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.
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:
* Photo by Microsoft Clipart