When it comes to “being a writer” chances are good you won’t have a lightning strike moment when it turns from a hobby to a career. It may be the moment you quit your job or the moment you graduate college, but more often than not, it’s a slow evolution. Months or years later you may turn around and realize that you’ve been a writer all along.
And that’s great!
If writing as a career, striving toward full-time writing or creating a livelihood from your writing are goals you aspire toward, it’s important to consider not only the creative and exciting elements of your new title but the logistics as well. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you transition from hobby to business-owner.
You Are the Business Owner
I’ve always struggled with numbers and doing my taxes makes my eyes cross, but when you decide it’s time to pursue writing as a serious career, it’s fundamental to treat it the way you would any other business. You are a business owner now, and that mentality is going to shift how you spend money, work throughout the day and reach new clients. First and foremost, think of yourself as the owner.
You’re Also the Product
With the prevalence of freelance and the ubiquity of part-time, remote positions, these types of roles are becoming more common, but that doesn’t dilute their value. You aren’t just the owner of the business, you are the product, selling creative ideas and stories that people want to read. As a hobbyist, writer’s block or tough edits are excusable. As the product for your business, they no longer fly. You have to be willing to show up and get the work out every time.
As an author, you’re going to have a lot to remember. You’ll have your whole story or stories–book bibles, outlines, drafts, edits, publisher notes. But you’ll have a whole lot more too. You’ll have expenses, deadlines, social obligations, online media management and more. Recently, I’ve been really overwhelmed with freelance jobs and I missed a Facebook event. It could have been much worse, but it reminded me to take the step back, set up my calendar and approach everything with fresh eyes.
Keep Your Expenses
Promise yourself you’re going to do this. Look in the mirror right now and say I will keep my books. I update my incoming and outgoing spreadsheets no less than once a week. And even once a week is a pain in the butt. Think about how much more work it is to do it at the end of the month or the end of the year. Chances are good you’ll miss something here or there and lose money or struggle with your paperwork. Record everything. This is non-negotiable.
Schedule Your Day
If you’re writing full-time or writing and freelancing or ever writing part-time, you may be looking down the barrel of a big chunk of free time where you promised yourself you’d write but now you’re feeling incredibly intimidated. Don’t worry. That big chunk of time can be used very effectively if you approach it with a plan. Make a list or outline of your goals for the day, consider breaking writing up into smaller chunks, like a chapter or certain word goal, and go down the list. You’ll feel far less frazzled and overwhelmed and will, therefore, be far more productive.
Value Your Time
Your friends or partner who works a traditional job may see you as being available at any time of the day or night. If you’re home for work, why can’t you take an hour and have a cup of coffee? Because you’re working, that’s why. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break. Breaks keep us sane. But there’s also nothing wrong with telling your loved ones that you’re busy. Value your time. This is your job.
While I don’t count myself among them, I recognize that many folks within writing communities are introverts and, as a person in a long-term relationship with an introvert, I know that the idea of networking is about as appealing as a root canal. Let me just say, us extroverts aren’t exactly in love with it either. But even in a solitary sport like writing, you’re still going to need to connect with people in order to get the support and resources you want. Find a way to make networking work for you, because you’re going to need to do it.
Find the Line Between Open and Private
Fans want their favorite authors to share all–or, at least they think they do. As much as you want to treat your writing like a business, part of your business is appealing to fans as a person so they get interested in your stories. There’s no one-size fits all explanation of how much to share about your personal life, that’s up to you. But you will want to appear open and available.
Because social media is still largely associated with young millennials chatting on AIM in their friend’s computer rooms, there’s a sense that it doesn’t require politeness and professionalism. But it does. Whether you’re on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or wherever, you’ll still want to maintain the persona that keeps the fans coming back. You can certainly engage in conversations that matter to you–many of my favorite authors are very outspoken on political issues like women’s rights, climate change, and gun control, but you have to remain professional.
Tales of bad behavior can spread very quickly. For instance, a model in the romance industry recently shared two very insane posts on this Facebook page–one related to fat-shaming and the other in defense of Robert Kraft and prostitution. They were not only hurtful and tone-deaf, they were stupid. He lost a vast majority of his clientele and he will not be getting them back.
Take Care of Yourself
This isn’t easy. It takes a physical toll, yes, but more than that, you’re going to face an uphill battle getting representation or placement, getting reviews, getting your book finished, getting readers. You will have more than one day when you wake up and wonder what in the hell you’re doing. Don’t give up, but also listen to your physical and emotional needs and be willing to take the step back when you need to.
You’re not running just any business, you’re running a business where you get to share amazing stories with the world and reach readers and writers and fans! Yes, you need to be cognizant of logistics, but you also need to remember why you started because that’s that is what will keep you going.
Of course, there are hundreds of other things to consider when it comes to running your writing career like a business, but these are a start. I wish you all the luck on this artistic adventure.