The Drunk Writer (and Other Stereotypes We Need to Break)

Are all writers drunks? (And other ridiculous stereotypes). (Photo by Eric Choy for Chance Fashion).
Are all writers drunks? (And other ridiculous stereotypes). (Photo by Eric Choy for Chance Fashion).

As writers, we’re cloaked in stigmas, myths, stereotypes and clichés—and like it or not, it’s our responsibility to dispel them, break them, and project a professional image that counteracts negative connotations. I’ve personally known some writers who used their profession or hobby to excuse alcohol/drug abuse, not supporting themselves financially, or as a dictation of their moods (They got published? They’re flying high. They got a rejection letter? It’s going to suck to be around them for the next two weeks).

I’m not saying I’m immune to this, either. “Writers have issues.” “Writers need inspiration to work.” “Writers are moody.” It’s kind of like blaming your Zodiac sign on a personality trait, characteristic, or bad behavior—when you can shift the blame to something beyond yourself, it’s pretty easy to indulge guilt-free.

Here are some of the classic writer stereotypes out there and why they need to go:

  1. Writers are alcoholics

Some of them are. There are also architects, teachers, full-time parents, police officers and CEOs who are alcoholics. There are even complete books focusing on the relationship between writers and alcohol(ism). However, alcoholism is a disorder (sometimes genetic) that anyone can potentially struggle with. Regardless of whether statistics show writers are more likely to abuse alcohol than other types of profession, that doesn’t make it an excuse.

I’ve personally had people tell me, “You should try writing drunk!” The stereotype that writers are drunks who do their best work under the influence is a dangerous, seemingly accepted idea. Luckily for me, the few times I’ve tried writing after a glass of whiskey (let alone being drunk!), the result was total garbage.

  1. Writers are depressed/suicidal

You can point to Sylvia Plath, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain or a slew of other greats to back up this point. However, depression is becoming a more and more common diagnosis—some say because more people are seeking help and there are better avenues for a diagnosis. Few professions beyond writing encourage people to put their innermost feelings naked on the table for the public to peruse, tear apart, and read into.

Depression is a chemical imbalance that may require medical intervention. It’s not feeding your creativity or writing chops, so don’t think treating it will make you a worse writer.

  1. Writers are broke

Some certainly are, and there are also broke attorneys, executives, and even movie stars. Your college degree and/or profession won’t dictate your earnings—your ambition will. With a BA in English and a master’s in writing, I was asked one of two questions during my studies: 1) So, you’re going to teach? or 2) What kind of job can you get with that degree? (Don’t get me wrong—teaching is an extremely challenging profession but I have no interest in it or talent with it!).

Fortunately for writers, we’re in the digital era where every single business is realizing they need professional writers. It’s no longer an indulgence or optional. Certain types of writers, like those who specialize in SEO, can earn six-figure salaries. Others go on to start their own content writing business and breach the million dollar mark. Still others are adamant that they’ll make it big selling a screenplay and barely break the $20,000 mark every year while living off their spouse. Success and failure hinges on what you do with your talents, not your talents themselves.

  1. Writers sleep around

All type of people sleep around—and it’s getting easier and easier with apps like Tinder and hookup sites like Adult Friend Finder or Grindr. This doesn’t mean all people sleep around of course, or that there’s anything wrong with a lot of sex/sex partners if safety and honesty is part of the picture. However, there’s not one “type” of profession that’s more prone to infidelity than another.

But here’s the thing: Writers like to (surprise!) write about their life. Their passion. What enrages them and turns them on. Simply put, writers are more likely to share their sexual stories with the world than, say, a plumber. Unless of course said plumber regularly stars in “I’m here to clean your pipes” type of films.

What are some writer stereotypes you’ve encountered?

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Why Mobile Readiness for Your Site Matters (or Does It?)

Mobile readiness doesn't mean what it used to. (Personal photo, my dad and I).
Mobile readiness doesn’t mean what it used to. (Personal photo, my dad and I).

