The Perils Of Freelance Writing (Or) All The Stuff You Don’t Get To See
If you set out to be a writer, and go at it with all the determination that most people go after getting laid, on some level or another, you will succeed. If you push hard enough, someone, somewhere, will want to read you and then want to share what you wrote, and that begins the cycle. But, before you choose to step into this lifestyle, there are a few things you need to know. As much as the prospect of being in print is exciting to most writers, you need to ask yourselves if you’re willing to put up with all the bullshit, too. Because, just like with any job, this is a job. And anyone who has ever worked a job can tell you, there are always going to be assholes, no matter where you work. Learning to deal with those assholes is an essential part of this gig. Here are a few pieces of key advice that may help you, or any potential writers you may know, come to grips with the allure (and reality) of what’s it like to try to make it as a “writer”, with a writer being defined (here, now) as someone who gets paid, and can support themselves, with their writing. The truest definition of a writer is someone who writes, but let’s stop being idealists and let’s be realists for just a few moments, shall we?
Your Work WILL Get Stolen
This is the only crook I could think of.
Listen, this aspect of writing sucks, it REALLY does, but it’s a part of this gig, especially if you are a blogger, or do most of your work online. There will be weaker writers who catch wind of your stuff and try to steal it and rename it. You will even find whole versions of your own articles, cut and paste to other sites, with TINY links to your own website at the bottom of the page (if you are lucky). You can contact these sites and tell them to take it down, or you can do what I do, and employ a small number of your friends and readers to band together and flood these sites until they either shut down or pull the piece, which happens quicker than you would think. But, for every piece that gets stolen, you find pieces re-blogged and linked to your site from other sites, and that makes it worth it. It is a very cool feeling to be validated by another writer, so take comfort in that. The good with the bad, as they say.
Also, they wouldn’t be stealing your work if it sucked, so take comfort in that as well. Oh, and speaking of writing online…
If You Write Online, You Will Be (Proverbially) Crucified
“U mad, bro?”
As much as I love Reddit, and think it is one of the greatest online communities ever assembled, they are the party most guilty of this. The troll. I think we are all internet savvy enough that I don’t need to define the troll, but just in case my Mom is reading this. An internet troll is someone who comments on pieces with the intent of getting an angered reaction ( or any reaction at all, really). They tend to stand off to the side, waiting for a place they can make an argument, or find a fault, and then they just come in. And once one comes in, it is like chum. Other trolls start circling, and before you know it, this happens. What is that, you ask? Well, that link is a thread about how much I suck. It is off SomethingAwful, which is a site very similar to Reddit, though far less well-known and beloved. But you get the point. Seriously, there are a shit-ton of them about me from all over. And that is a part of this job. While in some cases, as a writer, we mess up. We miss a fact, or get a point wrong, and it is up to take ownership of that. But in most cases, the trolls are sixteen year old boys who resent you because you have a job they THINK they want (he talks about movies and video games for a living, well..FUCK HIM!!!!) but the best part is they never counter the “you suck” with a valid point as to why. I have gotten death threats over giving pop stars bad reviews. I have been told, on countless occasions, that I am the suckiest suck who ever sucked, and I live in Suckville, which is apparently only populated by me.
But you HAVE to be able to laugh at this shit. You have to. Because in between the mean-spirited trolls, you get some really genuine comments from some genuinely genuine people ( I am genuinely worried I may have overused the word genuine just now), and those good comments need to rise above the bad ones, or the bad ones will make you go nuts. There is probably already a thread somewhere, right now, about how much this article and site sucks, and I am okay with that. Part of the job, as they say.
Not Everyone You Work For Is Going To Pay you
This carry this photo in my wallet to constantly remind me my life sucks.
Not only are you rarely paid in-time, but in some cases, you aren’t f*cking paid at all. A BIG thing up and coming websites like to do is seek out “fresh,young writers” on Craigslist, and pay them roughly one cent a word, or less. Listen. if you have made NO NAME for yourself as a writer and need a writing gig, one cent a word is as bad as it gets, but it CAN open doors. What you take for work is up to you, but be aware. A great scam some sites do is they look for 15-20 niche articles to pump up their sites before launch, but they will tell you they pay out (almost always through Paypal) at the end of the month. Do you know what that means? In some cases, you may have written up to twenty pieces, researched and put together by you, and they vanish at the end of the month. You just handed somebody a month worth of work for free. Yes, you can call lawyers and contact their site, but who has that kind of money? Not writers, that’s for sure. Just don’t be as ignorant as everyone else and assume people like that don’t exist. Before you are somewhat known, any new client (of unknown or lesser-known websites) could be out to f*ck you over and steal your material. The Internet is a faceless business (which is why my site is MY name, written by ME, no bots, no bullshit) and nothing attracts more shady people than the idea of being able to do business anonymously.
So force a payout before you give over a full-workload. Tell whomever hires you that you only do ONE piece at first until the business has actually paid you once, and then you go forth with the work they need. Otherwise, you may be helping someone write a book, and you won’t even get a red cent for it. Once they pay out, you have the name of their billing company, and they are FAR less likely to try to f*ck you over. But be careful about handing over HUGE workloads. I learned that one the hard way. Don’t be as foolish as I was.
Some Editors Are Real Assholes
They start by asking you to “write” a porn scene. Next thing you know, you are acting in it.
