Have you ever wondered when you can begin referring to yourself as a ‘professional’ writer? When is it appropriate to list ones self as a professional writer, versus simply ‘writer’? These are questions many people, including myself, have asked, and after learning from many different professional publishers what they consider to be professional, I have compiled a list.
1. At least one year of fulltime experience. The writer needs to have a minimum of one year experience writing full-time, at a minimum 30 hours a week.
2. Have a large, well rounded portfolio. The writer should not only have a decent sized portfolio, but also a decent size list of various publications they have worked for. If the writer has only published works in one or two places, depending on the situation, they may or may not be viewed as a professional writer.
3. Can show a steady income. A writer should be able to show that they have a consistent income and an estimated yearly salary. Also, the writer should be able to file their taxes as self-employed, not as a hobbyist. A professional writer is one who is usually assumed to be a full-time, consistent writer.
4. Can consistently meet deadlines. If you are unable to meet deadlines for 98% of your projects, than you cannot call yourself a professional writer. As the word suggests, the writer must be professional, and not completing deadlines is not professional. Professional writers earn more money than the average freelancer, and have more work expected of them.
5. They can handle a large number of projects without becoming overwhelmed or stressed. If the wrier is easily burnt out by a high level of coursework, they generally cannot handle the projects that come with being a professional writer.
6. They can communicate with editors and clients in a professional, timely manner. If a writer cannot articulate themselves in a manner that is clear, concise, and easy to understand, they will not earn the respect of editors and other clients, and are likely to suffer from lack of projects. It is important to develop this skill, because once editors have marked you down as someone who is ‘unprofessional’, you are not likely to recover from that.
7. Finally, you have to know yourself Whether or not you are ready to call yourself a fulltime freelancer, and if you are mentally prepared for the work and duties of being a professional. Only you know yourself, so judge carefully.
This is just a basis for what is generally considered to be professional. Each editor/publisher will have their own individual standards, which may be more or less strict than these ones.