Amateur v Professional

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Ever since I was a little girl my dream has been to be a full time writer. I would live in a house in the country, with my family and other animals and spend my day writing books that everyone would want to read and buy.

Life hasn’t quite worked out that way: I live in a city, my kids have grown up and moved away and we’re currently without even a cat. I am still writing and though people are reading and enjoying my books, I’m not selling millions.

Nor am I making a living out of my writing, so I don’t count as a professional writer. And yet I spend a fair chunk of my time, writing, thinking about my writing, marketing my writing,  organising and taking part in events, blogging etc. etc. All the sort of things that a writer whose main income comes from writing does.  In the end it seems that whether you are and or consider yourself a professional all comes down to money.

This might seem an obvious definition but one that is not supported by the statistics. In the UK the average income for a writer is £10.500−a figure which includes the mega best-sellers. This is nowhere near enough to live on. The Rowntree Foundation considers the minimum standard income to be £17.900. Most writers, therefore, have portfolio careers, they write, they teach, they do other things to bring in the bread and butter.

So do they, or do they not consider themselves professionals? At what point do you move over from being an amateur to being a professional? Given the statistics it can’t be to do with money, so what makes the difference?

In my opinion we have to move away from the whole concept of amateur or professional. If you write and you publish, you are a writer. You may not be a successful one, ie you can’t live on your earnings, but you are a writer.

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