“Mobile readiness” is more than just a 2014 buzzword—and it has a lot more staying power than its counterparts like “on fleek”, “bae” and “thot”. Really, it’s just a name given to a movement that’s already arrived, and it’s just what it sounds like. Mobile readiness means that your website or business is “ready” for any mobile device. It sounds pretty simple, but it’s actually a big beast to tame.

Consider how many mobile devices are out there, from smartphones to tablets, and how many will be launching this year alone. Then think about all the mobile devices used around the world, like those multi-million dollar gold-plated phone behemoths in the United Arab Emirates (I’m speaking from astounded personal experience here).

But What the Heck is It?

Ask different experts what “mobile readiness” is and you’ll get a bevy of different responses. However, I’ve found that it generally falls into two categories: A mobile version of a website, an app, or both. I’m also of the camp that considers mobile readiness a sub-category of responsive design (RD). RD is also just what it sounds like: Making sure a website is “designed” so it “responds” quickly and well no matter what device or platform a person is using.

Obviously you want your website to load quickly and display appropriately no matter what. However, that’s getting tougher and tougher with new mobile devices seemingly popping up every day. Plus, mobile users are even more demanding than desktop users! Google researchers recently found that mobile users won’t wait a blink of an eye longer than they deem necessary for a page to load.

Instant gratification. It’s the MO of the mobile world.

So…Am I Mobile Ready?

Maybe. Remember that just because your website looks great on your various gadgets, that doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone else. Try checking out your website on your Chrome browser vs. Internet Explorer (or any other combination) and you’ll easily see there are big differences—and that’s on the same device with the same Wi-Fi! Just imagine how your site might appear to someone with a totally different device using Firefox and relying on dial-up in rural India. Suddenly the need for mobile readiness makes a lot more sense.

There are a few ways to tackle mobile readiness:

  • Make sure your website is designed for mobile readiness. Obviously, right? The good news is that platforms like WordPress automatically include responsive design. If you rely on a web designer, you need to have the RD/mobile readiness discussion pronto and find out what they’re doing to ensure a good user experience.
  • Check your web host. There’s only so much you or your web designer can do to offer fast loading times. Your web host also plays a role. A lot of people go with the default web hosting option offered when they register their domain. There are thousands of web hosts out there—shop around. (I also write for Hosst, which offers some great tips on web hosting selection).
  • Get your images in check. This falls into the overall mobile readiness/RD design aspect, but images that are too big can wreak havoc on your load time. Plus, they might not necessarily be displaying well on mobile devices with small screens.

What About That App and Mobile Website?

Here’s the deal: Not everyone (and every site) needs an app or a mobile version of their website. Only you can determine that, preferably with research and asking your audience what they want. If an app won’t benefit you and nobody will use it, why waste the time and effort on developing one? If a mobile version of your website isn’t more convenient than the “regular” version, why bother?

Responsive design is a must. Mobile readiness is an option. Start with RD, then ask yourself whether mobile readiness will benefit you, your business and your audience.

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5 Reminder-lutions for Writers

Where's 2015 taking you as a writer? (Photo by Chintan Mehta, Oregon backroads 2014).
Where’s 2015 taking you as a writer? (Personal photo, Oregon back roads 2014).

Some people have really strong opinions about New Year’s resolutions—kind of like the Oxford comma, Valentine’s Day, or the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich (it’s with that really cheap, sliced, fake American cheese in case you’re wondering). For me, the New Year can be used as a reminder for getting back on track, re-approaching goals that haven’t been achieved yet, or simply an excuse to reflect (after all, you’re probably not able to do much else in that holiday food-induced coma). Call them reminders, resolutions, or anything else you like. As writers, I think there are a few things we should commit to focusing on year-round.

Obviously, these “reminder-lutions” are very specific to me as a writer, but I hope you can use some of them, too. Modify them, advance them, use them as a springboard or count yourself lucky if you’ve already achieved them. Here’s to a fruitful, word-filled year!

