to start, but it shouldn’t be where you finish. Even if that client is fantastic, you are vulnerable. If that client leaves you – and they may through no fault of yours – you’ll have to start over.

Build a portfolio, collect digital clips, and use them to draw in new clients. Concentrate on areas in which you are expert, where you can command the best rate.

You may want to experiment with various online venues, but you may find the best-paying jobs through local businesses and your Chamber of Commerce. Or through trade associations.

After you’ve done good work for others, they will refer you, helping you to build your client base. Your reputation is extremely important. Meet your deadlines. Follow through on your commitments. If you don’t, you can lose business.


When you are in business, it helps to have a large number of products. That way you can offer your customers more things to buy. A writer may start specializing in writing newsletters and brochures, but may expand to write website copy and handle social media campaigns. They may offer consulting.

You can’t do all things well, but you can partner with others who have talents you don’t. That brochure writer can partner with a graphic artist, or hire them as an independent contractor, to complete that brochure. This may make you more appealing to potential customers, because you can take the project through to completion.


Writing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, at least it isn’t for most of us. You must persevere through slow seasons, when the work trickles in or is non-existent, and through busy seasons, when you’re tempted to turn away work – but may not dare.

You must remain committed.

There will be challenges, but keep your eye on the prize of running your own successful writing business. Do your homework. Use your research skills, and figure out a solution.

Source: Morguefile
Source: Morguefile

Be Adaptable

To survive, writers – and indeed all of us – need to adapt to the changing world. Those who don’t can expect dwindling opportunities. They’ll be handicapped at best.

Imagine, if you will, a writer trying to make a living with a pen and pencil, or a manual typewriter. To be sure, their opportunities are limited.

Your opportunities may be hindered if you refuse to embrace the Internet, or social media, or ebooks, or audiobooks, or ... you fill in the blank.

There may be parts of you that resist change. That resistance can cost you, so carefully weigh your options. You’re the boss. You’re in charge. Should you pass up that opportunity, or embrace it? Should you invest the extra time required to bring in new work, or should you partner with someone who already has that expertise?

Cheryl Rogers
Cheryl Rogers

Meet the Author

Cheryl Rogers decided to become a writer as a child – because of her love of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries. She wanted a steady job, so she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Sociology. Then she worked for 12 years in the newspaper industry, 11 of them as a reporter. The other year she spent as a copy editor learning to layout newspaper pages, as well edit copy and write headlines.

In her first job, she worked on a manual typewriter. In her second job, she processed strips of yellow tape with the latest news from the wire services. As the newspaper industry computerized, she used a video display terminal (VDT) in newsrooms full of them.

Since she left the newspaper industry to raise a family, Cheryl has dabbled with freelance writing. She learned to use a personal computer with a DOS operating system, and then Windows. For graphics, she chose a Macintosh – and now uses one exclusively based on personal preference. She has learned how to run a business by writing about business, consulting with the experts in her life, and by trial and error.

Her first business, Desktop Publications, focused on writing, editing, design and typesetting – and included print brokering. She now offers freelance writing and self publishing assistance, offering ghostwriting, editing, page layout, book cover design and formatting to other authors.

Cheryl has been active online for more than a decade. In addition to selling her writing and design skills, she sells her nature photo images as posters and Scripture posters. They also are available to her clients for book covers. Learn more about her work at her website,

Be Willing to Learn

As a writer, you may do a lot of research. You may constantly be learning new things. That’s good.

To survive, you’ll need to continue to learn and grow. You’ll need to keep abreast of changes in your specialty fields. You’ll need to adapt to new technologies and be able to embrace new opportunities. You’ll need to learn business strategies, even though you may never have trained for that. And become computer savvy, even though you may never have trained for that.

You also may want to invest some time in developing a new specialty, opening the doors for many new clients. You may do this by writing articles on your new specialty, writing ebooks, or returning to school to earn a certificate or degree.

If you are a writer, are you happy with your career?

See results

Do you believe technology has been a good thing for writers?

See results

© 2014 Cheryl Rogers


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