Balancing The Books

 

The life of an Indie writer can be filled with uncertainties, for most people the largest of these uncertainties pertains to income. As a writer, instead of receiving a regular paycheck your payday only comes when you sell what you’ve written.  Don’t let this dissuade you from following your dream.  The fact is there is no job that is completely safe in today’s economy. No matter what your profession, job security is now a fallacy. Even after you’ve worked for a company for years you can find one day without warning that your job has been outsourced.  Once we truly understand that risk is everywhere why not devote your time and energy to something you absolutely love?  If the financial challenges of becoming a full time writer are what’s holding you back from pursuing your dream, stop worrying and start planning.

 

For some people there’s an innate romance associated with a writer’s life but when you begin to think about it more practically it’s easy for trepidation to sink in. I know how scary it can be, I’ve been in the workforce since I was fifteen years old and receiving a regular paycheck for almost twenty five years. As I’m preparing to make the transition into becoming a full time writer I’ve done thorough research and have begun to retool my entire life to make the transition to becoming a fulltime writer less of a shock. You only have to stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like an entrepreneur.

 

Your odds of success as a full time writer will be much greater if you have a practical plan in place which includes concrete and realistic goals.  First off, it’s very easy to underestimate how much money you’ll need to support yourself with your writing but it can be done. I have a huge amount of respect for authors who have figured this out.

 

As I was looking at my budget  I decided the best way to start would be to determine how much money it would really take to make the transition into writing full time. I have always told myself that my magic number would be two year’s worth of my current salary.  If I could earn the equivalent of two year’s salary from my writing then I would feel comfortable putting in my notice at work and finally take the leap of faith that I’ve been fantasizing about for years. Of course, this amount needed to put your plan into action will differ for everyone based on your lifestyle and current finances. The first step is to determine your personal number.

 

To aid in your transition it helps to deeply examine your life and decide what can be eliminated from your monthly budget as well as how you can maximize the revenue from your writing. Unless you have a lot of cash saved or an alternate source of regular income it’s best to have a lean budget as you’re making the transition into writing full time, at least in the beginning. Frugality is your best friend during the transition into the writer’s life. This part came easily for me because I’m one of the few creative people I know of that are also very fiscally conservative. My parents love to tell the story of how when I was a young child I would save my allowance for months to buy a toy that I wanted only to decide the next day that I wanted the money back and I would return the toy to the store unopened.  

 

I guess it’s always really bothered me to hand over my hard earned cash on things that aren’t a good value or something that doesn’t add any real value to my life. I would much rather have money left at the end of the month to have wonderful life experiences like seeing new places and trying new restaurants than having my life cluttered with a bunch useless of things. When it comes to buying stuff I’ve rediscovered something our ancestors already practiced out of necessity, research everything you buy and purchase the best quality you can afford, it’s always less expensive in the long term. For example, it absolutely drove me crazy to spend twenty dollars on a pack of five disposable razor blades that lasted only a few months. Three years ago purchased a Merkur brand safety razor for $30 and a pack of 200 blades for $20. I’ve only gone through half of the box of blades in three years. This one purchase has saved me several hundreds of dollars so far.

 

As I was started striving to live my ideal writer’s life, the first thing to be eliminated from the household budget was satellite television. I was spending over one hundred dollars a month for this service and only watched a handful of channels. As an alternative, my wife and I discovered the digital TV antenna and AppleTV.  Now we get over twenty free local channels over the air from the antenna and more content than we can watch on NetFlix and Hulu for around sixteen dollars a month.  The content on these streaming services isn’t as current as cable or satellite television but it’s worked out just fine because we’re watching far less television and have more time for more important things. If we want to watch a more current film there’s always the option of renting DVDs from RedBox for under two dollars per movie.

 

If you really start to examine your life you’ll be amazed at the number of creative ways you can find to lower your expenses.  It’s just a matter of taking a look at your own personal situation and decide what you can live without. Some other suggestions to get you started are growing your own vegetables and canning for use later and shopping at thrift stores. I haven’t owned a new car for years but save thousands by buying cars that are still in great condition but just a couple of years old. I also bike to work when weather allows.  