  1. The more eyes, the better

Our brains are so incredibly savvy that we self-correct, fill in the blanks, and do anything else possible to “fix” a typo in our heads—without actually doing it on paper. In my experience, writers and editors are complementary professionals, but from very different camps. You’re probably a better writer than editor, or vice versa. However, when it’s your piece on the chopping block, there’s no such thing as too many eyes on the paper (or too many editors).

  1. Publishing isn’t validation

Getting published doesn’t actually validate your worth as a writer. Neither does winning a Pulitzer, or having more bylines than anyone else. You’ve heard it before—a lot of the world’s “great writers” were turned down numerous times. Consider this: In the world of literature (or blogging, or anything else writing-centric), exposure, publishing, re-posts and the like are what many people think makes someone a “real writer”.

The opposite is true in music. An artist who’s in the Top 40 or a pop (ahem, popular) artist is often seen as a sellout who doesn’t make “real music”. The “real music” is in the underground. If that same perspective was embraced for writers, think of all those underdog, unpublished, struggling, broke “real writers” we’d be celebrating!

If validation is your driving force as a writer, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Write because you have to, you want to, you have something to say and written words are your medium of choice.

  1. SEO isn’t going anywhere, so learn to love it

If your writing appears online, SEO matters. Learn to follow the best practices, love them, and use them as a tool for getting your pieces seen. The purpose of SEO is to connect readers with the best, most relevant content they’re searching for. SEO isn’t out to get you. If that means proper keyword placement and density, so be it. A good writer will be able to create organic, SEO-rich content without losing any of their style or value. Rise to the challenge.

  1. Accept that some people won’t like your writing (or you)

There’s no such thing as writing (or a person) that appeals to everyone. You’ll get rejected (sometimes numerous times) and have some harsh criticism tossed your way. Writers need to have thick skin for self-preservation, but unfortunately many sensitive types are attracted to writing. Don’t get me wrong, sensitivity is a highly desirable trait that has many upsides, but it can also make you vulnerable to some severe self-esteem blows.

I have two experiences to share with you. I published my first book of poems in 2014, “The Last Exotic Petting Zoo”, via a traditional print press. One of the poems included was previously published in a poetry journal. However, it was rejected by another journal first—complete with a lengthy “criticism” (around 1,000 words in length) that wasn’t criticism at all, but rather an attack. The piece was called “clichéd”, “weak”, “disappointing” and other unhelpful things with no direction on bettering it. This particular poem was later nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and included in the book. Not everyone will love what you write, but know the difference between constructive criticism and someone taking things out on you.

The other example was with a past client. Each writer had an editor (although we never “mixed” and none of us even knew the names of our editors—the projects all passed through an internal system). By mistake, my editor accidentally emailed me as well as the managers/owners of the company with a long list of why she didn’t like me as a person (not my writing). It started out, “Jessica just isn’t likable”.

The reminder-lution? Stay professional. Work on thickening your skin while preserving the good stuff about being sensitive. And remember that if a remark is more attack than constructive, it’s about them—not you or your writing.

  1. You don’t have to be a stereotype

All great writers are drunks. Depressed. Suicidal or self-harming. Self-involved to a narcissistic level. Sex starved or unable to be in a healthy, committed relationship. The stereotypes about writers run rampant—and everyone has their demons or struggles. I’ve had friends tell me “You should try writing drunk.” Luckily (for my liver and life in general), I’m a terrible writer when I drink. You don’t have to be self-destructive, have a torrid past, or have dangerous vices in order to be a fantastic writer. Material is all around you, so there’s no need to create a surplus.

These are my reminder-lutions for 2015 and beyond. How are you going to be a better writer in the next year?

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5 Truths about Working from Home (or Wherever)

Working from home, in Costa Rica circa 2011, in the backyard hammock.
Working from home, in Costa Rica circa 2011, in the backyard hammock.

