Making the decision to be a full-time writer is a tough one – and scary. A myriad questions run through your mind. Will I be able to earn enough money to pay the bills? What happens if the work dries up? How will I find well-paying clients? Will I be able to promote myself as well as I can write?
It’s common sense that if you’re going to take the plunge from full time employment to freelance writing to have at least a year’s income saved up to allow you the time to get regular work. But many people are opting to do it the way I’m doing it – working part-time so that I still have a regular income, using the other days to do my marketing and get the work flowing in. The idea is that in the future I’ll have enough work to be able to permanently quit my ‘day job.’
But how do you know when it’s the right time take the leap from paid and secure employment into the unknown chasm of full time writing?
You may have a vision of how it’s all going to come together – as you build up your business and become known, you get more and more work until one day you sit down and do your maths, then jump up and shout, ‘Hooray! Now I can quit my job!’
But life doesn’t conform to a plan and the transition is rarely seamless. In real life it’s often flood or famine. You get deluged with work when you least expect it, causing you to stay up nights to finish it and stumble bleary-eyed into your ‘day job.’ Then just when you’re thinking ,’I can’t hack any more of this, it’s time to quit my job,’ the writing work dries up and it’s back to Marketing 101.
I know this because I’ve been there before. Years ago I was doing this very same thing, working part-time and developing my writing business. In the end, it became too much to juggle both jobs, so I quit my job and wrote full-time – successfully, until for family reasons I returned to my ‘day job.’
It seems you have two choices –
to play it safe and wait until you’re earning enough from your writing to live on, in which case you’re just about ready to drop dead from the exhaustion of holding down two jobs
take the plunge earlier when you’re not quite there, reasoning that the extra time and energy you have to devote to finding work will pay dividends, and that the need to increase your income will spur you on to greater heights.
I still don’t know the answer and I guess the right time is different for each person, according to their circumstances. However you decide to do it, I think it’s a case of hold on to your dream and jump!
Chuck Wendig has an amusing but wise take on the subject in his blog post ‘How to be a full-time writer – 25 things you should know.’
Warning – don’t read it if you’re averse to strong language.
Have you made the transition from part-time to full-time writer? I’d love you to share your words of wisdom.