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Tag: hard work

GUEST POST: Treat Your Writing Career Like A Small Business


Aspiring writers are a dime a dozen. As a writer myself I meet many like-minded individuals with dreams of pursuing a career writing full-time. Instead of treating it like a career, they instead view it as a far-off event that may or may not ever arrive. People like this aren’t convinced that they can make it happen, and might be living a self-fulfilling prophecy of literary underachievement. Today is the day to change that.

Fake It Till You Make It

If you want to become an Olympic sprinter then you need to run practically every day. It takes copious amounts of time, blood, sweat, and self belief. Writing is the same way. Don’t just aspire to become a successful writer – write consistently and fake it till you make it. There’s nothing wrong with being casually committed to the craft like most writers, but if you ever plan on living off your writing…being like most writers isn’t good enough. A better mindset to have is to treat your career like a small business

Once more with feeling: Treat your writing career like a small business. You’re the face of your company and your own best advocate. Do yourself a favor and take the steps that will enable you to succeed. That means consistency, documentation, and professionalism.

You Deserve To Be Paid

Try to recognize that your words are your product and worth payment in exchange for others reading them. A sort of culture has developed where people taking writing for granted. We consume news, editorials, reviews, and all manner of written content online constantly and for free. Somewhere along the line the public decided that since they consume it for free, it wasn’t worth anything. There are too many online publications that refuse to give their regular contributors a dollar, choosing instead to repeat the tired refrain of ‘publicity’ when there’s very little of that too.

Over time I’ve come to see that our writing only has as much value as we place on it. From the first moment you plant yourself in front of the keyboard you should keep the frame of mind that your writing is worthwhile and worth being compensated for. If your goal is to get publicity, then by all means accept it as payment. Otherwise remember that free content has its purposes but alone doesn’t put bread on your table. Getting paid does.

Get Help From Your Friends

It’s important to surround yourself with allies who are actively pursuing similar goals. Small business conferences and writing seminars are both great environments to cultivate your fighting spirit. You’ll need it for the road ahead – the name ‘small business’ already tells you what you can expect. It’s small and it will take time to grow. Seek out mentors that can help you gain a foothold in your niche. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes as long as you keep trying. Successful friends and teachers are guide posts that light your way. You won’t be able to duplicate their success immediately and that’s OK. I know quitting your day job tomorrow to pursue a life of pure bliss writing reviews of Bonanza re-runs sounds great, but that’s a long ways off. You have to earn it first. Writing as a business is not and has never been a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. This is a multifaceted process that requires your full effort. Don’t forget that you have friends that can help you on your journey.

Master Many Skills

Recognize that as a jack or jane-of-all-trades, your business is never just writing. You’re responsible for writing, sure, but you’re also responsible for promoting yourself and managing the small yet important financial details. You have to factor in the accounting side of running a small business or working as a 1099 freelancer. Navigating tax laws as a small business owner can be tricky, especially when taking into consideration tax credits and deductions. Small businesses often have narrow margins and you must take care to save money at every opportunity possible. Along the way perhaps you’ll also design your own logo or even design your office space. Having friends to help is good but you must also develop your own skills.

Believe In Yourself First

I think it all begins with a fundamental mindset shift from freelancer to business owner. Viewing yourself as a freelancer only can feel too much like being an employee or a tumbleweed that rolls from town to town in search of work. Instead, think of and treat yourself as a sole proprietor that sells quality goods (your words) and services (your expertise) to customers, no matter how big or small. It’s all part of how you market your work and it begins with empowering yourself. You’re the baddest in the west and you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

You’re not the drifting gunfighter that roams from saloon to saloon in search of work. Give yourself more credit, because in many ways you’re the saloon itself. Gunfighters, wranglers, and farmers from all across the state come to your establishment in search of opportunities and a good drink. You’re a jack or jane-of-all-trades: tough, skilled, and with friends to boot. Seize your writing career today by treating it like the business it’s always been. 

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Writing Again

It’s been a rough and glorious year. Rough, because a divorce that was imminent and nearly inevitable came to pass. Several unanticipated things came with it, including drama with my children, my dog, and of course some of my friends and family.

There was other drama too. Stuff I won’t delve into here. If you want to know more you’ll need to get me drunk, and if I am going to spill secrets I need really expensive Scotch. A bottle or two will do nicely.

The summer was a dry spell in the writing department. I did some, but I never got into a routine. There was no flow. The novel(s) I was working on stopped, the story went stale. I started a new one, but never made the time to get in deep. The same with novellas. A lot of fun was had, but my life was missing something, and it started to show.

I’ve shared before that when I am not writing, I am a real ass. (Read my poem, I am an Asshole) A professional relationship I had for a long time ended, and I moved on to other things. But reality also started to hit. My son would soon be living with me full time, I needed to get a place for my dog and my little family.

At the same time, I was in a new relationship. The summer felt like one long vacation, with trip after trip and one social event after another. My time was invested in other things, and my creativity only somewhat satisfied.

Close to broke, with book sales at an all-time low, in large part due to my lack of marketing, I decided I needed to do a couple of things. First, I needed a day job of some sort. Child support was slow in coming, and debt piled up.