Working from home and running your own business is worlds away from being allowed to telecommute as a permanent employee. There are a lot of myths about it, rumors swirling, and envious glances when you can make that 10am spin class that nobody else can swing. Is it a dream come true? When I think back to my own days of the daily grind as a worker bee, definitely. I haven’t worn slacks, a suit, or hosiery in years. However, that doesn’t mean working from the couch is always glitters and unicorns, either.

Of course, every small business owner, entrepreneur, and telecommuter will have a different experience. Here are a few of my daily realities—for better or worse:

  1. The whole yoga pants/work on the couch thing is true

I actually do work from a couch (sorry, ergonomics) in yoga pants most days. In my defense, I’m also a certified yoga teacher and practice on a regular basis. I just don’t get into the whole home office thing. Working from a desk and in an “office chair” just makes it feel too much like I’m working for someone else. Perhaps it was all those years of conditioning that turned me off “an office” for good.

  1. There’s no such thing as an alarm

The only time I set an alarm is when I have an early morning flight. Otherwise, I’m naturally a morning person, complete with pepperings of insomnia from time to time. My work day usually starts between 5 and 6am and ends around 4 or 5pm.

  1. Yes, the TV’s on

However, it’s on mute and it’s more for “company” than anything else. Seeing flickers of people and colors peripherally keeps me out of tunnel vision. Plus, I know I should be done with Client X’s work of the day by the time Frasier segues to How I Met Your Mother. And if I don’t have Client Y’x stuff done by the time Grey’s Anatomy is over? I’ll be pulling double duty that day.

  1. There’s no such thing as leaving work at the office

Even if I had an actual office, this wouldn’t be the case. I have clients around the world. My contact in Thailand regularly sends me requests during her normal work hours, which is the middle of the night for me. When you have a backlog of requests nagging at you on a weekend and you have some down time, it’s easy to think you’re “getting ahead” by squeezing in just a few more articles. In three weeks, I’ll be taking three weeks off (forced without Wi-Fi thanks to rural India). It will be the first time I don’t work for more than one day, consecutively, in five years.

  1. I set my own schedule (for the most part)

Of course there are deadlines, but here’s the thing: Writers are notoriously flaky (I know, I’ve gone through a laundry list when hiring them myself). That means clients often give me way more time than necessary. Thus, I work when I like, can take any gym class I want, shop in the middle of a weekday, and never have an issue squeezing in appointments.

In the end, there are pros and cons just like any work situation. I don’t miss the commute, the “having” to get ready every day, or the staring contest with the clock when you’re working by the hour. However, the work from home lifestyle isn’t “easy”, either—luckily for me, I just happen to be cut out for it. It’s about finding the best environment, career path, and work style for you (and if yoga pants fit into the picture, that’s all the better).

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5 Options for Writing Inspiration

Food motivated? Cash motivated? Seeing your byline in a new journal motivated? Find what works for you. (Photo by Chintan Mehta at the Alder Foodcart Pods in Portland, Ore.).
Food motivated? Cash motivated? Seeing your byline in a new journal motivated? Find what works for you. (Photo by Chintan Mehta at the Alder Foodcart Pods in Portland, Ore.).

I’ll admit it—there was a time (cough, early 20s) when I felt like I needed to be “inspired” to write my best pieces. This certainly put a kink in homework for my poetry classes. After all, if I wasn’t “feeling” alliteration or the urge to write my own version of a Robert Frost poem, what was the point? Of course, as a Type-A, I always got it done (and there were some real loser pieces that I hope never see the light of day), but that wasn’t the big issue. The big issue was this: A “real” writer, one who makes a living at it, can’t wait for inspiration or motivation.

 

On average, I write between 20-50 pieces per day for a variety of clients. I really aim for a five-day work week, so that’s up to 250 unique pieces every single week. With those kinds of numbers, you certainly can’t wait around waiting for the mood to strike. That’s like a prostitute in Nevada (let’s keep it legal) waiting to be in the mood before taking on the next client. They’re not going to be very successful. You need to suck it up, fake it at times, and get it done.

