Now, full disclosure, I am what’s known as a “pulp fiction writer.” That’s just another way of saying I’m okay with being dirt poor.
But thankfully for our economy in general, not everyone is like me. Most people work so they can earn a comfortable livelihood, ideally doing what they enjoy, employing their preferred skill set.
For freelance scribes, the opportunities are virtually limitless, since you can apply your talents to a wide variety of industries. Some examples: writing technical manuals (which requires some formal education); writing advertising copy and marketing proposals for corporations; and any type of written communication involving commerce, like publicity and public relations (as I do), which can include things like the composition of newsletters and social media promotional posts.
Easy money in most cases. But also not much to speak of, at least not enough to pay all your bills.
Breaking Even Vs. Breaking "Bad"
Many writers (like me, again) earn their living via a patchwork of odd jobs, writing mostly for the love and fun of it.
But even those that are simply following their passions find ways to monetize their craft. Blogging remains one of the most lucrative avenues for this particular ambition.
Of course, in this era of rampant self-promotion via social media, which essentially provides anyone a free advertising platform, blogs are not quite as popular as they were at the dawn of the Internet, when all possibilities were wide open.
In the past twenty years or so, the field has both widened in terms of outreach, but narrowed in matters of strategy.
The DIY digital self-publishing revolution gave writers far more than blogs as a means to sublimate their creative passions, frustrations, desires, etc. They can now publish their own full-length books, and then actually sell them. That is assuming anyone wants to buy them.
But in an increasingly illiterate (or at least impatient and busy) world, the act of reading is simply not a priority for most people. Books require way too much investment of time and concentration for many consumers of products, news and ideas.
Which brings us back to blogs, still the most concise, accessible, and cost-effective way to build your brand and share your thoughts with a global audience of limited attention spans.
"Mad Men"? No, They're Perfectly Sane!
When it comes to making real money as a writer, I’m not really the guy you want to talk to, since I’m content with my current situation (just getting by, but happy). I have a sizable following, but it’s more like a cult of personality (with roots in my previous public persona as a B movie impresario) than a source of wealth. Fame, but no fortune.
For those that want to actually get paid handsomely for their efforts, you need to check out blogs about blogging like this one, titled “How To Start a Blog That Makes $124,407/Month.”
That’s not even a round number, which immediately lets you know that the author of this piece is going to be very, very specific when describing exactly what it requires to score big profits with your work – all from the comfort of your own computer.
A lot of it has to do with targeting a particular audience, and many of those interests are likewise based in commerce.
Via graphs and case studies, the piece takes you on a detailed, step-by-step guide through the process. None of these bloggers are concerned with anything as esoteric as “pulp fiction.” They are setting out to make money. And so they have. They prove that it can be done.
And it also shows that if they can do it, so can you. So could I, for that matter. It comes down to a very personal choice. And that doesn’t always mean that following your heart and padding out your pocket book are mutually exclusive. It depends on your field of interest.
If you can find a credible way to blog about How To Get Rich, you can actually make money by teaching others how to make money. Wealth is an extremely popular pursuit in a capitalistic society. Well, any society, but at least here you’re free to pursue this path to riches.
And “freedom” is what it’s all about. Freedom to be yourself, even if that means limiting your own potential for the sake of “art.” Freedom to do whatever you want to do, and still earn a decent living doing it. Freedom to do nothing at all, if you can afford that luxury.
Tripping "The Walking Debt"
Most of us have to survive in this world somehow, via our wits and skills. Perseverance doesn’t always pay off, especially if you stubbornly stick to a formula that simply isn’t profitable (that finger is pointed right back at me). Sometimes you have to expand outside your comfort zone, or learn new techniques, in order to achieve your goals as a person, and as a writer.
First step: decide why you’re writing. If it’s to make money, and you believe your innate interests align with those of the general public, do your research so you can locate and connect with that vast audience.
My patient and supportive wife once told a documentarian making a film about my so-called career that I am not a businessman by nature, because, to paraphrase, “a businessman finds out what people want and gives it to them. Will does what he likes, and then finds other people who like the same things.”
Trust me, the latter is a much harder row to hoe. But to quote Sammy Davis Jr., “I Gotta Be Me.”
And you gotta be you. Find out just who that is first, and you may just become the person you want to be, instead of settling for what you already are.
PHOTO: LEWIS MINOR