Friday, October 25, 2013
Breaking the Bubble
Linda Formichelli, author of Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race, recently posted a blog for Writer’s Digest in which she extolls the virtues of quitting your day job to take up writing as a career. And while she touches briefly on a few of the negative points, she mostly presents a rosy picture of this transition. And why shouldn’t she? After all, she’s promoting her book, published by Writer’s Digest Books, on this very subject.
But there are a lot of pins, needles, and knives out there that will try to break your dream bubble before you even get started.
To break into freelance writing, you have two choices—literally jump right in by quitting your day job one day and beginning your writing career the next (definitely NOT recommended), or you can plan ahead for a smoother transition.
There’s more to making dreams come true than just wishing them so. Formichelli mentions feeding your family several times in her blog. But she doesn’t clarify what that means. First, how many people are in your family? Feeding them is only the tip of the iceberg. What about clothing, and medical and dental care?
Let’s face it, you have a better chance of succeeding in freelancing if you’re single. No, you shouldn’t divorce your spouse. But buying for one, you’ll eat less food, use less fuel in both your car and home, and need fewer clothes. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for your own healthcare now that you’re not working for someone else.
You may counter this by saying that if you’re married, you can add in your spouse’s income. That’s fine if you’re both working 9-5 jobs with a definite income, but as a freelancer, you income will be spotty, especially for the first few years. Will your spouse be willing to provide all the income for your family?
Few people are truly passionate about their jobs. Those who are find real satisfaction in working every day. If you’re planning to write full-time, you better well be passionate about writing. Otherwise, it will end up as just another job—albeit a job with LOTS of headaches.
Can you visualize your life in 25 years? Will you still be as passionate about writing then as you are now? There will be ups and downs. Writers experience burnout just like everyone else. Are you going to be able to deal with it? While your current boss may be demanding some or all of the time, he or she is the one ultimately responsible for keeping their business afloat. When you work for yourself, you shoulder all the responsibility.
But shouldering all the responsibility isn’t all bad. As a freelancer, you’ll have to power to control what you do. You’ll be able to choose your markets. However, there may be times when all your markets collapse at the same time. You lose all your income overnight. While you may think of giving up, what about feeding your family? If you have others that are dependent on you, you may have to think twice about giving it all up and returning to the rat race.
And while your income as a freelancer can be unlimited, the reality is that a writer can only work so many hours in a day or week. You can’t work 24 hours a day, no matter how much money you think you can make. Only a few freelancers ever see the big bucks. Luck has a lot to do with it. Most earn less than they ever could working for someone else, expect possibly working for a fast food chain on minimum wage. There will be times when you’ll be earning less than minimum wage. And don't forget the benefits like paid healthcare and contribution to a retirement account.
So while freelance writing may seem glamorous from the outside, once you’re on the inside, it’s a whole different story. Think carefully before you take the leap.