 

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some “tricks” (pun a happy accident). Here are my favorite ways to up the motivation:

 

  1. Do a quick Google News search

 

Does your client want a piece about mobile readiness with a link to a site about eco-friendliness? Have you written seemingly thousands of mobile readiness blogs or articles in your career? The best way to get a fresh perspective or cutting edge information is to peruse your favorite news source. Mine is Google for starters. Even seeing a headline can give you inspiration for a fresh new angle.

 

  1. Work out

 

Some of my best ideas have come mid-cardio—which means I always have a means of taking notes when I’m working out. Usually, this is most helpful mid-day right before that staple afternoon slump. The pumping blood, endorphins, change of scenery and adrenaline are a great cocktail for motivation. Plus, it counteracts that poor writer’s posture.

 

  1. Work as soon as you wake up

 

Studies have shown that most people are most productive within the first few hours of waking up. It doesn’t matter if you wake up at 4am sometimes to work (guilty) or noon. Take advantage of your most rested, alert and motivated time of day. This is where procrastinators can get in trouble—so make sure a reward (like breakfast) is waiting after a certain number of pieces are done.

 

  1. Track your daily income

 

Once you know how much you’d like to make per year, break it down by month, week and day. If you need a kick in the pants to power through, track how much you’ve made so far for the day. Suddenly busting out a few more pieces to make that mark is a little easier.

 

  1. Do a chore as your “mini break”

 

I’m a big supporter of mini breaks throughout the day. It helps to rejuvenate your eyes, ensures you’re moving on a regular basis, and basically keeps you from going writer crazy a la Jack Torrance. However, if you work at home and your “break” is something like putting away the laundry, it’s a two-part win. 1) You’re getting a chore done and 2) Suddenly writing one more blog doesn’t seem that bad compared to hanging up your t-shirts.

 

How do you get motivated as a writer?

 

 

4 SEO Resolutions for 2015

No matter how you ring in the New Year, make sure it's spiked with SEO.
No matter how you ring in the New Year, make sure it’s spiked with SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical part of any business with an online presence. Unfortunately, the majority of small businesses in the US have no website—even fewer have SEO in place. SEO is an ever-evolving set of best practices that help your website get ranked higher on search engines like Google based on “your” keywords or key phrases. For example, a dog groomer in Portland might have “Portland dog grooming” as one of their key phrases. When someone types that into Google, there’s a reason certain websites come up as the first hit and others come up on page three.

Studies have shown that almost nobody looks beyond the first page of search results. Few people even look past the first few hits. There are many items included in SEO, but content is king. SEO algorithms “want” high quality, unique content with just the right amount of keyword density. There was a time when keyword stuffing (sometimes to such a degree that the content read like nonsense) was a shortcut to boosting your SEO ranking. Those days are over because algorithms are better, and it’s now considered a “black hat trick” and might even result in a Google penalty.

Does your website have the SEO-rich content and other strategies necessary going into 2015? Here’s a checklist to be sure:

  1. Ditch the black hat tricks

Some website owners embrace black hat tactics and don’t even know it. Others hire an SEO “professional” who try to get away with it. If you get caught by Google, it’s tough to get back in their good graces. Learn the basics of black hat tricks so you know what not to do.

  1. Revere quality, SEO-rich content

Just like it’s not easy to be a premium website developer or graphic designer, it’s not simple to be a skilled writer with SEO know-how. It’s not enough to just have quality content on your website. You need SEO-rich content to help move up the rankings.

  1. Speed things up

One of the SEO ranking factors is speed, and there are many factors to consider. Maybe your web developer needs to re-format the images or videos, maybe you need to change web hosts, or maybe responsive design isn’t being taken care of. Google researchers have shown that the average person won’t wait even a blink of an eye (literally) longer than they feel is normal for a site to load. They’re quick to back click.

  1. Optimize for Amazon

For years, “SEO” and “SEO for Google” have been used interchangeably because Google is the most popular search engine in the US. Even though Google is notoriously secretive about their algorithm, guru-employees like Matt Cutts also dish up plenty of SEO advice. Chances are high that what’s good for Google is good for Bing, Yahoo!, or any other search engine.

