Just Because You Got an A in English, Doesn’t Mean You Can Be a Copywriter: Part II

sara2Now, where did I leave off … In my previous post on this topic, I grumbled about the misconceptions concerning my chosen profession like the 30-year-old curmudgeon that I am.

You didn’t think I’d stop at three misconceptions, did you? Surely, you underestimated the power of my bitterness. This time, I tackle the sneering judgments passed by those unsympathetic creative black holes who have no respect at all for anything rhyming with “pre-dance biter.”

Myth #4: “Freelance writer” is code for “unemployed and delusional.”

When you tell a writer that their job “doesn’t count,” you’re undercutting their professional worth. And just being a jerk. Would it be appropriate for me to stop by your office unannounced and expect you to take a few hours off and come shopping with me? What about if I approached you at your desk and tried to engage you in conversation about laundry?

When I’m working, surprise! I’m working. I’m not hunched over my computer trying to bang out marketing copy for fun. (Even though, yes, I do love what I do.) And yet, my friends/family/boyfriend/mailman/g-chat buddies seem to believe that because I’m not sitting in a stuffy cube farm, surrounded by khaki and potbellies and general discontent, I’m not actually working. Not really.

Myth #5: Freelance writers sit around in their pajamas.

Like any overworked and underpaid career woman, I relish the comfortable cotton embrace of sweatpants at the end of a tedious day. However, at the start of the day, I get dressed – just like real, live people! I even have a designated work space! With a chair! And sometimes, if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll wash my face in the morning! It’s the little things.

Myth #6: Writers are satisfied earning a byline instead of a paycheck.

There seems to be a general misconception that we writers are simply narcissistic simpletons who will be tickled piglet pink by seeing our name in print. I’m not going to pay my rent with bylines, kids. In fact, the only time my byline is at all relevant to my bills is when I write it at the bottom of a check.

I once had a prospective client who was utterly flabbergasted when I quoted her my hourly rate; not because it’s outrageously high, but because I was going to charge her for my time. Writing is a professional skill, just like plumbing. Sure, you could try to save money by fixing your broken toilet yourself. But in all likelihood, you’re going to do a less-than-adequate job and you’ll eventually need to call in a professional. Who will charge you money.

There. Now you understand that freelance writing is a job to be taken seriously, and not a pithy and adorable little hobby. Hopefully, should you meet me at a party, your remarks about my chosen profession will no longer prompt me to fantasize about your demise. Hey, that rhymed. Maybe I should be a poet. That’s probably totally easy.

When Sara Faith Alterman is not tied up with her own client work, she chips in as a copywriter with The Hired Pens. Ask for her by name!

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