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Friday, February 11, 2005


More About the Full-time Leap

Yesterday I began writing about when to make the full-time leap into the writing life. It’s not a light step and (if possible) should be done with a great deal of planning and thought.

There is a common saying among the writing community and something you hear often from editors and at conferences, “Don’t quit your day job.” Over the years, I’ve watched countless people take the plunge into full-time writing.  Maybe they belong to an online writers group and leap out there. Then the emails begin to come to the group about their struggles to pay their monthly bills or their struggles to find work. I shake my head and know they didn’t spend enough thought before they took that leap into the full-time work.

I’d speculate the actual numbers of people who write full-time without another day job are pretty small. If you eliminate the people who have a spouse working full-time at a job and supporting their writing, the figure would be even smaller. I’m not going to be able to detail every aspect in this post but here are some aspects to consider:

1) Are you prepared to face some lean months (or even years)? Have you saved the resources for this possibility? Understand that the book publishing world moves slowly to make decisions and often it takes a while to land magazine assignments (even the smaller ones).

2) Are you a self-starter? Do you get things done without supervision? You will have to be able to do this key skill if you write full-time?

3) Do you have the business background to run your own business? Or at least a willingness to learn? You will have to create invoices, bill, follow up on late clients, build clients, and many other business related skills.

4) Are you willing to write anything? Or simply focused on one type of writing such as children’s writing or magazine writing? Too often, people who want to write full-time are focused on a singular type of writing. Are you willing to write public relations related materials, annual reports, brochures or newsletters? Or are you simply willing to write things where your by-line or name appears on the particular article or book? You will have to consider these decisions.  If you have decided only to write your own materials, I believe it’s the sure way to possible failure (in most cases). Flexibility will be helpful.

5) Are you willing to learn during the writing life? Or have you arrived? Your attitude will be key in this leap to full-time work.

6) Do you know if you have a talent for the writing life? Have you tested the market? I’m talking about getting published in the smaller magazines or newspapers or newsletters before you try and write a book.

We live in an instant gratification society. People want to be able to get it and get it now. This type of attitude isn’t realistic to make the leap into full-time writing.  It will be necessary to learn the business and learn it well. It will be necessary to apprentice in your craft and be mentored in the writing life.

I’ve only scratched the surface with this topic. Hopefully I’ve stirred some solid questions for you to consider. It’s a journey and each of us are on it. It begins with a single step.

2 Comment:

At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Lee Warren Left a note...

Fantastic insight Terry. As a full time freelancer myself, I especially appreciated your comments about being willing to write anything.

I'm currently writing for two newspapers on a regular basis. I have a singles devotional book coming out soon. I have several book proposals in the works. I have numerous magazine articles floating. And I've always got queries in the mail. And still I struggle some months.

I expand as far as I need to in order to make ends meet each month. If that means being a stringer and covering topics that don't thrill me, I do it. If it means working late and continually looking for new markets that I can write for on a consistant basis, I'll do that too.

And I'm thinking about other ways to generate income from my writing. I have several different areas of expertise and I'm working on developing pamphlets to sell at writer's conferences...and I when I teach at a conference, I make sure it's okay to burn my teaching to a CD so I can sell it at other conferences.

At least half of what I write isn't the type of stuff that I'm overly passionate about. Writing is just like any other job. When I worked at a bank, I had numerous functions I had to do every day that didn't thrill me, but it was a necessary part of the job.

I think that a high percentage of the people who are considering making the leap to freelancing full time have a romanticized view of the writing life. Yes, it's fun. And yes, it is rewarding. But it is work.

Thanks for taking this topic on Terry and for telling it like it is.

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger relevantgirl Left a note...

Great questions, Terry. I really don't think people realize how important tenacity is. I've been at this for thirteen years, and I'm just beginning to make a little money.

The other thing to remember is calling. Are you called? And do others echo your calling?

 

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