Unlike the other Debs, I’ve never worked in the world of magazines. I’ve never been a freelance writer. I’ve always worked in full-time jobs in high tech–nice, comfy, regular-paycheck, comes-with-bennies jobs. They also come with stock, bonuses, raises, employee discounted stock purchase, free software, and many, many other perks. My last company (if you’re doing your own taxes right now, you’ve probably know it) used to display the total sum of all the financial incentives of working there when you logged into your information in the internal network. It really was impressive and very hard to walk away from. But I did.
How did I know it was the right time? Well, my agent did a great job selling the foreign rights to my novel. I couldn’t live on it for long (especially in the insanely expensive Bay Area), but it made quitting a lot easier. And I’d been planning for this for a while and squirreling away my “I’m going to go be a full-time writer” cash. And I’m lucky that my husband works in high tech as well which helps a lot when it comes to pay the mortgage. “It’s an investment,” he says every time I get freaked out about not bringing home a regular paycheck. And he’s right.
Here’s how I look at it. A writing career is really like starting your own business. I don’t expect what I put into it is going to pay off right away. It takes time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So I’m trying to be smart and plan ahead. But so many things are out of my control, there’s no telling what will happen.
But even so, most writers I know do other work to help supplement the writing income. Some teach classes. Some freelance. Others never give up their day job. I’m starting a part-time business helping non-profits and other creative types with their websites and social media. We all do what we have to do.
So my advice to add to all the great advice from the other Debs is this: think like an entrepreneur. Look at a career in writing like starting a business. Do you have the start-up capital? Do you have a plan or just a dream (guess which one is important)? Is your partner/spouse on board? What are you willing to sacrifice while you’re in the start-up phase? There will be sacrifices. There are always sacrifices. (I’m now waving at Zappos and whispering “I miss you.”)
I have a friend who created a Kickstarter for his last novel. He raised $18,000 of capital to write his book. In addition to being a great thriller writer, he’s also a serial entrepreneur and well-connected in Silicon Valley. I was impressed. And yes, I contributed to his Kickstarter.
So go forth and think like an entrepreneur.