Saturday, October 15, 2011

Do the Hustle

Are you sitting in your corporate cubicle—either figuratively or literally—dreaming of the day when you can quit the rat race and write full time? Does the proverbial grass seem greener on the side of freelancing? Is your boss hounding you to get those reports that were due last week on his or her desk by 5 P.M? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then you may be in for a rude awakening when you finally do quit your day job and devote all your time and energies to writing.

Writing and writing to sell are two completely different things. In the first you may write for yourself, for the love of it, not worrying about how much time you’re spending on a piece, satisfied only that you’ve managed to put something, anything, down on paper. In the second, you need to be disciplined, to make sure you finish work on time and get it in so you can get paid. In freelancing, no work equals no pay. Are you willing to live the romantic life of a starving artist? Or do you like to eat three meals a day. If so, you’ll need to do the hustle—the entrepreneurial hustle, that is.

For the moment, forget about the writing. Have you checked your finances recently? Can you live happily without a steady salary, being paid monthly or perhaps in six months? How are you going to be able to live for an extended period while you develop your writing business? Perhaps you better check your older relatives and see if any are ready to kick the bucket and leave you handsomely endowed. For most beginning freelancers that’s not an option.

When you work for someone else, you can get up and leave at 5 P.M. unless you have work to catch up on. Are you going to be willing to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week? Sure, as a freelancer you can set your own hours. But remember, no work, no pay. That’s going to have to become your mantra.

And what about your family? Will you be able to juggle your personal life around your business? If you’re a male, will your wife assume you’ll be able to pick up the kids from school—since you’re not really doing anything anyway? If a female, will you be able to stop and cook dinner for your family or go grocery shopping? To become successful, you’ll have to learn to set priorities. Life won’t be as easy as it was when you worked for someone else.

Work won’t come to you. You’ll have to find it. And that’s where the hustle comes in. You’ll have to study the markets, seek out the best paying ones, or at least the ones at which you have the best chance at publication. This all takes time—time away from writing, itself. Wasn’t that why you wanted to quit your day job in the first place, to write.

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