Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Authors: Beware of the Phantom Career

There’s a buzz-worthy phrase I've been hearing lately around the Interwebs lately: phantom career. It applies to writers and other creative types who end up in an entirely different career than the one they wanted after spending more time on things related to writing but that weren't actually writing.

Why Don’t You….

For instance, I've set up my own WordPress sites because I don’t want to pay someone and also because I want to be able to update them on my own. I like knowing all the pieces of my business even if eventually I’ll outsource them.

However, I get tons of requests from authors to do this for them. They tell me they’ll pay me for my time or that I should do this as a side business, etc. But I hesitate in doing this because I don’t think people realize how time consuming this really is, and also because I don’t want to be in that business. I can picture myself getting calls from authors wanting things updated on their site and making changes for them, and all the while having no time to actually write.

My Almost Phantom Career

I had a phantom career for a brief time once. I’m really good at scheduling book tours for myself. I know a lot of bloggers, I've done it for my indie books on the cheap and while it takes time I was able to do a nice little marketing effort for each one of my books.

People kept telling me to do this for authors, and I did for a while. It paid nicely. But guess what? It took me completely out of writing. I was spending so much time organizing tours and reminding authors about their posting commitments that I didn't have time to focus on marketing myself. I had started a separate business for myself that was moving me from someone who wrote to someone who promoted writers.

What About Blogging?

By far, the biggest complaint I hear about blogging is that is takes time away from writing. Just last week I heard a writer say, “I believe writers write and bloggers blog.” Dramatic sigh. Is blogging a phantom career? Depends on how you do it. But one thing I know, it’s an effective marketing tool.

I blog professionally. It keeps me on my toes with writing and pitching freelance work and also gives me an instant way to promote my books. Blogging in this case is not a phantom career for me, because writing is my career. When clients pay me to blog (to write) I’m earning a living as a writer.

Blogging to help promote my stuff also keeps me working as a writer. So it’s not a phantom career, it is an element of my writing career. Others may argue the point in blogging and everyone needs to do what’s right (or write!) for them.

How to Know If You’re In a Phantom Career?

Authors and other creative types are very susceptible to phantom careers because we always need to do other things in order to keep our creative business going. Some authors get into podcasting, providing services for other authors, or reviewing books. All of these are okay but if they keep you from writing, you might have a phantom career on your hands.

I recently sold a few websites for that very reason. I found that they weren't adding to my writing life much and they took up time. I still have scads of blogs left (I always have too many blogs) but getting rid of even a couple sites helped me focus on the one thing I want to do: continue writing.

Cherie Burbach is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and relationships. She's written for, NBC/Universal,, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: How to (Really) Make Money BloggingVisit her website for more info,
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