Writing-Life Loser? 11 Freelancer Stereotypes That Are Total B.S. - Make a Living Writing

Writing-Life Loser? 11 Freelancer Stereotypes That Are Total B.S.

Evan Jensen | 23 Comments
11 Writing-Life Stereotypes That Are Total B.S.

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…

  • “Ohhh”
  • “Hmmm”
  • “Pshhh”
  • “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.

via GIPHY

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?

Wrong!

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.

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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:

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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.

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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
  • Headlines
  • Articles
  • 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.

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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
  • Napping
  • 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.

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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.

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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.

via GIPHY

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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.

Grow Your Writing Income. FreelanceWritersDen.com

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23 comments on “Writing-Life Loser? 11 Freelancer Stereotypes That Are Total B.S.

  1. Ben on

    Good article, but unfortunately I can’t relate to it yet because I’m still a daily 8-5 prisoner of the regular workforce! My niche is the problem, since it’s been hard to pinpoint the exact direction to take, to try to become the writer I want to be.

    But I digress. The real reason for this response is to take issue with the “blanket” statement which describes those who are tied to a desk chair. This “sentence” is often incorrectly identified as “9-5”. I work 8-5, and have done so ever since I left the cushy hours of broadcast radio back in the early 90’s! I don’t think “9-5” exists anymore! If I could work 9-5 and get paid for 40 hours I would. A 9-5 job doesn’t accumulate 40 hours! To get a whopping one-hour lunch, one must start at 8. Or work from 9-6.

    Maybe it was that awful Dolly Parton ditty from the 80’s that gave the world the impression that 9-5 are standard working hours….and maybe they used to be. I started my working career in radio, so my shifts varied.

    Anyway, I HOPE…SOMEDAY…to be able to proudly proclaim that, YES, I AM a freelance writer! And I’ll do so with (hopefully) a HUGE grin!! … and will gladly accept the snide remarks and odd expressions that accompany it.

    Reply
  2. Linda Hamilton on

    Just read about networking groups and have to say when I attended several and introduced myself as a freelance writer, I got a lot of these responses. Perhaps it was the look on their faces after I said it that told me they were skeptical. I remember once I introduced myself saying I wrote webcopy and the business owner pursed her lips and said, “And how many people have you successfully helped increase their client based?” I was new, had barely started and was so shocked by her expression and question I stammered with some silly remark. She scoffed and walked off. Being an introvert that was a tough one. But eventually I worked through all the scoffers and could easily network as a freelancer gaining a few clients.

    Love this post, so much to ponder.

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      There’s a lot of people who instantly think “broke and lazy” when they hear “freelance writer.” But lots of freelancers make more $ and have more free time than many with a 9-5. Keep going!

      Reply
  3. Linda Hamilton on

    I’ve heard many of them including #1, 2, 5, 8 & 9. Just happens I have cats, but not because I’m a writer. Happened long before I was writing.

    Did have a neighbor who knocked on my door throughout the day for favors because I worked from home. Told him I was a freelance writer and he scoffed, then kept bothering me. Finally I stopped answering the door, which made him mad but since he he wouldn’t hear me when I said I was working I had no choice. Oh well.

    And I have written three poetry books and a novel, but most of my writing was for magazines and specialized publications. One publication held events I attended and advertised those events on television. I often appeared in them, so it wasn’t unusual for people to walk up and say “I saw you on TV last night!” I’d laugh, nod, and say “Yes, the event is next week.” That was fun.

    Currently I work from home and my landlady doesn’t give me grief because her granddaughter is a blossoming writer. But I think she thinks I’m a desperately broke writer with no social skills. LOL.

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      LOL. That’s cool. When I was a newspaper editor/reporter for Pamplin Media in Portland, I did radio interviews now and then related to news stories. And I’d get similar reactions…”I heard you on the radio.”

      Reply
  4. Rick Jamison on

    No. 2 isn’t my non-freelance writing friends; it’s my non-freelance writing wife who asks me “Get me lunch/take out the trash/do the dishes” just about every day.

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      LOL. Really? Maybe try this…

      Next time a client pays you, take her out to dinner. And when it’s time to pay, pull out a fat wad of cash and tell her it’s from freelancing.

      Or buy her a nice surprise gift, something you know she wants. And when she asks how you paid for it…freelancing.

      Then in the most passive aggressive way possible, I’d say something like: It’s great to have uninterrupted time for my freelance work. LOL.

      Or just have a conversation about it. “I’m working between TIME and TIME. Would it be possible to avoid interrupting me then?”

      Reply
      • Rick Jamison on

        She knows that I make more money than she does. It doesn’t matter; in her eyes, the fact that I’m freelancing means that I’m free to re-arrange my schedule whenever she needs it for anything. As long as I’m working from home, that’s never going to change.

        Reply
        • Evan Jensen on

          LOL. I feel your pain. I try not to think about the hours of lost productivity and revenue over the past year freelancing from home and managing kids doing online school.

          Reply
  5. Kaitlin Morrison on

    I’ve heard many (if not all) of these freelancer stereotypes at one point or another. I think this is such a different career choice that it fascinates people.

    You know what’s really funny? When people who know you’re a writer discover that you wrote for a client they recognize or that you have your work regularly published. Sometimes, at that point, they finally “get” what you do.

    Now, I’ve only run into a random stranger who actually reads what I write ONCE. It happened a few years ago when I was still writing for a chiropractic magazine. I was on vacation in Iceland and told a fellow traveler about one of the publications I wrote for. I didn’t know I was talking to a chiropractor (and one who read my blog)!

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      Love it. Had an acquaintance once find my byline in Oklahoma Today magazine. I think he was more excited than I was about it. LOL.

      Reply
  6. Diane Young on

    Questions I’ve gotten: “Since you don’t work..Could you run our bake sale?/ “Could you write a letter to the Surgical Committee so I can get a gastric bypass?”/ “Could you take my car to have it serviced? I need to do something else.” Like what, get your hair done? And who knows why you need bypass surgery better than you???

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      LOL. “Take my car in” and “Volunteer”…because I’m home all day doing nothing. Right? Heard these ones before. But the gastric bypass letter is a new one. Your response should be, “Sure. My fee is…”

      Reply
    • Kaitlin Morrison on

      I’ve definitely heard the “since you don’t work…” line. I was once sorted into a particular Bible study at my church that’s “for the ladies who don’t work” and could presumably attend a meeting at 11 am.

      I started correcting people with “actually, I do work” but haven’t gotten anywhere. Oh well. 🙂

      Reply
      • Evan Jensen on

        Maybe we’ll finally see this start to change now that it looks like the remote work life is going to be around a while.

        Reply
  7. Angela L. Dowdy on

    LOVE this article! Your #6 & #8 made me spew my coffee! I had two great careers before becoming a travel writer. One was in radio broadcasting and the other was as a psychological counselor.
    Your #11 really made me think! I love people. As a total EXtrovert one of my biggest joys is to interview people on my travels. I’ve interviewed artists, chefs, police officers, politicians, and so much more.
    Thank you for your entertaining and insightful way with words!!!

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen on

      LOL. #8 especially. That’s what most people think when you say, “I’m a writer.” I know nothing about poetry. I’ve read plenty of business and non-fiction books. But I actually haven’t read a novel in years. I’m not that kind of writer. LOL. Glad you enjoyed this. Pretty cool you’ve carved out a niche as a travel writer. Fun fact…I ran or hiked almost every trail in Oklahoma when I lived there a few years ago.

      Reply

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