RMIT Horizons: Thinking like a business

Credit: Alan Weedon

J’aime Cardillo and Rachel Short contemplate the transition from writing for assessment to writing for an income. In this post, one in a series created with RMIT Horizons, J’amie and Rachel ponder the economics of writing, how to position yourself as a capital w ‘Writer’, and how to think of yourself as a business.

RMIT Horizons is a creative writing lab for final year students. J’aime, Rachel and their Horizon peers are the creative minds behind EWF 2017 event, Double Exposure.

J’aime Cardillo

In my first year of university a non-fiction tutor stood up in front of the class and announced that being a successful writer was almost an impossible goal, declaring that a freelance writer averages eleven thousand dollars annually. Eleven thousand dollars, what am I doing here?

She went on to say that the first step to becoming a writer was to stop identifying as a student and start identifying as a writer, and that obtaining an ABN didn’t equate to becoming a business (though you do need one of those). You needed passion and commitment, and any sort of wealth that came along was a bonus.

Rachel Short

Writing for income is hard. Finding work writing for income is harder. Figuring out your work’s worth might be one of the hardest things you ever have to do, but thinking of yourself – and your writing – as a business and a product can help the money-making process much easier.

Jobs in the writing and creative industries are highly competitive. If you are someone who struggles with interviews, or are working for someone whose editing skills are inferior to your own and you both know it, perhaps self-employment is the way to go. Freelance contribution, copywriting and editing are all fantastic for the freelancer, as a lot of businesses don’t want to shell out a salary for a job position they’ll only use once a month.

But how do you set yourself up to become your own business?

Think of your writing as a service to the businesses that want you to do work for them. Your time is valuable to you, why shouldn’t it have a value to those who are seeking it? If you were working a shift at a restaurant, you wouldn’t do it for free, so why would you sit at a computer and write a 500-word article for nothing either? That’s hours of your own time, and as it has been said many times before, exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

If you’re unsure of how much to charge, talk to someone who has worked as a freelance writer before. Ask businesses what their pay rates are before you agree to sign on. Do the research and don’t undercut yourself. Learn how to invoice. Charge extra for pieces that have a fast turnaround.

Your work is worth money, so charge it.

Hear from J’aime, Rachel and twelve of their peers at Double Exposure, a night of dark confessions, grey areas and white lies, Thursday 15 June at 1000£ Bend.

See the rest of the RMIT Horizons blog series here.

Double Exposure is presented in conjunction with RMIT University.