Friday, September 12, 2014

When Should You Quit Your Day Job

People daydream. Writers daydream even more. Perhaps you’re sitting in your cubicle right now dreaming of the day when you can tell your boss to stick it and take up the full-time life of a writer.  Lots of people do it, so why shouldn’t you?

Daydreams keep you on an even keel. They help balance the frustrations in your life. They give you hope. But what they don’t tell you is just how you’re going to make it after you quit your day job.

Believe it or not, the writing business ain’t what it used to be. Publishers are paying writers the same amount for articles and stories as they did 30 years ago. Advances for books are actually less today than they were 30 years ago. What business do you know that hasn’t given its employees a raise in 30 years? The answer is none. Even burger slingers at McDonald’s have seen increases in the minimum wage.

The problem with most writers, yourself included, is that you have no idea what’s happening in this business. Your daydreams take you to some far off glamorous place where you see yourself making the big bucks, like all those famous writers you read about. You effectively don rose-tinted glasses and see the world through a fantasy-like haze.

Well, it’s time to come down to Earth. Take off those rose-colored glasses and see the writing world for what it is—a rather gruesome place to make a living. Well, it may not be all that bad, but it’s not what it used to be.

If your goal is to become a full-time writer, you need to plan ahead. Getting one or two articles or stories published is a start, but it won’t earn you a living. Oh, but you plan to write books and make lots of money. Better think again. Writing books for most writers is a labor of love. If you’re lucky, you’ll sell one book a year, but the reality is that it may take you several years to sell a book in today’s market. And don’t forget the 15 percent your agent will take and another 20-30 percent that the IRS will take, and you aren’t left with much.

But you say you don’t have to wait that long with ebook publishing and outlets like Amazon’s Kindle. If you’re selling a book for $2.99—the average price for an ebook—just think how many books you’ll have to sell to equal your current salary.

So unless you’re insane, don’t quit your day job until you’re making enough money from writing to pay at least some of your bills. If you have a family, that may be never.

The solution to this vexing problem is to diversify. Writing, at least the type of writing you’ve been daydreaming about, can’t be your only source of income. You’ll need to put on your creative thinking cap and come up with ways to supplement your writing income.

The first rule is to try not to do anything that isn’t in some way connected to your writing and what you write. You could do other types of writing, such as copywriting, public relations work, or screenplays. You could also capitalize on the subject matter you write about, especially if you become an expert in a certain area. Armed with the knowledge you’ve gained from writing articles and books, you could develop courses and lectures. Yes, there is that old adage that those that can’t teach. But don’t you believe that for a minute. In fact, those that can have more insight and are better teachers.

You need to look at the bigger picture. Think of all the ways you can make money from your writing. Then work like hell. Only then should you quite your day job.

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