The Writer’s Diary: Demystifying the business of writing

Writing was a hobby for me until I discovered I could make money out of it a few years go. As writing moves from being a hobby to being a career option, you have to start thinking of it as a business. As you do so however, make sure you don’t lose the ‘hobby’ element of the craft. The reason is simple – the best writers are those who write because they love to. The money then becomes a natural result of their passion.

Here are some tips that will help you succeed or at the very least, help you decide if the plunge into the business of writing is meant for you or not. I’m going to call it ‘The business of writing guide’.

  • It starts out slow. There is no overnight success story when it comes to the business of writing. Be prepared for that. You will have to spend months and even years being consistent with the craft. This is where maintaining the hobby element of writing helps. If not, you will give up.
  • Have a source of support. If you want to go into the business of writing, I will suggest that you do it part-time initially. If you are going to do it full-time, then make sure you have a source of support – financially. When I started out, I was living under my mother’s roof so I had minimal bills to pay. I survived on the money I had saved from my previous job. That gave me the freedom to experiment.
  • Decide what kind of writer you want to be early on. There are different kinds of writers and the kind of opportunities available differs for each kind. So does the path to be taken. If you just want to write books only then you may be better off working for a publishing company. If you want to be an online content writer, working in a publishing company may be a waste of your time, except you want to delve into writing books at some point in your life.
  • Be prepared to work for free. You’ll most likely need to work for free especially if you want to be a commercial writer. Editors and magazine publishers prefer to commission articles to people who are known. If you are unknown, it will be difficult for you to get their attention. If you do, they will not pay you as much as they will pay a known writer. That’s how it is. So it’s better to start out by sending articles to magazines and newspapers for free and build your portfolio of work from there.
  • Don’t start solo. It may be tempting to jump straight into freelance writing when you discover how horrible the pay is in media companies. Please don’t do it. Though the pay is usually crap, the experience you will get is priceless. Also working in such a company will open you up to a network of valuable contacts that will be useful when you do decide to go solo. Aim for the more popular companies; companies whose name has clout where you are.
  • When you go solo, have a plan. Don’t go into freelance writing without a plan. You have to build a structure even if it may not seem useful in the beginning. This helps you to build discipline. As a freelance writer, your work flow will be unpredictable, as well as your cash flow. You may be tempted to work on a brief by brief basis. That’s the worst thing to do. Plan the structure you will use to handle each brief and plan how much you will collect. I have a price list which I use as a guide when I go for client meetings. I have decided what each work I do is worth based on research and talking to other professionals. Do the same.

Watch out for more tips to help you succeed in the business of writing in the coming weeks.

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