Job Mentality Writers

There are those who consider freelance content writing a business and those who consider it a hobby. There are also those who act as if their freelance writing is a business but work it as a hobby or job. I know writers who want to be six figure freelancers and others who want to make a few extra bucks. Both are fine and good for the individual. Most freelance writers get into content writing to break free of the job mentality.

I just want enough to support myself without needing to worry about a “paycheck”. I want to be able to tell people how I don’t have to fit myself into the “paystub” mentality and earn my own income with my own hands at my own pace. If I succeed or fail, it will be because I did or did not make it work – not because someone paid me to show up and perform a set function.

How many people working for content mills started out with the intention of being a freelance writer – only to have the writing become another “paystub”. I remember the writer forums on two large content sites were full of people who use them to “get by” and “pay the bills”. Yes, they do work somewhat independently; but at the same time, they do still rely on one maybe two major providers to earn income. One of those sites, and both forums are long gone. That, to me, is way too close to having a job. Should a content mill fail to pay on time, or at all, you are as stuck without money, as you would be if you were told your boss was unable to pay you and the business is having difficulties.

Demand Media had a couple of situations like this in the past when Friday pay didn’t show up for many until Saturday due to issues with PayPal. They tried to pay too many people too much money at one time and it stalled. On the forums there were, as there always are, those who panic when money isn’t there on time.

Allow me to let those of you working for content mills in on the joke here. If you are using sites like DMS or Textbroker as your sole income, you are a contract worker – in other words, an employee without the tax headache for the site.

Freelance Writing is About Asking

Here’s a question for you guys – as a freelance writer, have you asked any questions lately? What information can I get from the event that just happened? That is how a writer figures out the story. Not by predetermined equations, or methods of writing but by physically and mentally observing everything around them. But what if there isn’t a clear way to do so? How do you ask the questions to get your answers? There’s always a way to ask a question, you just need to know which method to use to find the answer – and be inquisitive enough to ask without thinking some days.

Asking for Clarification

When I would write a news story for the weeklies associated with the Ithaca Times, it was often a community event or a group not many would otherwise know about. Like the town or school board meetings. Yes, those could get boring. But if you paid attention to the little things around the meeting it added a value or another view to the main ideas. The town meetings were always good for this. As a reporter I was expected to get the main stories, what the board was talking about. But at the same time, I could add more by observation of the people and their words. I was also allowed to ask for clarification of most any point – and I did many times.

Answers via Observation

Another aspect of freelance writing is asking yourself questions about the situation around you. What would your readers want to know if they were in the room with you? No, you can’t answer everyone. But you can sit there and think about it. “What was the emotion of the day or event?” “What did I miss by not attending?” Often adding the weather conditions, the time of day or just the sheer amount of people make the story stand out. There was a school concert held near the holidays where it had snowed heavily the same day. The kids put on a great show, and the gym was packed with parents, friends and neighbors. Just the fact that they all acted like the snow didn’t even matter made the event fun. There was the memorial watch fire in Lansing New York; now not only did the memorial idea itself make a story, but the huge blazing bonfire on a lake added to it. And then there was the huge number of both veterans and civilians; I remember the organizer thanking me for the story because no other paper had covered it, and just his voice told me it was greatly appreciated. Each observation added to make the entire story worth reading and remembering.

Finding Answers to Unasked Questions

Writing is about finding an answer to something for as many people as possible. Questions such as “why is that point so damn important?”, or “why doesn’t anyone care about this fact?” and the favorite “who are you and what makes you such an expert?”

Writing is also about noticing things that seem out of place or unusual for the moment or location. There was a sky blue 1960s Cadillac at a local county office building that I was parked next to one time. I wondered just who would be driving it, and why would such care be made in its condition (it was actually in really good shape). Waiting for the owner to claim the car led to an amazing story about a family who had just lost their son earlier that year. The son bought the car as a Father’s Day gift for his dad so they could work on it together; the son died in a motorcycle accident, with his parents not far behind him as they headed home from celebrating dad’s birthday. That article became a memorial piece for that family.

The point is, you don’t know what information is out there. Not if you don’t ask any questions. Simply walking through the day isn’t enough. Simply seeing things around you isn’t enough. Freelance writing is about asking for material to write about. Trust me, there’s enough of it to fall over if you are looking for it.




If You Can’t Write, Write Something Else

Writers Block

Yes the title makes me sound obscured. But follow through with me on this. You’re working on a subject, project, deadline or whatever and the words just aren’t there, there’s no feeling in it for you. What do you do? Here’s a suggestion – change topics, or write something else that you want.

What brought me on this subject? Felicia Williams ( wrote a blog I read every time she put up a new post; which until about a year or so ago was damn near daily. She never get stuck for ideas on improving writing, it’s her niche; well, believe it or not, even the people who love their blogs as well as she does get stuck. And there’s my point; you can love what you do and think you’ll do it forever – but you can still reach a point where you just don’t feel like doing it for awhile.

Possible Causes of a Writer “Not Feeling It”

Now, before I get hit with “but I have a deadline” or “but I need to make the money”, look at what you are working on and I’ll bet there are at least one of these three common themes visible.

  1. You’ve been working on the same type of writing for days, weeks or months. This is like someone going into work every day doing the same exact thing forever – eventually you wake up one day and go “I can’t do this anymore”. Been there, done that. Stopped working there.
  2. You’ve become a “money writer”, or there isn’t anything you write for pleasure – everything you write has a price tag attached to it. You write because it earns money, kinda like a job, you do it because it pays a bill not because you like it.
  3. There’s no change of pace. The whole of your writing has begun to blur together into one big slog of blah. Say you’re a health writer, and all you write is health topics; or you write technical manuals and that’s it. Yes, you know the subject, and yes you probably enjoy it (or did) most of the time – but as people need hobbies to provide variation, a writer’s brain needs alternative outlets too.

How to Stop Yourself and Why

Here’s where Felicia succeeded although I wonder if she sees it. She switched gears to another form of writing BEFORE she burnt out. Now I don’t know if she did this on purpose or it was a survival mechanism; but she knew something was wrong and she PAID ATTENTION TO THE WARNING SIGNS. Yes, those are capital letters. Something inside told her to stop doing the “money writing” before she burned up the will to ever go back to it. She listened to herself. She paid attention to the warning.

I myself have ignored warnings with bad results. The past two days have seen anxiety attacks and migraine headaches because I insisted on getting the paid writing done even though I just honestly didn’t care if it got done. I’m trying to work around that.

So now, you spot a warning and stop – okay, now what? You write something you want to write. This part is actually very simple, and I have done this before too. You just type away and let yourself work on something fun. Another example from Felicia – she switched to writing about healthy food and living. She loved the research, and the writing about what she found. To her, at the moment, it wasn’t work – its play. That is what writing should be at the core. You can do the same thing. If you find yourself looking for information on a given topic, write about the topic or your experiences looking for the information. Write it out. Take notes. Make a day of it, hell make a week of it.

Here’s another way to look at it – you’re making future material. I take photos when I go for walks; this helps two ways, it provides enjoyment and it provides possible fodder for future projects. None of your writing time is wasted if you fail to earn a dime from each word. You get to practice, you get to love your ability, and you just might find yet another niche or project that you didn’t think about when pushing to earn money from writing.

So what’s the best way for you to avoid burnout when you see it coming?