Become a Highly Paid Writer: Avoid These 7 Habits

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It’ss painful to see how many great writers are willing to accept low paying assignments or to write for free.

This is not okay.

Skilled writers who are committed to their craft know the amount of work that goes into a well-produced work. and should be compensated accordingly.

While some writers live by the ‘feast or famine’ philosophy, there are many who are earning a sizable income from their talent and expertise.

The seven habits below separate underpaid writers from ‘well-fed’ writers, a term coined by Peter Bowerman, the author of “The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less”.

Avoid these habits to become a highly-paid writer. Begin living your profitable writing life today!


1. Wallowing in stinkin’ thinkin’


Do any of these statements look familiar?

  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “There are lots of great writers; why would they choose my article, story, etc.?”
  • “I can’t…”

If you find yourself thinking – or worse – saying any of the above, stop now.

These statements are not only spirit killers; they are dream killers. Stinkin’ thinkin’ is the main reason why most writers are underpaid – the lack of belief in themselves, their skills, and the value they offer through their writings.

There are three ways to get over this condition:

  • Affirm every day: “I am the best writer I know and the world is waiting to read my work.”
  • Write every day, even if you’re just journaling.
  • Join a writing group. It could be a professional association, a local meetup or an informal writing group.

I know of a small business owner who admits to having a poverty mindset. She would accept low-budget clients who had high expectations just to pay her bills, which was emotionally and financially draining.

When she finally got fed up with that lifestyle, she changed her mode of operation. She invested more time in attracting her ideal clients, which made her feel better about serving others. She now has a prosperous mindset and the bank account to match it.

Only when you change your mind will you change your bottom line.


2. Playing it safe


There are several ways writers play it safe.

  • Only writing what you know
  • Not taking risks
  • Hiding behind a computer and pen
  • Afraid of being controversial
  • Giving in to the fear of rejection

When I left my job to write, I submitted query letters to a few magazines, received rejections or no responses, and got discouraged.

After that experience, I completely stopped pitching stories for a few years.

Today, I have a new outlook on my magazine writing life: pitch, submit, follow-up. And I look forward to rejection letters. It means that at least one person has read my work.

Be bold. Be courageous. Dare to be different and do things you’ve never done before.

Be the “you” that you didn’t know you could be. 


3. Accepting low rates


Accepting low rates is one of the worst things writers can do.

But when you are in a famine mode, you will work for food, no matter how little you are paid.

There are at least three reasons why writers do this:

  • They are in the early stages of their writing career.
  • They just want to pay their bills.
  • They want to get and keep clients.

What’s worse than accepting low rates? Quoting them. It’s one thing for people to offer low rates, but it’s entirely different when you subject yourself to them…on purpose.

Early in my writing career, I would tell people to “just give me something” for the work I provided – which was usually between $25 and $50. And I used to actually think that a client ‘picking my brain’ over a $20 lunch was a good thing. Now, I prefer that people pay me for consultations and I eat only when I’d like to.

When you get to the point where you really believe that time is money and that your time is invaluable, you will charge differently.

When you build the confidence to ask for the rate you desire, you will most likely get it.


4. Not building your skills


  • If you are still using a typewriter, a tape recorder or any other pre-21st century gadget, it’s time to upgrade to new technologies.
  • If you do not write often, take classes or attend workshops and conferences, you need to change your mode of operation.
  • If you are not active on at least one social networking site, you need to get started today!

You have to write often; stay abreast of what’s happening in the writing world; and understand multimedia and social media.

Most importantly, you must be tech savvy. You don’t have to be a guru but you need to have basic knowledge of online, tablet and mobile technology because this is where everything is moving.

A member of the Chicago Writers Association shared a story about pitching an editor for her book. The editor wanted to know how big her platform was – how many followers she had on Twitter, friends on Facebook and connections on LinkedIn.

She did not have a social media presence. Do you know they rejected her, not because of poorly written work, but because she had no platform?

Building your skills is not only a resume-booster; it will also position you for personal and professional opportunities.


5. Failing to plan


There is no truer saying than “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

When I first left my job and 12-year human resources career in 2008, I knew that my name would grace the bylines of Chicago, Essence, Parade, Time and Entrepreneur magazines. I had no plan B because my plan A just had to work.

Well, it didn’t.

And when the money ran out, I was a wreck.

To avoid being like me (which I highly recommend), mix paying gigs with writing for fulfillment to ensure you can sustain yourself. 


6. Thinking like a writer, not a business owner


Generally speaking, most creative people like to create. Period.

Writers like to write; painters like to paint; and musicians want to play. However, until we attach a value – specifically, a dollar value to our expertise – we will continue to be starving artists.

I, personally, like to eat.

There are five things to consider when assessing value:

  • The services you are going to offer
  • To whom you will offer your services
  • Your experience
  • The value of your time
  • The value you provide to your customers.

Ultimately, the answers to these questions will become the foundation of your business plan, which is your roadmap to becoming a well-paid writer.

Remember that I had no plan when I left my job? I would write anything for anybody for any amount they gave me. I was just happy that they liked my work enough to consider me for their projects.

As I began to write my plan, my confidence in myself and my writing increased, because seeing the dollar figure confirmed the value of my work. It also made it easier to quote my rate.

Today, I have a 10-page business plan to highlight the services I provide, the rates and estimated times for those services, and the value I provide to my clients.


7. Lack of marketing


Marketing is necessary.

You may not want to do it but you have to do it if you want to get paid what you’re worth.

It is also one of the ways you can distinguish yourself from your competitors.

Here are a few tools you can use to promote yourself and your services:

Website or blog Social media presence Business cards
Branding Brochures E-mail signature
Postcards Videos Guest blog posts


I know an author who has published five books but has no website. I was floored. Do you know how much money this person is losing because she cannot be found online?

Here’s the main lesson from this author: at a minimum, have a website or blog site that highlights your offerings. Accidental visitors can convert to actual clients.

Always  promote who you are, and the value you to provide to others.

If you are practising any of the seven habits above, you need to stop immediately!

Declare today that you are going to kick your bad habits and become the highly paid writer you deserve to be.

Do you have a ‘starving writer’ story? What did you do to become a highly paid writer? Share your story in the comments section below.


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Marcie Hill

Marcie Hill is the author of "62 Blog Posts to Overcome Blogger’s Block", the only book produced to date that focuses exclusively on how to create content for online properties. Check out her blog to get free tips on how to overcome blogger’s block.

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