Sometimes you have to know when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em.
Read on to find out why you need to focus on what’s truly important to you if you want to make a long-term living as a writer.
And if you stick with me here, I’m also going to share a very personal story with you.
Writers often feel as if they are struggling.
The feeling that you are struggling as a professional writer usually comes from 2 main areas:
1. Not making enough money
2. or Taking on work you don’t care about just to make money
It would appear on the surface that solving the “struggle” for each of these would require different tactics but in reality if you are truly a writer and wish to make your living by spreading the lead, you should ALWAYS keep both in mind.
If you need to make more money as a writer you can start to feel a little desperate. And desperation as we know, often leads to poor decision-making (true in any job, relationship, or life situation).
So if you’re writing for money and all your time is not booked you are likely to take on any work that comes your way. And this feels pretty good.
But let’s suppose you get more and more work – and you don’t actually care about a lot of what you said yes to other than you like that money coming in.
Eventually you are going to become depressed. It always happens. The first flush of actually getting paid to write has worn off, and your days are spent crafting words for yet another new lint remover, or some newfangled marketing scheme for company zyx. You begin to avoid writing.
Then you come to the point where you ask yourself:
Why exactly did I want to become a writer in the first place?
And before you know it you hate being a writer as much as you hated the job you gave up to be a writer because you loved it so much.
But what if…
What if you allowed yourself to pursue and accept only writing work you truly cared about? Writing work that mattered, not just because you were getting paid for it but because you were truly passionate about the topic or idea or company?
Then, as you become more successful, your days will be filled writing about things that matter to you– a.k.a. – making money and a difference, and being fulfilled.
Not only will you be much happier, you will have more energy, get more done, which in the end leads to, yes, making more money.
Why You Should Learn to Say No to Certain Writing Jobs
Saying no to a paid gig is hard because we are conditioned to want more money.
First, never work for pennies. Your work is valuable so don’t fall into being a starving artist.
But beyond asking for payment that is in line with your talent, focus on not only what you realistically can do, but what you want to do; that is the only way to build a foundation for long term success.
Let’s be clear – I’m not advocating that you say no to paid work if you are in danger of losing your home or you are struggling to buy food for yourself or your family. Do what you have to do.
But if you are on the line where you have just enough coming in to get by, it’s time to consider saying no to work you don’t truly care about because this will give you the mental space and time for work you actually do care about, to come in.
To help illustrate this point, at the beginning of this post I promised you a personal story.
This story is about how walking away from a contract that is not right for you, can actually increase your income.
For a few years now I’ve done writing work for an organization that focuses on a topic I am passionate about. For this work I received a small stipend that was just enough for me to justify doing the job with my already maxed out schedule. During my stint with them I shared many of the responsibilities with another editor so if there came a crunch situation there was always a fall back person. We were humming along and then my fellow editor announced her retirement. The organization asked me to absorb the responsibilities for the same amount of money I had been receiving. I thought long and hard about it because I did care about the topic at hand. The greater good of the project was a powerful pull for me. But, I also have more important priorities: I am a single parent of 3 young kids with a mortgage to pay and, like many freelance writers my livelihood depends on my number of billable hours. Don’t get me wrong – I completely believe and support in donating some time for a cause that is important to you. In fact, every month I pick a random project that comes my way and I do it, for free, just because I love helping people. It’s my way of giving back no matter how busy I am (example, see this zencopy editing makeover). I knew in my heart that the number of hours the new situation would require would be horrible for my family, it entailed a large portion of work I did not truly care to do and was not highly skilled at. Still, though the stipend was less than 10k per year it was, hey almost 10k per year. And we all know that is not nothing.
I took a hard look at my priorities, and thought about having the space and energy to bring in more high paying work I cared about. And I took a hard look at my finances to make sure I could absorb the hit. I could. So I walked away from my existing contract. It was not a game, or a ploy to get more. It was a sincere, honest, this is not for me situation. I gave notice, moved on, and started taking on new work.
And then, a strange thing happened. The company contacted me and wanted to talk. In essence, I was asked to create a job scenario with them that was exactly what I wanted to do that also allowed them to get what they needed. And just like that (insert 1 month later) I had a new contract that was more than 20k higher per year doing work that I’m completely into and care a great deal about.
Of course, I had worked long and hard for this company for a number of years and they knew my worth (and they got a bargain on what I’m doing for them – win win).
Staying in touch with your priorities and passions, and balancing them in a way that is healthy for you, will allow you to make solid decisions and give you the perseverance and happiness to sustain your work over the long haul. And that is the way to multiply your income.