Month: May 2011


One of the realities of being a professional writer is deadlines. When you’re a full-time freelancer like me, your ability to get paid centers on your ability to deliver usable quality work by a deadline. I am self-employed, providing clients with a valuable service (i.e., my writing). I am assigned article topics to deliver (I also pitch my own topics to editors) by a set deadline. If I don’t do it, I don’t get paid. It’s that simple.

One reason that many people like to work a cushy job with a regular salary is they get paid whether their work gets done or not. I know this from experience. When I worked in the corporate world, oftentimes my own work was dependent on a whole bunch of other people who seemed to have trouble with deadlines. If they didn’t get their work to me, I couldn’t make my own deadlines. (Funny thing, a lot of the people who didn’t make deadlines and also seemed to do no work in general often outranked me in both job title and salary; that kind of bullshit is one major reason why I prefer to be a sole proprietor).

I have tried to explain to people (i.e., aspiring writers, my three-year-old son, my mom, my husband, ad nauseum) that when I am on deadline, PEOPLE CANNOT BOTHER ME. My mother is especially talented about calling me up and wanting to chat for hours when I’m on multiple article deadlines. Her usual response when I tell her I’m too busy to talk is, “But you work at home! You can do whatever you want!” I have long since tired of explaining to her why I can’t talk to her when I’m on deadline, and use caller ID just to screen my calls and not answer them.

People, if I don’t make deadline, I DON’T GET PAID. Period. It’s that simple. This is why I get irritated with people who think that just because I’m a freelancer who works out of my house that I can just screw around and do whatever I want all day. Some days when I’m not on deadline I do have a lot of freedom and control over my own time (which is one reason I’m self-employed) but not when I’m on deadline.

Also, I do self-impose a lot of my own deadlines, such as when I’m writing fiction. I tell myself that I have to finish that novel by Day X, and I do it. Self-discipline is necessary in this business. That’s why I call bullshit whenever people tell me that they “don’t have time” to finish that novel they’ve had sitting in a drawer for five years. They DO have the time—but they don’t have the self-discipline to set themselves a deadline and meet it. We all have the same number of hours in the day everybody else does, it’s all about how we choose to use them.

I think that we might solve a lot of the world’s problems by forcing everyone to work the way I do. If you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid. What a concept. How many people out there would be totally screwed if that’s how the world worked? I can name several hundred right off the top of my head.


Fantasy Island

I had a Facebook exchange about this today, thought it might make sense to blog about it.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that professional writers/editors should just work for free (or next to free). (I’m not alone in that sentiment, even big-name pros like Harlan Ellison frequently gripe about repeatedly being asked to work for free: check out this video to see what I mean). Just this morning I opened six different emails asking me to write stuff and/or edit stuff FOR NOTHING, and/or were complaints that rates I had quoted them for my professional services were too high.

Well, excuse me for fucking living, but I’m a professional writer, with a helluva lot of serious publishing creds, not to mention almost 20 years’ experience being paid to write, either as a freelancer or an editorial staffer. I did not just fall off a turnip truck yesterday and hang out a shingle asking people to pay me to type and/or spew hot air. I have been published in major newspapers (Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, I could go on), have hobnobbed with high-level government bureaucrats, have published multiple books, have written speeches for CEOs, ad nauseum. If you want me to work for you, PAY ME.

Just because there are a bunch of clueless amateurs out there willing to give away their very questionable writing “services” for free does not mean that I should too. Just because you can hire some flunky in a Pakistani word-churning/plagiarism mill three cents an hour to fuck up your already unpublishable work (and make it even more unpublishable and/or illegal) doesn’t mean that I should also charge only three cents an hour to do an actual professional, quality job. You wouldn’t expect the guy ringing up your groceries or the nurse taking care of you in the hospital to work for free, so why should I?

And while I’m on the subject, before you decide that it’s cool to criticize me for my choice of publisher/agent/tax accountant/level of writing income, perhaps it would be somewhat intelligent of you to first have some idea what you are talking about. (i.e., like maybe being able to claim you are a full-time writer earning at least $75,000 a year from writing, like I do). Just saying.

I am a professional freelancer who owns/runs a small business. I contribute to the American economy. I’m lucky to do so, and most (i.e., 95%) of the people who try to do what I do professionally will fail. But that’s really not my problem. I’m a businesswoman, and I’m not running a bleeping charity. So don’t ask me to work for free. And while you’re at it, why don’t you get off Fantasy Island and join the rest of us in the real world?

That is all.