If someone tells me that they are a writer, I don't tend to question it. Anyone who loves to write and does so recreationally is indeed a writer. "Being a writer" is about more than just putting words on a page... it's a way of seeing the world. However, there is a big difference between being a writer at heart and being a writer who can put money in the bank and food on the table from their writing.
As an editor of several blogs, I have to deal with a wide pool of writers on a regular basis and am often frustrated by inexperienced writers' complete misconceptions surrounding what it means to be a professional writer. Let me be clear about one key point: earning a living as a writer takes more than just good writing. If you are just embarking on your writing career, let me say that again; Earning a living takes more than just good writing. In fact, in the past I have chosen to work with writers whose work might not have been top notch, but their professionalism and understanding of an assignment was higher than that of other writers who struggled with the demands of creating web copy.
Here then, are some of the top issues that as a writer you will need to face before deciding if this is really a career for you.
Be prepared to pay your dues
If you are dreaming of writing articles for Cosmopolitan or the New York Times, or believe that you will only write about topics that inspire you, and envision earning $1 per word that's great. If you think that this will happen overnight you are in for a painful wake-up call. Most writers start out with writing jobs that are low paid and often painfully boring or repetitive and work their way up. The good news is that if you are willing to work hard you can build a strong portfolio and a stable of references that will earn you the better jobs, but it does take time, patience and perseverance.
You need to find your voice
This is a big problem among the bloggers that I get submissions from. Many can write a 500 word article, but only a few can write one that engages the reader, entertains, educates or holds their attention past the first paragraph. Make sure your work doesn't fall into the blah, blah, blah black hole!
Get into good research habits.
Being a fast and efficient researcher will allow you to take on a wider range of topics and complete work faster. I have a stock of reliable reference sites for getting general background information fast, and I create a folder of bookmarks for each topic I tackle. That way I have references if needed and can quickly access the information if I have to write an article on a similar topic in the future.
Manage your time
Finding a way to earn a good hourly wage when you are being paid per word or per project can be challenging, but this is part of being a professional writer. When considering a project take into consideration the time it will take you to do research, formatting, keyword research or any other additional tasks that will accompany the actual writing. I strongly recommend making a writing schedule that allows you to quickly view your commitments and organize your deadlines.
Understand that you are writing for a client, not for yourself! At the end of the day, the person who will judge your work is the person who is paying you. This is the major difference between writing for pleasure and writing for profit. You might not think that 300 words is enough to cover the topic of Facebook as a social phenomenon, but if that's the brief you accepted then that is exactly what you will need to write.
About the author:
Angela Neal is a freelance writer and online marketing consultant. She has written articles for national magazines and newspapers in the US, Spain and the UK and for hundreds of client websites and blogs, including NBC. She currently writes about writing for Writers Remorse http://writersremorse.com. You can also find her at her own blog http://www.angelaneal.com.