No one can live off of what they love to do unless it makes a profit, and not everything someone does to pay the bills is enjoyable (no matter how good they may be at it). For this blog, I wanted to take a look at the positives and negatives that can be found when writers create works that are purely because they want to versus when they’re paid to create content with the sole purpose of profiting from it.
Are you currently writing for yourself, writing for profit, or some combination of the two? Are you juggling both, or strictly one or the other? Let us know in the comments below!
Writing for Yourself – The Good
No rules, no directions, no one telling you what to do, and most certainly all the creative freedom you could ever want! You can write about whatever your heart desires: space dinosaurs, two robots who fall in love, a reverse Benjamin Button (aka someone who ages normally), and more! The world is your creative oyster, and all you have to do is reach out and snatch up those ideas and get to writing! You’re under no deadlines, no obligations to write a certain way or in a certain style, and can really let your unique writing style shine! It’s amazing, it’s exciting, and best of all, it’s completely up to you what you write about! Let the freedom take you wherever you want to go!
When you write for yourself, you have complete control over what you create. You don’t have to stick to any rules or guidance from anyone else, and you’re free to change whatever you want at the drop of a hat. This also means that even if you start out with a great idea that slowly fizzles out because you find it hard to finish, you’re under no obligation to keep writing. Toss it out, change it up, finish it; the decision is yours and yours alone to make. To be honest, this is how I see my website, blogs, and other major works. I’m free to write what I want, when I want, and how I want. It’s a great feeling, and ultimately something that I want to continue doing in the long term. I’m just glad to see that others also appreciate the benefits that come with writing for yourself and have taken to doing so as well.
Writing for Yourself – The Bad
So, you know what you want to write about, right? You’ve got it all figured out, everything mapped out perfectly in your head to make a great piece? No? Well, why not? The creativity isn’t flowing, you say? You don’t know how to flesh out your original idea? You have no clue where to go from here? Well, it’s your story! Just tell it! You have full creative control over your own writing, so just, you know, do it! I mean, sure, there’s no real time-limit or due date for whatever it is you’re working on. In theory you could spend decades working on something before you feel it’s ready. Funny enough, that exact scenario does indeed happen to writers when they’re writing for themselves. Would you be prepared to wait that long?
It’s not always easy to get the creative juices flowing. Unless you’ve set self-imposed deadlines, there’s really no rush to finish what you start. Even then, by giving yourself a deadline you might be stressing out and worrying more than your writing really warrants. The whole point of writing for yourself is to make something that interests you and that you can ultimately be proud of. When your writing starts to go astray, or doesn’t live up to your expectations, you only have yourself to blame. When the writing goes well, life is grand. When it goes bad, you’re the reason. If it takes too long to finish, that’s because you don’t have a valid reason to finish it by a certain amount of time. There’s no issue with spending a lot of time on personal writing, but it may in fact frustrate the writer to never see any fruits of their labor after such a lengthy stretch of time.
Writing for Profit – The Good
You’ve been given a task to write so many words, pages, or posts about a certain topic, item, place, or event. It’s a straightforward assignment with clear direction and a deadline. Whether you’re writing for a company or as a freelancer, your boss and/or client will make sure to tell you what they expect and what you’re supposed to do. Even if you’re ever unsure about the direction of your writing, you can always ask before you finish or show your first draft for approval. At the end of your assignment, you’re (hopefully) paid and sent on your way to do it all over again. You can make a career out of such work, or just do it on the side because you enjoy writing and are good at producing quality content on top of your daily workload and life. No matter which you choose, you’re still being paid to write.
Obviously, one of the best things about writing for profit is that you can support yourself or supplement your income doing something that you enjoy. You get to immortalize your words through your work and may even gain recognition (unless you’re a ghostwriter, of course). You have a set goal, direction, and purpose behind your writing, and will be compensated for the effort you put into it. It’s an equal exchange of your artistic skills for adequate payment, and some find that making a career out of writing is just a matter of finding those that have writing needs you can fulfill. Regardless, it does feel good to have compensation for your work. For more positive aspects of getting paid to write for someone else, check out my past blog on the subject here.
Writing for Profit – The Bad
This week you’ll need to write about something that completely uninterested you. There’s no guarantee that this won’t happen again next week, or the week after, or the week after. You might have to do extensive research on a topic that isn’t widely covered and is hard to find through web searches. The person or business you’re writing for might not like your style, so they may ask you to change your writing voice. You can’t write the way you want, you have to do hours of research on a hard-to-find subject for one small paragraph, and you feel like your work is slowly crushing your soul (see my wisp about that here for more information on soul-crushing). But hey, you’re at least getting paid, right?
Sometimes having to write about things you don’t particularly have an interest in can be annoying. Sometimes having to dull your writing style or change it so that it’s impossible to even recognize it as your work can be taxing and degrading (we won’t even get into the fact that you might see your published work later on and realize that it’s been so severely edited that it’s merely a shell of your writing). You might not be able to find someone who is willing to compensate you adequately enough for what you believe you deserve for your work, and thus may end up rejecting offers left and right until you’re forced to take something just to make ends meet. Just finding a client or company to work for in the first place is a task in and of itself, and the barriers are set so high that many who want to and are willing to write for profit have a hard time even getting started. It can be a difficult task, and even after gaining clients there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to keep them. For even more negative aspects of writing for profit – specifically for freelance writers – you can read all about them here.
Monetizing Your Writing
Just because you’re writing for yourself doesn’t mean you can’t also make a few pretty pennies off of your work. One of the primary reasons why authors choose to write novels, short stories, and series of works is because they want to tell a story without being hindered by the directions or thoughts of someone who’s only looking to use their writing for profit. After finishing their work, authors can release it for free into the world, or publish it through a traditional publishing company. They can also go the route of self-publishing by utilizing a third-party company like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. There are no guaranteed royalties for publishing through any of these channels, but it’s a great opportunity for a writer to potentially make an earning with their writing, or at least get their writing out to the world. I myself am a firm believer of this method, as all of my works are technically available for purchase on Amazon, but are also free to download every month.
Enjoying Profitable Writing
Though some writers may feel stifled and uncomfortable writing about certain topics or subjects that they have no interest in, others flourish in such an environment and truly enjoy what they do. They see each project as a way to learn something new and dive right in with both feet. Even if you don’t particularly find joy in writing about subjects that have little interest for you, there’s still hope! There are tons of niches and topics that a writer can get themselves into to ensure that they’re only writing about the things that they find interesting. If you’re a sports enthusiast, you can write exclusively about sports; if you’re a health nut, you can write about diets and exercise; and if you’re into technology, you can write about new technological marvels! There’s almost always someone looking for a specific topic of writing needs, and if you can fill those needs while also enjoying what you write, then more power to you!
Whether you’re writing for yourself or strictly to earn a profit, there are ways to make either act enriching and fulfilling. Sure, there are downsides to almost any aspect of writing, but it’s how you handle yourself and decide what you want to do with your writing that will ultimately decide your overall happiness or resentment towards your work. It isn’t wrong to write with the mindset that you want to make money, and it isn’t silly to write just for the fun of writing. Everyone is free to write whatever they like for whatever reason, and hopefully fellow writers everywhere are willing to support each other no matter what other writers decide to do with their writing.