Almost every fledgling author prays for the day when the writing gig becomes the day job. That’s the time when it’s put up or shut up, when it’s sink or swim, when all the eggs are in that one “author” basket. That’s scary. Exciting, but scary. I haven’t arrived there yet, but I’m making plans and getting things set up and even if I don’t make a living at it, I’ll be ready for anything. If you’re thinking about quitting your day job, here are a few of the things I have worked out that you might want to also take into consideration:
- Have a plan and a schedule so you don’t start thinking that you have all the time in the world because you really don’t. One of my books in rough draft at this point is about organization, so I have sample dayplanner pages all filled out. I start my day with TAW pages because I really do find that doing three pages of whatever is on my mind can free me from the details and get me inspired to be creative. I believe in The Artist’s Way. I have time scheduled for working on writing new chapters as well as time for editing and plan to keep that flexible enough to stay interesting. I have short bursts of time scheduled for promotional stuff, for support groups and blogs and fanpages and twitter. I also have facebook breaks and personal email time scheduled–sometimes as a reward for finishing sections of a project, sometimes just as a break. Instead of working 9 to 5, my plan goes from 8am to 8pm with plenty of breaks to keep me refreshed.
- Limit distractions. I won’t have a lot of distractions. My husband will be working as an over-the-road truck driver, so he’ll only be home every other week-end (of course I will be OFF when he’s home. ) The others living in the house all work full-time and stay pretty much in their own rooms. They are all adults and do their own cleaning and cooking–in fact, I rarely cook. I do run the dishwasher, but that isn’t much trouble. I only pick up after myself. If you have young children, you may need to figure out ways to keep them occupied while you write. It’s easier now than ever because you can take a laptop or an ipad to the park or library and write while the kids play or listen to stories. Schedule all of your work–including housework–or it will tend to infringe upon your writing time and final edits hanging over my head can provide me with a very clean house and a long wait for publication. I’d rather do anything than final edits.
- Set goals and deadlines. The fact that I don’t have a publisher assigning deadlines does not mean that I can procrastinate. I can take as long as it takes to get everything up to my own standards, but pushing back publishing dates makes it harder to get the publicity and promotion lined up and it is important to have everything running smoothly around the time a book actually comes out for the first time. If I work out a plan and divide the task into smaller chunks so that I can see my progress day by day, I can have a good estimate of when a new book will be ready and what I need to do to make it happen. It might pay to pad the timing a bit so I don’t feel rushed, but giving myself too much time makes it hard to get motivated and makes the task seem larger than it is.
- Figure out exactly how you will pay the bills. I have been sole support for my family for the past 12 years and my husband has been on disability for the past 5. He has returned to the work force as a truck driver and when I quit my job, he will be earning about the amount we were making between my job and his disability check. Once he is earning at that level, I will start putting my whole check into savings to cover any unplanned expenses or emergencies. I fully expect to work my butt off and to increase my book sales substantially once I have the two general audience books on the market (my current book is intended for a very limited audience) and make the time to promote all of the books properly. I intend to work up a class or two that I can teach based on the books–first at the local community college and later as a public speaker at women’s events. I can fall back on substitute teaching or daycare which I am qualified to be licensed for locally, if I need money and things aren’t working out. I will have to roll my 401k from my job into another retirement account that I might also be able to access in a dire emergency. These are things that need to be thought through before making the break because emergencies DO happen. If you are single and get your insurance coverage through your employer, you will want to know how you will pay for medical expenses while self-employed.
- Have a life. While some people might tend to treat self-employment like a permanent vacation, others will tend to skip vacations, breaks, sleep and even meals when they are working at something they enjoy. Even writers need some down time to have something to write about. You can’t research life in the real world from your internet connection, you have to go out and experience it. Take a class, go to church, visit the library, go shopping, watch a movie, keep in touch with friends and family. While I don’t have much of a social life, one thing that I look forward to that I haven’t been able to do because of my job is attending church every week and being involved in the activities there. It’s hard to teach Sunday School when you work every other week-end. As a self-employed author, I may continue to write over the week-ends, but I will definitely keep Sunday morning free for church and even set aside time during the week for Bible study classes. I also hope to attend some live, in-person support group meetings. Not only can I learn a great deal from actually meeting with people with similar issues, but I can also share my books and the things I’ve learned through writing them and work out what to share in a short class through attending these meetings. I might even make a few in-person friends. Do you have a plan to have a life between chapters? If your day job is your life, don’t leave it until you can replace that part of it.
I’m sure there are other parts of this that I will stumble upon as I start my actual journey into self-employment as a full-time writer, author, publisher, and whatever else an indie author does. Do you know anything I’m glossing over? Leave a comment.