Making a Creative Living

By Angie Dixon | Posted 11/4/06 | Updated 8/3/23

I recently explained to a freelance client that while I was working on his project, he might not see something "new and exciting" every day. I told him that with the kind of project he wanted, I would spend a lot of time in my recliner, thinking, and I might not even look like I was working, but once that phase was over, I would be able to quickly finish his report.

A couple of days later I sent him a check-in note that said, "I'm on the job."

In return, I received an email that said, "You're on the job? Leaned back in the old recliner, staring off into space? Whatkindajobyougotanyway?" Then he told me he was off to a business function — the kind where you get to drink.

What kinda job I got?

I got a job where people pay me to write. Seriously. They PAY ME to sit down at my computer and let words pour out. I have someone paying me an obscene amount of money to write an ebook on a topic I know a great deal about, so there's no research involved and I just sat down and wrote them a book, for enough money to choke most people who actually have to work for a living.

I get paid a monthly fee to spout off on four blogs twice a week. I can pretty much say whatever I want, as long as it relates to the topic of the blog. Oh, and for some reason it's supposed to be interesting. But I'm an inherently interesting person, so that part's not hard.

I have the kind of job I've always dreamed of having. The kind where I sit around in my pajamas drinking Coke, wishing A) that it was Pepsi, but for some stupid reason I bought Coke, and B) that I had some chips or something, because straight Coke is really not that good.

I have the kind of job where I look at projects people are offering, and can say, "That sounds like fun, I'll bid on that one," or "No WAY am I writing a 172-page report on techniques for wastewater treatment." Not that I couldn't do it, just that I have absolutely no interest in wastewater, except in staying as far away from it as necessary.

Getting back into freelance work was a big decision for me, because my early experiences with it were dreadful. I took projects I couldn't stand, for far too little money, because I felt I had to.

I encourage you, if you really want to make a living creatively, to go for it. But I also encourage you to start from a point of strength. If you can keep your job and start out slowly, do so. That way you can take only clients you want.

The more experience you have, the better. If you don't have much experience, pick an area, like ghostwriting ebooks. Write some ebooks on various topics, and use them in your portfolio. Since ghostwriting is anonymous, it doesn't matter who the client was.

Bid low on a few projects, take them on, finish them early and with stunning quality, and then don't bid low ever again.

I was amazed that people are actually willing to pay me huge amounts of money to do something, when I'd pay them the same amount to LET me do it. But fortunately the freelance marketplaces don't allow counterbids. You can't say, "I'll do it for $777. If you want more, I'll send you a check."

Whatever your creative métier, you can make money as a freelancer. The Internet has opened it up to anyone who has the talent and the drive.

So whatkindajobyougotanyway? Do you get paid to do something you'd pay to do? If not, why not? If you have a good reason why not, great, keep doing what you're doing. But if not… why not?

Copyright ©2006 Angie Dixon. All rights reserved.