Back in the summer of 1997, I walked into the managing partner’s big corner office of the downtown Dallas law firm I worked at and resigned. I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I didn’t want to practice law.
So I packed up and headed south to Austin. In addition to being a Mecca for live music, Austin has a very cool film community, especially for writers. So, the plan was to become a screenwriter and just tough it out until I made it.
You know… tend bar or something. Starving artist stuff.
I had some money saved up, so instead of finding a job immediately, I decided I’d better start cranking on a script. I bought some screenwriting software and all the requisite screenwriting books, which taught me a lot about compelling narrative.
Problem was, I didn’t write anything. Nada.
Instead, my procrastination-inflicted brain decided that I continue my research into the film industry. See how things worked.
Anything to avoid writing.
As it turns out, I discovered that screenwriting is a pretty lousy job. In the film industry, writers are at the bottom of the food chain, even though the story is what gives everyone else a job. Writers have very little say in what happens once the film goes into production, and no one really worries too much about rewriting the script on the fly (even the actors).
As a writer, the only way to have any control and autonomy in Hollywood is to also be the producer or director. Television writers have it better than film scribes, but I had no interest in writing for television, and they remain at the mercy of the business types.
So, I started my first Internet ezine instead.
Ten years later, the Writer’s Guild of America is on strike, because writers are not being compensated properly for their work in new media and other digital assets. And here I am sitting on a whole heap of new media digital assets.
At least I can point to one good decision I’ve made in my life.
The point for you is this. If you’re freelancing for online producers or blogging for hire, you’re setting yourself up to be exploited. No wait… you are being exploited.
The new media producers are analogous to the Hollywood producers, and they’re the ones who are making the real money while you work for them. Why?
Becoming a writer/producer online is simple relative to film production, and it can be extremely lucrative. Writers should be running the show because it’s the story that matters most, but that means you need to spend a bit of time learning about online business and technology.
You don’t have to learn everything to be a writer/producer. You just need to know what needs to be done, and then get people to make it happen with you. That can be through outsourcing, or through strategic partnering with those who have the skills you lack.
I don’t know if there will ever be a Blogger’s Guild of America, but I wouldn’t wait around to find out. Why not just take control of your own destiny?