Shop Talk: What It’s Like to Write for $

I’ve always felt like there was a curtain between myself and the magical world of making money through writing. Like the transition from “writing as a hobby” to “writing full time” has always been edited out.

I’m not anywhere near being a “professional writer,” but I have been writing a weekly blog for a company and getting paid to do so. And what I’ve found is that when you’re writing for someone else, it changes your process.

I’m just a small baby in writing and I don’t feel qualified to give advice. So I’ll share a few things I’ve learned instead.

You have to schedule the time to write well.

I can’t write anything worth reading if I’m too tired or sick or emotionally compromised. I just can’t. When I’m not feeling it, my inspiration wells dry up. However, whether I’m feeling it or not, I still have to write because it’s my job! I can’t wait for inspiration. So what is there to do?

For me, I have to intentionally create space to be inspired, which means blocking off multiple hours throughout the day where I hole myself up in my room and write that darn blog post. Dragging myself away from Youtube and video games and my own writing projects is tough, but that’s what has to happen. That’s when I get stuff done.


Watch your copyright p’s and q’s. Stock photos are from heaven.

There are two kinds of copyright infringers: those who do it on purpose to steal content, and those who do it just because they didn’t want to go to the trouble of making sure all their permissions were square.

It’s always important to follow copyright laws (don’t use copyrighted pictures and video without the owner’s permission), but it’s !!!-important when you’re writing for a company. If you get struck for copyright, you just have to take down the picture. If a company gets struck, it’s a bigger deal and it makes the company look really bad.

The best choice is always to use the company’s own pictures, but if you can’t find photos that work for your topic, there are websites out there that offer high quality stock photos. Yeah there are the meme-ish ones like men holding watermelons running through a park, but there are really good ones too. Like this one. pexels-photo-221210

Can you say exercise article? Maybe Portland outdoor-culture article? Search around. A lot of companies have paid subscriptions to stock photo sites, but even if yours doesn’t, there are sites that offer a pretty good selection for free.

“Don’t BS it. I can smell BS because I’ve BS-ed plenty myself.” – my English professor

This is one of the wisest and most professionally helpful things I’ve ever heard in my life. We like to think we’re good at faking it and that when we put our crap out there, nobody will notice. Well, they do. Because they do the same thing.

It’s bad to BS your personal projects, but it’s even worse to do it on projects you’re getting paid for. You have to make what you produce a step above what you would post on your personal blog. The writing has to be great and the pictures have to be great as well. I’m talking HD and centered perfectly, perfect tags, perfect title. The whole experience has to be super shiny.

Lastly, it’s who you know, not what.

I never had any luck finding writing work from strangers. It’s only when I met someone who mentioned they wanted to add a blog portion to their company page that I got such an opportunity. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve been thinking more and more that you can’t go out and find writing and art jobs, you have to wait for them to come to you.

That doesn’t mean you just sit back and hope. No, you have to get out there and make friends. Find communities of people who are engaged in the writing and art communities, people who have their own projects going on. Odds are that one day you’ll be talking to someone and they’ll say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about starting this kind of project and I was looking for someone to do the writing part…”

Business books call it “networking,” but that’s not a helpful word because it’s actually just making friends with common interests, without ulterior motives of your own, and keeping your eyes open for opportunities to help them out. It’s just making yourself available.

I’m learning more every day and I’ll keep you guys updated if I learn anything especially helpful. I will say, though, that I absolutely love this writing job and I definitely want to eventually get enough work to make writing a full-time career.

The next step for me is how to be a professional fiction writer. That’s still tucked deep behind the magic curtain. Does anyone have any tips from that side of things?


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