While working full time as a writer might not be the end goal for everyone, it’s always been a high priority for me. I like everything about working for myself, writing novels, editing and engaging with this art form every day!
For me, writing is something that makes me infinitely happy. It’s the most comfortable type of work that I’ve ever done, and I’d love the opportunity to write for a living. If you’re in the same boat, I recommend that you start treating writing like a job.
It can be intimidating when making the transition from hobby to career writer. There are a bunch of how-to articles out there that discuss client finding, forms of writing and types of careers. This isn’t going to be one of those articles.
This article will show you how to set aside time for writing and prioritise the career you want for yourself. I won’t be helping you figure out if you want to be a copywriter or not. Sorry.
The hardest part of transitioning into a writing career is making the time.
We all have the same number of hours in a day. Different parts of that day will be filled with doing things that have to do: work, cleaning and time with friends or family, to name just a few.
When I build my schedule, I fill it up with the non-negotiables first. For me, these are time for habits I wanted to build, sleep and lunch.
I then made a list of everything that I wanted to accomplish during the week. I call all of my different types of work baskets. As a play on ‘don’t put your eggs in one basket’.
It was important to me that I didn’t work a full forty-hour week. I have chronic pain, meaning I need a flexible schedule and plenty of time for rest and recovery. So my workweek only has 30 hours. Ideally, I would like to keep it this way. This work schedule helps me keep on top of the cooking, cleaning, exercises and habits (not shown in the image of my calendar below).
So my four baskets look like this:
- My master’s degree. (White boxes, A802)
- My business (Green ex. Planted)
- My novel (Green, Planted)
- Other work (Teaching, brainstorming and reading for my writing partner [WP]).
I’ve also colour coded my calendar so I can see at a glance what I have to do in a week. Green boxes are writing. White boxes are for study. Dark blue boxes are for other types of work. Light blue boxes are for my personal life (mostly deleted for privacy).
I’ve managed to fit all four of my baskets into a thirty-hour work week, and I’m pretty happy about that. This will likely be too ambitious in the future once I am no longer a student. While I’m building my lifestyle to match my five-year plan, this works for me.
You can make your calendar as straightforward or as ambitious as you like. Have fun with colour coding and build out your schedule in a way that will work for you.
Building a schedule is vital because it encourages you to show up for work and shows you just how much you can accomplish in a workweek.
I have four primary life goals represented in my workweek. This not only gives me a sense of purpose when I approach office hours, but it also reassures me that I can reach my goals.
Non-negotiable work hours
Another part of making writing your career is being your boss. That means that you get to decide your hours. It also means that it’s easier to flunk off and do something more fun when you’re supposed to be working.
At the beginning of my writing career, I was a lousy boss to myself. I didn’t require anything, I had no set goals or achievements and absolutely no hard deadlines. I had to change how I valued my work so that I didn’t waste my time on things that were not going to benefit me long term.
Giving myself non-negotiable hours was a game-changer. At first, it was challenging to continue to sit there, especially if I wasn’t feeling inspired. Now I always show up at the desk and get my work done. Intrinsic motivation, deadline setting and a good workplace environment all helped contribute to my success.
The thing that made the most difference was implementing a workplace rule.
I can write, or I can do nothing.
I think this might be something Neil Gaiman came up with. I sit at my desk, and I either write or stare into space: no social media breaks, no distractions. I let myself get bored because work is less tedious than sitting there doing nothing. I found myself returning to the page and meeting my writing goals when I didn’t have distractions.
Set yourself up for success and put some non-negotiable work hours in place.
Sick days and holidays
If you’re going to treat writing like your work, you need to build in the things you would expect to get from a typical job.
You need to give yourself sick days.
You need to give yourself holidays.
Your writing is important, but you’re not going to write if you burn out.
Taking care of your mental health is essential, and taking breaks from projects can be inspiring.
Be a good boss to yourself, and you’ll find that you are way more likely to come back to the workplace.
One of the best ways to figure out what your workday will look like is to define success for yourself. I’ve done this by building a five-year plan, but when you’re beginning, you might want to think on a smaller scale.
I have a few different goals that I want to hit in order to consider myself successful. I have a monetary goal and have a few different publishing goals. Goals are different from baskets.
Baskets are practical things I can do that work towards a goal.
Building my business, Imposter’s Guide, and making money from it is a goal of mine, so I put writing for Imposter’s Guide into a basket. When I’m finished creating content, I’ll need to add a marketing basket into my work week. These two baskets will work towards my goal, but they are both separate from it.
I can also reach my monetary goal by getting a part-time job and writing with the rest of my time.
My goals are not solely reliant on my success as a writer.
Success for me doesn’t mean earning a wage specifically from my writing, though one day that would be nice. It might become a goal later on in life but success right now means earning enough money so that I can keep writing.
Remember that success is a moving goal post. When setting up what success looks like for you, don’t focus on end game goals like being a best selling author. Instead, think about what you can achieve soon to feel successful. That could be finishing the first draft of your novel or writing a certain number of articles per week.
Take a big goal and break it up into the steps you need to take. This will help you set up a practical schedule for your writing, then you feel like you are moving forwards.
This is an important part of writing as your job. Unfortunately for a lot of us, writing isn’t lucrative.
I am not currently making enough money to pay myself. What I am doing instead is rewarding myself for my work one way or another.
If I’m ahead of schedule, I take time off. If I reach a goal, I celebrate it.
I am kind to myself always.
Payment could look like buying something fun as a reward, cooking my favourite meal or getting pampered.
It’s important to note that even though I don’t make enough money to pay myself yet, I still have a wage set up as a goal. I went with the minimum wage for where I live because to me, that would mean I’ve made a successful writing business.
Think long and hard about how much you want to make from your writing.
Hopefully, I’ve given you a good jumping-off point for building a writing career. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavour.
As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!