I was sitting in the dog park, my scared little pooch glued to my side instead of playing with the bigger (and meaner) dogs, when a woman turned to me and asked, “what do you do for a living?”
I hate this question.
It’s not because I’m not proud of being a Chicago freelance writer. I used to dream of the day when I could answer the question with one simple phrase, “I’m a writer.”
Truthfully, I never thought I’d actually be able to say that and have it be true.
Because I had the exact same misconception that many people seem to have about professional writers.
I can anticipate the questions flying through their head.
How do I make any money? Why am I talking to them, don’t I have absolutely no social skills at all? Do I write fiction or poetry?
Here are four common misperceptions about writers decoded and explained:
1. We’re all broke
I used to think this too. There was no way to make a good living while being a writer unless you wrote fabulous fiction like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.
Turns out, I make almost twice as much writing as I used to make at my old job working for a publishing company. It took me awhile to get here, but now that I am here, I’m a happy camper.
I think the reason most people assume writers are broke is because very few appropriately price the service they provide. I used to be one of them, charging pennies for hours of my time. I thought that even though I was a professional writer who had mastered my craft, what I was doing still wasn’t worthy of real money.
That’s until a fellow freelancer sat me down and set me straight. She asked me how much money a company would make if they had great sales copy that really sold their product rather than blasé copy an amateur had written just to get a website finished. The answer is a lot more money.
If my copy gets a product sold, or a service provider hired, then I’m worth way more than my hourly rate.
2. We’re all socially awkward
This is the biggest fallacy of them all, at least as it pertains to freelance writers. I can’t speak for poets or fiction writers.
I try to split my time 50/50 — 50 percent actually writing, and 50 percent networking to find my next clients.
I have to be more social in this position than I ever had to be while working in an office. I have to sell myself and my services on a daily basis. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the job, because truthfully it can get lonely sitting at home writing all day. I crave the social interaction. And, just for the record, I never, ever, ever work in my pajamas.
3. We all write fiction
I used to think that to be a “real” writer, you had to have a book of poetry published or a fiction book in the works.
That ain’t my bag.
I love writing sales copy. I love figuring out a new angle that will help get a product sold. I love telling a company’s story.
Web writing suits me. I can get a point across in 350 words or less using bullet points and tons of white space. It’s not every writer’s forte, but it just happens to be mine.
I’m never happier than when I have a blank new website just begging for copy that will bring it to life.
I’ve waxed poetic on the need for effective web content before, so I’ll spare you now, but let it be said that a website with poorly written content is an anti-sales tool.
4. We have no business sense
It’s true I’m not great with numbers. If I was, I’d be a fancy investment banker on Wall Street and wear power suits. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to run a business.
Being a writer doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to invoice, or price appropriately, or determine overhead costs.
When it comes to making my business profitable and successful, being a writer only helps me as I know how to convey my message and get myself hired.
What are your misperceptions about writers? Do you assume we all sit in coffee shops wearing berets and toiling over our latest short story? I’d love to hear your thoughts.