Friday, November 11, 2011

What is Your Profit Motive?

As a freelance writer, you’re in business to make money. How much is up to you. You can write a lot and get paid little or write a little and get paid a lot. Chances are you’ll fall somewhere in between. But one thing is for sure, there are only so many hours in a day, so the amount you make may be limited, especially if you’re writing books or articles for magazines.

If you’re writing books, you can only work on one at a time. The amount of time it takes to research and write a book is staggering while the advance you may receive pays for only a fraction of that time. If you’re a good multi-tasker, you may be able to pound out an article or short story or two while working on your book, but most writers put all their energies into such a massive project.

Writing articles actually pays better in the long run. If you have acquired some steady markets, you’ll be writing constantly and the money will pour in regularly.  If you’re just starting out, you may find yourself strapped for cash between assignments.

So what is your profit motivation? Are you content to make a little while pursuing other creative projects—for this you’ll need a working spouse or a rich benefactor? Or do you need to earn a living to help support a family or yourself if you live alone? Many married women writers claim they’re making a living just like any male writer, but what if they weren’t married and couldn’t depend on their husbands’ paycheck to take care of most or all of the bills? While it may be okay to do this in the beginning, after a while your spouse will grow tired of paying the bills by himself.  The opposite it also true for husbands taking up freelance writing while their wives work at a steady job to pay the bills.

Even if you’ve been publishing and making a modest living at writing, you may be guilty of practices that hinder you from making more money. Maximizing your profit requires you to budget time and money carefully. Will you be able to live on say $12,000 a year or less? Perhaps you had better decide if you love your daily Starbucks latte more than writing!

You need to budget everything. Leave nothing to chance. Periodically review your bills to see if you can lower any of them. This will mean not having the latest smart phone or that big-screen Plasma T.V. that your neighbors have. And while you’re at it, better decide to move from the McMansion you live in now to a more modest house.

But budgeting isn’t all about sacrificing the things you love for your writing. It just means that you need to prioritize. List the things that are most important to you. If that cup of Starbucks coffee or that giant SUV that you drive is important to you, then perhaps you better give up on your dreams of becoming a writer, unless you want to write press releases or advertising copy.

As much as you need to learn about writing to improve your skills, so you should learn about the business of business if you expect to keep your profits growing. You’ll be running a small business. Don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s anything else. Talk to other small business owners. What do they do to make sure they stay in business? While your business may be slightly different than theirs, the procedures are the same, even down to what to deduct on your tax return.

Set up daily and monthly schedules and stick to them. Self discipline is very important in freelance writing. It’s not all about spending leisure time at the café reading Twitter messages from your peeps on your smart phone. It’s about working hard and enjoying your time off, knowing that you’ve done the best job you could getting pieces finished and sent in on time.
Review your methods periodically. Weed out the bad habits. Are you allowing too many interruptions to devastate your schedule? Are you letting too much time slip by before you get an idea and propose it to editors or your agent? Are you learning from your competition?

To be a successful freelancer, you have to periodically review your assets and liabilities. You  can’t afford to imagine there isn't room for improvement. Above all, freelancer writers don't believe in giving things away for free. If a publisher isn’t willing to pay for your work, pass them by. You can’t pay for groceries with a freebie.

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