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practical tips for writers

Feeling Like a Sellout? Here’s Why Real Artists Don’t Have to Starve

Creating content is essentially the same as creating art, which is why content creators can be referred to as literary artists. As is the case with any artist, you more than likely take your pride in your best work and completed projects, right? Perhaps there was a certain blog post, article or eBook that you created which connected with your own professional principles and your personal passions simultaneously. You may have been the ghostwriter for that project, which means someone else’s name will appear in the byline besides yours. However, just the feeling of knowing that you were able to make money doing what you love without selling out to do so is a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?

The Sinkhole of Selling Out

Unfortunately, not very many content writers are able to experience the utopic sense of accomplishment with their work. Those projects that connect professional principles with personal passions simply do not come around as often as you might like (if they come around at all) which means you must find another way to pay the bills. Artists who are starving for work (and, more importantly, money) will quickly exchange their morals, principles and beliefs for a short-term contract, winning bid or paid assignment.

Is that just the way it is? Artists sell out all the time to make ends meet. Should you just go with flow and sell out, too? It may seem like the only option, but there is another way. You can successfully fight against the current of complacency and compromise to avoid giving in to the sellout sinkhole. How?

Know Where You Stand, Draw a Line

One of the first steps to avoid becoming a starving sellout as a content writer is to make sure you know where you stand on issues. It is nearly impossible to abandon your principles if you are not sure if you even have any at all. You can never fulfill your personal passions if you have not yet taken the opportunity to identify them either.

Conduct an honest self-examination of yourself – both personally and professionally. Doing so will help you to draw the line that you simply will not cross. As a true artist, you must be willing to put yourself into your work – even in those cases when your name will never appear in it. Once you have determined the location of those boundaries, make sure that you map out that location for your prospective clients and stick to your guns when you refuse to only color within those lines.

Filter the Search Results to Narrow Your Options

When the bills flood your mailbox during an assignment drought in your inbox, it is easy to settle for any type of paid project when it finally does come around. This explains why starving content artists are quick to log into content mill websites and forums designed to pay you a fraction of what you deserve for quality content. There are times when that PayPal notification email of an incoming payment will compel you to accept a low-ball offer for high-quality content that is clearly worth at least 2-3 times more than your actual payment.

There is nothing wrong with using those content mills and forums for targeted searches. You should never just search by category – such as “Article Writing”, “Blogs”, etc. General searches may unlock hundreds or even thousands of opportunities that starving artists willing to sellout will dive into headfirst without any hesitation. If you want to be true to yourself and your craft without losing out on paid projects, focus on filtering those searches.

For instance, adjust the pay range in your profile, so that prospective clients know exactly where your line is when searching for writers.

You will more than likely not get anywhere near as many responses with this approach compared to diving in and sending out proposals to everyone who will accept them. This is where your basic math skills will come into play:

  • Door # 1: 20 x 600-word articles ($0.01/word – $1 per 100 words) = $120 for 12,000 words
  • Door # 2: 5 x 800-word articles ($0.05/word – $5 per 100 words) = $200 for 4,000 words

As you can see from this simple scenario, it is much more lucrative on the back-end to search for the big fish that will satisfy your hunger instead of the tiny small goldfishes that would barely make a dent.

Establish Your Value, Develop a Quality Portfolio

Another important step to avoid the sinkhole of selling out as a content writer is to establish your value. This basically falls in line with setting your boundaries and identifying the side of the fence where you want to stand. Take an honest look at your resume and portfolio.

Let’s back up a couple of steps first. Do you have a resume and portfolio? Just because you may work as a freelance writer or self-employed contractor does not mean you no longer need an updated resume and portfolio. Since you will more than likely not have the opportunity to sell your skills and overall professionalism during a face-to-face interview, you must have a solid resume and portfolio of your past work that speak volumes about your current market value. These tools will also help you to stand out among the massive crowd of starving artists competing for the same contracts and project listings who do not come to the table with these resources ready to roll.

Build Your Own Door of Opportunity

If there are no knocks of opportunity at your door yet, then that means you have plenty of time to build your own. Perhaps now is the best time to start that blog that you have wanted to start for quite some time. The same rules apply in this scenario, though.

You can focus on your professional principles in a business-related blog or your personal passions in a casual blog. Either way, you are creating an online presence that showcases your talent the same way that a starving artist may create an art gallery or temporary exhibit to showcase their paintings. In addition to generating exposure for your work and your brand, you will also shine a magnetic spotlight on your talent that will captivate the attention and pique the curiosity of paying clients looking to hire someone with your skillset.

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