Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The 8 Jobs of Modern Writers

Writing is a funny business. You get into writing because you love it. Then, you love it so much that you want to make a career out of the writing. It's possible, but as you pursue your dream of becoming a full-time writer it becomes apparent that there's more to being a writer than just writing.

In fact, I think I have narrowed down the scope of being a writer to eight jobs. Plus, I've included two extra jobs for those writers who are always in pursuit of extra credit. These jobs are the hats a writer must wear to find success as a freelancer in today's publishing/media environment. Not every hat will fit perfect at first, but writers should play off their strengths and work to improve their weaknesses.

Here are the 8 jobs of modern writers:
  1. Writer. Believe it or not, the writing should always come first. If the other seven jobs ever start to overwhelm you, remember to fall back on the writing. That's your bread and butter as a writer.
  2. Editor. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that someone else can correct all your mistakes. Sure, an editor will help improve (or at least alter) your writing, but that's only after your work has been accepted. Your job as a writer is not just to string words and sentences together; it's to string the best words and sentences together--with a minimum of grammar and spelling mistakes.
  3. Copywriter. Jane Friedman wrote a great post about why this is important over at Writer Unboxed. Copywriting skills are needed for everything from writing query letters to bio notes.
  4. File clerk. Once your writing is great and your query skills pay the bills, you need the ability to keep accurate records. The WritersMarket.com site I edit offers a submission tracker tool, but writers need to also keep track of bills, payments, and expenses--for tax purposes. It's not fun for most people (raising my hand), but it's essential to freelance success.
  5. Negotiator. Here are my negotiation tips for writers--from the perspective of an editor. Put them to good use. For tips from the writer's perspective, check out this post by Carol Tice. You don't have to be super pushy to be a good negotiator--sometimes all you need to do is ask.
  6. Accountant. This is sort of related to number four, but money complicates everything and needs an extra level of care. If you're trying to make a business out of your writing, you'll need to keep receipts and accurate records of payments, expenses, bills, etc., that are related to your writing. If you go to a conference, that's a business expense, including the hotel, mileage, etc. Learn more in the 2012 Writer's Market, which has a great piece on this subject by full-time freelancer Sage Cohen.
  7. Marketer. Most writers don't want to think about this job. After all, many are introverts. Then, there are the extroverted writers who actually want to move this ahead of the writing on the list of jobs. However, I think the writing always comes first, but writers have to build a platform. It's essential to building your brand as a freelance writer and making you visible to potential opportunities.
  8. Speaker. Speaking of introverted writers, I'm sure most are spitting their coffee all over the computer screens in disbelief that I would include number eight as an essential job of modern writers. However, it's true. Many of the best opportunities (both for platform building and making money) for writers moving forward will involve speaking. You don't have to be the best speaker ever, but speaking is a skill that you work on and can improve over time. Trust me, I used to think it was impossible, and I still get nervous, but I am much better now than I used to be. Click here for a few of my tips on speaking.
These are the jobs that make my essential list from what I know of the publishing landscape and how many writers have found success in the past decade. However, I do have a few other "extra credit" jobs as well.

Advocate. Writers should be advocates for their own work but also for the work, rights, payment, treatment, etc., of other writers. If you see a writer banging his or her head against a wall looking for a door that only you can see, please direct them to the door. Educate them on negotiating rights, keeping accurate records, and building a platform. What benefits one writer benefits all of us.

Connector. Connected to being advocate, writers can help others and themselves by acting as connectors. That is, connect people who can benefit from each other. If you're offered a job you can't take, don't just say, "No thanks." Try to recommend someone who's more qualified or available. This helps the two parties who were connected and helps you, because they'll suddenly be advocates for you and your goals. Remember the golden rule.

So what do you think? Did I miss anything? It wouldn't be the first time. Share your thoughts below.

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32 comments:

A.Y. said...

This post connects the dots of being a writer. You can't make a career out of it, if you're missing a piece or two. Timely reminder for those of us moving forward!

One Minnesota Writer said...

Excellent post! Thank you for this one.

Nora B. Peevy said...

I enjoy your blog so much, I've nominated you for One Lovely Blog Award. Stop by The Demon Stole My Pencil to pick up your award and nominate 15 other blogs for this honor.

Congrats!

-Nora

One Womans Eye said...

Well said! You might want to check out my post from earlier this week on www.janefriedman,com on what good salespeople know that writers should. It dovetails nicely with your advice. http://janefriedman.com/2011/12/06/what-good-salespeople-know/

sharpcrayon said...

Great blog! I'd add one key skill: Researcher (or "Dogged Truthseeker"). This job is crucial for all writers, fiction or nonfiction, both in the writing and the selling processes. It's especially tough now, when information is only a Wikipedia away, but facts are often buried.

(PS. I found it hard to post this comment under my standard email, needed to use a more obscure gmail account.)

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Good point on research being a key skill. It's essential to knowing, instead of just regurgitating.

thatsajennstory said...

Yeah, the researching bit is where I have the most trouble (i.e. am the laziest).

Any specific suggestions for a writer who has one obscurely published book and has been asked to be a featured writer at Seattle University School of Theology's "Search for Meaning" conference? Talk about nervous!

Thanks for this helpful post.

KellyO said...

Excellent article! I want to emphasize the point about presenting. In my former life as a non-profit founder and director I saw a direct correlation between the number of times I did a presentation - even a very short one - and the support the agency received for our cause and the number of opportunities that came our way as a result. Your genre and your voice as a writer are your "cause" You don't have to be a particularly eloquent or charismatic speaker, just passionate and authentic.

