I am so excited to welcome a special guest blogger. One of my favorite mystery writers. C. Hope Clark takes her writing career very seriously and what she has to share can be life changing for everyone who takes her advice to heart. Not to mention her mysteries are some of the best I’ve ever read.
Reporting to Work . . . as a Writer
By C. Hope Clark
When people ask if I work full-time as a writer, I state yes. Then someone in the group will ask something along the line of, “How do you find the energy and creativity to write every day?” My reply is, “It’s my job. I have to report to work every day. Don’t you show up to your job whether you feel like it or not?”
Since when did writing become only a pastime and not a career? Especially since we are attempting to earn dollars from the effort.
If you are fighting to make money from your books, then you are entering a job. So, what do writing a book and reporting to a job have in common?
- You show up to get paid.
- You show up regularly to be taken seriously.
- You bring a solid work ethic to the job to earn respect.
- You work hard to get better at your job.
- You strive to climb the ladder.
- You work efficiently to produce more.
- You respect those you work with.
- You treat the customer with respect.
- You act, dress, and reply as a professional.
In the writing business, you get out of it what you put into it. Any short cuts in production, craft, or marketing will short change your income and stunt your effort to be successful.
I began with dreams of being a mystery novelist. After two years of writing, and a few rejections, I second-guessed my decision. But I enjoyed writing, so I turned to freelancing instead. The FundsforWriters.com newsletter developed. My portfolio grew with submissions. I operated by a mantra to “keep 13 queries in play,” constantly shooting out pitches, keeping 13 outstanding at all time. When rejected, I tried to dissect why and improve.
My day job was administrative director of a small federal agency. My stressful days were exacerbated by long hours in a political atmosphere. Fifty-hour weeks answering to serious people. I turned to writing for stress relief. . . and fell in love such that I set a three-year plan to cinch my belt, pay off bills and save, with the end goal being a full-time writer. Even working part-time, I could not afford to not show up to my writing job, because every step forward gave me insight into transitioning to writing full-time.
Three years later, I went full-time. From then on, my writing day became a balance of the following:
- Showing up to work each and every day, with Saturdays being my off day or lesser day, depending upon my deadlines.
- Marketing myself versus just writing. With my livelihood dependent upon my writing, developing a brand became of serious importance. What good was being a writer if nobody knew it?
- Seeking work. My love was still writing mysteries, but traditionally published books don’t bring in income very quickly, and one or two self-published ones don’t bring in enough to live on. So I continue freelancing, speaking, presenting, and earning money with advertising and affiliate sales in my newsletter. Writing for money preceded writing for simple enjoyment, though I made time for both.
- Developing a writer’s eye. A writer has to stay keen watching for story ideas, listening to dialogue and watching humans go through their day. They notice how life makes for
- Developing an entrepreneur’s eye. One always keeps an eye open for potential markets. Yet another part studies opportunities to make appearances. The switch remains on most of the time. Unlike the nine-to-five when you work for a company, quitting time as a writer carries another meaning. You might get up from the computer, but your brain never stops. The minute you slow down, someone passes you by.
- Revisiting goals. My freelancing goes down as my other income rises. The ultimate goal is for most of my income to come from books, but for now, I revisit my goals monthly in some areas and quarterly in others, measuring where my attentions are needed most. And I create a general business plan for the upcoming year.
- Being able to adapt. A book release can put freelancing on the back burner. An editor may appear out of nowhere accepting a pitch, with a short deadline. Your computer may crash, eating up the check you just earned from a three-month assignment. The novels may take off, bringing in more money, shifting you from freelance to your next manuscript. Don’t panic when priorities have to shift.
- Keeping records. Create income files, expense files, and maintain spreadsheets of queries, travels, sales, book release efforts, anything that can affect your bottom line as an entrepreneur. Yes, the more hours you work as a writer, the higher the percentage of your time might slide over to administrative, unless you hire an assistant. You don’t want IRS questioning your motives.
You do not arrive as a writer. You perpetually seek improvement, both in craft and in entrepreneurship, and one is dependent upon the other. Without a strong grip upon the business side of the house, your writing is for naught, unable to earn a decent income. Without grooming your writing to a professional level, no amount of business savvy will make it sell. It’s a juggling act, but the bottom line is you are still working for yourself, working at home, and doing what you love. It’s empowering, satisfying, and powerful when it works well . . . and you decide that.
Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue at both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com
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