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Thursday, 7 January 2010
What to Do in 2010 if You're an Out of Work Writer

I have gotten some e-mails from a few people asking me what they should do if they are not making money from writing (but used to), or can't find work.  One guy was an assistant in television and no longer has a job.  He's struggling to find something.  

First, I suggest you look for another assistant, writer's assistant, or script supervisor job.  If you are an all or nothing writer type, that's what you should do.  I'll be honest with you, though.  I talk to execs, managers, agents, producers--every day.  The business is in a down cycle, and likely to continue to retract in the future.  It's been retracting for years.  Every year I've been in the biz (15), it's gotten worse.  It could turn around any time, but be mindful of that.

Digital Media might save us all, but I think it will be like the dot com revolution.  It will explode for a few years, then crash heavily.  I was a web editor during the dot com revolution.  It was amazing.  But, the crash was even more amazing.  Almost overnight, 90% of the business disappeared.  Also, consider that investors have already poured a ton of money into digital media, and it's failed. They're reluctant to throw good money after bad.  Can't blame them.  But, if you can get a job in digital media now--take it--even if it means you have to make less money.  There will be a second ground floor, in my opinion. Just like web development rebounded--so will digital media.

I'd also consider getting a Comp/TIA certification.  It will cost you $150-300, but it's worth it's weight in gold.  IT work isn't glamorous, but you can do help desk work now for a lot of companies from home, and make a great living.  In LA, not having to leave the house to go to work could save you two hours a day to write.  I have a writer buddy who does it and makes $50,000 a year, has full benefits, and wears sweatpants all day.  Yesterday, he got 10 calls.  He worked about 2 hours and got paid for a full day's work.  Even better, if writing goes south on him, he has a career to fall back on.  Does he want to do this?  No.  But, with his job, he can always find work.  He's quit for 3 to 6 months so he can focus on a project, then he'll send out 5 resumes, and get 5 calls.  There isn't a more in demand job right now.

I have to admit--I've considered doing something else.  I made enough money to live on last year writing, but things were tight.  I have no idea what 2010 holds.  As always, there are a lot of promising projects, but how many of these things will pan out?  A good year is when 1 out of 10 things I pursue pays off.  I'm considering going back to school.  I could always teach film and television writing.  

I'm a realist more than anything else, and at my age, I don't like what I'm seeing from the business right now.  Even in record years, studios are cutting back film production and staff.  Not good.

So, stay hopeful, but be good to yourself, and be mindful of your future.

Posted on 01/07/2010 8:50 AM by Todd Carr
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