Seven ways to screw up your writing career

When you’re freelance writing, you’ll find there are a million people out there who will tell you how to succeed… provided you give them $49.95 per month for a minimum of the rest of your natural-born life.

But there aren’t a lot of people willing to tell you what you shouldn’t do.

Luckily, I’m here to help.

facebook-image1. Start your morning off with a quick look at Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site. I know… how can you live without seeing the latest incendiary post about the President, or your college roommate’s daughter’s best friend’s new cat video? Perish the thought, right? If you really, REALLY don’t want to succeed, make sure you get into an argument with that friend from elementary school over whether or not people who park in handicapped spots should be shot on sight, and then go out and try to find an amusing cat video to upload.

2. Treat your career like a hobby. Don’t worry about things like Tax ID numbers, bookkeepers, separate checking accounts and income projections. In fact, don’t even keep track of all of your contacts or reach out to them regularly. It’s not like you actually want to make a living, right? The mere thought of being a work-at-home writer is enough. No need to keep track of invoices, receivables, tax information and receipts – that’s all for losers. Besides, everyone else thinks you sit around in your underwear playing solitaire all day so you might as well, right?

3. Forget to find new assignments on a regular basis. If you’re like most people, you “know” you’re a good writer (isn’t everyone?) and what you have to say is much more pajamaseloquent and important than anything anyone else has to say. So, really, people should be coming to you, begging you to write for them, shouldn’t they? Put on those comfy slippers and those flannel pajama bottoms and just wait for them to contact you. Once the word gets out about how great you are, they will come flocking to your door.

4. Don’t market yourself. Nope, nope-ity nope, nope, nope. No need to get a web site, a Facebook page, a blog, a Twitter and Instagram account or business cards. Just be yourself, see above and wait for assignments to come pouring in.

clock-image5. Give top priority to making sure you only work a six or seven hour day. Nothing says success like only having to work four hours a week, right? And if you have to work more than eight hours a day, you must be doing something wrong. No one knows better than you how much more important it is to relax, unwind and keep your reading up, rather than working hard and earning your stripes.

6. Stop trying to learn. Instead of listening to others who work at writing for a living, make sure that you keep yourself above it all. There’s no need to learn about social media marketing, SEO search terms, monetizing your blog or how to craft a sentence. Who needs that stuff? You just need a few articles a month so you can sit back and write the Great American Novel. It’s a no-brainer. Who needs growth and education when you have brilliance behind you?

unprofessional-habits7. Definitely, above all else, don’t be professional. Make sure that you don’t double check your work, keep good notes about sources and their contact information, meet deadlines or work well with other people, like editors and photographers. That just screams “amateur!” You’re a diva. Every word you write is pure genius! Editors should consider themselves lucky that you deigned to allow them to use your prosaic gems.

Granted, I am by no means the most successful freelance writer out there. But I am making a living from it. And I am getting paid for my work. And I have learned a few things in the two years that I’ve been doing this. There’s no guarantee that my experience will be the same as your experience, but I can tell you for a fact, there’s nothing that will kill your freelance career quicker than believing you are above it all. Do the work, the hard work, of building a base of clients and marketing yourself as a writer, and you should be fine.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2017

All images remain the property of their owners

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Culture shift

So, when you move to the Upstate of South Carolina, one of the first things you learn is that the Confederacy was born and died right next door in Abbeville County.

Jefferson Davis signed the Articles of the Confederacy during a meeting at the Burt-Starke House in the city of Abbeville, county seat of Abbeville County. Five years later, when the War of Northern Aggression (seriously, that’s what some call it STILL) came to a close, Confederate troops ran through Anderson with the Confederate gold, and stopped at the Burt-Starke Mansion to let Davis sign the treaty that ended the Civil War.

The other thing you learn pretty quickly is that there is a big Black population here. When I lived in Cincinnati, it was shocking how few African-Americans were in the area. That area had about a 5 and 10 percent black population, but here it’s closer to 35 percent, if not higher in some areas.

So, I’d been here for about 6 months, and my newest friend was the public information officer for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. She invites me out to “choir Practice” on a Wednesday night – which is so named because it’s Karaoke night at the Islander, which she gets to go to while her step mom takes her son to church. So, my friend is recently divorced and was there at choir practice with her then loser boyfriend Steve. And Steve, because I’m a reporter and I’m new, starts telling me all about the area. And since he has lived here forever, he just won’t quit. And I’m looking over to my friend to have her help me, but she’s off singing (if you can call it that) karaoke to “You give love a bad name” which seems appropriate for her ex, but seems to be a bad sign for the relationship if it’s about Steve.

Anyway, I’m trying to pay attention to Steve, which is hard because he’s really boring, when he says “Has anyone told you about the Black Panthers in Abbeville?”

Immediately, my ears pricked up. Having covered Klan rallies in Oxford, Ohio and going through riots in Cincinnati, and almost covering the Klan in Brookville, Indiana, I was immediately interested.

“Oh, yeah,” he says. “They’re all over the place. I’ve seen a bunch of them in Abbeville.”

Now, I had just gotten finished writing a story about this guy that ended up stealing about $3k made during an event that was supposed to go to charity. And my editor was constantly telling me to “go out there and rake some muck.” And I’m thinking “Holy crap! Militant black activists in the cradle and grave of the Confederacy? What the heck?! This is going to be a great story!!!”

So I start pumping Steve for more info and I’m asking him where these black panthers are and what they do and what everyone thinks about them. They live in Abbeville, he says, and everyone pretty much ignores them because what else are you going to do, you don’t see them much, so it’s not like you can shoot them.

To say I was a little shocked at that sentence is an understatement.

And then he says “Oh, yeah, I see them all the time on my way to and from work driving down the Abbeville Highway.”

I was looking at him like a deer hit by a bus and I ask, “Well, how can you tell they’re black panthers?”

And without batting an eye he says “Oh, that’s easy – you can tell cause of their long tails. Otherwise, they’d just be bob cats….”

My chin almost hit my beer glass my jaw fell open so much.

Yup…. Welcome to the rural South, Miss Uppity Northern Reporter…

© Liz Carey 2014