The other day new writer asked me, “What makes a writer professional?”
I asked her why she wanted to know.
“Well, I earn supplement our household income by writing,” she responded. “I wondered if I can consider myself a professional writer if I’m only working part time?”
As we kicked this around a bit, I realized there is very little standard when it comes to writers. For example, Wikipedia says:
“A professional writer may be freelance, meaning he or she works on a self-employed basis, or fully employed in an occupation where a professional writing standard is a prerequisite, such as journalism, marketing, advertising, public relations, the military, or technical writing.”
Well sure, but that feels convoluted to me. First of all, I’m not sure what “a professional writing standard” actually is these days. And this definition leaves out novels and other works of fiction. It doesn’t mention blogging either.
What is a professional writer?
In my mind the definition of a professional writer is a writer who gets paid for their work. Yes, for me it’s that simple. I don’t care how much they are paid – a penny is fine. Writers who haven’t been paid are, in my opinion, not true professionals. They may become so later this afternoon, but until then…
What difference does it make?
I came up with this definition when I started writing. Having business cards and a bank account for my writing business all helped me take my work seriously. Every time I submitted an article or a query I gave myself credit for working as a writer. That magic moment when I got my first payment for writing was when I became a pro writer in my own mind. For me it happened when I took an inside job editing a magazine. I was getting paid as a professional and it felt darn good. The next pay for writing came when a query of mine was accepted.
Thinking of ourselves as professionals is awfully good for our self-worth; would you agree?
Speaking of self-worth, although I’m slow to mention it, Lori Widmer is again celebrating Writers Worth Month on her blog. Take a look – it’s worth spending some time with.
Write well and often,