There is a belief that if you do something professionally or for a full time job, it will completely ruin it for you and you will no longer enjoy it. Many people want to make money from writing, but are disappointed when they find that they can’t write exactly what they want all the time and get money from it. The majority of professional writing jobs aren’t particularly fun or glamorous. Most of them aren’t even that well paid. Does this mean that wannabe novelists should avoid writing professionally? Is there any point to being a professional writer if you are stuck writing things you aren’t interested in?
All Writing is Good Writing
I have found that any type of writing, professional or otherwise, is good practise and helps to develop writing skills and creativity. Even just the momentum to write every day is a good habit to pick up. It is easy to assume that soul sucking jobs aren’t remotely creatively stimulating. The truth is that any person who can re-write the same piece of copy 10 different ways, write 2,000 words about beach umbrellas, or think up a dozen different topics about video conferencing software has got to be creative. Yes, I have done all of those jobs, and most of the time I don’t even find them that boring.
It is often quoted that you need to put in 10,000 hours of practise to become an expert in anything and you may not get all of those hours from writing your novel alone. This is probably why the Kindle listings are overflowing with sub-par novels put out by authors who haven’t yet fully developed their writing skills. It is much better to build these skills as an amateur in order to avoid putting out a book before you’re ready and ruining your reputation right out of the gate. Plus, if you are going to practise your writing, you may as well get paid for doing it!
Develop Your Skills
Just some of the skills I’ve developed from my freelance writing career have been:
- Writing quality content quickly.
- Time management.
- Meeting deadlines.
- Writing web copy.
- Writing for an audience.
- Online marketing.
- Building and tapping into a network.
- Money management.
- Finding prospects to send pitches to.
- Idea generation.
- Working long hours.
- Standing out in a crowded marketplace.
Broaden Your Horizons
Another important thing writers have to do is avoid becoming trapped in a bubble and focusing only on their work. They need to expand their horizons a little and learn new things to generate story ideas, give themselves a broader sense of the world, and make their writing better. Professional writing usually involves research into topics you otherwise wouldn’t look into. Just today I had to write about country clubs and then medical centres. I doubt those will ever actually come up in my writing, but you never know when I might end up writing a story set in a country club or a medical centre.
Keeping the Balance
If you want to be a professional writer but are worried about finding the time or energy to complete your novel or other writing projects on the side, you can use your professional writing to build your skills and pay the bills and schedule personal writing time around it. You could perhaps use the morning for freelance writing and the afternoon for personal projects. If your novel becomes successful and you are able to make more income from it, you can gradually phase out the freelance writing.
If on the other hand you are only interested in writing what you want rather than what you are asked to then professional or freelance writing probably isn’t for you. As harsh as it sounds, with that attitude you may not even have much success in making money from book publishing.
I’ve been writing professionally for a few years now and have still found time to work on my own novel (I completed the second draft yesterday!), with a goal of eventually writing novels full time. Freelance writing is hard and not for the faint of heart. So if the hours I often spend each day writing sales copy had ruined writing forever for me, I wouldn’t still be doing it now. Writing about vacuum cleaner bags may not directly make me a great novelist but it does help me to pay the bills, develop my writing skills, and establish a daily writing routine.
Fellow writers, have you found that professional writing has aided or hindered your personal writing? What have you done about it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!