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The Same 10 Things People Always Say When They Find Out I'm a Writer
#10thingsnottosaytoawriter is trending on Twitter now. Looks like lots of you deal with questions like the ones below.
I've been a writer for more than 10 years, which means that I've calmly answered the same 10 writing-related questions over and over and over again. Okay, maybe I wasn't always nice when I responded, but let's just pretend I was. There are only so many times that you can politely listen to somebody criticize your career path before you start to get a little cranky.
When you're a writer, people make numerous assumptions. They either think you're a lazy idiot or a total genius, and the latter is bad news if you don't want people to constantly ask you to edit their stuff for free. There are folks who offer to help you find a "real job", and folks who want to learn how to do what you do. Like many writers, I don't mind helping someone dip their toes into the freelancing world. There are just some things I refuse to share, but more on that later.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 comments and questions that I hear when people learn I'm a writer.
Can You Write/Review/Edit This Document for Me?
If you enjoy being asked to do stuff for free, writing is the perfect career for you. It doesn't matter if you're tired or already have a full workload. People don't care if the last thing you feel like doing is reviewing their essay after you just wrote 4,798 words on plumbing techniques. "It'll only take a minute", they promise. "Just give it a quick glance", they say.
First of all, there's no such thing as a "quick glance" when you write for a living. If you hand me a document filled with grammatical errors, I will feel compelled to correct them all. Before I know it, 30 minutes have gone by -- and I haven't finished the work my clients are actually paying me to do.
Here is a small sampling of things that people will ask you to do -- for free -- after learning you write for a living:
- Write their college essays
- Edit their college essays
- Review their job applications
- Write their cover letters and resumes
- Offer feedback on love letters
- Write samples for content mills so they can become a writer, too (I wish I was joking)
You wouldn't ask a doctor or lawyer to do stuff for free, so why would you ask a writer to hook you up without doling out some cash first? I'm not a mean or selfish person, but I stopped doing writing-related favors for people after I realized I was spending over 15 hours a week handing out free edits.
So, Have You Thought About Applying for a Real Job?
The average writer makes $26.89 an hour, and many of us make significantly more than that. But wait, please tell me more about how your office job is hiring sales reps for $12 an hour. Hmmmm, what's that? Oh, I can earn $14 an hour answering phones at your company? No thanks, I'll stick with my current gig.
And yes, I know that I don't receive a paid vacation or health insurance as a freelancer. I also know that I don't have to buy a special wardrobe just for work, sit in traffic for 2 hours a day, or pretend to care as my boss yells at me. You go ahead and keep your "real job", and I'll keep doing my fake job.
How Much Do You Make?
This question is just flat out rude. Do I come up to you and ask about your income? Do I want to know how much you get paid to sit in your cubicle or take care of patients or teach students all day?
I already mentioned how much the average writer makes, but I'm not going to share my personal salary. Why? Because it's just really nobody's business but my own.
I Want An Easy Job Like Yours.
Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Sorry, I just had to get it out.
Writing is not an easy job. There will be times when you want to rip your hair out. There will be days when you'll roll your eyes every time your inbox dings. Sometimes, you'll cry from exhaustion and want nothing more than to hide from the Internet for a few days.
Your neck will hurt. Your back will ache. Your doctor will tell you that you're developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Your head will throb from trying to come up with a new way to describe the same exact rug 47 times, and you'll develop severely dry eyes if you don't remember to use your prescription-strength drops every few hours.
You'll keep these issues to yourself so you don't have to listen to the whole "You know, real jobs offer health insurance" lecture from pushy friends and family members again. You'll also make sure that you don't mention any of your aches or pains to people who act like you aren't allowed to get tired. After all, it's just so easy to sit in front of a computer all day and craft brilliant articles and marketing copy, right?
Oh, and if you have small children at home, good luck getting anything done. I do most of my best work between 4am and 7am or during nap time. If I'm lucky enough for my kids to take a nap that day, that is.
This is What My Kids Do to My House When I Try to Work
Are You Upset That You Wasted Money on a Degree?
Sigh. A degree is never a waste of money, even if you don't use it for your job. Educating yourself is always a good thing, and people from other countries fight for the right to obtain the educational experiences that many of us take for granted.
With that in mind, I have used my college education to land various gigs over the years. A degree isn't always a necessity if you want to become a writer, but some clients only hire people with specific degrees.
It's Not Healthy to Sit at Home All Day.
When someone asks if I miss working around people, my first reaction is usually, "Are you kidding me?! Why would I?". However, I usually keep that response to myself and say, "Yeah, sometimes".
There are days when I hate working from home and wish I had coworkers to talk to, but I don't feel like that very often. I chat with other writers who are in Facebook groups with me, and I recently joined MOPS. I definitely don't miss dealing with office politics or listening to stupid corporate gossip from an employee who refuses to get away from my desk.
What Do You Do At Tax Time?
Writers handle tax time the same way that everybody else does. They report their income, file the appropriate forms, and send Uncle Sam his money. I'm not really sure what else to say about this topic, but I hear this question all the time.
It Must Be Nice to Just Play on the Internet All Day.
Yeah, it's really nice. It's so much fun to play on the Internet as I carefully craft the perfect blog for a client or obsess over whether I picked the right adjectives for a piece.
There are days when I do spend plenty of time playing on Facebook or chatting with online pals. I don't do that 24/7, though, because guess what happens if I do? I don't get paid.
Many people get paid for everything they do at work. You can discreetly surf the Web, take extra long smoke breaks, and glob on plenty of lip gloss during your shift. I can do all of these things as well, but I don't get paid for them. I get paid per word or per piece. Breaks are at my own expense, and I can assure you that I work much harder as a writer than I ever did at my last office job.
Do You Work From Home?
Can You Babysit Tomorrow Morning?
Many people have a hard time understanding that you actually work for a living. They will call and expect you to babysit their kids, drive them around to run errands, or chat on the phone for 5 hours because "you're home all day anyway". Yes, we're home all day anyway, and it's because we are WORKING.
Do I drop my kids off at your office job? Nope. Do I ask you to leave work so you can drive me to the grocery store? Absolutely not.
Look, I can barely focus on my work when I have my own 3 kids running around. I definitely won't get anything done if I have to watch your toddler, pet, or senile grandmother for the day.
How Can I Get a Job Doing What You Do?
I don't have a job. A job is a place where you go several times a week to do whatever your boss needs you to do. I have a career.
Now that we've established that, let's talk about how you can become a freelance writer. Many of you start by asking me for a client list, and I am never going to give you one. Ever. I worked hard to send off proposals and pitch creative ideas to clients, so I'm not about to just give my leads away.
I can, however, tell you that WAHM.com is a great place to start. Browse the forum for tips on getting started. They post some great stuff there. You can also read the articles on the site.
There are a few content mills that I recommend to new writers. Send a sample to Demand Media Studios, or draft a high-quality article and apply at Textbroker.com. Both of those sites hire regularly.
You have other options, especially if you're interested in writing eBooks or sharing information on sites like this one. I will publish a separate article addressing these things soon. This topic deserves its own post.
Writing is an awesome way to pay the bills, but it's not for everybody. I'm very blessed to have the career that I do, but I worked hard to get where I am. I studied grammar rules for months and wrote God knows how many sample articles before I landed my first gig. My job isn't easy, so please don't insult me by assuming it is.