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When I first started writing, the last thing I thought about was starting a business.
Looking back, I wish I had.
Writers typically have a lot of creative ideas when they begin. They imagine characters, settings, stories, and bookstores, preferably, with their books in them. They see themselves perusing publishing contracts and doing book signings.
They don’t see themselves tracking tax-deductible expenses, budgeting for a book launch, or scheduling networking activities.
As I sit here twenty years later, I realize that none of these things are quite as bad as I imagined. In fact, some business-centered activities are actually quite enjoyable. More importantly, though, thinking like a business person is critical for writers who want to make a lifelong career out of their craft.
To get started, or to plant your feet more firmly in your entrepreneurial shoes, keep these three things in mind.
1. You’d like to earn some money from your writing.
We all know that writing is not an easy way to wealth and riches, but most writers do want to earn some money from their efforts. If you have that desire in you at all, you’ve already embarked on the path of the entrepreneur.
Merriam Webster defines an entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” You are making something from nothing, and then hoping to sell it.
Not only that, you’re investing in this project. Though writing is not a difficult business to start, it does require at least some investment—a computer, desk, chair, some writing workshops, and conferences, and as you go, a website, professional author photos, and perhaps a cover designer and editor, if you’re self-publishing.
You assume the personal and financial risk for each step along the way, which is another part of being an entrepreneur. In the end, you hope to earn at least some of that money back; preferably, you’d like to make a profit.
Which means you’re in business.
2. You’re self-employed…if only part-time.
Yes, you can write for years and remain only a writer, blissfully free of worrying about income and taxes and all the rest, but the moment you earn any money from your writing—whether through payment for a post, short story, or book—you are self-employed, and you must take on the corresponding responsibilities.
You need to report that income to the IRS, so of course, it makes sense to report the expenses you incurred while creating that piece of writing. But if you haven’t been keeping track of those expenses, you could end up paying the IRS more than you should.
Before I earned a dime from my writing, I visited an accountant and learned all about the records I needed to keep if I intended to earn money from my work. It’s not a creative, fun thing to do, but it is important to establish good record-keeping habits from the beginning, so you’re sure to protect as much of your income as you can.
If that’s not what a business person does, I don’t know what is!
3. You want to market yourself, whether you know it or not.
Speak the word “marketing” and most writers want to run and hide. But when you think about it, most writers also really want to market themselves, they just can’t imagine a way to do it that doesn’t turn their stomachs.
Writers want readers, which means they want more people to discover what they’re creating. That’s all marketing is—letting people know about the product you have to offer them.
Marketing is any activity you engage in to promote the selling of your writing. Though the word usually brings up visions of used car salesman pushing their vehicles down our throats, marketing for a writer can be much more pleasant than that. You simply need to find your way to get readers’ attention.
That may be through a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, in-person visits, school seminars, speaking engagements, non-profit work, volunteering…the options are endless, and limited only by your imagination.
It’s natural to want others to read your work. Writers must not feel strange or guilty about this. Instead, it’s best to embrace your entrepreneurial side, and find ways to market that feel good to you.
Find Out More at the Writer CEO One-Day Conference
There is this feeling among some artists that any sort of entrepreneurial desire interferes with honest creativity, but I have found the opposite to be true. I think when writers embrace their entrepreneurial sides, they become more creative, more motivated, and better able to produce the products that readers enjoy.
Feel free to think like a business person, the earlier, the better. Making money as a writer isn’t easy, but there are thousands of writers out there doing it every day, which means you can, too.
Discover the secrets to a successful author business at the Writer CEO one-day workshop September 14, 2019, in Boise Idaho!
Exclusive special for Unbound Northwest readers: For a limited time, when you sign up at the early-bird price (only $59 for a full-day workshop), you’ll receive a free bonus package from instructors Donna Cook and Colleen M. Story:
- 3 Ways to Make Your Author Platform More Effective
- Three Surprising but Powerful Strategies to Level Up Your Business
- One voucher good for a FREE one-on-one 30-minute session with Donna, and a FREE platform assessment with Colleen after the conference.
For more information or to sign up now and get your free bonus package, see the Writer CEO workshop page.