10 Things Freelance Writers Are Sick of Hearing

by Zawn Villines on Feb 21, 2015

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Writing is not like other jobs. The Internet has made it easy for just about anyone to call herself a writer, with many people mistakenly believing that writing is easy, a recipe for riches, or a quick ticket to fame. Most freelance writers are accustomed to hearing non-writers spout writing myth after writing myth. Here are the 10 phrases that leave writers across the globe gritting their teeth.

“I’m a writer, too!”
Yeah, but I really am. It’s great if you like writing. But I like guitar music. That does not make me a guitarist. You are a writer if that is your job. When someone else tells you that writing is their job, it’s insulting to compare their job to your hobby.

“Any tips for breaking into the industry?”
I don’t know why non-writers think that success as a writer only requires having the right email address or knowing the elusive magic key to “breaking in.” Writing is hard work. I spend some portion of every day chasing down clients and submitting proposals. And I keep those clients by offering them my years of experience coupled with first-rate prose. You can’t “break into” being a writer. It’s something you have to earn.

“Reasonable prices only”
When clients say this, what they really mean is that they want cheap prices. And cheap prices are inherently unreasonable. For a realistic look at what writers should charge, take a gander at this page.

“Do you offer startup discounts?”
Why would I charge less just because your odds of going bankrupt and not paying me are higher than average? For more details on why startups shouldn’t get discounts (and why legitimate startups won’t ask), see here.

“Can you help me publish my book?”
If you’re willing to pay for it, the book is of excellent quality, you’re working with a mainstream publishing house, and you’re giving me credit. Otherwise you’re just another faux author looking for free work.

“It’s easy work for someone who knows what they’re doing.”
If the work is easy, then why not do it yourself? This is a common strategy clients use to take advantage of novice freelancers. Don’t buy it. Clients who claim their projects are “easy” are often highly demanding. They’ll waste three hours of your precious time on the phone just to tell you how easy the work they’ve requested is.

“My mom/kindergarten teacher/dog told me I’m a talented writer!”
It is the job of people who love you to lie to you and make you feel good about yourself. If you ask for feedback from a professional writer, though, be prepared not to like what you hear. Writing is a skill that must be sharpened over time, with daily work. It is not an innate talent.

“But what’s your real job?”
If I had a “real job” outside of writing, I wouldn’t be a writer, would I?

“Can you edit my work/write for my website?”
That depends. Can you treat my dog’s fleas/put a filling in my teeth/clean my house/complete other time-intensive tasks for free? Writing is a luxury service, and it’s one you have to pay for. When you ask a writer to help you without offering any compensation, you’re telling that writer that her work has no value.

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