You have this funny idea in your head that because you freelance, you are your own boss. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Pardon me, I hurt my sides from laughing at you. You are your own boss in the sense that once you get taken on for a job, you pretty much AREN’T your own boss. You almost ALWAYS will work under someone who knows LESS about writing than you. I have been lucky as Hell, because a few of the sites I write for have amazingly gracious editors. Like this one, and this one. The problem was, those two sites spoiled me by being run by great people. So once I stepped onto some other playing fields, I realized the rules were different all over. The editor’s from some sites are just assholes, plain and simple. They enjoy that power in the same way that a bad cop enjoys his power. They wield it like a weapon instead of a tool as the result of that, only conflict arises. But you also need to know, you play a part in this. Your job is the pass in “good” writing, and to pass it in on time. In other words, MEET YOUR DEADLINES. A big part of me being lucky enough to write for as many sites as I do has got a lot to do with the fact that I have never missed a deadline. I don’t think this makes me exceptional, though. All writers need to be the same way. Forge a good reputation for yourself, and that reputation will supersede you.
As far as my personal experiences with shitty editors, I will not name any names, because that is classless, I will only say be prepared for that. The worst editors will ask you to plug your own piece, but they will bury it on the back pages and not plug it themselves. They will edit it without telling you, and they will set you to fail from the start. The thing is, you know who they are right away. All your instincts kick in during your first few interactions. Even if you are desperate for work, pick your bedmates very carefully. Work with enough of them and it could turn you off from writing altogether. And that is bad, we can’t allow that to happen. This world needs more writers.
Wait, does it?
You Need To Work Your Ass Off
If they remade Total Recall with me, this is how the X-ray scene would have looked.
I have always found lazy people who want to make it on a get-rich-quick scheme to be the most disgusting people of all. People who long for success and financial comfort, but are not willing to put in the time needed to reach those goals. Understand something now, if you weren’t born into being rich, you will probably never be rich. You may very well be successful, and be able to live without struggling, but rich? Most likely not. With that out-of-the-way, I hope you want to write out of a love for writing, and not a desire to be rich, because ONE of the those will get you some where. But it is key for potential writers not to underestimate their workloads. If you want to make it AT ALL as a writer, you had better be prepared to write. A LOT.
So you think you can write well? That’s good. But if YOU think it, that matters little. Does anyone else think it? And no, your girlfriend and Mom don’t count. Well, your first gig as a writer is getting people interested. You need to find your voice (are you twisted, do you use humor, is it factual or fun?) and you need to make people hunger for that voice. Do you know how you do that? Writing. And posting. Everywhere. Websites like Cracked and Buzzfeed have forums for writers (and mostly trolls) to get together and drum up ideas or gain followings. Use your Twitter (and follow mine, by the way) and use your Facebook (and “like” mine, by the way) and get a following. Let me tell you, if you become a writer for a site, and no one “likes” your pieces, or reads them, then you won’t last long. So you see the drive it takes? You need to always be writing, and that writing needs to be unique enough to make people WANT to hear more of it. And in the same breath, between the writing, you need to be plugging, developing a social media reputation that follows you around, making the act of finding work that much easier. But remember, it is TWO jobs, you don’t just write the piece. You write it and then help the proper audience find it. Writing is good, but if no one wants to hear it, it may as well be a message-in-a-bottle.
And as far as the act of actually writing. If you are not writing, every day and all the time, you are not a writer. A writer writes, whether people are listening or not. But a “good” writer also gets people to listen. And that is a big part of what defines the best of them.
If You Don’t Love Writing, Don’t Dare Do This
” Honey, you were right! This writing thing IS a blast!”
I get two hours off a day if I am lucky. No joke. My wordcount for everything I wrote last week ended up being over 30,000 words. That is a novel in three weeks time. I am not saying this for pity or to be boastful, I am simply saying it so people who want to be writers fully understand. I wake up, check my social media networks, see what’s buzzing, and then I start writing. I write the music stuff the first half of the day, and then I do a piece for my site, every single day. Then I will usually do my freelance pieces. After that, I will eat dinner and do my Unreality piece, and start researching whatever I need to write the next day.
Even when I watch movies, I take notes, because I know how many potential article ideas may spin-off from one well-written film. And unless some fairy Godmother appears in my world with a massive check and a pill for piece of mind (who’s Molly?), this pace will be the pace I keep at for a long time. So if you say you “love to write” because you write two poems every week, that is great. You probably DO love to write, and I love you for that. But that “love” would not be enough to help you make a name for yourself. That love requires daily work and constant upkeep.
And the irony is, you think you will slow down once you get more successful, the complete opposite is true. The more well-known you get, the more places hitting you up for articles and concepts and ideas. And unless you are an idiot, you take the work when it comes, because no one stays “in the zone” forever, so you act on that when you can. Just today my new column with Matt DoNato popped up over at We Got This Covered (read it here by the way, it includes my obituary, which I am quite proud of and I a sure a few trolls will appreciate) but all that proves is whatever lies I told myself before all this blew up, about how once it blew up I would be able to take a rest and let the money just pour is, that was just bullshit. And that is why it is good that I love to write, because if I didn’t, it would feel like I was at school for eighteen hours a day, every day. And not ” I am getting laid and stoned” high school. No, I mean “my parents are getting a divorce” grade school, with no vacations. So you BETTER f*cking love it.
I always found the “pledge of allegiance” to be very Nazi-esque.
And if you don’t love to write, so much so, that you think you have the ability to constantly create at a pace like that, turn away from this gig now, because you may run out of things to say long before you think you would.
Alright, I just ran out of things to say.