Writing For Money: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
I’m not sure how many of you enjoy a good ol’ Western movie, but I’m quite certain there is one eerie whistling tune that everybody knows. That distinctive yodel’y thing we all know as the theme tune of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. We don’t need to know anything about the movie to get the creepy feeling that the tune is meant to provoke.
You can picture all the essentials of a good Western, just hearing that tune. Coyotes, guns, gold. Stubble, Stetsons, stallions. The desert. The dudes. The desperation.
Although every good Western involves a scramble for a large sum of gold, nobody ever became a gunslinger for the money. At the end of the day, the lifestyle was what those dashing fellas were after.
But there can be no lifestyle without the necessary evil of being paid for one’s labor.
Sounds a little like a writer’s life, doesn’t it? Writing for money can be a rough, tough and dusty business, but if you go in prepared for every bit of it, it’s also one of the most rewarding careers out there.
Writing For Money: THE GOOD
All you need is a horse and a road. Uh, a pen and paper. Or more likely, a laptop and coffee.
Once you have those, the world is wide open before you.
Pick a road, and head that way. Ride until you feel like stopping. Feel like taking a break and sitting under a tree? Or heading to the nearest saloon for some grits? You have all the freedom.
The beauty of writing is that you choose how to do it. Want to write about a particular topic? Go for it. Bored of writing about it? Choose something different. Feel like writing in bed today? Or maybe you’d rather visit a coffee shop and watch the people flit in and out to find some inspiration. Totally up to you.
Writing is so diverse that it is hard to get tired of doing it. Topic, location, working hours … Who doesn’t want to earn money while keeping that kind of freedom?
You get to wield the mighty pen (uh … keyboard?) and carve out a name for yourself. You square up against others in the field and hone your craft by, er, shooting at tin cans.
You’re known for your style, your quirks, how fast you can draw. Or your styles, your quirks, and how fast you can turn around a blog post.
At the end of the day, you get to build a reputation as an expert in your field. When you’re writing for money this is important, as readers want to know that your advice comes from a knowledgeable place.
You get to write and be read by your ideal audience. Isn’t that what every writer wants?
(If you think it would help, you can give yourself a sassy Western nickname, like Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hicock, or Shanna ‘Gusto’ Powell.)
Writing For Money: THE BAD
The desert can be a lonely place. Vast. Humid. One can travel for days without seeing another soul. It’s easy to get lost and go in circles.
Your eyes begin to play tricks on you. Is that a shady oasis up ahead? Water, rest and some good company awaiting you in the shadow of the palm trees?
Writing can be a lonely profession. It’s just you, your coffee and your trusty Dell steed. On occasion, we see a significant other … or a pizza delivery man.
When you’re in the zone, eyes fixed on the horizon, working late into the night, we can turn into zombies who lack human interaction.
Writing for money has many perks, but when you don’t have a set salary every month, it can be easy to get too immersed in working and forget that there is life outside of the desert.
Being a gun for hire was a serious business.
Yes, the rugged guys loved their roaming lifestyles, but they had to eat. If you wanted to make use of their services, you’d better offer them what they were worth, or no deal.
Why do we do the opposite, as writers for hire?
Sometimes, when writing for money, we give away our services to anyone and everyone, for a fraction of what they’re worth.
You know what that means? We end up with twice as many clients, doing twice as much work, for half the pay. Not quite the lifestyle we were so looking forward to as a freelancer.
Don’t let low-paying clients take advantage of you. Your skills and your time are worth paying for.
Writing For Money: THE UGLY
If you Google pictures of well-known gunslingers, you’ll most likely find a bunch of rather dapper looking gentlemen, most of them sporting an impressive mustache.
In reality though, being one of them was a dirty business. Riding a horse through the dusty desert under the hot sun, wearing the same set of clothes for days on end, charging through gunpowder smoke …
Being a gunslinger can be rough.
Being a freelance writer can be similar if we aren’t careful.
Although I have yet to see a writer with a mustache as impressive as the old shooters, sometimes we also forget to change our clothes for a few days, let the stubble become sandpapery, or forget to get up from the chair.
We can be a scruffy bunch. Freelancing lends itself pretty easily to a lazy lifestyle, and it’s a trap we all need to be conscious of and take steps to avoid.
Professionalism is an important part of being a freelancer, and if you are writing for money, you need to have the professional thing down. Nobody is going to pay you to do their bidding if they don’t think you can get the job done, and unfortunately, a sloppy exterior doesn’t take long to infiltrate your mindset.
Put on your best mustache and dress dapper, writers. It makes a difference in your work.
If you’ve got the guns, can shoot from the hip, and are not afraid of hard work, then you may just have what it takes to succeed n this rough and tumble business.
Writing for money, like any other career, has its perks and its downfalls, but if you set off on this adventure prepared for them, you’ll deal far more with the good than the bad or the ugly.
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