Making your dream of becoming a full-time author a reality.
Most writers have a few things in common:
- A need to write
- A habitual overconsumption of caffeine
- A desire to make writing their career
However, in order to be able to sustain yourself (and your family) on your writing, it’s important to treat your passion like a job. This isn’t to say you should force yourself to do something in such a way or so often until you no longer love it as you once did. But there are certain principles from corporate jobs that can (and should) be applied to your passion in the hopes of one day making it your full-time job.
Although this discussion will be geared toward writers, the overarching topics are applicable to entrepreneurs or others who are looking to turn their passion into a career.
Here are eight ways you should treat your passion like a job:
1. Show up every day
What would happen if you didn’t show up every day to your 9-5 or to your 12-hour shift? You would probably get a concerned phone call asking if everything was okay. If you didn’t show up often enough, you would eventually be let go. Why? Because employees are paid to work. Employers need certain projects or tasks to be completed in order to accomplish the goals the company needs to remain profitable.
Let’s flip that around to writing, specifically. If you say you want to be a writer and only invest in your author platform as you feel like it or write once a month or a couple times a year, that isn’t enough time to do your job, which is to improve your craft, create stellar manuscripts, and launch a successful author platform.
2. Invest in your online platform and presence
The entire purpose of marketing is to spread the word of a product or service in order to ultimately make a sale.
As I’ve discussed in iWriterly videos—Author Platform Basics, Author Platform: What Should You Put on Your Author Website?, and Author Platform: What Social Media Platforms Should Writers Use?—author platform has a sole purpose: to establish future readers for your books. Moreover, you want to invest in your platform before you have any books ready to be published.
Writers looking to break out in today’s modern world need to have an entrepreneurial spirit. Investigate how you can create a website, make a YouTube channel, post interesting (and relevant) content on your social media channels, learn how to advertise, and so on.
Invest your time into learning the craft of writing as well as other things like marketing, business plans, and author platform. In short, you never want to stop learning.
3. Commit yourself for the long-run
Most writers will not experience overnight success. It will take years of learning your craft of how to write a good book (making compelling characters, raising the stakes, successful world-building, etc.) as well as to create a following for your author platform.
Many people will look at people like Christine Riccio or Sasha Alsberg with frustration and say, “Of course they got a book deal. If I had hundreds of thousands of subscribers, I would too.” However, think of the YEARS of work people like Christine and Sasha have put into their platforms. Not to mention the YEARS of work they had to put into learning how to write a good book. They were not overnight successes. They were people who worked hard and made their own niches in the industry.
In an interview with Jenna Moreci on Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast, Jenna shares her business-minded strategy for her YouTube platform, which now has more than 130,000 subscribers. She reveals that she worked on her platform for years before seeing a boom in subscriber count.
Don’t expect to have success right away or even within the first few months or years. Be prepared to hustle for the long run before you start to see the payoff.
4. Keep yourself accountable
Like any corporate position, where you are given a list of goals you have to achieve throughout the year in order to earn your bonus, for example, you should also give yourself goals as a writer—and make sure you hit the goals you set out for yourself.
This doesn’t mean giving yourself unachievable goals or goals beyond your control (such as getting a literary agent within the next year). I mean practical, attainable goals with deadlines.
Do you want to write a book and start querying within the next year? Give yourself a deadline to write the first draft, another deadline for editing, another for beta reading, and another to prepare your submission (query, synopsis, pitch, etc.) so that you are ready to query.
Track your progress throughout. Rework your deadlines if you have to (for example, if you realize it was unattainable), and consider creating a reward system for a job well-done.
Most importantly, though, write your goals (and deadlines) down. Don’t leave room for ambiguity or opportunity to forget what your goals are. Write them down, track your success, and make new goals.
5. Be willing to restrategize
Not everything you set out to do will have the ROI you hoped for (meaning, return on investment). Businesses are constantly shifting and changing to adapt to the current marketplace. As should you on your author platform and writing endeavors.
Take a look at your author platform, for example, to see where most viewers are engaged. If you have 100 readers on your blog, which you spend 5 hours on each week, and you have 3,000 viewers on your YouTube channel, which you also spend 5 hours on each week, it might be time to prioritize one over the other.
There is only so much time in the day, and it’s important to invest your time into what will have the greatest return on investment.
6. Prioritize your schedule
The whole point of turning your passion into a career for writers is to make their writing profitable enough to (at the very least) sustain themselves. But if you find yourself spending more time on your author platform than your writing, it might be time to tweak your schedule or priorities.
Here are a few tactics to consider:
- What time of the day are you most productive or creative? Consider utilizing those hours as writing time.
- Break down your to-do list into essentials and non-essentials. What will contribute to growing your passion as a career, and what is just white noise?
- Say no. You only have so much time in the day or week. That means, you may not be able to go to every event with friends or family. Be willing to set boundaries.
7. Work on your craft often
Although many people will say that writers should write every day, I would argue writers should write often. What that looks like will depend on your lifestyle. If you’re a nurse, for example, you may not be able to write every day. Instead, writing for longer periods of time for fewer days each week might work best. Take a look at your schedule, and make writing a routine.
Treat writing like a job (show up every day, as we discussed in tip #1), and one day it might be.
8. Offer products or services
In order to be able to make your writing profitable, you need to have some type of product(s) or service(s) available for purchase.
Depending on where you are in your career, you may not have books available for purchase. If that’s the case, consider pursuing freelance writing opportunities or starting a course on writing. Whatever it is, consider carefully what viewers actually want and not what you want to make for them.
Ultimately, as writers, the goal is to have books to sell. If you have published one or more books, consider having multiple streams of income (and not simply relying on your books). Teach classes, speak at conferences, sell merchandise on your website, make sponsored videos—whatever it is, find a way to create a financial backing to support your creative efforts.