Is there someone in your circle who thinks your writing life is a joke?
You know…they vehemently try to talk you out of quitting your day job.
Or maybe you’ve heard their snide comments, snickers, and even mockery that being a freelance writer is just for dreamers and lazy people.
Ever heard the writing life get knocked down by people who really don’t know anything about what being a successful freelancer looks like?
Chances are pretty good they’re jealous. Maybe they’re too scared to make the leap themselves, even though they’ve thought about it.
Or maybe they really don’t understand what freelance writers do.
Would you agree?
Here’s the problem with all the doubters and naysayers…
If you internalize all the negative comments they spew about the writing life, it can quickly become a source of self sabotage and make you feel like a loser.
You start to believe you’re not good enough or smart enough to make money writing.
That ends NOW. OK!?
Check out these 11 stereotypes about the writing life that are total B.S.
1. You’re an unemployable reject
“So you’re a writer?”
Their non-verbal messages are almost always the giveaway to what they really think. It’s the raised eyebrow or tone of their voice…
- “That’s interesting”
They think you’re calling yourself a freelance writer, because you can’t hold down a real job.
You know…like you can’t handle the 9 to 5.
Or maybe you’re always combative with managers and supervisors.
Or you think you’re better than people who have a “real job.”
Total B.S. When you realize the typical 9-5 worker…
- Spends 40-60 hours a week at work + commuting
- Reports to a boss or supervisor
- Maybe gets micromanaged every day
- Gets stiffed on raises, cost of living increases, or skipped over for a promotion
- For 30-plus years…
CHOOSING the writing life makes a lot of sense.
2. You’re a lazy coffee-drinking dreamer
Ever have your non-freelance writing friends call you to…
- Watch their kids in the middle of the day
- Take out their garbage
- Run an errand
Why not? You’re home all day or hanging out at a local coffee shop just day dreaming. Right?
Total B.S. Just because you work from home or you prefer to work remotely from a coffee shop, hardly makes you a lazy day dreamer.
It’s just hard for people who don’t understand the writing life to picture working this way.
3. You’re an English major failure
So you went to college and got a degree in English?
But you can’t get a real job with an English degree, so you take up the writing life and call yourself a freelancer.
Heard this one before?
Total B.S. Getting a degree, in English or any other field, isn’t a guarantee you’ll jump right into a lucrative career.
FYI…Make a Living Writing founder Carol Tice is a self-described college dropout.
Getting an English degree might help you be a better writer, but it’s not a requirement.
In fact, lots of successful freelancers have degrees and certifications in non-writing related fields without formal training in writing.
4. You’re an unreliable scatterbrain
Here’s another writing life stereotype that gets freelance writers all wrong.
- Your life is a disorganized, chaotic mess.
- You miss appointments, blow off deadlines, and forget about important details.
- It’s like your life could be turned into a reality TV show just to see the train wrecks you create by being an unreliable scatterbrain.
Total B.S. Successful freelance writers are pretty much the opposite. In fact, the best freelance writers create systems, patterns, and habits to:
- Stay on track
- Meet deadlines
- Be organized (like freelancer Emma Murphy)
- And get more work done to make money writing
5. All freelance writers are broke and desperate
It’s not a secret. There are a lot of struggling freelance writers out there.
- Some have a 9-to-5 and do freelance work as a side hustle.
- Others balance a part-time job with part-time freelancing trying to go full-time to enjoy the writing life
- And too many spend their time on content mills and bid sites instead of pitching clients
If you’re just starting out, maybe you haven’t made any money yet.
Or maybe you’re a mid-career freelancer, still trying to level up.
But are all writers broke and desperate? That’s…
Total B.S. Lots of writers learn to match their day-job income working fewer hours. And many writers cross the six-figure mark earning $100,000 or more per year.
6. It’s a no-other-skills career choice
So you didn’t join the family business and learn the skills of the trade?
Or you didn’t pursue the path of doctor, dentist, lawyer, or CEO.
Then you probably don’t have any skills, and anybody can be a writer.
Ever heard lies like this before about the writing life?
Total B.S. Learning to be a successful freelance writer takes skills and practice. You write:
- Blog posts
- Email sequences
- Landing page content
- Case studies
- White papers
- Website copy
- Lead magnets
- Social media posts…and more!
Ask a non-writer to produce these on a deadline, and let the wailing begin. Bawhahaha!
Plus, lots of writers have niche skills that help them move up and earn more. Check out how farmer and freelancer Georgie Smith is doing it.
7. You wait around for inspiration
Chances are pretty good non-writers have had their run in with writer’s block.
The terrifying experience of staring at a blank screen…devoid of ideas…unable to think of or type a single word.
