Journal: News & Comment

Saturday, November 20, 2004
# 8:44:00 PM:

Selling out to the Man

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The key to making money as a writer or editor, I think, is that you need to sell out to the Man. I mean that a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it's true. When people come into freelance writing or editing work, we tend to think of the obvious or glamorous: magazine articles, mass-market fiction and non-fiction books, and other high-profile creative works. But that's not where the money is.

Last week at the Editors' Association of Canada meeting here in Vancouver, speechwriter Colin Moorehouse argued that, as a freelance writer or editor, it is quite possible to make a comfortable living, even a lot of money. Many people in the audience were skeptical, because their experience has been that it's a hardscrabble existence.

Moorehouse writes speeches for big corporate, government, and institutional clients. His work is often completely anonymous, and while he can name some of the organizations he's worked for, he can't say specifically who spoke his words and when. But he makes quite a bit of money.

My experience is similar, and not just in writing and editing. My most lucrative contracts have been writing and editing instruction manuals, website material, newsletters, and other corporate communications materials where no one reading the results knows my name, or perhaps even considers that someone has to write the stuff.

Here's another example. Last night, I played with my band at a private event in a big ballroom at the Hotel Vancouver, for the annual year-end party for a company I'd never heard of before we started doing this event several years ago. Compared to the drudgery of driving around the province in a cheap van playing at crappy bars ten years ago, these shows are a dream: they're in town, start and end relatively early in the evening, pay extremely well (sometimes more in one night than I'd make in three weeks in the old days), and include a dressing room and buffet dinner.

Too often, those of us who work in creative fields think that working for big organizations—for government, for large private and public institutions, for corporations—is out of our league, or even beneath us in some way. If you're in this kind of work out of principle, that's fine. But if you want to support yourself and your family, remember that the Man is a person too, and needs your help if you work to find him.


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