Becoming a Professional Writer

This week, I can call myself a professional writer. I have written an article and received $10 for it. I am not hitting the big time; I am working for a content mill.

Yet, strangely, it makes me happy.

For a long time, I avoided the content mills. I thought, “I have a $100,000 college education. Why would I do that?” Then my situation changed. The choice became planting my butt in a car seat for hours a day as an Uber driver or try to work from the comfort of my own home (with a small gray cat in my face). To be honest, the pay isn’t that different. For each, $20 an hour is a good day. But, as an Uber driver, I sometimes sit around waiting, hoping for a rider. As a content mill worker, I know I have my $50 worth of articles to write and I can do them as I please.

The fact that I’m having fun working at a content mill has been eye-opening. For one, I thought myself above researching fashion trends and moonshine regulations. I’m not. It’s actually quite fun to learn about a random assortment of items and try to compose a narrative article. I’ve looked at webpages that I never would have seen otherwise. What do I do with my new knowledge that Adidas has created bioengineered yarn for shoes that can be dissolved with a catalyst and water? I don’t know. But someone is paying me to look up weird things online and write about it.

Isn’t that kind of awesome? Doesn’t every millenial want a job like this?

Maybe not.

But it’s illuminating to see how happy I am. Because I am having more fun working for a content mill than I did reviewing safety requirements or collaborating with customers as an engineer. This makes me think that I am on the right track. As I wrote in my journal earlier this week, “…at this moment, the “right track” fucking sucks. But I’m finally there.”

Why does it suck? Well, even driving Uber for almost 30 hours a week and taking on every article I can find, rent is still an impossibly high number. I was surprised by $1100 in unexpected heating costs (thanks to the sunny cold days in Seattle and our oil heated house). My boyfriend and I talked about the heating costs earlier this week. I said that we needed to have another $500 in the joint account. He asked who should put the money into the account. I nominated him…because I didn’t have it. That’s a first for me. My savings are about gone.

With this lack of money plaguing my mind, I applied for 4-5 other content mills. Indeed has become my go-to site, and I applied for five other random writing jobs.

In some ways, this is awesome. I threw out my rules regarding how much I was “supposed to” make per hour. Now a whole new world of writing opportunities has opened up to me.

But getting rejected by a content mill because “we have too many writers and not enough projects” is sobering. I also received a phone call from a company that wanted to check that I was a native English speaker. These things remind me how precarious my situation is, and Uber is not the cure-all that I hoped it would be. Uber is like any freelance work; sometimes there is work and sometimes there isn’t (though getting a ride on a weekday morning at 8am is practically a given in West Seattle).

My new method is to gather these flexible freelance writing jobs. Once I have a handful of them, I can jump around, taking whatever work is available to me. $80 here, $60 here and $200 there eventually add up to the money I need for rent.

And, yes, technically, I can call myself a professional writer.