What does success look like to you? How will you know when you’ve been successful?
Your personal success
Write down all of these that apply. Then identify those that might be your next step.
I write only when I feel like it.
I just write in my spare time.
I write in my spare time but I have developed a strategic plan about getting published and getting more time to write.
I have a regular writing routine.
I haven’t submitted anything yet.
I’ve submitted a few things but have had nothing accepted yet.
I have had some small publishing successes but am not yet earning money from it.
I have had some small publishing successes and am earning a little money from it.
I have had some small publishing successes and am earning more than the minimum wage from it.
I have had quite a few publishing successes and am earning quite well but I cannot live from my writing alone.
I am earning enough to live on from my writing – just.
I am earning enough from my writing to feel comfortably off.
I am earning enough from my writing to feel well off.
Employment status and earnings
I am not registered as self-employed.
I am not registered as self-employed but I do fill in a tax return.
I am registered as self-employed but also as employed.
I am registered as self-employed but also do other freelance non-writing work to help pay the rent etc.
I have given up the day job.
I am earning well from my writing and match the day job I gave up.
I am earning well from my writing and earning more than from the day job I gave up.
I’m on the rich list and have had a book-shaped swimming pool built.
Of course probably we all want to be at that very end point and spend some of our day in that wonderful swimming pool. Realistically, though, we need to get on to the next line.
It’s reasonably straight forward. For instance, if you’ve not submitted anything yet, you could start submitting. You’ll find quite a few ideas about this in the next section.
If you’re not registered as self-employed but you fill in a tax return, perhaps because you’re earning a little from royalties, you might wish to consider what’s stopping you calling yourself self-employed. It is possible to be employed and self-employed at the same time. Just realising that you are self-employed may give you a boost and be a good step towards seeing your writing as a business.
Your task now
Try to think of three strategies that you can use in the next twelve months to get you on to the next rung of the ladder. Once you get there, then you work towards the next one.
Here are a few ideas for each section:
Identify the time of the day when you write best and find a way of using them.
Consider using prompts
Have a go at some competitions – even if you end up not sending in your entries.
Make sure that you ring-fence your time for writing.
Make sure that partners and family respect your writing time; make sure you indicate precisely when you’re busy. (e.g .study door shut, phone off, get away from the internet.)
Are there pockets of time you could use? E.g. your commute by train, waiting at dance classes for your children, lunch breaks (or part of them)?
Set a daily time and / or word minimum. Make this quite small to start with – say ten minute and / or 100 words – otherwise you may be scuppered before you even begin. You can always gradually increase it.
Find a nice place to write – great if you can have a room of your own, but if it’s the kitchen table it’s the kitchen table and that should become sacrosanct.
Award yourself a small reward for reaching your daily goal.
Increase the number of submissions you’re making
If you’re already submitting try something you’ve not tried before.
Try writing to fit a call to submission rather than writing and seeing where your writing fits.
Consult my web site Fair Submissions. Click on Labels, then Show More to find all of the categories. Or be brave: just go for the top one on the list.
Consult the Writers and Artists Yearbook - the book or the site. I favour the site as it is constantly updated.
Make sure you mix agents, publishers, small publishers and bigger publishers.
Join a writing group and network with them to find out about opportunities. NAWG can point you to a writing group near you.
Read carefully and target your submissions carefully.
Learn to regard rejections as an opportunity to rewrite.
Employment and earnings
If you’re already receiving some money for your writing - either directly as royalties or fixed fees, or indirectly because you’re doing school visit or workshops – you really should fill in a tax return. One advantage can be that you can also claim expenses.
Is it time to register as self-employed? It helps you to see yourself as a business.
Can you do more writing related freelance work? Or should you be cutting down on that a bit in order to make more time for your writing?
Is it time to give up the day job? Can you make ends meet by cutting down on outgoings and having time to be more productive in this chosen field?
Could you consider working part-time?
What about changing your job to one that doesn’t sap your creativity? Teaching for instance is as creative as writing so doesn’t always combine well, though once you are experienced the school holidays can be useful. Some good ones are:
· Working in a bar or cafe as this keeps you in contact with people and when you’ve finished, you’ve finished.
· Working on the post – plenty of exercise and you see quite a bit of life
· House-sitting – you get free board and lodging while you sit a write
· Dog-sitting / walking - our canine friends don’t mind if you’re writing and they’re also not averse to you reading your work out loud to them. Cats also are obliging in the latter but it’s harder to earn money looking after them.
If you are earning form your writing, look at what is working and replicate that.
You know your writing is good but it’s not earning you that much yet. Is your marketing up to scratch? It must be, whether you are self-published published by the small press or by the Big Five.