There’s a lot of misinformation out there about writers and how much they make, so I thought I’d step in and share how to make a career as a writer. No, you probably won’t get a 7-figure advance on your first book. But yeah. You can make a living.
Original photo by Alexandar TodovNo, you probably won't get a 7-figure advance on your first book. But yeah. You can make a living. Click To Tweet
Now, this is something that people ask me a lot, and something that a really aggressive YouTube troll tells me cannot be done.
(Note to the troll: I saw your comment the first 70,000 times. I’m not going to respond to it, and YouTube keeps filtering you to spam. Please know that this is where I place you in my heart.)
Here’s the thing: Writing is a skill that is super necessary. I know everyone likes to think that math and science are the important subjects, and they are.
But if those are your only skills, robots are taking your job.
If you can write, and write well, you can work in a variety of fields. From PR to advertising to marketing, good writers are needed.
And, I know there are those bots that trawl through blog posts to create their own copy, but damn. Have you read those posts?! Pretty freakin’ terrible.
Anyway, Even though the job market is ever evolving, know that there is always space for someone with skills in written communication.
It’s with that in mind that I share with you these tips on how to make a career as a writer. If you want to make the leap, I say go for it. The key is to stay productive.
(Pssst! Don’t forget to check out this post on creating an intentional writer life.)
How to Make a Career as a Writer
001: Think about what really needs to be done.
I’m a sucker for an easy task on my to do list, and that’s usually the first thing I’ll do to build up some momentum.
The problem with that? Sometimes I choose an easy task that doesn’t really need to be done.
If you’re like me, then you have to take a look at what you really want to achieve in the big picture sort of way, and work backwards from there.
I know it may sound weird, but doing this means that you don’t waste any energy on things that don’t really matter. Sure, outlining a plan to publish several novellas over the course of a few months is great. But if you don’t plan to write those novellas for a while?
It’s not worth your time.
Instead, focus on the things that need to be done here and now. And yeah, if all those things get done, then you can work ahead.
But only after everything else is done.
This will keep you focused on the things you’re actively trying to complete right now, and won’t waste your energy on stuff that doesn’t need to be done right this second.
002: If you don’t take care of you, you’re dead in the water.
When I worked at the job from hell, I felt sick all the time. Mostly it was a combination of the terrible food I was eating, and constantly being surrounded by people who were also unhappy working there.
We spent so much time complaining about our jobs and hating the whole thing that we worked ourselves into a frenzy.
And it was an environment where I felt I could never take care of me. (Seriously. I took like 4 hours of PTO once to see a couple of doctors, and my boss gave me a look over her glasses and said, “Someone sure is seeing a lot of doctors.” Then she rolled her eyes.)
Now that I work for me, I prioritize me.
If I need a nap, I take it. I work out first thing in the morning. I make some time to walk Rosie if the weather is good enough.
I also try to eat a lot healthier. I don’t have to stop at a fast food restaurant for lunch anymore, so I try to make my lunch break include some time cooking. I like being able to make something fresh and healthy.
But because of all this, I’m way more productive than I ever was at the job from hell. Even though I still crave garbage and prefer sitting on the couch to working, I make sure to keep myself healthy because I know it will keep me working.
And when you work for yourself, there is no PTO. So this is crucial.
003: Create habits that work for you, and no one else.
Y’all. I’ve tried to follow the Miracle Morning routine from Hal Elrod so many times.
I like the idea behind it, and y’all know I love a good morning routine.
But here’s the thing: I have to get moving first thing, or I lose the day. I don’t know why my brain is like this. I don’t know why I freak out and have a panic attack if I don’t start working first thing in the morning.
It is what it is.
(I’ve written about my anxiety here, if you’d like to check it out. Also, you should follow me on Medium because I’m posting a personal essay every Friday in 2020.)
So, in order to stay productive and not get down on myself, I wake up, work out, shower, and then dive into the work I need to do.
I know that morning pages are good, and I may come back to them. But for now, I’m shaking things up so I can make some work happen.
004: It takes a bunch of small changes.
I think the hardest thing about working for yourself is that you’re in control 100%. And even if you know exactly how you’d change the way things are done at your employer, it’s hard to make those changes in your own business.
Or, rather, it’s not that those changes need to be made. You’ve already chosen how you want to do something.
Instead, you need to tweak your way into some set systems to ensure that you’re getting work done and nothing is falling through the cracks.
One of the small changes I’m planning to make is a monthly check-in. This is where I’ll take a look at my finances and figure out what I need to invest in next. It’s also where I’ll record anything that needs to be recorded for tax purposes.
This isn’t that hard to do, and will most likely take about an hour a month. It’s a small change, but it’s going to make a big difference for me as a small business owner.
Take a look at little rituals or processes you can create. It will most likely save your sanity in the long run.
005: Don’t work just for the sake of work.
I’m so incredibly guilty of this.
I hate sitting still, and with my anxiety being what it is, I have to keep doing shit.
It’s not ideal. And it’s why I put that first tip up at the top.
If you’re working for the sake of work, you’re likely creating a ton of to do lists, and then living for that super tiny serotonin boost of marking that item off your list.If you're working for the sake of work, you're likely creating a ton of to do lists, and then living for that super tiny serotonin boost of marking that item off your list. Click To Tweet
But remember when I said you gotta take care of your health? It’s true. It’s also probably the most important tip when it comes to make a career as a writer.
Give yourself down time. Make space for time off. Give yourself a break. Doing things for the sake of doing things isn’t helping anyone.
So, if you find that your to do list is full of little things, make sure they need to be done. And if you keep plugging away at stuff, look at the clock. If it’s quitting time, it’s quitting time. Don’t keep plugging away just for the sake of working.
006: You have to get rid of the devil on your shoulder.
If you’re the type of person who can easily give into temptation, make sure you eliminate the urge to give in.
One of the reasons I like to get to work immediately after my shower is because it prevents me from sitting around and drinking coffee while I ingest the news of the day.
I will literally sit in front of the TV for hours, just catching up on politics and world events — and honestly, in this day and age, it’s not a good idea to start your day that way.
Instead, if I eliminate the urge to do that, I find I’m way more productive.
So, I make my coffee and take it with me to my office. I’ll start my day with the easiest thing on my to do list to build momentum, and then I’ll start plugging away.
And I gotta say — it makes everything a lot easier.
So if you find that you’re tempted to not work by something, get rid of it. Or, if you don’t want to get rid of your TV, then get rid of the conditions that make you sit in front of it.
007: Be ready to adjust often.
Look. I have changed how I operate like 19 times since I quit my job about two months ago.
I’m not saying I want to keep making this adjustments, but you have to.
One of the hardest parts of being in charge of your life and how things work is that you absolutely have to make sure you’re doing the right thing. I would love to do the same thing because I’ve always done it that way. But that’s not how you get results.
So, I adjust. And adjust. And adjust.
It’s weird, but knowing that I can change makes it really easy for me to grow as a business and it makes it easier for me to adapt to the inevitable changes the Universe will throw my way.What tips do you have for writers trying to make a career out of the written word? Click To Tweet
How Do You Stay Productive As a Writer?
What tips do you have for writers trying to make a career out of the written word? What was one productivity tip that changed the game for you? How to you stay focused throughout the day?