Words on a Page Writings about writing

Doing it yourself, or getting it done right

Someone doing a DIY project

A few years ago, my wife and I decided to get ceramic tile laid in the bathroom and kitchen of our house in Toronto. We collected a few quotes before we settled on a contractor who did a great job.

When I mentioned this to someone at the time, he asked Why don’t you do it yourself? My response was I want it done quickly and I want it done properly. Mostly, I want it done well

I’m all thumbs when it comes to working with my hands. While I can do a number of really basic things around the house, anything marginally complex tends not to work out. In this case, I was more than happy to pay a competent professional to do the job properly.

So why is it that some individuals or firms won’t do the same when it comes to writers? Often, writing (as I read somewhere) is the face of the always-on corporation. You’d think that they’d want to get the best work done by the best people. Sadly, that’s not always the case.

Dealing with the anyone can write syndrome

It may be true that anyone can write, but not everyone can write well. Writing well, as we all know, is hard work. Sure, there are people who aren’t professional writers who can write quickly but, as the late William Zinsser noted just because you’re writing fluently doesn’t mean that you’re writing well.

As you probably have, I’ve read bad pieces of writing. Writing that was wordy. Writing in which the passive was everywhere. Writing in which ideas and thoughts didn’t flow. Writing packed to the brim with keywords. Writing that did no favours to the companies that put it before the eyes of their clients.

I’ve also read some decent pieces of writing by folks who weren’t professional writers. The writing did flow, but something was missing. Again, sometimes the problem was wordiness. Often, the writing was packed with jargon and buzzwords. In the end, the writing just didn’t tie together well. I was left hanging, wondering is that it?

A good professional writer could have done so much more with that writing.

Professionals cost

Not matter what you need a professional for — laying tiles, doing graphic design, or writing — that expertise often comes at a cost. And often, individuals and firms just don’t want to pay that cost. Instead, they’ll try to do the work themselves or outsource it to someone who will do the job quickly and cheaply. And they sometimes pay for doing that in other ways such as lost business.

Does that mean we, as professional freelancers, should drop our rates? Definitely not. There will always be people and companies who know the value of good, professional writing. They’re willing to pay the premium that comes with hiring a competent pro. It just takes a bit more time and effort to find them.

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