Thursday, 2 September 2021

Being Professional -- Marc Z Jeffrey

Photo by Oli Dale on Unsplash

Professional. It is a word we hear all the time: ‘He has turned professional. She needs to be more professional.’ The word has several nuances of meaning. Macquarie Dictionary (MacMillan Publishers Australia, 2021) lists ten. Three are: 

a) ‘someone who makes a business of an occupation etc., especially of an art or sport, in which amateurs engage for amusement or recreation,’ (noun), 

b) ‘following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain,’ (adjective), and 

c) ‘as would be done by a professional; expert,’ (adjective).

So, you want to make money from your writing; or have at least toyed with the idea? No? Then, am I right you want to communicate with your intended audience; you want to honour God, who put the desire to write within you? You want to do it well? Produce something that would please a professional? Then read on.

Being professional gives us credibility in a world that can devalue creativity. For a nation that loves story, Australians can sure be critical of those creating them. The statement, ‘You need to be more professional,’ may mask bias. Many writers and artists, especially those who are trying to make a living through their art, battle stigma. There is a prevailing attitude that unless someone traditionally employs you for what you are doing, then you are wasting your time. Income derived from what has the look of hard work can give much status. But doing a lot where there is no clear connection between effort and financial reward can appear ‘wasteful.’

Now, shake the negative stuff off. What does a professional writer do that distinguishes them from one writing purely for fun or personal fulfilment? What do we need to consider?

In summary, to be professional, we need to research the market, understand our readers, and be engaged with the writing community – which all helps us surf change whenever that’s needed.

First, a professional writer researches the market. The writer needs to understand what readers want and don’t want to read, as well as how and where they choose to access content. We might work our fingerprints off to create; but building our knowledge of marketing is just as important. How and when we sell or distribute our works is as important as the writing and editing them. Being able to judge whether it is time to reinvent how we are promoting ourselves rings true whether you have an agent or are self-publishing.

Second, if we explicitly or implicitly promise a reader something, we need to deliver. That might be as simple as not using cover art that suggests the content is a thriller, when you’ve written a romance. It damages our brand if we fail; and it could scuttle our business. A professional knows how to create an expectation and knows how to deliver on it. If we give the customer over and above what they expect, they are more likely to come back. 

Finally, writing can be a solitary occupation, but if you are a writer, you are a part of a community of people. Christian Writers Downunder is such a community. You can find us on Facebook or via this ‘blog spot’. 

Professional people take time to build their brands. Sharing knowledge is brand central for writers and creators. If you need to make a change in what you are doing, a little knowledge is invaluable in getting it right, so share yours. Sharing knowledge is not giving away trade secrets, it’s sharing what you know and what you have learnt. Knowledge is like the ocean, an open resource of facts; what you are doing is drawing attention to what you’ve found helpful in that ocean. 

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

So, if you want to write for a living, or supplement your other job by writing, or just have fun with your words — then be professional because God calls us to be excellent in all that we do. That is: research the market and understand your readers, deliver on what you promise and engage with your community. Have a clear, well-thought-out plan of action and execute it. When things don’t work, rethink, pray. Then try again.

Marc Jeffrey is an Adelaide-based author and poet who loves to craft words in times when his beautiful wife and lively dog (Shih tzu cross Chihuahua) are asleep. He writes of hope and justice, depositing his characters in the nexus between the ‘what is’ and the ‘what if’ – while wondering if he can leave the house without waking anyone up. 

He is long-time member of the ‘Literati’ writing group, that grew out of the Tabor Adelaide Creative Writing program. When he’s not writing, Marc listens to his favourite music, which ranges from Cold Chisel to Claude Debussy


  1. Thanks, Marc :) I like your three points - know the market, deliver your promises and be part of a community. Discovering the writing community through Omegas and Christian Writers Downunder transformed my writing practice and has kept me writing. It's invaluable.

  2. Thanks, Mark. My favourite line was the one about giving the customer more than they expect. It was also good to be reminded that a 'professional' writer takes time to be part of a community of writers. I don't think I would have the courage to take the risk of publishing my work if I hadn't been welcomed and encouraged by others on the same journey )i(