Second, I needed to refocus on my writing. There are stories to tell. So many stories.

The first few weeks of this time, adjusting to a new schedule, a new job, my son and girlfriend both back in school, were rough. Frankly, I was spinning out, and everything felt like it was out of control.

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen I have been blogging about all kinds of things, everywhere. The pump has been primed by work. I am writing a humor column, and about GIS, cycling, and other things I am interested in. The words are bottled up, waiting to flow.

And I am ready. My fingers rest on the keys, burning. I cannot type fast enough. Poetry is flowing, stories are being born, old ones being revitalized.

I have been asleep. In a cocoon. Not anymore. I am emerging, a new butterfly, a reborn man, and a refreshed writer.

I hope you are ready. Watch out words. Here I come.


I’m Busy

stopglorifybusyIt is time to stop glorifying busy. I have said so several times in the past year and a half. So I’m not making a new resolution, but just offering up some food for thought as I end my “staycation” over the holidays, one I used to some planning for next year, and…

Yeah, I confess. I worked too. It was too easy. I was at home, which is also where my office is, and a few things just “came up.” If you know me, you know I am a workaholic. But one of the things I did do was limit my hours. I also decided on a fitness plan, something I have lacked for about the last year, and it shows. So going forward, I will be changing some things. If you have done business with me before, or will again, I may be referring clients to this blog post often.

I’m going to take better care of myself. I did a piss-poor job of this a few times throughout the year. It didn’t help anyone, because if I am not doing well, there is little likelihood I can help you succeed. And I need to be healthy physically, spiritually, and mentally. The balance makes me better at everything I do.

saynoI may tell you “no” more often. This is something everyone I know needs to get better at. Everything you are offered is not an opportunity. Sometimes a task is a distraction. More than once this year, I said “yes” when I should have said “no.” So it’s not personal, but I have a goal to keep my hours reasonable, my tasks manageable. It might be timing or any number of reasons, but if I tell you know, realize it isn’t personal. I’m just trying to stay focused and healthy.

I’m going to limit my business hours. If you call or text, and it is business related, outside of set hours, you may not hear back from me as soon as you would like. I’m an early riser, but I probably won’t be answering your e-mail at 5 a.m. Or 9 p.m. I disciplined myself earlier this year this way for a while, and it worked really well. Of course, then I fell off the wagon into workaholic land again. If you want to talk about business after 5 p.m., you better have made arrangements ahead of time. Otherwise, I will talk to you sometime the next day. I will make exceptions, for good reasons, but won’t do it all the time.

I’m focusing on my writing and editing. In the ideal world, these are the only two things I would do, all day long. In the real world, I do research, teach, consult with museums, and many other things. They all help pay the bills, so I can keep working at home. But I may not add much this year. In fact, the idea in the long run is to cut some things out entirely.

So why am I putting this blog post out there, first thing of the year? Well, it will keep me accountable. To myself and those around me. It will also serve as a reminder, to those who want to step over boundaries. I can always refer them to this post. This is how things will work. And I can read it myself. As a reminder.

Whatever you are doing this year, resolve to be healthy. Take care of yourself. And stop glorifying busy.

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If Wishes Were Horses

There are times when we wish things were different, but I can tell you from experience, wishing will get you nowhere. A friend’s Grandfather used to say, “Shit in one hand, wish in the other, and let me know which one fills up first.” While this may reflect a negative overall world view, at least the shitting part, there is a certain truth we can universally see, and perhaps a tiny, Monday morning lesson.

Wishing creates unrealistic expectations. The reality of most wishmeatsituations is that hard work produces measurable results. In most instances hard work is definable, quantifiable, and has a certain value attached to it. Those measurable results should establish expectations for us, and we should logically determine them to be realistic. Instead of “I wish this would happen,” instead we formulate “hard work, applied effectively to this task, will equal this.” We could perhaps add “with a bit of luck, this will also happen.”

Wishing breeds laziness. There are aspects to any task that are unpleasant. For an author like me, this is often marketing. Wishing for book sales rather than working toward them reduces the desire or even the necessity to accurately track results. The only way to determine if the hard work above is actually effective is to somehow measure the outcome. Wishing for results makes measuring outcomes a depressing process, filled with hope and disappointment, often in inequitable amounts. It is easier to ignore the results, or lack thereof, and keep hoping to get “lucky.”

Wishing isn’t healthy.  Writers in general tend to be a manic bunch. Often in the now defunct traditional publishing model, there was a great deal of luck associated with success. So we sent out queries, manuscripts and stories with our fingers, toes, and laces crossed, hoping. The old model is no more. Writer success is a business model, one that is reproducible with hard work rather than wishing, strategy inserted in the place of hoping for luck. Continuing to wish accomplishes nothing but enhancing the manic ups and downs life already offers.

So stop wishing. Stop hoping. It’s time to stop whining, whether you are an author or in any other field, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Yes, you also need to work smart, and need to educate yourself in many areas. That’s part of the hard work. But if you want to ride, you’re going to have to do more than wish for what you want.

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