How Writing for Money Makes You Forget Why You are Writing to Begin With

When I first started writing, I, like probably so many other people, did so because there was a love of the word. I did it because I thought I had something to say, something to share, and I thought somebody else might want to know about it.

I held this dream of being a freelance writer. My closest friends can tell you I dreamt this dream for almost ten years before I found a way I could make it work. I’d write poetry, essays, short stories; none of it was really that good. Hell I even had a website up on the free pages of Tripod.com for years. I wonder if that site is still there? I thought that if I wrote it, somebody would find it and say “hey look at this guy over here!”. Yeah, the thoughts of a beginning writer.

Anyhow, fast forward about a few years; I find out about getting paid for writing content for Internet sites. And a lightbulb goes off! I’m a writer, I can do this. So I slowly get into content writing; and over the course of about a year I find out enough to realize there is the possibility of people making a living doing this. Now, mind you I still had a full time job while I was finding this out. I didn’t like my work, so I quit; but I wasn’t ready to go full time into writing yet because I didn’t think there was that much work out there for a writer. So I started a handyman business and thought I’d have my writing to do in the spare time. Well, that didn’t work out and the business folded. So now here I am back at another job I hate for about two and a half years. Finally I decided to go into writing as a way to make money.

Over the course of about six months I figure out I can write full time and earn as much as I did working for minimum wage at least. So I quit my day job and go into freelance writing full time. Now, I still had this idea that I’d just write for a few hours to get paid and spend the remainder of the day writing what I wanted. But by this time, I had been so long wanting to get into writing as a full time writer that I just jumped into anything which gave me money. There was my big mistake. You don’t go grabbing every straw or blade of grass hoping to find the four leaf clover.

While writing content for Internet sites sounds easy enough, it actually isn’t on the business end of things. When writing for money online, you will find the pay scale ranges so widely that you aren’t even sure where you stand some days. And, the people you write for will be just as varied in range; as will the assignments. I’ve written for an employment site, an online printer with a blog, forums, product affiliate sites, and travel sites. I’ve written for companies that own multiple websites and “one man show” sites. I’ve written for Europeans, Canadians and other Americans. I’ve seen what a mass generated “content factory” looks like where the writers churn out generic articles to specific keywords; and I’ve seen companies where even though you get a by-line, you still don’t own the rights to any part of the work you write. I’ve seen job sites where you “bid” for work, usually for such a small price you don’t know how people make any money writing there; and I’ve written for companies that pay a very good weekly rate depending on how many articles you can turn in. I’ve written for PPV or as I call it “page view pennies”. This is where you get say $1.50 per every 1,000 views your article has; and it takes awhile to get there. So the range for the type of work and the type of pay is huge.

And then there is the marketing. Yes, you have to go sell yourself so that you keep generating more work. This is the part I didn’t know about until after I started full time freelancing. Duh. No, the work doesn’t just come rolling in whenever you want it to. Craigslist is a great place to find work, but also a huge place where you can spend hours looking for what you want; kind of like looking for a sale at the Mall of America only in reverse. Oh, and then there are the bills which you need to keep paying even if the money sucks that week. You quickly figure out how much you need to make per hour to keep your ass fed and housed. You also figure out quickly that the electricity bill goes up because you’re on the computer all day; so does the heating bill in the winter.

Meanwhile, the reason you first got into writing…..remember that? Yeah, I forgot about that. I was too busy trying to generate income at the time. My dog reminded me of that the other day when he let me know that I was ignoring him too. Cats don’t care if you ignore them, but dogs do. I was too busy trying to make one or two gigs support my ass to remember that it takes more than that to make you a writer. Now I have to figure out how to regain the balance between life and work. Which is the other reason I left working full time for other people. Anyhow, time to walk the dog before making dinner.