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The Same 10 Things People Always Say When They Find Out I'm a Writer

Updated on August 18, 2015

Update:

#10thingsnottosaytoawriter is trending on Twitter now. Looks like lots of you deal with questions like the ones below.

Sometimes this is how my day goes when I try to work from home.
Sometimes this is how my day goes when I try to work from home. | Source

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

This is what my energetic toddler does to my living room and hallway as I try to work.
This is what my energetic toddler does to my living room and hallway as I try to work. | Source

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?

See results

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.

Are you guilty of saying any of these 10 things to writers? 'Fess Up!

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    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 23 months ago from New Jersey

      I have a friend who works from home, people call when they can't fix their own computer problems, and he tells them what to do. Many of the guys treat him like he doesn't really work. It's a rude world out there!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 2 years ago from Southern California

      Another good one. I can't believe people, I mean to actually say those things to people. I like your response when someone asks you to babysit. Although I write, I don't consider myself to be a writer, so I guess that's why I've never had anyone say those things to me. Keep up the good work Missy, (write on), looking forward to reading more.

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 2 years ago from Las Vegas

      Nail hit right on the head! OMG.... Do they pay you? Um, no I do it for free. I no longer say I am a freelance writer. For some reason the "free" in "freelance" means I don't get paid. I have resorted to a more impressive description.

      "I write copy for Google to place Ads" or "I am a content writer for Google Adsense". For some reason people go "Wow" and I am not lying. I write articles for Google to place Ads on. They shut up. When I have been asked "Can I do that" in a way that means "Can anyone do that" I respond with "I don't know, can your write a compound sentence without spelling half the words wrong", or "What is the difference between their, they're, and there?" If they can't answer, I tell them no. I have also asked if their participle dangles.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Excellent no nonsense article of writing as a career from a stay at home Mum. In some ways this advice applies to anyone who works from home. Many people find it difficult to appreciate that one really has to work hard to earn an income from home but what they don't always realize is that it takes guts and determination to get it right.

    • Molly Layton profile image

      Molly Layton 2 years ago from Alberta

      This is so relatable. The statistic about an average writer's salary makes me hopeful. Most people I tell about my writing ask me what I'm really going to do.

      P.S. You son's double ties are adorable.

    • Virgo908 profile image

      Virgo908 2 years ago

      I tried freelance writing for a year but I had to quit because: my neck hurt, my back ached, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. My head throbbed and I think I lost half of my hair from pulling when I could not come up with a new way to describe the same exact dog food in ten different ways. I love your article.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Wonderful article. I get a couple of the requests on your list as well.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I think the same applies in most of the arts. I father was an artist. If I mentioned that to anyone I got the response "But what did he do for a living?"When I said he was a photo-engraver, I got blank stares. I retired as a technical writer, but they don't know what that is either.

      Generally, I avoid the subject when talking to people who are not writers or artists.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Interesting, Funny, Useful, and Delightful. Bookmarked and shared.

      I was in college when my dad, nearing 50, opened a used bookstore. He right away told his best friends and closest relations, including his children, that he would grant them a 20% discount, the same discount that he offered to colleagues.That eliminated the expectation of getting free books. And he put up a sign, "If you are not here to shop, you are here to work" to discourage others from distracting him with idle chatter from his work. He respected, and expected others to respect, his chosen self-employed career.

      Ideas when asked to edit a manuscript: a) hand over a price list of editing services (Note: Twenty years ago I paid an editor $2 per page, which was a bargain rate then.) and give an estimate of how many months it will be before you can do that editing; b) explain the concept of mutuality -- a critique writing group, for instance, is based on the agreement that you get critiques for free from your peers because you give critiques for free; c) offer to swap time editing for time cleaning, tidying, food preparing, and folding clean laundry; d) recommend hub pages, where you get comments for free and where you can ask for a critique in a forum for that purpose.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      SoTrue. It is worth a short book, I think, just to try and explain what makes a writers world so different from the rest of the mundane world.

      DON

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 2 years ago from On A Mountain In Puerto Rico

      As a person who has been freelance writing for a number of years, I can totally relate. Many do think lazy is the word, and this job is anything but lazy. Keeping up can be more than full time, and when I lay my head on the pillow at night, I am more tired than when I was putting in 12 hour shifts at Nike.

      Great hub.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great hub, you described what it is like being a writer very accurately. I have been paid for some of my work but am a late starter as a writer so am a long way from earning enough to pay my bills. This was helpful. Thanks for the follow too.

    • cmahan profile image

      Chrystal Mahan 2 years ago from Michigan

      Working from home as a writer is harder than any tax accounting job I have had! That even with all the tax laws.

