That depends on the math. Deciding to become a full-time writer is not a decision that should be taken lightly and is affected by several criteria. The most obvious of which is whether it is financially viable to do so.
Does becoming a full-time writer initiate the need to create a legal entity, or company to market your craft?
Many part-time writers view their craft as a passion or even a hobby and may only consider protecting their art when they are financially positioned to go full time. The fact is that even as a part-time writer, you should consider launching a company.
You could argue that creating a business is not a prerequisite for going full time as a writer and you would be right, but I strongly advise you to reconsider. In this article I list two crucial reasons you should be considering creating a writer business irrespective of your current commitment.
Becoming a full-time writer
Unlike many other new entrepreneurs, many writers begin their writing career part-time, and this approach has massive advantages. It means the regular monthly income to the household is not adversely affected by one partner forfeiting their income and the initial overheads to launch the business are minimal, assuming that you are married or in a long-term partnership and both parties work full time.
If you are single and considering full-time writing, then the evaluation of your personal financial situation requires even more attention.
Hopefully, there will come a time when the proceeds from your part-time efforts equal or even surpass your regular salary, and the temptation is to resign from your job and pursue a full-time writing career. Nothing wrong with that, provided all the financial ducks are neatly in a row and likely to stay in that formation for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, as with almost all new start-ups, guaranteed regular income from sales that covers both household and business expenses over a sustainable period (at least 6 months for most home-based new startups), is more the exception than the rule, even if your first book is a massive best-seller!
But let’s take a step back and try to build an image of where you are as you contemplate going full-time and hopefully, business ownership.
Assessing your financial status
Unless you have a wealthy benefactor supporting you, fixed and variable monthly expenses are just part of trying to live a normal and comfortable life. This applies whether you are single, a couple or have children and is influenced by your current lifestyle and financial decisions made in the past.
Assuming that you already have a career, outside of writing that is, with a reasonable monthly income it is probable that you have a mortgage (or pay rent), car repayments, insurance payments and other medium and/or long-term financial commitments, such as education fees. These are, in simple terms, your “fixed” costs payable for the next year or more, whether you sell one book or a thousand.
Added to this total monthly cost are those pesky variables, such as food and clothing, if, like the rest of humanity, you have the desire to fulfill your basic needs. And let’s not forget all those emergencies and unforeseen expenses that will crop up from time to time and can drain your savings. This may sound trite; but if you have plans for expanding the family in the not too distant future be very conscious of not only the time it will cut out of your writing schedule but also the additional costs you will incur.
All this sounding somewhat pedantic? That’s because you have all this information laid out in a spreadsheet which you keep updated monthly and highlights your net income each month which you, no doubt, transfer over to a savings account.
(If you don’t already manage your monthly budget in some structured way, may I be so bold as to suggest that you acquaint yourself with managing your home budget effectively before you consider taking on a more complex business budget).
Here’s a quick exercise to get your attention
Go to the income column on your spreadsheet and deduct any payments you have, or will have, received this month from book sales from your gross income. Now deduct your current salary. Is your net income still positive, and if so, by how much? Even if your partner is the major income earner, my guess is that number is now in the red or very close.
Add back your book sales for this month and project forward for the next six months, adding in each months confirmed returns from book sales (theoretically, the money in your Amazon Kindle account waiting out the 60 day payment period, should count as confirmed sales; but then who knows).
This is what your actual projected income will be for the next 6 months, assuming no further book sales.
The keyword here is REGULAR. Income that you know you can count on each month and unfortunately anticipated book sales does not qualify.
Production problems that full-time writer’s face
The problem writers face is the confines in which they operate in producing end products. If my new business will make cupcakes for example, I can start with a vanilla flavor cupcake and then next week produce a strawberry one, followed by a healthy alternative the following week. With each new flavor, I create an opportunity to appeal to a new market besides regular customers who keep buying the earlier varieties. Enhancing my sales possibilities is the knowledge that cupcakes appeal to all sectors of the community, so I am not restricted by demographics.
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Writers cannot emulate this business model in that it can take months (if you Stephen King), but more likely a year or more, to produce one finished product and your buyer community is limited by genre. Even if you have already accumulated a large fan base, you need new buyers for your book, which in turn means constant advertising and increasing your social media presence, and that can be a costly exercise, sometimes with little reward. Your existing followers want your next book so won’t buy again until you produce it.
Obviously, there are ways to supplement your writing income and I will discuss these options in future posts, but for now I am assuming writing books is your sole forte.
It all comes down to simple accounting. Monthly income, over a sustainable period, must exceed expenditure or you will crash and burn. So, before you take that momentous decision to go full time, do the math! Make sure your regular income is secured for at least the next 12 months if possible, or that you have an alternative stash under your mattress to see you through in the event book sales don’t meet expectations in the short to medium term.
Although my book, The Home-based Business Owners Startup Guide was not specifically written with a writing business in mind, much of it still applies to a writer and Part 1 examines in-depth the preparations a prospective entrepreneur needs to consider before committing to a full-time business.
As you consider launching full time, whether you establish a business, I would add one further caveat; if you are married or in a long-term relationship, please share your intentions with your partner at the earliest opportunity. Coming home and announcing you have resigned from your full-time job to an unsuspecting partner may not end as well as you expected.