The Work You Hate Can Prepare You For The Work You'll Love
Perspective is a big part of that.
Even though I talk a lot about becoming a writer over this past year, the truth is that I have been writing for much longer than that. I simply made a deliberate decision to build my own writing career on April 25, 2018.
For 3 years before that, I worked as a writer for a social media management startup. I wrote blogs, newsletters, and social media posts. My clients were all over the map and included some famous franchises, all sorts of medical professionals, and even some authors.
As it turns out, not every best-selling author writes their own blog posts. Some of those famous men who write so much about success and positive thinking?They atually have ghostwriters.
I began ghostwriting nearly 20 years ago.
At age 18, I was an unpaid intern for the now-defunct Teen Mania Ministries. After extensive personality type testing, leadership placed me on the marketing team as a writer.
I helped create their brand book back in 2001 and wrote correspondence on behalf of the ministry founder and CEO, Ron Luce. Of course, Ron would later fall into legal trouble when Teen Mania became insolvent and he failed to appear in court.
It took me a long time to realize that writing for other people wasn't getting me anywhere. I couldn't vouch for the character of these men or their businesses. At one point in my career, I wrote for a large franchise of cash advance stores. When Facebook cracked down on the advertising practices for such companies, we lost an enormous chunk of clients.
And frankly, I was relieved.
Often, I had to write blog posts making claims that I wouldn't actually ever endorse myself. Or write in a manner that made me roll my own eyes.
I discovered that I hate writing for other people, but I had little confidence in my own abilities.
As much as I have always enjoyed writing, doing it for other people quickly grew old every time. It felt gimmicky. And I felt like a sellout who was barely scraping by.
In a weird way, writing for other businesses made me feel like my own writing could never be good enough to pursue for myself.
There are many different types of writers out there, but I'm the type who loses her mojo anytime I have to focus on topics that really don't move me. There's nothing fulfilling for me when I cannot write in my own voice.
Even money becomes a poor motivator when I don't get to choose everything that I write.
However, ghostwriting laid a foundation for my future career.
Little did I know that all my years of writing for other companies would prepare me to one day invest in my own writer's journey. Just to make ends meet and earn at least $2K a month, I often had to take on 40 to 60 clients at a time.
As a single mom, I became used to writing whether I felt like it or not, and I figured out how to get that work done despite constant interruptions from my now 5-year-old. I learned how to simply do the work and get it done as quickly as I could while setting my own hours and pace.
Since nobody ever offered much in the way of training, I learned how to be proactive and teach myself how to solve most problems as they came up. Websites and online tools often glitch at the worst times and these days, writers need to be prepared to keep writing anyway.
Doing the work I hated helped me put the work I love into perspective.
I didn't realize it at the time, but working for peanuts was good for me. For years, I wrote dozens of blog posts a month at only $10 a pop. Blogs that each took me at least an hour or two to complete.
But I spent most of my time finding appropriate articles for every client on a weekly basis. I'd grab the link and then write up a quick blurb for a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn post. Depending upon the type of client, each of those posts earned me between 62 cents and $1.25.
It didn't matter how long any of those tasks took me because I was paid a flat rate for simply doing the work. My goal was to finish at least 10 posts an hour to earn up to $12.50. But for some specialty clients, it might take me 15 minutes just to find one article. So, $5 an hour.
That's not exactly a great living for any single mom, but it sure did teach me how to hustle and work like hell. Plus, the startup I worked for constantly promised bigger and bigger opportunities down the road which never came to fruition.
I realized that I could never get ahead by waiting for that startup to pay me well for my efforts. As the writer, I did the bulk of the work for each client, but I only earned a tiny fraction of the monthly package those clients paid.
Now when I wake up every day to write, I still remember what it felt like to work for peanuts. Even my worst days as an independent writer are now better than my best days in social media.
There's a time for and a purpose in having such shitty jobs.
I'm grateful for the negative experiences that have helped me value my hard work today. Doing your own thing as a writer is scary and incredibly hard, but it's also so much more fulfilling than allowing yourself to stay stuck in a job you hate.
I don't buy into the idea that every aspiring writer must toil away temporarily in a poorly compensated position, but I do think there's a purpose and life lesson there if it happens to you.
It's tough to truly appreciate anything good if we haven't experienced the flipside. You tend to be more appreciative of earning enough money to keep a savings account when you can recall barely making ends meet from month to month. My sister and I still remember living on government cheese and tinned beef.
The tough shit makes you pretty grateful.
Don't be too discouraged about doing the work you hate.
It might be prepping you to be that much more resilient in the future for the work you'll love. And that's a good thing.
Plenty of people buy into the notion that doing the work they love will never actually feel like doing work at all. Of course, that's not true and it's unfortunate that more folks aren't better prepared to manage hard work to make their dreams happen. They tend to think that passion pays the rent.
But it doesn't.
You will always need to power your passion with tangible skills and actual effort. You know, the hard stuff.
So thank God those shitty jobs were good for something.