Writing As A Career

So many writers I know write in their spare time. After their kids go to bed, after working an 8 hour day job, whenever they can squeeze in a word. And I have to say, you guys humble me. That is not only serious dedication, but takes enormous focus and ability to force yourself to write when the opportunity presents itself. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And it’s so very, very hard.

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But then things changed for me. I sold books. I got contracts. I went from part-time hobby to full-time job.

So what happens when you move from part-time writer to full-time author?

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Well, lots of wonderful (and some awful) things. Last year I finally started selling enough books for writing to be considered an actual paying job. And in that time, I’ve doubled my output. Just in 2015 I released 8 novels and two short stories. I have a dedicated home office, which I now consider an absolute essential. It’s like living with a crappy flip phone for your whole life, then getting a smart phone. You don’t think you need it, but once you have it, you’d go full battle to the death to keep it.

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Why is having a dedicated office space so important?

Well, for someone writing full time it gives you the ability to shut the damn door. Think of it like this, if you had a full time job at say a bank, you’d get up, shower dress, do whatever light housekeeping you needed to, but by 8am you’d be at your desk, ready to work. When you work from home, there is real temptation to take extra time to do a load of laundry or watch the news or whatever. That quickly spirals into you spending all day doing NOT WRITING and then being frustrated because when quitting time comes (say 5 pm or whatever) and you’ve gotten nothing done on your work. So the door serves two purposes. It gives you the ability to shut out whatever other stuff you can be doing (dishes, vacuuming, errand running, etc) and just focus on your work.It also signals other people to do the same.

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What I’m saying is, treat it like any other job.

You will notice that you’ll start to get things like people popping by because they know you’re home or expecting you to do things because “you’re home anyway” or “you just sit around all day doing nothing”.

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The more you treat your writing like a career, the more others will too. If you say, no, I work from 9-5, then people will respect that, and your time, more. Now there will always be those asshats who think that writing isn’t a real job, and to them I give a well deserved one finger salute. That’s when I close my door (locking it if I must) and keep on keeping on.

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Even my family knows that a closed office door means unless someone is bleeding or the house is on fire or Nathan Fillion is at the door, you do not bug mom. Period. I don’t answer my home phone. I screen my cell calls. I don’t answer the front door.

I. Just. Write.

For me, I try to keep it routine. I get the kids off to school, do a little light pick up, but by 9 am I’m in my office, butt in chair, working. Then, when my kiddos get home from school around 4, I pack it in. Sometimes I take an hour to in the evening to do non-writing work like answering emails or whatever, but by 5, I’ve left my office for the day. That’s just me. That’s my balance. And it’s a delicate and fragile thing. It doesn’t work for everyone.

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But what I’m saying is, figure out what your work schedule will be, then stick to it. Respect it like you would any other job.

When you begin writing full time you’ll also notice that it’s really easy to get distracted. A five minute break to research period underwear can quickly spiral into four hours on Pinterest. I know. It happens to me all the time. My only advice for this is to set a timer on your phone. Give yourself ten minutes or fifteen, but then the timer goes off, get back to work.

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You’ll also notice your writing time being eaten up by things like marketing, promotion, and advertising. These are completely necessary but also total time sucks. I highly suggest setting aside two days a week and using them specifically for that kind of stuff. For example, the first Monday of each month I set aside to fill out my monthly marketing stuff for my publisher, to schedule any ads or promotions I want for the month, and to make graphics, etc. Since my daughter gets home early on Wednesdays, I use those for weekly blog post writing, for interviews, and whatever else comes in over the week. It’s also when I make my post office trips to mail swag and to put in some time doing research. The Facebook schedule post tool is your friend. Use it.

You should be thinking like a business owner.

I’m not saying go out and get an LLC, but once you start generating income, you are basically a small business. It will change everything from your daily schedule to your annual taxes. You should be tracking every work related purchase, keeping receipts, printing and filing quarterly statements. There are a million things you should be tracking as part of your business. The ink you use for your printer, the paper, your internet costs, any hardware (printers, laptops, etc) you buy, your annual web domain fees and hosting costs. All that is the (ugh, math) side of being a full time author.

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If you aren’t sure what you should be keeping/tracking/claiming, just save it all and go talk to a tax pro who can help you weed through it. It can get tricky. Like, I can claim a home office deduction because I have a dedicated office space. But if your office is in the same room as, say your washer and drier or your kid’s play room, you can’t count it (for taxes). I also keep a spreadsheet of any inventory (books) I have to purchase for conventions and stuff as well as any expenses I have through the year. It’s a TON of work, but it’s SO worth it in the end.

So that’s a bit of what to expect as you transition into the role of full-time author. There will be hiccups, there will be bumps. It will be trial and error because what works for one person does not work for another. But as long as you are steadfastly treating it like a career, others will as well.

Even if that means locking the door once in a while.

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