$10,000 a Month, Just By Writing?

Here’s the stuff most folks don’t want to hear about that dream.

By Shannon Ashley

Ihad it in my head for a long time that someday, I could make a great living by writing. And over the past 18 months, it’s turned out better than I ever could have dreamed.

And yet? I was certainly wrong about what I thought it would feel like to make really good money. I don’t think anybody who earns well as a writer really ever knows what they’re doing.

We mostly just write, cringe, and hope for the best.

That said, there are a few things I’ve learned over the course of this journey. Some things might surprise you, and others might just help you have some peace along your own path.

It takes time, and sometimes a whole lot of it.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. But I didn’t begin considering a real writing career until 2012.

By the end of 2014, I was too scared to bet on my own career. So, I accepted a job writing for other businesses instead.

For nearly four years, I blogged for hundreds of different clients. That’s how I made a living as a new (and single) mom.

I wrote thousands of blogs and earned a mere $10 for each one. I did that day in and day out until one day my manager hired his sister when she needed a new income fast.

My full-time position was ultimately given to somebody else, not because I was a terrible writer and they were so amazing. But because they were the manager’s sister and in a big bind.

And it likely didn’t help that I’d made myself a squeaky wheel by refusing to do tasks I wasn’t actually paid for.

Everybody pays their dues.

I’m not saying that writers must all subsist on pennies. But we do need to be realistic about what writing is.

You have do the work before you get paid.

Unless we’re talking about freelance client assignments, you’re also doing the work long before you know if there will even be a sale. In this way, writing is something of a crapshoot because you often don’t know if it’s going to pan out at all.

Every time I sit down to write a story, I still don’t know if my time and effort is going to be rewarded. And if I choose to write a book, I likewise won’t know until long after I’ve done the work whether or not the endeavor was profitable.

Successful writing takes plenty of failure, too.

I don’t know of any successful writer who hasn’t spectacularly failed at something. Most writers don’t sell their first books. Even among those who do, there are some major flops.

Sometimes, it’s a long-awaited sequel that flops.

Most writers have to be rejected many, many times before the YESes ever outweigh the NOs.

And even then the failure isn’t over.

You have to recognize that you’re never finished failing.

Well, here’s a piece of reality that really bites. None of us will ever reach a level of success where we are finally done with failure.

Or better yet, failure will never be done with us.

It would be pretty damn sad if it wasn’t so universal. Thank goodness that it is. It’s not just me or you.

This is also why some formerly successful folks grow so stagnant. They fear future failure, so they quit stepping out to take more risks.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t always very kind to writers who encounter failure after great success. But we should all keep in mind that nobody ever outgrows the possibility of failure. The closest they can get is to simply give up.

And I don’t want to give up. Do you?

Keep in mind that no one is going to hold your hand.

The biggest difference I see between successful writers and not so successful ones is in their willingness to do their own legwork.

Asking questions is good, but asking questions to replace your own efforts is lazy. One of the laziest ways I see new writers get started? They don’t Google or look up any answers for themselves.

Instead, they walk up to successful people and ask them for generic tips or “formulas.” They fail to regard that if every successful person sat down with every newbie to hand out generic tips, there would be no time to write successfully.

As much as others want to help you (and yes, we really do), we are human beings with limitations and family obligations. We often can’t handhold other writers, and we feel pain when other people seem to only want to use us.

It helps to show some initiative and do your research first. There are countless books and articles written to help you succeed.

Use them.

There are drawbacks to earning pretax dollars.

While it’s really awesome to earn $10K in any month, just for doing something you love, the reality is that you don’t actually get to keep all of that money. Right?

I think people get so caught up in the pretax numbers that they forget about taxes, the lack of paid benefits, and most other expenses.

It’s the weekend. I am working on a Saturday and as much as I love to write, sometimes I just want a break from it all. But? I really don’t dare slow down while I’m trying to hit certain goals to build a better life for me and my daughter.

The truth is that I don’t always earn $10K a month. But it’s a goal of mine. And there are many writers earning more than $10K. Some make twice or triple that amount for a fraction of the effort I invest in my career.

This is another potential drawback to being a contract worker. You can’t compare yourself to other writers and their incomes or it will drive you nuts. It will seem unfair.

You have to accept that you are on your own path.

It’s unlikely that you will ever really feel like you’ve arrived.

Michael Ian Black once replied positively to one of my Tweets about a story in which I quoted him. Alas, that story did not go viral. I did not get remotely famous.

Sometimes, people call me “Medium famous,” and maybe that’s a thing.

But so far, my understanding is that even a little bit of “fame” on one single platform tends to ebb and flow. Some weeks, everything I write seems to enjoy a great reception.

Other weeks? Meh. I can write my heart out and it seems like nobody cares.

You can’t save your writing for only the days where more folks seem to care. You’ve got to keep putting yourself out there and it isn’t always fun. There aren’t warm fuzzies waiting for you at every turn.

In fact, you can love writing, yet find it absolutely painful at some intervals.

It’s like I often tell my 5 year old whenever life feels unfair: them’s the breaks, Miss Sophie.

Writing online to earn a living is completely unpredictable. One more good month is never guaranteed.

But you keep going anyway.

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