~ By Jennifer Chait
In the comments, some said that they wish established writers would teach them how to market themselves, so they won’t have to take $3 gigs. Still others commented that we can’t blame writers who take these cheap gigs because they’re just trying to make a living.
It’s an interesting comment thread, but I don’t think the opinions change the fact that when writers work dirt cheap, writers are thought of as a group of people worth little. Not by all clients of course, but by many.
I’ve been thinking about it all week and here’s my take: don’t quit your day job.
At writing and work-at-home forums I often see threads that start out, “Hey, I just quit my job to stay home with my kids, I need all the advice you can give me ASAP about how to be a writer.”
That’s a backwards way to go about becoming a work-at-home parent. If you don’t know how to market your writing, if you don’t know how to land higher paying jobs, then learn how. Once you learn how, then make the switch to full-time writing. It’s hard to learn the business side of writing on-the-job. Not to mention, that like all jobs, freelancing is not for everyone.
Being a parent who works from home should only happen if it’s beneficial to your kids and you. I wonder what value staying home with your children has if you can’t afford it. When you’re low on money it’s stressful for everyone, which isn’t healthy for families.
I currently make enough money freelancing to stay-at-home with my son and pay all the bills. That didn’t happen overnight. When my son was born I wanted to stay home with him but also knew that I couldn’t afford it yet. I was in college and also writing part-time. I wasn’t willing to take low paying wages for writing, so I did work outside my home as well.
While working, I’d tag-team with my partner. If he wasn’t around, Cedar went to day care or to college with me (Cedar’s probably one of the youngest people ever to go through anatomy). I hated having him in day care, but I knew that if I took the time to learn all I could about writing, it would end soon.
When Cedar was three I was able to be at home full-time and I still am. Three years is long, but it’s also not too bad when you consider that I now have the rest of my life to work at home successfully.
Before I felt comfortable quitting my day job I spent time planning. These are things you can do to get ready to go full-time as a writer.
- I read every book out there on freelance writing – I stuck to books that discussed how to get decent paying work.
- I visited blogs like this and writer’s forums to see what other people were doing that worked.
- I bookmarked tons of places to find work and researched places I could write for – which back then was mainly magazines and businesses.
- I made sure that jobs were coming in. I queried more magazines than you’d believe and sold my services to local businesses.
Once I had enough incoming work (and money) I quit my day job.
Planning is hard but…
There’s a difference between wanting and needing to be home with our families. I know there are people who have limited options. However, for many SAHPs a better choice is to learn the business and then go full-time. From e-mail questions I get, from the threads I see at forums, I think that some writers are throwing the planning part of freelancing aside and that’s when you see people taking these low-paying gigs.
Planning takes time. Time sucks when you want to be home with your kids. However, in the long run, planning is useful. Planning is a great way to avoid $3 gigs. Planning allows you to succeed at being home with your kids with less stress, more money, and in the long-run, more time.
You can skip the planning part of a freelancing career. It’s risky, but every so often it does pay off. However, taking that risk with kids in tow, who need both time and monetary support, is a risk maybe not worth taking.