A common complaint among new writers is that friends and family members don’t take them–or their writing–seriously.
I tell them–truthfully–that the main thing they need to do is convince themselves that they are serious about their writing. Others will pick up on that attitude and start giving them the respect they crave.
Do You Need An Attitude Fix?
If you’re a self-employed, freelance writer, you’re in business. You’re creative–true. But you’re still in business if you want to make income from your writing. And often it is poor business attitudes that keep others from taking you seriously. Do an attitude check with the list below.
Are you harboring these unhelpful attitudes?
1) The “I’ll work when I please” attitude–Most of us are drawn to self-employed writing because we like the idea of being our own bosses. We can work when (and if) we so choose. But if you take this attitude to mean you can meet deadlines if nothing else comes up, you’ll never be taken seriously. It’s one thing to let an editor know you won’t be able to meet a deadline because you’re in the hospital and both arms are in traction. It’s quite another to miss a deadline because you’re hand crafting mini pinatas for your daughter’s birthday party.
2) The “I don’t have the money to be professional” attitude–You have to invest money to make money, say the experts. For example, if you’re advertising your resume-writing business with a brochure, get a good printer or have them professionally done. During the early years, I never had a publisher willing to foot the bill for flyers or bookmarks or other advertising. It came out of my pocket. [This is where I differ from the experts though. I didn't put anything on a credit card. I have a horrible fear of debt.] Since the family needed my book advances to live on, I would do “extras” to get whatever money I needed to run my office: an extra speech, an extra workshop, an extra critique. And when the “extra” money ran out, I stopped. Perhaps if I had been willing to put things on credit or had more expendable income, I could have increased book sales faster. I don’t know. But I do think you have to spend some money to get established, even if it’s just for paper and ink. [That was me--I already had my husband's old college typewriter.]
3) The “I can’t charge more” attitude–Sad, but true. People tend to value what they pay for. Dogs that people pay big bucks for are treated so much better than free dogs from the pound. While you may choose to write or speak for free very early in your career, don’t let that period last long. [The only free stuff I used to do were talks at my children's schools as my parental/community contribution. I never wrote for free that I can remember. Even now, if I critique for free, it's because I'm trading with a writer friend who is giving me a free critique also.]
Early in my career I complained to another (more experienced) writer that I didn’t appreciate some of the disrespectful treatment I got at certain schools. Her reply? “Triple your speaking fee. You work too cheap. They’ll value you more.” With much fear and trembling, I did it. She was right too! I got more speaking invitations after that! When schools said they couldn’t afford me, I sympathized about hard times and sent back a list of suggestions about how they might raise the money. [I kept a list of money-making activities other schools had used--bake sales, t-shirt sales, "slave" auctions, sharing the fee with another school, grant writing--and then sent the ideas to people who wanted a freebie or a cheapie.] I tried to be helpful–short of doing a free or cheap school visit. You’ll be treated more professionally if people have to invest in order to enjoy your services.
4) The “I do a lot of things” attitude–When starting out, it’s tempting to dabble in a lot of things, hoping at least one of them will work out. You might write greeting card verse, design websites for other writers, and run a resume service. Or you might want to be a novelist, but you split your time among writing guest blog posts, creating crossword puzzles, entering writing contests, and working on your novel. To be taken seriously, you’ll probably need to decide what you want to do most and then give it 100% of your time and energy (even if 100% of your available time is just one hour per day.)
The next time you get the feeling that people aren’t taking your writing seriously, do an attitude check on yourself. Are you taking yourself seriously?
Start there, and fix that–and I guarantee that others will take their cue from you.