But now there’s Amazon. If you’re an e-tailer or you’re connected to Amazon in any way, it’s time to start optimizing for this shopping search engine as well as Google. People search differently on Amazon and have different objectives. Your SEO needs to reflect this.

The best way to do this? Hire a reputable SEO agency. You get what you pay for, especially with SEO. If you have a website that’s not optimized—and you’re on page two for all your keywords—you may as well not be online.

 

 

Bartering: The Writer’s Secret Tool

A fair "trade": Offering a cheetah her dinner in exchange for a fantastic experience. (Photo by Chintan Mehta at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Ore.).
A fair “trade”: Offering a cheetah her dinner in exchange for a fantastic experience. (Photo by Chintan Mehta at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Ore.).

There was a time I paid for everything for my professional site—web development, logo design, professional photos, you name it. I’m not saying that there aren’t fantastic professionals out there who more than deserve their quotes and bids for a job well done. There certainly are, and they certainly do. However, don’t overlook a great barter arrangement when you can swing it.

Bartering: It’s the world’s oldest means of getting and providing services. However, you need to make sure it’s a fair trade. Almost everyone has a marketable skill that someone else wants. Maybe you’re a certified yoga instructor, a contractor, an SEO guru or an amateur photographer with serious skills. What happens when you want a service from a professional outside your skill set? This is the perfect opportunity for bartering.

My Bartering Experience

One year ago, I paid (handsomely) to have a new logo created. I did my research, checked out her online portfolio, and paid the industry standard. However, the end result just wasn’t what I wanted. I’m no graphic designer, so perhaps much of this was my fault. Even as a communicator (writer) for a living, was I just not explaining what I wanted? I didn’t have a specific “look” in mind, but I was open and descriptive in the general theme and look.

However, the end result (to me) just looked amateur, outdated, and not at all how I wanted to represent my business. I accepted it, paid it, and felt like I was playing dress up in someone else’s clothes.

Then I stumbled across a Craigslist post to barter landing page content for graphic design skills.

Just the Right Fit

The logo that I use today (complete with the pen in the “M” of MehtaFor) was designed by Lisa Lynch. You can check out her graphic design chops yourself, as well as her jewelry design. There was never any money exchanged. We both got what we wanted, it was a money saver for both parties—and for me it was proof that bartering isn’t a cheapskate’s way of making something happen.

No matter what your industry, take a look at bartering options and see what’s out there. However, for writers in particular, you already know your skills are in high demand. Why not swap a blog for a massage session, some product descriptions for some free handcrafted goods, or landing page content for complimentary mechanical work?

Quality+Speed: The Equation for Making Money Writing

Passion's great, but it doesn't pay the bills. Define your "hourly rate" so you can work less..and then have time, resources and peace of mind for passion project. (Photo: Personal, by Chintan Mehta at the Eastbank Esplanade, Portland, Ore.).
Passion’s great, but it doesn’t pay the bills. Define your “hourly rate” so you can work less…and then have the time, resources and peace of mind for passion project. (Photo: Flickr, Chintan Mehta at the Eastbank Esplanade, Portland, Ore.).

The equation for making money writing is simple—it’s just quality plus speed. You need to be able to write exceptionally “good stuff” in as short amount of time as possible. I have some clients (those who pay over a certain benchmark) who demand publication-ready work (others have their own editors in place). In this instance, I use one of my editors to do a final copy edit/fact check, and they get a cut of the final price. However, even after my editor’s fee, I still “have” to make a certain amount per piece (and ultimately per hour) in order to make a project worthwhile.

My first rule of thumb with writing? Never accept an hourly rate.

I offer either a price per word, or a flat rate per project based on an average word count. Your per word or per project rate can be whatever you like, but you need to know what the “hourly rate” will boil down to. Different projects will take more or less time. For example, a 450 word blog with no image curation, no links required, and on a subject you’re really familiar with is going to be much faster and easier than a 450 word blog that requires a quality stock image that’s cited, three authority links, and is about EPDM roof coatings (which you’ve never heard about in your life—at least I hadn’t!).