 

Once you begin to analyze your situation ways to save money will become very apparent.  Ironically, you’ll find that most of the cuts you make to your budget will come along with the fringe benefits of simplifying your life, improving your health, enhancing your creativity, and giving you more free time to do things like read and write.

 

The English writer, Brian Aldiss said, “A writer should say to himself, not, How can I get more money?, but How can I reach more readers (without lowering standards)?”  It’s important not to let financial concerns slow the progress or stall the enthusiasm of your writing career.  As you grow your career your income typically will increase organically.

 

Even before you can make the full transition into your dream of writing full time it’s good practice to view your part time writing gig like the business that it is.  Before your writing can pay all of your living expenses the first step is to make your craft self sustaining.  By self sustaining I mean, try to support all the expenses associated with your writing with proceeds from your writing. When you try this you will realize that supporting writing expenses from only your writing proceeds sounds much easier than it is. If you don’t think outside of the box you may find yourself stuck in a cubicle.

 

I’ve found that launching a writing career takes a fair amount of two things, time and money. To make your work known to the world you must pay for things like marketing, professional editing, and travel to and from appearances just to name a few.  If you can get to the point in your career where your writing is paying for itself you will be that much closer to achieving the dream of making a living with your words.

 

Since income as a writer can be so sporadic it’s important focus on diversifying your revenue streams as much as you can to make the most from your writing.  Begin to think of different and creative ways your can market the same work.  For example, I publish collections of my poetry in book form but I also sell the poems individually, matted on parchment paper.  In doing this, I produce two different products and can profit twice from the same poems.  Additionally, I offer a service where I will collaborate with clients to create a completely original poem for a gift or special occasion and by doing so can use my talent as a poet for a third potential income opportunity and the best part is I love doing all of them.

 

As an indie author, you’re busy writing so it’s easy to overlook all the ways to profit from your work, and many writers often do.  The first, and most effective, thing to focus on is making it as easy as possible for readers to find you and buy your work. It’s important to have a page on your website or blog that list live links to where readers can purchase each of your published books.  Regularly post a link to this page, with an attention grabbing introduction on your social media sites.  It’s also imperative to choose the correct keywords on your pages so they show up in internet search results.

 

Whenever you have the opportunity to do personal appearances like book club meetings, readings or any event where you have the chance to make a face to face sale it’s important to have extra books on hand and provide your readers the option of purchasing these books easily with a credit card.  Companies like PayPal and Square offer reliable, easy to use, and compact credit card readers that plug right into your smartphone.  Buy one of these credit card readers and learn how to operate it.  Never be hesitant to wisely invest in yourself and in your career.  According to a recent survey of BankRate.com, fifty percent of Americans admit they carry less than $20 in cash, and nine percent say they don’t carry cash at all. Giving your audience the ability to easily pay with a credit card is a simple way to improve your sales potential.

 

Another great way to add another source of revenue is to monetize your blog through pay per click ad programs such as Google’s Adsense. This service will embed ads in your blog that usually correlate, at least remotely, to products or services you’re writing about in your blog post. Once you sign up for these programs you will get paid each time a reader clicks on an ad. You can even download the free Adsense app to your mobile phone to manage your account on the go. You won’t generate much revenue at first, but it will grow as more readers begin visiting your blog. Although it’s not typical, Google reports that some users are making tens of thousands of dollars per month off this program. Whatever you make, every little bit helps.

 

I can’t stress this enough, just because you choose to pursue a writing career doesn’t mean you have to be a starving artist, it only requires you to think differently and have the discipline to stick to a budget.  Use your gift of creativity to discover new and different ways to get people to pay you for your work and be mindful of the money that you’re spending. If you accomplish this balance you will be well positioned to successfully support yourself with your words. More than ever before writers really do have control of their destinies. Utilize all of the tools at your disposal and you will soon see that reaching the goal of becoming a full time writer will feel every bit as amazing as you imagined it would be.

 

Here’s to your success!

~Eric Vance Walton, Author~

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More information on finding success as an indie author can be found in my book, One Word at a Time, Finding Your Way as an Indie Author. This book debuted at #7 on Amazon and currently has 19 reviews with an average of 4.9 stars.

 

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