I have a negative experience with commercial writing.
I spent two years as a free-lance technical writer in the petroleum industry. I was able to keep the bills paid but that was about it. Most of my clients thought writing was something anyone could do and somehow thought a page of instructions should take only five minutes to put together. And I would add that most of my clients could not tell good writing from bad writing.
For some strange reason, I actually enjoy the task of putting instructions together. I really like putting myself in the position of reader and guiding him through the learning process. But you can’t put a 10-step set of instructions together in five minutes — especially when the client is not quite sure what the steps are. Many clients could neither understand why they needed to review the steps themselves — nor see why I occasionally got the steps wrong.
I didn’t get a lot of business because I was not well versed in the advanced writing software at the time (like PageMaker). A skilled PageMaker writer could make a document look really good, but . . .
I attended a social gathering of fellow technical writers. Almost everyone was complaining about the same things I found frustrating. I then decided to leave this profession.
A few years after my departure, I actually got my dream technical writing job. I volunteered for a recycling center to put together their safety manual. The organization was happy with just a WORD format. I took appropriate pictures, had my tape recorder running while staff were explaining the machinery to me, wrote up the instructions, left drafts with the staff to inspect and make suggestions, and then put together the final copy.
The board of directors was overjoyed with the document. “Best safety manual ever” they said. Half the board were business people that probably needed a free lance writer from time-to-time. One asked: “How much would you charge for such a document?”
I did keep track of my 70 hours, cased with interviews and writing. I believe my skills warrant $50 a hour. I said about $3500! Pins could be heard dropping. Apparently that was far too much to pay.
I’m a classic introvert. From what I can see, commercial writing requires a lot of networking and self-promotion (to the point of aggrandizement). My good work was not selling itself.