Breaking In

So here’s the thing about writing full time. There comes a moment when you have to feel comfortable moving from a steady paycheck to working in the ebb and flow of self-employment. You have to be ready for a few months of low income while you build your client base and navigate the first gap between completed work and pay for your work. It’s an intimidating moment, and nobody should feel bad if they decide it’s too much of a risk.

For those who want to get there, there are three ways to make it happen.

The Banzai! Approach
Just jump in and do it. Tell your boss to pound sand, move into your parents’ basement, eat ramen until you make it. Recent college grads and other people with few responsibilities may do well with this approach. It allows you to give all your time to writing, meaning you can win the “numbers game” of pages written and manuscripts submitted by simple force of volume.

The Second Job Approach
This plan works best for people with more financial responsibilities. You can write part-time during the hours you’re not at your regular job. While in this stage of the plan, the extra income can help you amass savings or pay off debt. Once you’ve started to accumulate enough work and savings to bridge the gap, you can go part time at your day job — or quit entirely. Although this plan has a lot of security, it means you have less time and energy for your writing. A lot of hobbyist writers end up stuck as “second job” writers because the demands of real life keep them from writing enough to get established.

The Sabbatical Approach
If you can save a year’s worth of living expenses, you can quit your job and spend a year trying to make it as a writer. This has the advantages of both the Banzai and Second Job approaches, while mitigating many of the disadvantages of either. Its major drawback is the difficulty of amassing 12 months worth of savings. It’s worth noting that this becomes easier if you’re making extra money by first taking the Second Job approach.

Which plan works best for you and your situation is a matter of your personal reality. When I made the leap, I was taking the Second Job approach. I got a promotion to a bad situation at my existing job at the same time my part-time client expanded their need for content. This allowed me to transition directly into a full-time writing income without taking much risk. Since then, I’ve kept after other assignments so that dry periods at that client don’t automatically mean dry periods in my income.

Like so many other plans, which you choose is less important than having one. Even if you vary from your plan every day — it’s better to vary from your plan than to work without one. If you’re serious about your writing, you should have a plan for writing full-time. Perhaps you can make one of these approaches a part of it.

Thanks for listening.

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