The Struggling Writer

The chronicles of a freelance writer as he tries to make a living.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Avoiding burnout

I’ve been meaning to write this post since before my computer disaster but I haven’t gotten around to it. Recently, Deb Ng wrote her Put a Fork in Me post and that reminded me about this.

Her post brought out the usual real-writers-don’t-do-SEO crowd who are willing to use any opportunity to abuse that equine corpse. I don’t feel her post was about the evils of SEO. It was about the ignorance of clients who don’t really understand what SEO is, what keywording is, and how the web works. Mostly, though, it was about career evolution.

People get burned out in every career. Whether you shovel cow manure or do brain surgery, some people just get sick of the grind. At that point they can spend the rest of their life being miserable, or they can find a change. It could be a simple change of duties or a completely new career.

Freelancers run a great risk of falling into that trap. If you become known as a SEO writer, you keep getting offered SEO jobs. Your clients might think you could do more, but all they have is SEO. All of your job searching is focused on sites that specialize in SEO. It’s easy to keep doing it because it’s easy.

A while back I began to realize that I am getting a bit dissatisfied with my current work. The stuff I’m doing now is technically SEO, but it’s meatier articles that happen to have a key phrase in them. Generally I get assignments of 3-4 articles rather than 300. Most of what I do is basically copywriting. I just don’t really like copywriting.

Since I have at least one client who reads this blog, let me emphasize that I don’t hate copywriting by any means. It’s a solid way to bring in some money and I think it will likely be a core income stream for a good part of my career. I just don’t want to get trapped in it.

At heart, I’m a technical writer. I’d much rather write something like, “Although analytical solutions to this simple partial differential equation exist for simple boundary conditions, the time-dependent concentration boundary conditions at the inlet and outlet reservoirs in the diffusion cell experiments demand a numerical solution.” than “We don’t want you to find just a paycheck. We want you to find a career that will give you the lifestyle of your dreams.” (I’m rolling my eyes as I paste that last line, even though I’m the one who wrote it).

Right now I’m pretty much coasting on what this one client is giving me and that’s bad. I need to get out and do more self-promotion, including updating this blog more regularly. I need to find a wider variety of work so that I don’t get burned out. And, of course, I need to generate more income.


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