Lindy said...

Excellent post! I would say a good starting place is to have the love of reading and of words and ideas. Then to have a supportive community to help coax you along and to push you past your fear/procrastination.

Anne R. Allen said...

So true--All of it. I really didn't get the file clerk/accountant roles until recently. We need to budget time for that. Great post. Will RT!

I♥blogs said...

Robert, this is really a useful approach for so many writers, breaking The Task down into the many tasks that make it all work.

Just the process of thinking of the writing life holistically in this way can help add clarity to each of these individual tasks, especially for some of the more complex left-brained projects writers need to take on like platform development.

Thanks for posting and happy holidays!

Tamara Sellman at Writer's Rainbow
http://www.writersrainbow.com

GRACE PETERSON said...

Great post, but don't forget Tech Support. You have to know a thing or ten about the workings of your own computer and basic software capabilities. Wow, we're a pretty savvy bunch.:)

Robert Lee Brewer said...

You know, Grace, I've always felt the average writer is a pretty savvy person. We're often forced into being communication experts, but also knowing a little bit about everything else too.

Brandi said...

Reading this list definitely increases my confidence in doing #5. When you consider how many roles and jobs we take on, getting a worthy writing rate is so important! I'd also like to add another extra credit item: innovator. I think to be a writer, we're constantly challenged to come up with new, creative and innovative ways to market ourselves, produce unique pieces and stand out from the crowd.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

You're totally right, Brandi! Writers do have to be innovators.

I might have to make a sequel with all the extra jobs emerging. How do we fit all the time into the day?

thetaskbyrandyfasig said...

The article is great and the other tips added complete it. With one exception, Lawyer. We all need to be aware of the laws for content and the ones emerging for ebooks, blogs, Twitter and sites like hubpages. It is essential that we follow and protect ourselves and each other in this environment as well. Thanks for the tips and keep them coming!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Great point! The ethics and actual laws regarding content is getting more complicated and regulated every month. In fact, I admit there's part of me that wants to ignore that arena, but it's definitely dangerous to do so.

So yes, lawyer is a new and vital job for writers as well.

Mark Beyer said...

I like how you think, Auden ... I've been an editor, news features writer, fiction writing teacher, and once worked on a pet magazine. Perhaps the pet magazine did the most for my novel writing, because when I got home all I wanted to do was WRITE MY STORY!

Mark Beyer
author of "The Village Wit"
http://www.bibliogrind.com

societyoffreethinkers said...

Thank you I really appreciated this post and will keep everything fresh in my mind for future reference.

Unknown said...

sick. that was an awesome article & post.i have been procrastinating writing all my life.you are a savvy bunch. i want to b savvy too. you all have truley inspired me to pursue a writing career. thank u!

Deb Fennell said...

Paul S. Levine (agent and lawyer-Paul S. Levine agency) and Katharine Sands (agent-Sarah Jane Freymann Agency) gave a presentation at the League of Vermont Writers' Fall Program in September of this year, "Publishing A to Z: The Fiction and Non-Fiction Writers Guide". Paul made very similar points to what you have expressed in your blog, Robert. Paul said, (and I am paraphrasing here, I didn't write down the exact quote) all of you are writers, but not all of you may want to be authors. Some writers really love writing and think they want to be published and make a living as a writer. However, if you really want to be published, and make a living, you are going to have to wear a great many hats and lots of them have little to do with the actual act of writing.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Well, Paul would definitely know, since he's on the front lines. I think anyone who has been working in publishing for a while knows first hand how roles are now more multi-dimensional than ever before for everyone: writers, editors, and agents.

Donn said...

Regarding speaking: introverts often make the best speakers, actually. Introversion doesn't mean shyness--it means you form your thoughts before you speak (extroverts form their thoughts by speaking). Writers, therefore, are often much more comfortable as speakers (where you can prepare ahead of time) rather than as, say, partygoers (where nothing is predictable). Certainly good advice for writers--and those pursuing professional speaking are advised to promote their speaking via writing, as well.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

This is true, Donn. I'm much more comfortable speaking in front of a room full of people (with a prepared presentation) than trying to participate in a conversation at a party. My best thoughts come on a 10-second delay. :)

Madeline Sharples said...

Since I began my memoir Leaving the Hall Light Came Out, and since it's release, I've done all of the above. The marketing - entailing the speaking as well - is the hardest and longest part. The book writing and publishing part is finished, but the rest never is.
Thanks, Robert, for articulating this so well.

foglemanforerunner said...

I think I've got it licked. After all, I'm a mommy, so I've juggled all the jobs in one way or another already... plus 100 or so more!

Kate Cardon Parish said...

Glad I found your blog. This post and your more recent one about increasing traffic are on-point and timely. Thanks for sharing these tips.

Truedessa said...

Hello,

Another informative blog that has information that is relevant to today's writer.

Thanks!

Karina Schroeder said...

I found this post really helpful as I'm starting to think about making my blog more professional and consistent. Thanks for the help!

Pete Abela said...

Hi Not Bob,

When I saw the title of your post, I was expecting one writing job and seven marketing jobs. Thanks for the additional insights.

I'm not making enough money out of writing yet to be too worried about being an accountant. Hopefully that day will come.

(I can't believe I just expressed a wish to be an accountant!)

Rachel Nichols said...

At first I thought you were going to discuss "day jobs" for writers. Though different from what I expected, I wasn't disappointed.

Julius Scipio said...

I like that you make the point about helping others. I've always tried to that for writers younger than myself and I've always appreciated it from those older and far betterthan myself.