I usually wake up on Thursdays with an extra spring to get me out of bed (and, boy, do I need all the help I can get!). Not only is Thursday past the halfway point of the school school (one day away from Weekend Eve) but it’s also the day that Kris Rusch updates her weekly writing/business column.
If you don’t yet subscribe to it, you should! Rusch draws on years of experience as a publisher, editor, and full-time fiction writer to talk about industry-wide changes and how to navigate them.
Rusch is also the author of The Freelancer’s Survival Guide, which is available free on her site as a series of blog posts as well. I’m on my third (fourth?) re-read of the book. Rusch wrote this book for all freelancers, not just writers, and the topics she covers are applicable to anyone working for themselves (or thinking about it). They include planning, discipline, money management, negotiating, advertising, and more. There’s so much information in here that I would be hard-pressed to write a thorough review of the book without going on for pages and pages.
Instead, I’ll focus on those areas that have jumped out at me on my current re-read.
I went back to the Guide because I was having serious discipline issues. At the beginning of April, just as I was congratulating myself for having avoided all the sicknesses that plagued the rest of my family this winter, I came down with the Sinus Infection From He** and lost a week to it. Then I lost several days because I’d gone into “I’m Sick” mode and my body had gotten used to being lazy and my mind had gotten used to letting it slack off. After that, I was faced with incredible resistance to finishing Ironhand, the sequel to Mourning Cloak, because it was just a hard project.
So I lost about half of April. I knew I needed a kick in the pants, because if I don’t write, I don’t sell. If I don’t sell, I don’t earn money, and if I don’t earn money, then I go back to writing for myself–which means I end up with lots of unfinished novels and short stories while I chase one shiny idea after another.
I went to the Guide for help and found that Rusch takes very serious steps to deal with leaks–those time sinks that we want to cling to and should be utterly ruthless about dealing with. I needed to hear that she’s learned (through bitter experience) to never begin a book until after her day’s writing is done, that she keeps the Internet and games off her work computer, and that no fiction but her own is allowed in her home office.
My big leak is the Internet. If I’m not careful, it can take over my writing time, my prayer time, and my housework time.
(Never school time, though. I’m very disciplined about my children’s schooling, probably because I was very disciplined as a student, too. Unfortunately for me, all being good at school is good for is… being good at school.)
This is why I’m downloading the Freedom app to try out.
Right now, I’m working my way through the money management section of the Guide, which is a real eye-opener. My most important takeaway from this section? Pay yourself.
Most freelancers are focused on making their business pay for themselves, ie: their income from the business covers their business expenses. Most of us, however, don’t include paying for our own time in the equation. We get our business to the point where it pays for itself–but not for our own personal bills. Not rent, not groceries, not clothes, not utilities.
Many of us have spouses who pay for all of that.
I’m still at the point where I’d consider it a milestone for my writing business to pay for itself, without including my salary. Last year, I ran at a loss. This year, I’m ahead, but I’ve kept my expenses low. For instance, I haven’t commissioned any covers yet (my biggest expense), but they’ll be coming. I also get a lot of unpaid help–for instance, my husband does my e-formatting and print layout. The business should be paying him for his time, too, but I can’t really afford his hourly rate (he’s an experienced programmer, and luckily for us his day job *can* afford him *grin*).
I got into writing because I’ve always been a story-spinner. Even if I stopped writing, I’d keep making up stories in my head, because there’s no OFF switch for it in my brain. I keep writing because selling stories and sharing them with readers is a great motivator for me. Treating writing as a business keeps me focused on increasing my productivity and improving my craft. This is one of the reasons why a book like the Guide is more inspiring to me than a feel-good, Cinderella tale of making it big. The Guide gives me practical steps and realistic expectations, things I can apply in my own writing and business.
Read the whole thing. You can peruse the blog posts, buy the entire Guide or only the sections you’re interested in. I highly recommend this as a great starter book for any freelancer–whether you’re a writer, a house-cleaner, or consultant.