First, figure out the “hourly rate” you need/want. Then choose projects per word or per hour accordingly.

How a Writer’s Time is Money

You’re going to get paid the same for a $20 blog whether it takes you five minutes to write or five hours. Remember that it’s quality+speed. Does a five-minute blog sound insane? It shouldn’t once you get your writing career rolling. I have numerous long-term clients where it takes me less than ten minutes to read what they want, write the blog, find authority links, and upload it to their system or email back the assignment. From beginning to end, that’s $20 for ten minutes or less—which is ultimately $120 per hour.

Pro tip: If you didn’t learn proper typing as a child, it’s not too late to take a class. I type 120 WPM with a 99 percent accuracy rate. It’s never too late to ditch the two-finger typing approach, and it’ll dramatically boost your speed. Plus, those typing classes can be a tax write-off.

What can you do in 60 minutes?

Personally, my “hourly rate” is between $100-$200 per hour. Let’s break this down. Averaging $150 per hour and assuming 40 hours per week, that’s $6,000 per week. Assuming 50 weeks of work per year (allowing for a two week vacation—crucial for writers!), that’s $300,000 per year. That’s how you make money as a writer: Speed, quality, and knowing your “hourly rate”.

New writers will of course demand less as they’re starting out. Plus, sometimes the experience is worth more than the money in the early stages. If you have the opportunity to write in a lucrative field, there will be a steep learning curve. This might include SEO, a certain medical field, technology, etc. Only you can determine if still getting paid (albeit below your goal “hourly rate”) is worth the learning experience and your time.

It’s not enough to be a great writer. You need to be a great, speedy writer. That’s what makes the difference between the clichéd starving artist and a six-figure salary.

 

So You’re a Writer…What’s Your Real Job?

Do your passion, even when others think it's foolish. (Photo: Personal, by Chintan Mehta from An Elefabulous Evening at Wildlife Safari, Winston, Ore.).
Do your passion, even when others think it’s foolish. (Photo: Personal, by Chintan Mehta from An Elefabulous Evening at Wildlife Safari, Winston, Ore.).

Contrary to popular belief, you really can write for a living without the need of a second job, part-time job, inheritance or wealthy love interest. I know because I’m doing it, but there’s still a big, stinky stigma around writers as professionals. Plus, I also boast a lot of cliches myself. Yes, I got my undergrad degree in English (making it even better by specializing in British Medieval Literature, and then going on for a master’s degree in writing). Yes, I love to read, I consider myself a “creative type” and I’ve published books through a traditional trade press. However, that’s largely where the stereotypes end.

Before founding MehtaFor and writing (much more!) than full time, I worked for a variety of non-profits for eight years. My titles ranged from Director of Alumni Relations to Director of Event Coordination. It basically meant I was writing press releases, grant proposals, RFPs, website content, brochures and everything else you can imagine. I was a writer with a different title charged with a bunch of admin tasks to boot.

They weren’t horrible jobs, but it just wasn’t the right fit. Why couldn’t I make a living doing both what I love and what I was naturally good at? The better question was, “What the heck took me so long?”

Happy Accidents

I stumbled into entrepreneurship and then small business ownership (and then training others to do what I do) the way a lot of people get there: Getting laid off during the Great Recession. The department I was working for closed, and I had an opportunity to move to Costa Rica (where cost of living is much lower), so I grabbed it. En route, I picked up my first freelance writing gig from a Craigslist fluke.

A few years later, and plenty of hard lessons later, business has blossomed. Here’s what nobody tells English majors in college: Every single business, regardless of size, needs professional writing. Some businesses figure it out sooner than others. Especially in the digital era and the age of mobile readiness, this means writers who specialize in web content, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, etc. are particularly in high demand.

Writing. It’s a recession-proof job with endless projects, clients and opportunities if you’re good, fast, and know where the best (for you) clients are.

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