A professional writer is someone who gets paid professional fees to write copy. A hobbyist does not. Be careful not to confuse the two. 

People who get paid to talk about writing aren’t necessarily professional writers. A professional writer is someone who gets paid to open up a blank document and start typing copy that is eventually published or utilized in some form of commerce, whether it is a direct mail campaign or a book.

Hobbyists sometimes pose as professional writers.

Let me say there is nothing wrong with being a writing hobbyist. But the level of intensity, breadth of experience, and strength of production capacity of a professional writer doesn’t even compare to a hobbyist. Nor should anyone expect it to.

It frustrates me that hobbyists sometimes portray themselves as more than they actually are. It really taints the experience for many people who hire professional writers. But make no mistake about it—they are not professional writers. Those who blur the lines intentionally and falsely portray themselves to others are posers.

Posers are easy to spot, especially when you know what to look for.

They look the part, know the lingo, and may even dabble in what they talk a lot about. The flaw is they don’t have the portfolio to back up the advice they are peddling to others. Posers exist in just about every walk of life; they certainly aren’t limited to writers.

I see a lot of people giving advice about writing to other aspiring writers who don’t make a living putting words on a page. This doesn’t necessarily mean that what they have to say has no value. But it does matter if your goal is to be a professional writer.

  • Hobbyists don’t depend on the checks to come in the mail.

  • Hobbyists don’t intentionally expand their client base.

  • Hobbyists don’t live in the tension of what has to be produced today and what must be sold to have work for tomorrow.

  • Hobbyists don’t understand the pressure of a deadline—especially at the expense of perfection.

  • Hobbyists don’t fear that the demand for their work will one day disappear.

  • Hobbyists don’t understand the pressure to perform.

  • Hobbyists don’t spend as much time writing as they do talking about writing.

I fear we’ve lost interest as a culture in the value that comes from mastering any discipline, especially writing.

We live in a world that values generalists over specialists. Social media and the web are filled with coaches, gurus, and wise [sic] guys and gals. Just because someone is willing to offer their sage advice to you doesn’t mean you are obligated to listen and follow their direction.

If you want to be a professional writer, take advice from professional writers.

Ask around. You’re likely closer to a professional writer than you might think. But please be careful who you pay attention to. Follow the lead and hire those who actually do the work and get paid for it. 

Have you ever encountered a hobbyist who tried to portray themselves as a professional writer? Are you sure you’re paying attention to the right people?

Image Credit: Shutterstock