Friday, August 28, 2009

Welcome to Walmart. Get Your Stuff and Get Out.

Not long ago, I attended a free talk sponsored by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, on "Freelance Writing in this Market," meaning the Roanoke Valley.

Last month, after a talk on writing I came home energized and ready to move forward.

This time, I came home feeling despondent and thinking it must be time to go pick up my "Walmart Greeter" badge.

The gist of the talk was that you can't make a living as a freelance writer. I happen to know this isn't true, having done it for several years now. But it isn't easy.

"You can make $200 - $300 a month," the speaker said. Extra income, in other words. Payment in the valley ranges from $30 an article to about $150, maybe more for one single publication.

One of the editors there said there are about 26 different publications in the valley.

Let's see how many I can name off the top of my head (I'll put a star by the ones I've been published in):

Valley Business Front*
Roanoke Star Sentinel*
The Roanoke Times*
Blue Ridge Business Journal
The Fincastle Herald*
The Salem Times Register*
The New Castle Record*
The Vinton Messenger*
The Vinton Voice (this is a new start-up that hasn't yet hit the streets)
The Roanoke Co-Optimist (Roanoke Natural Foods)*
OurHealth magazine*
The Cave Spring Connection*
Roanoke Valley Home
Verve (put out by Carilion, I don't know if they use freelancers)
Senior News
The Roanoker*
Blue Ridge Country
Play by Play
Natural Awakenings
The Roanoke Tribune

Somewhere I have read statistics about writing income. I can't find anything online at the moment, but I recall something like 90 percent of writers make less than $1,000 a year. One of the editors at the talk on Tuesday said that only 2 percent of writers can pay their mortgage with their work, and that includes folks who are on staff at newspapers and magazines.

That kind of leaves the rest of us out in the cold, doesn't it?

So maybe it's time I send in my application to Walmart. As Walter (one of Jeff Dunham's puppets) says, "Welcome to Walmart. Get your shit and get out."

Or maybe it's time I say, "Screw you. I'll succeed despite your negativity." And then get back to my writing business.


  1. I like plan B better. Especially since I know how well you write.

  2. I think the local editors want the freelancers to believe they can't make a decent living so they can keep paying them crappy wages. Time to expand past this valley...

  3. I think writers, like virtually all creative people, struggle to make a living from their work. How many musicians do you know who make a living from their work. It's unfortunate, but our economic system is not set up to reward creative people, who often challenge the accepted ways of seeing and doing things.

  4. Jeff is right. It's always been hard for people to make a living in the arts because they actually like doing their work and everyone wants that kind of fun job. Many would do it for free. And there's the problem. Lately, many are. And so they make things worse. Why is someone going to pay for your writing when your neighbor is giving it away? My husband calls it whoring up the market. And I've noticed that lately in the local papers the writing is bad. Maybe it's the Wal-Mart syndrome. People will buy crap because that's all they can afford--the newspapers aren't going to be picky because at least it's free. And you, CountryDew, are more like Macy's. Hang in there.


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