I am going to do a quick post today about the basic employers you can have as a professional technical writer or marketing copywriter, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. This choice is very personal, and depends on the amount of physical and mental security you need. You can be extremely happy with any of these types of employers – or extremely miserable.
Work for a Company as an Employee
Advantages: Steady salary, basic benefits (including insurance, plus education, membership in professional societies, etc.), camaraderie, steady work (but little choice about what you write about)
Disadvantages: Work in an office, dress code, incompatible manager, layoffs, overwork, reviews, no energy for creative work
You can work for a small company or a large corporation, and I have been equally happy at all sizes of companies. I’ve listed some of the advantages and disadvantages, and if you find yourself in a bad situation or you hear about a better one, you can always move to another job and see how things work out there. If you see yourself as a serious writer, you will probably not be happy in this kind of job in the long term, but it is a great way to gain experience and have a reasonably steady income. If you have the discipline, your novel will get written early in the morning or late into the night.
Contractor with an Agency
Advantages: Benefits at a reasonable cost
Disadvantages: Lack of security
Once you have a skill set and experience, you can become a contractor with an agency. You can normally get benefits through the agency at reasonable group rates, but the agency gets a percentage of your hourly rate. Agencies will expect reliable, high quality work, and there are many good agencies to choose from. But agencies cannot ultimately control their clients, and when a company gets in trouble financially, the contractors are either the first to be let go or they are forced to take a cut in rates.
Advantages: You can make a lot of money or a little, and you can schedule your work time in any way you wish
Disadvantages: You are running your own business (you have to get work, manage money, pay your own taxes, handle your own continuing education) and although there are websites for freelancers, you are essentially on your own.
Self-employment is great, if you have the entrepreneurial personality for it or a life situation that provides a secure base. When I first started out, I attended a class about freelance writing, sponsored by the local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. The young man who taught the course was very realistic, very upbeat, and very happy. He told us something I have always found to be true, wherever I worked – “You always have time and no money, or money and no time.”
He also spent a lot of time on techniques for making sure we were paid for our work, and by the end of the day, I found out why he was so happy and upbeat. He was married to a lawyer, who not only made a good living and provided him with health insurance, but she also knew the ins and outs of suing any client who didn’t pay promptly. My guess is he mentioned his wife’s profession often.