How to Survive the Over Crowded Writer’s Market
In the late ’80s and early ’90s there was a huge boom in stand up comedy. Everyone with a few four letter words and at least one groan worthy joke in their arsenal thought they had what it took to make it as a comic. The result was filled up open mic nights with few to no decent acts. All of these want-to-be comedians were stealing time from those with true talent and gifts and creating more supply than demand which let club owners get away with paying performers with drinks – if they were lucky.
Fast forward to the age of the internet, and writers are the new comedians. Everybody with a keyboard and internet access thinks that they are destined to win a Pulitzer. This kind of market saturation has site owners paying less than pennies for any kind of content they can get their hands on. Today I was offered a gig writing 750 word content pieces for a whopping $5 dollars; that should be insulting to anyone, but as an industry veteran I felt a little vexed that I spent my time writing a cover letter. Sites like this can get away with that kind of pay scale because some mediocre writer out there will take it just to make a few bucks or pad their resumé.
If I sound a little jaded it is probably because I am, but let me explain myself slightly. I have no problem with content creation sites, they pay like garbage, but no one is forcing you to work for them. What they offer is a great way to break into the industry if you have the talent, but need a platform to showcase your work. The real scourge of the industry is site creators looking to populate their sites that could care less about the quality of the work as long as they can pay little for a large word count.
The good news is that the comedy epidemic eventually died out and ushered in a new age of comics that are hardened by working their way through the ’80s and ’90s slums. Eventually every Tom, Dick, and Harry will realize that being a writer and simply putting words on a page are two entirely different things, and it will open up a little more breathing room for those of us who are dedicated to the craft. Until then you may be forced to take a pay cut or get a part time job in order to make ends meet, but trust me, if you are good at what you do you will be able to write professionally for a living as long as you stay the course.
Here are a few tips that I have found helpful to survive the over crowded writer’s market:
Jobs, Not Gigs
Look for places that are willing to contract you for at least a couple of months. This ensures that you will have a somewhat steady income to rely on.
Don’t be Afraid to Fire a Client
Sometimes as writers we think of the people who are paying us as employers instead of clients. The truth is that, while they are paying you for a service, you are providing a service which greatly benefits them. If they are not willing to pay you what you are worth – or always have an excuse as to why your payment won’t come until next week – kick them to the curb and use your time to write for those who will pay.
Clients who are looking for high quality writing are willing to pay for it. If you sell yourself short they may doubt your abilities and decide not to hire you.
Keep an Updated Portfolio
It is super annoying, but as a freelance writer your resumé can literally change from day to day. Proving that you are active in the community can go a long way to score well paying job.
Have you ever heard the words, “this too shall pass”? Eventually people will people will learn that some of us are meant to work with our hands and leave the writing to the creative types. If you get yourself into a frenzy you may give up before you start and rob the world of a great writer.