Very few writers are self-supporting. Most of the ones I know, myself included, have the proverbial day job. I’m in the process of transition from working part-time to working full-time for myself. Some people get excited at this point and say Adios to their boss. As tempting as it is, please take a moment and create an exit plan.
Your strategy should answer the following three questions:
- When will you be able to support yourself by means other than your current job?
- How do you plan to replace or increase your current income?
- How will you communicate your plans to your boss, family and friends?
Growing up I was always warned not to burn bridges when it comes to exiting a relationship. Leaving your job is no different. You never know when you may need a recommendation or use one of your colleagues as a reference. I suggest you look at your product or service and map out how long it will take you to become self-sustaining in business. On average it takes roughly six months to get any new venture off the ground. You can’t exactly give a six month notice but you can begin talking to your supervisor about your plans to start your own business on the side. This signals them that if they want to keep you they had better do something in the way of a raise or increased benefits. Your intention is not to stay but it would be nice to make more money as you plan your exit.
Once you have a timeline in place, begin working your business part-time at nights and on weekends. In my case I work part-time and so I have three weekdays, nights, and weekends to work on replacing my current income. This is the time to gather as many clients and leads as you can. Work out the kinks in your marketing plan and look for a location if you need one. If you’ll be working from home, take this time to set up your home office. Also during this make it official by registering your business with the IRS and obtain your State Licensing and Fictitious Name. Open a business bank account that is separate from your personal checking and savings accounts. It helps if it’s also at an institution different from the one you currently bank with.
When you’re about three months out have a sit down with your boss and talk about how you can help find your replacement or pass your work load on to your co-workers in anticipation of your exit. Also talk with your family and friends if you haven’t already about how they can help you make this transition easier. Recruit them to help you with word of mouth marketing and ask them to give you referrals. This is also the time to discuss how becoming self-employed may affect your household. If you’re married, it’s best to get your spouse’s blessing before you up and quit your job. Make him or her a “silent” partner in your new venture and it will go along way toward maintaining peace during the rocky first three years of business.
Setting out on your own can be scary especially if all you’ve ever known is a traditional job. You’ll have to set your own work hours and schedule your time. Instead of exchanging hours for dollars you’ll have to learn how to sell your product or negotiate contracts in order to get paid. This is a totally new way of making money and you’ll have to begin to think differently about what it means to work for a living.
I’ve found the best mix for me as a writer is to have a product, that is a published book, that I can sell and then to also have a service I can offer. I’m building up my freelance business while I continue to work on my own projects so that I’ll have a book to publish each year. I’m also working on becoming a public speaker and find ways to do writing workshops to create yet another stream of income.
I’m sure you’ve been told that you can’t make money writing but I’m here to tell you that you can. My motto is Always Be Creative and the money will be there when you need it. If you need the security of a paycheck every two weeks you’re not ready to make your exit yet. However, if you’re ready to write by any means necessary, now is the time to create your exit strategy.
Until Next Time,
Nicole D. P. McLaughlin