And they think that’s what the writing life looks like most of the time for freelancers.
You know…you don’t really spend very much time writing. Most of the time you’re waiting around for the muse to strike, so you fill your day with things like:
- Checking email
- Scrolling through social media
- Watching videos
- Taking long walks on the beach
- Organizing your sock drawer
Total B.S. FYI…writers who work this way ARE broke and desperate (see #5☝). Some of the best advice from Carol Tice:
“Be a WRITER, not a WAITER.”
Successful freelance writers don’t send out one pitch or one LOI, then sit back and wait.
And if you’ve got a deadline, you can’t afford to give writer’s block any attention. Turning in an assignment on time is how you get paid and land more work.
8. ‘Oh…so you write novels and poetry’
I was at a dinner party once with a lot of people I didn’t know.
Most had regular 9-to-5 jobs. Eventually, the conversation turned to work.
Q: What do you do?
A: I’m a freelance writer.
I’ve been freelancing long enough to know it’s a foreign concept to most people.
Q: You can make a decent living writing from home. Wait, what?
Had a laugh when some well-meaning guy piped up and said:
Q: “So you’re like the next Truman Capote?”
A: No. No I’m not.
Because all writers are novelist and poets, right?
Total B.S. I personally know a couple of highly successful novelists. (You rock Pamela Mogen for turning your Pride & Predjudice spinoff into a book series, major contract, and self-publishing empire).
But this isn’t the route most freelancers take.
Blame it on Hollywood’s portrayal of most writers in the movies for perpetuating this writing life stereotype.
Most of the successful freelancers I know, including Freelance Writers Den members, don’t write ANY fiction or poetry.
Instead, most of their work and income comes from writing for magazines, trade pubs, and corporate clients.
9. All writers love cats
It’s such a silly stereotype.
The most serious, creative, and dedicated writers are always accompanied by a cat. Right?
The kind of cat that lounges around all day, walks across your keyboard, demands a space on your desk or chair, and of course mocks you or meows when you’re having a struggle.
If you’re going to be a great writer, you need a cat.
Total B.S. FYI…lots of writers don’t own a cat or any pets for that matter.
FYI…U.S. Census data shows that only 25.4 percent of households own a cat. And just 38.4 percent own a dog.
Which means lots of work-at-home freelancers aren’t being supervised be a feline friend.
If you’re a freelancer with a cat or dogs (like Mandy Ellis), great. But it’s not a requirement.
10. You’re a member of the grammar police
You’re a writer. So you must be highly critical of content, copy, and grammar.
You have a sixth sense for spotting typos, errors, and headline blunders.
Which means you’re a member of the Grammar Police, obligated to call out every error or mistake to demonstrate your superior proofreading powers and intellect.
Total B.S. Oh, please. Really? It’s true writers are probably more acutely aware of grammar, word choice, spelling, attribution, and copywriting strategies.
But most aren’t rabidly out there criticizing and critiquing every piece of copy.
Why? There’s at least 3 reasons:
- If you’re a prolific freelancer with lots of work, you’re bound to make mistakes. So why point the finger of blame at other writers?
- Just because you notice an error doesn’t mean you call it out every time. Does your dentist make the rounds at a dinner party telling people their teeth are messed up?
- And then there’s this advice from freelancer and English teacher Melissa Shaffer…Writing blog posts and various forms of copywriting PURPOSELY violate all the rules you learned in English class.
But if you do notice a glaring error (like the time my copyeditor left ‘Stupid headline goes here’ on a news story), you might let the writer or editor know.
11. You have poor social skills
All writers are introverts, and therefore…
- Avoid human interaction
- Always work in isolation
- Generally despise people
- Must be lonely and depressed
- Experience fear, terror, maybe even vomiting, during face-to-face conversations
You’ve heard this one before, right?
It’s one of the most prolific stereotypes out there about freelancers and the writing life.
Total B.S. Maybe a lot of freelance writers are self-described introverts, and do their best work alone with lots of thinking time.
But successful freelance writers (even the introverts) are relationship-savvy and know how to talk to writers, editors, marketing directors, and readers.
- Freelance writer and introvert Julie Johnson got a crash course on how to do this to get clients, move up and earn more.
- Freelance writer Tom Albrighton shows you how it’s done his his book: The Freelance Introvert: Work the way you want without changing who you are.
Create a writing life you love
Even in the gig economy, there’s still a lot of false stereotypes out there about freelance writers. But it really doesn’t matter what “they” think.
When you’re your own boss, in charge of your schedule, and your income, you can do whatever you want. Create a writing life you love.
What do you like most about the writing life? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultramarathon.