Are You A Professional Writer Yet?
One question I get all the time is ‘How do I know if I am a professional writer?’
The writers asking will usually tell me that though they may have had books published or screenplays produced, they just don’t feel ‘there’ yet. Alternatively, writers may tell me they haven’t earned any $$$£££ yet, so ‘can’t’ be professionals yet.
So, how DO you know if you’re a professional writer? Well check out these tips … let’s go.
1) You know it’s NOT About the money
Look up the word ‘professional’ in the dictionary and you will find the following definition …
- 1) relating to or belonging to a profession. “young professional people”. Similar: white-collar, executive, non-manual. Opposite: manual.
- 2) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.
Most will tell me they haven’t earned ‘enough’ yet. They think there’s some magic number on how much $$$£££ they have to achieve before they ‘qualify’ as a professional writer.
Double-check that definition
They look to the definition of ‘one’s main paid occupation’ and imagine the money is the important bit … But they’ve got it all wrong. The keyword is ‘main’ – as in, this is the job you want MOST.
Remember, wages in the creative arts are generally terrible across the board. Many of us HAVE to have second jobs to make ends meet … yes even our favourites in some cases!
As an example, the mega-bestselling authors skew figures significantly. For every uber-writer who earns STACKS, there’s thousands and thousands who make terrible money. Studies show most authors typically make just under £11K a year. Yikes!
Screenwriters may not fare much better. Whilst television and Hollywood writers can skew the figures again, the average screenwriter can very often expect an even worse return on their efforts than authors.
In addition, filmmaking can frequently be a labour of love. This means that an award-winning short or even an indie feature may create little or even NO financial return for those who originate it (such as the director, producer and/or writer). YES REALLY!
And don’t even get me started on television. Residuals (aka royalties) are on the decrease, so is mobility which in turn creates more barriers, especially for – you guessed it – marginalised writers. That’s why the US writers’ strike is on right now.
This means writers whose work you LOVE are probably working for less than a part-time wage. That’s why most of us need day jobs or supplementary income streams. These may be related to writing or they may be in completely different fields. All are valid.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Unless the professional writer whose work you love is very, very famous/renowned, there’s a good chance they have money troubles just like the rest of us.
2) You don’t wait for others to validate you
Sometimes Bang2writers ask me to read their screenplay or novel … and then tell them if they’re ‘wasting their time’ and should stop writing. Yikes!
Professional writing can feel like a thankless task. You have to get used to doors being slammed in your face. Hell, sometimes there won’t even BE a door. You have to build one and create opportunities for yourself.
In short, you have to believe in yourself and your writing. NO MATTER WHAT.
KEY TAKEAWAY: You have to have self belief and be ready to create your own opportunities. Without these, you will get nowhere.
3) You are ALL IN
Being a pro writer is about mindset and attitude. Are you ‘all in’?
What this mean will depend on the individual, of course. But generally, being ‘all in’ means you …
- Are constantly learning and honing your craft
- Set concrete goals for yourself (including ‘WHEN BY’ deadlines)
- Have a career plan in place, which you evaluate at various intervals
- Network and create authentic relationships with industry pros
- Create a solid submissions strategy for yourself
Lots of writers only do some of the above and wonder why they don’t get anywhere.
Even worse is when they say stuff like ‘I’ll give this writing thing 5 years, then if I don’t get anywhere I’ll quit.’ Nooooooooooooooo!
If you approach writing with one foot out the door, there’s no point even beginning this journey. Seriously. It will make you hella unhappy!!! Go be an accountant or a lawyer or something else.
KEY TAKEAWAY: You need to believe in yourself. Go all in. It’s the ONLY way to roll with the (inevitable) punches coming your way.
No problem! I have 1:1 packages that will suit both screenwriters and authors. Whether you want a helping hand with getting words on the page, submissions and self-publishing, advice on pitch decks and packages, adaptation or something else … B2W’s got you covered!
CLICK HERE to check out how you can work with B2W, or on any of the pics in this article.