Wednesday Wisdom (Business): Earning a Decent Living from Your Writing

Jules Renard once said that “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”  Well, things have changed a bit, I think, since Mr. Renard uttered his famous words. Today, the writer must be savvy not only about how to write but also about how to sell what she writes.

Why?    

Well, for starters, God’s Word says that “those who work deserve their pay!” (I Timothy 5:18 TLB).  I think we all would agree that writers work, and they work hard. Therefore, like anyone else who works hard, we deserve to get paid for our work. Of course, we could give our writing away for free, but then who would pay the electric bill, put food on the table, or fill our car tanks with gas? 

Although I have done a good deal of pro bono writing, bottom-line I believe that a writer should be paid for what he writes. After all, those who have a “real job” expect to get paid.  Unless you are a volunteer, would you go to work at any other job and expect to do it for free?  I don’t think so. 🙂 

So why is it that writers as a group are so often willing to accept little or nothing for their writing? I have a few thoughts:  

1) Writers feel that unless they are on the New York Times best-seller list, they are not real writers. They think their writing is not good enough, so it is not worth much in terms of dollars.  They will, therefore, accept a low pay rate because that is the financial value they place on their writing.  

If you were newly hired for a job that required on-the-job training (and most do), would you expect to receive a fraction of your full salary until you learned how to do the job well?  Of course not.  You’d expect to receive your full pay while learning the job.  We writers could take a lesson from this. 

2) Writers see their profession as a lesser profession than, say, computer engineering or medicine or being a CEO.  Yet, you are the CEO of your own business, a business that is just as complex, creative, and commanding as any of the above, and, perhaps, even more so.   

3) Writers who are willing to accept a pittance for their writing make it difficult for all writers. I cringe whenever I see writers accepting offers to write 1000-word articles for $5 per article. Unless they can create that article in five minutes, those writers are drastically short-changing themselves and hurting other writers by minimizing the value of the profession in general. Not only that, they are telling the world that they don’t think their talent is worth much. 

Unless and until we begin to view our writing as a serious and viable business, we will continue as a group to struggle financially. So let’s begin to value our work. Let’s not accept peanuts for using the gift God has given us. If God values it, then so should we. 

When I embraced the mindset that I am not only a writer but a business owner, my income grew considerably. I used to accept $0.02 to $0.05 a word for my writing, and at times I still do if our Lord so directs. But as I began to view myself as a business owner, I determined that I needed to earn a certain amount of money to meet my expenses and to help build God’s Kingdom. So I intentionally changed my view of the financial value of my work. The results were amazing! When an editor a few years ago asked me to name my price (I almost passed out!), she did not even flinch when I asked for and got $2.00 per word.  

Lest I give the impression that writing is all about money, it certainly is not.  But as Scripture says, we who work for Christ are worthy of our wages.  And those wages need to be enough for us to pay our bills, provide food, clothing, and shelter for our families, and to contribute to the spreading of the Gospel.  

Now, let’s hear from you.  What steps do you take to ensure that you earn a living wage from your writing business?  What obstacles, if any, have prevented you from doing so in the past? What have you done or what are you planning to do to remove those obstacles? 

N.B. For more great info on earning a living from your writing, check out agent Rachelle Gardner’s three-part article:

http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/03/make-a-living-as-a-writer-part-1/

http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/03/make-a-living-as-a-writer-part-two/

http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/03/making-a-living-as-a-writer-challenges/

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* Photo by Microsoft Clipart

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6 thoughts on “Wednesday Wisdom (Business): Earning a Decent Living from Your Writing

  1. And then there are people who actually PAY to have their stuff printed.

    There’s a reason to self-publish and you can make money off of it, however, most people don’t self publish because they have a niche market and a way to sell it. They simply want to see their name in print.

    It’s like doing crafts – you never get your time out of it. If I were to charge what I think my time is worth for my quilts plus the cost of the materials, I’ll never sell any.

    I agree we should be paid for our work. I agree we should donate some of that work. But I think it comes down to this: what do you believe God is calling you to do? Whether you are paid what you think you’re worth or not, this is the question you must answer.

    June 6, 2012 7:16 AM

    • As always, thanks for your great comments, Pam. 🙂 I especially appreciated your comparison of writing with doing crafts.

      Also, I totally agree with the ultimate question you raise: What is God calling you to do? Bottom-line, we must obey whatever our Lord commands, whether that is writing something for pay or writing it for free.

      I think it boils down to acknowledging always that God is the Source of our writing talent and of anything we earn from it. As Scripture says, “But remember, the Lord your God is the one who makes you wealthy. He’s confirming the promise which he swore to your ancestors. It’s still in effect today” (Deuteronomy 8:18, God’s Word Translation).

      Blessings to you, my friend! 🙂

      MaryAnn

      June 6, 2012 9:31 AM

  2. What a pleasant surprise to hear from you, Amy! And congratulations on starting with Hartline! 🙂 It’s very nice to meet you, too. I hope to get to do so in person one day soon. Meanwhile, thank you so very much for your comments. I deeply appreciate them.

    Blessings,

    MaryAnn
    June 7, 2012 3:46 PM

    • Thanks for your comment, Karen. You’re right! It’s a good idea to re-evaluate one’s rates periodically.

      Blessings,

      MaryAnn
      June 7, 2012 5:40 PM

  3. Hi, Alex! Thanks for your comments. You’re right that royalty checks can provide a nice bonus even though a writer may not be able to live on them. Every little bit helps, right? 🙂

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I wish you the very best in your writing endeavors.

    MaryAnn
    September 13, 2012 8:20 AM