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 2 years ago

      Thank you for a lot of relevant information written in an entertaining way. I recognize many of the comments people have given you about writing for a living.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      I haven't asked any of these questions, but I certainly have been asked all of them at one time or another. Love your wry sense of humor and your wonderful, relatable writing style. BTW, I, too, noticed and appreciated your choice of "more than" rather than "over" 10 years. If you heard an exclamation of "Yessssss!!!!!!" a few minutes ago, that would have been me. ;)

    • JoanTheChoirLady profile image

      Joan Hall 2 years ago from Los Angeles

      I can really relate to #1. When people hear that I'm a songwriter they ask, "Can you add music to this (cheesy) poem I wrote?"

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      First thing I noticed was that you said you've been a writer for "more than" 10 years - not for "over" 10 years. A professional writer spots the difference right away.

      I finally got to the point that, if I wrote something for you, you had to "pay" me something, even if it was just a plate of brownies.

      Good luck and stick to it!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I wish I had a dollar for every free resume and cover letter I've written for friends and family during the past 4 decades!

      Voted Up++

      Jaye

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 2 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I used to have a friend who frequently accused me of "playing on the internet" and couldn't understand why I wanted to stay home and at my computer all day. Well, that friendship didn't last.

    • profile image

      Jason Sositko 2 years ago

      Your closing statement resonates with me. Shocking how friends and even family can't quite get the amount of time and work that is involved as a freelance writer. If you're some one who even approaches making a modest living doing this, you have worked your rear end off to get to that point.

      I always point out to them, "Hey, how about you take my 4 year old son to work with you all day and see how easy it is?" Yes, we chose this life, I have learned to make my self happy with what I have accomplished, and I can always get moral support from my writing friends.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I can't believe that anyone would think that successfully writing for a living is easy! They need a wake up call! Really cute photo of your little guy. ☺

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I resemble your entire article. :) Adorable picture.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      I think all of us writers are charged with justifying our profession and passion. Funny, but too true, hub. Voted up, funny and awesome!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 2 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I have heard some of those questions myself. No one takes me serious.

    • emilybee profile image

      emilybee 2 years ago

      ah love it!! very funny and true

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      It is sometimes hard saying "no" when people call to ask you to meet them here and there during your work day. But I explain this is when I do my work. Emergencies are different though.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 2 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      I can so relate - I too work as a writer on-line and was floored the other day when a really good friend of me assured me I wasn't a real writer. Sigh.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Missy......I absolutely love this wonderful, creative.....TRUE & factual piece. Of course I will say we write because of the genius within! Sure, that may get us a laugh or smug remark, but we get the last laugh as we wave, "Bye-Bye," to those schmucks going off to work.....their boring 9 to 5....the rat race.

      Excuse me now, while I sit and cry for the next hour, thinking of that huge chunk of money I've let pass me by, writing for all those "close" friends I barely know.

      Voted way up and across the board......pinned & tweeted. Peace, Paula

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 2 years ago from Earth

      Haha, this gave me a good laugh to start the day! Well, at least you've proven to me that you're a good writer, so I have nothing more to ask of you.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 2 years ago from Georgia

      This was wonderful and I love the picture that you included. Good for you for working from home and doing well at it. Your kids will thank you some day.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Love your sense of humor and your no-nonsense answers to questions I think we all face...continually. The one I get most often is "what do you write?" LOL Oh, you know, nouns, verbs, adjectives, that sort of thing.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Fantastic! You've managed to paint the perfect picture of a writer. I howled at the photo of your adorable little son and his 'contribution' to his mommies writing. And the video was a great interpretation of the writer's life.

      Voted Up and completely across and will share and pin. - Audrey

    • caerleongold profile image

      caerleongold 2 years ago

      Working from home as a writer definitely isn't as easy as people make it out to be. I've done it for a while (focusing mainly on web content) and boy is it tiring to make ends meet sometimes.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I can only see one question in the ten you mentioned that I've been asked more than once. One time a friend asked me to look over her short two paged essay and note edits that needed to be made. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. The questions I get asked most are:

      1. What do you write?

      2. Who do you write for (magazine, online, books)?

      3. Have you thought about publishing your writing?

      4. Have you considered writing (fill in the blank)?

      When I say I write online I either get indifference or they will ask where they can find it. Either answer is okay by me.

      I love the picture of your little guy and the house. That was my past. I am a grandma now and all my grands are far away so I have it easier as far as noise and taking care of a family. Nice work.

    • ThatMommyBlogger profile image
      Author

      Missy 2 years ago from The Midwest

      Thank you, Melinda! :)

      I have to admit that my house has looked much, much worse than it did in this picture. We won't talk about the day my toddlers decided to make their own chocolate pudding.

    • Melinda Longoria profile image

      Melinda Longoria, MSM 2 years ago from Garland, Texas

      I have to say that this is one of the most relatable hubs that I've read in a long time. I snickered when I saw the picture of your little boy and the tiny mess. LoL - I'm not even brave enough to take a photo of the mess that sometimes occurs while I'm writing. Kudos to you. ;-) With my 3 kiddos (under the age of 3), I also get most of my work done during nap time (or during insomnia hours). ;-) Thank you for posting this refreshing article. I am SO looking forward to more of your work & connecting with you. Voted up & sharing. Sincerely, Mel