Making a living as a writer has in some ways become more difficult today.
But it’s also become easier. Here is what I mean. Publishing houses are doling out smaller and smaller advances. Newspapers are cutting staffs down to anemic levels. Publications are asking writers to contribute for free. All of these are current examples of how writers are earning less money from their work. But that’s not the full story.
The other side of the story is that writers are finding it easier to earn more. That is because technology allows an enterprising writer to remove control for his or her future from some outside party — publisher, editor, or boss. Instead, technology is allowing writers to create their own platforms, marketing, and other activities to make a name for themselves and stand out. What this means for you is that you no longer have to fear the current media and publishing environment. You don’t have to be scared that some other party will hold your future in its hands and will make some arbitrary decision to fire or downsize you. Instead, you can build your job security now.
It starts with your personal brand.
So what does a personal brand have to do with being a writer? All you want to do is tell stories, churn out pieces, and publish books, right? Well, you need to be clear about your personal brand if you want to stand out and be known for the work you do. The technology to publish enables you to get your work out there. The personal brand helps readers identify with and know you.
Every writer has a personal brand. Yes, whether you know it or not, you do. Your personal brand is the way people know you — put simply, the reputation for what you do. And how people know you will determine how they will see your work and even how much value they will place on it.
In other words, how much they are willing to pay for it.
Is your personal brand about how creative you are? Is it about how smart? Is it about how innovative? How helpful? Or is it about how inarticulate you are? How snarky? How ordinary? Everything you do contributes to your personal brand. Yes, even your Twitter posts and your emails. So if you are careless and fill your postings with misspellings and bad grammar, that becomes part of your brand. You get a brand as someone who isn’t very good or who is careless or who doesn’t produce quality.
If you consistently produce good work, you honor your word, and you help others, you get a brand as someone who is professional, who is to be trusted, who solves problems.
So how can you make your personal brand work for you in your writing career? Be intentional with it. Everything you produce, ask yourself whether this will contribute to your personal brand in the way you want. If it doesn’t help, then it hurts.
Writers who are able to clearly define and articulate their brands receive better compensation, more recognition, and have more authority. These are the writers who can take control of their careers so they are not dependent upon the good will or whim of publishers, editors, and others. You don’t want your writing career to simply be defined by others. Certainly not in this uncertain time for media and publishing. Instead, take control of your personal brand and take control of your writing life.
Freelancer or Staff Writer, Your Personal Brand Matters
Personal branding is important when you are a freelancer or you are running your own writing business. The writer with the brand that fits the client’s needs is the writer that gets the gig.
Yes, a writer with a better brand can land the prized contract even if this writer charges more than the writer with the poor brand. This isn’t just for the independent writer who runs his or her own business. Writers who don’t pay attention to their personal brands are the first writers to be fired or downsized in a corporate environment. Consider the newsroom culture that is wrecking many journalism careers. Publishers and editors are constantly looking at their staffs to see where they can cut. Sometimes the orders come from corporate. Sometimes they are necessitated by local decisions.
Whatever the case, some writer has to be let go.
The writers who have built brands as trustworthy, accurate, quick-acting and quick-thinking, productive, etc., have more opportunity to retain their jobs than those who haven’t built these brands or reputations. When an editor is considering Writer A and Writer B, to see which one will be let go, the writer who has the better brand wins.
Take Control of Your Personal Brand
Define your brand and pursue work based on this brand. Choose clients who value your brand and contribution and are willing to pay accordingly. Don’t settle for having your work be seen as only a commodity — that you’re only worth hiring if you are the cheapest. Don’t let a poor personal brand relegate you to the bottom of the list when it comes to hiring and firing.
Whether an economy is going well or whether it’s not, some writers are going to make a good living. And it’s largely because of the brand behind their work. So you can be among the writers making a good living, if you build your personal brand with intention. You have the tools to do that in technology: You can build a blog, a website, a social media following, etc. You can publish books. Yes, you have the technology.
Use the technology to make your work available to your audience. Use your brand to help your audience find you. Do this, and you’ll earn more as a writer, no matter the turmoil in your industry.