Yesterday, I read a blog post about a guy who just started freelance writing. He isn’t quite making the money he wants to make yet, but he has high hopes to make money writing fiction. I loved reading about his experience. Watching other people work towards their big dreams always lights me up.
And then I read the comments.
One woman said (paraphrased), “Your hope of earning money for fiction may be misguided. But I hope I’m wrong.”
Lady, I hate you and everyone like you.
Almost every blog post I write about my transition to full-time writing includes some jerk telling me I’ll never make money doing it.
In the spirit of transparency, let’s get this out of the way first: I make about $4k/month freelance writing. It’s not my old full-time salary by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve been doing this for less than a year. Just a few months ago that number was $2k and this month is looking like around $5k.
Sometimes I get paid to write fiction. Sometimes it’s $50 articles. Sometimes it’s copywriting where I charge $100/hour. It’s a mixed bag and I love it.
But here’s what I don’t love:
Artists who—when confronted with hopefuls—need to tear them down.
The term “starving artist” in and of itself a goddamn crime. I’m sick to death of the negativity in this community. Just because publishing looks different, doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. We’re creatives for Christ’s sake! Let’s figure out some new ideas!
For those of you wanting to interrupt and say, “But it’s true! Writers don’t make any money!” Let me say this: when we tell new artists, straight out of the gate, that they’ll never earn money, we immediately put the idea in their heads that what they do isn’t valuable. We encourage the problem.When we tell artists they'll never make $$, we're the ones saying 'what you do isn't valuable'. Click To Tweet
So when a writer negotiates payment, our voice is the one whispering, “Your work is worthless. You’ll never get paid. You can’t do this.” So they don’t ask for more. They limit themselves. They treat their work as a hobby instead of a vocation.
It’s dangerous to tell writers that we’ll never earn money doing work we love.
Stop telling us that, by default, we’ll starve.
Also? It’s just not true.
I get that publishing is different from 50 years ago. But complaining about it makes you look like the kind of person who whined about the telefone or the printing press. Good luck publishing books by hand!
When I hear complaints about changing industries, I think of this brilliant (sarcastic) quote from Elizabeth Gilbert:
I love it when older generations criticize younger generations. I think it’s just the coolest thing you can do as an older person. There’s nothing you could do that could make you look more open-minded and thoughtful and aware than to look at people 20 years younger and insult their path.
Because I look around and see writer’s learning about self publishing and ebooks. I see authors making six figures churning out romance novels on Amazon.
I see essayists confronted with publications paying $50 per article, so instead start their own blog and create an empire.
I see copywriters, editors, consultants, course-creators, flash-fiction-contest-winners and book midwives.
9 Unusual Ways to Make Money Writing Fiction
Here’s how I would respond to this guy with big dreams: Think big. Think different. You got this.
There are PLENTY of ways to earn money writing fiction. With just 10 minutes of brainstorming and Google, here are some ideas I came up with:
- Smartphone apps for kids often work with writers to create short stories for their collections.
- The GE podcast, The Message, is a beautiful work of fiction sponsored by a—gasp!—company.
- Enter writing competitions as a way to practice and make some money if you win.
- Start using Patreon.
- Write ebooks and self-publish.
- Dive into the wonderful world of blogging and publish your fiction there.
- Write for video games! Yes, these places work with writers.
- Start an Etsy account and write custom stories for weddings, graduations, new babies and more. This lady sells “how we met” stories.
- Be fucking baller, write a goddamn book, find an agent, get it published. Tell everyone who sarcastically says “good luck” to fuck right off.
There is no one right way to write, so stop telling artists that we’ll never make money doing it. Just becuase you don’t, doesn’t mean we can’t.