Monday, August 15

Is a Writer Self-Employed?

So you want to be a writer.


Fictional characters bombard your brain and you live to fabricate worlds and scenarios outside of your own. Enter: the written word. It translates into several mediums and is the optimum creative outlet.

Sure, the expectation of many might be that you “get a real job” but there are several other things that people automatically might expect of you – get married, have kids, go to university – that you might not groove to. This is not because you don’t have “real expectations” it is because you have alternate preferences.

Plenty of people will look at you like you’re a loony when you say you want to be a writer (and maybe you are but what’s their point?) and they will judge you for having delusions about life.

Then they will go back to their mundane (to you) life and tasks and you will question the sanity of the people you speak to, before continuing with your writing because passion trumps insecurity.

At least if you’re a writer you don’t have to work normal hours (no, you have to work abnormal hours with no such thing as “over-time”) or have a boss. No, you have no boss. You have to kick your own arse and answer to yourself. This means that you could live the happy and easy life and get no work done, slipping into the realm of procrastination where you are led by your own hand (which should have been busy writing) to your doom!

Does this mean that a writer is self-employed?

Well, for starters, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Some writers do have bosses. Some writers do work for other people on a temporary basis. Some writers work with other writers and have to answer to the team. You could be a journalist or a freelance writer or part of a group of writers on a television show.

Other writers – as for film, novels, plays and more – if they are working solo, do not have a boss. If they sit in a cubicle all day or at their desk, I can’t really say. People and situations will always differ.

Getting back to the self-employed thing… Well, unless you are self-publishing your book, then not really. When I say “self-publishing,” what I mean is, owning the ISBNs of your books, printing your books (perhaps even owning a press) yourself and doing all the grunt work beyond the actual writing. Publishing through Lulu or CreateSpace may not mean that anyone is the boss of you but you still rely on them and they get a commission.

If you get published in the traditional route, you might have a literary agent, a publisher, an editior, a publicist and more that you are working with. You do not pay these people but they do of course work for a fee. A commission. So, they are not your boss and you are not their boss but you still have to work together and communicate and compromise.

Being a writer does not mean that you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want and answer to no-one. I don’t think that anyone is going to shove ultimatums down your throat or smite you from above but writers are not hermits who live on a pile of gold/candy. Everyone needs help and support in some form.

So there is my long ramble, squashing the illusion that you can just be free and answer to nobody when you have a writer’s life.

If the question was, ‘Is it awesome and worth it to be a writer?’ then my answer would be a lot shorter:

Well, duh.


Emma Michaels said...

I like to think of my writing as working for my characters. They keep bombarding my head until I tell their story. :p You are right though. Even if the government sometimes considers authors un-employed or self-employed, you are almost always working for or with someone else and both dependent on one another once you get past the original MS stage and to the 'other people will be reading this' stage. The first manuscript is like freedom, then work to find someone to work with, after that you still get the freedom in your heart while writing but it comes with a deadline.

Jenny said...

" If the question was, ‘Is it awesome and worth it to be a writer?’ then my answer would be a lot shorter:

Well, duh. "

Well said Keri!