I Wrote for Free. So Will You.

This is painful. This isn’t fair. This is the world.

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I blogged for 3 years before landing my first paid job as a reporter for my college newspaper. My final year, they let me have my own column, so I could write about what mattered to me most (student health).

I would continue to blog for 5 and a half more years before I earned my first $0.64 via Patreon.

Before I started freelancing after graduation (and the end of a temporary job that did not become permanent as promised), for 7 months straight, I wrote and pitched to every website, blog, and online magazine I could, just to get my name out there for free.

I spent 36 months writing and editing for a magazine before the company paid me my first dollar. That job sparked my interest in health literacy, which inspired me to get my master’s degree, which landed me my first full-time staff writing job (with benefits).

As a freelancer, I spent 22 months writing product reviews, press releases, and time-consuming articles as people underpaid me, yelled at me, and took advantage of my work ethic and skills to squeeze as much content out of me as they could get away with while paying me far, far less than minimum wage.

In 2016, I attempted to publish a series of novellas. I sold 1.

That same year, I published an ebook. I sold 0.

New writers unintentionally underestimate what it takes to create your own version of success as an online creator.

I think anyone can do it, if they have a specific set of goals and the willingness to practice and refine their craft for years (yes, years) before it truly pays off.

This is not an easy road. It becomes even harder when you head off to school, or start working full-time, or have to take care of other humans besides yourself — or all of the above simultaneously (if that’s you, deep breaths, I love you, you’re going to be fine).

I can’t tell you how each individual “hustler” makes it work for them. I can only speak for myself. And this tired self has almost quit so many times over the past nine years, because far too many of them were spent doing a lot of work for what felt like nothing.

I never gave up though. I can’t tell you how or why. But trust me, I do understand what it feels like to open another rejection email, stumble through another awkward job interview, dread another message from an overbearing client, drag yourself through one more assignment you don’t care about, one more notice that your client isn’t giving you any more work, one more day trying your best when it seems like no one cares.

How do you get through it? You just do.

You keep whatever your end goal might be in sight at all times and you just keep moving forward, inch by inch, getting a little bit closer every day.

You try to remind yourself that writing is your Thing. You want this. There are parts of it you do like, parts of it that are worth it — or will be, eventually.

I published my first essay in a magazine when I was 16. It took years — years — until someone actually paid me to do that every day.

It can happen to you.

It might not happen today. This week. Next month. Next year.

But just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it never will.

You have taken the first step — admitting to yourself that this is what you want.

Now you have to do the hard part — go after it until you feel like you can’t anymore. Then continuing on anyway.

We have all been there. We will all survive.

Write on.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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