How do I start a small business? I’ve been asked that a couple of times recently, and my flippant answer is ‘you just do.’ And in some ways, it’s that easy. In others… Look. I can only give you loose guidelines, because opening and running a business is going to be different in every country, state, county, and even town you live in. Some places are highly regulated. Others are not so much. The two states I’ve owned businesses in were rather laid back about the process, to be honest, so I haven’t had to jump through a lot of hoops. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Writing Business’
Do you have a plan for extra money coming in above monthly budgeted expenses?
Yes, you need a plan for that. You see, freelancers don’t have a steady paycheck. There will likely be months without income. There will definitely be months with less income than your expenses. If they go on for three, four months – the infamous summer slump – or even longer, like when the nation is dealing with election drama and the fall rebound never comes – can you cope?
Part of coping is having a plan for the good times, before they arrive. Note that even in one of our oldest stories, Joseph had to start building granaries for the seven good years before the first harvest came in, so he had enough storage when the land was producing to set aside food for the seven famine years.
What should your plan look like? Well, first, do treat yourself to something nice – otherwise you’re going to feel deprived. So a nice dinner to celebrate Royalty Check Day, or that pair of boots you’ve been wanting. But after that, rebuild your cash cushion and reduce your expenses. What do I mean by that?
Fill your gas tank.
Pay your quarterly taxes.
Pay off your car.
Pay off your credit cards.
Pay off your house.
When a friend quit smoking, she was living on a ramen & rice budget – and every time she found she had enough money to buy a pack of cigarettes, she went to the gas station and put that money into the gas tank instead. Pretty soon, she was no longer permanently worried about running out of gas on the way to and from work, because it was always at a half tank or above. Then she started paying off the overdue bills – and the lack of worry, the knowing she could make it to work, and that she wasn’t going to get the power shut off again, was enough to practically make her into a zen master compared to where she was before. You ever meet someone who was calmer and happier when they were going through withdrawal?
As a freelancer, you need to have the same mindset. If you have extra money, put it somewhere that will cause you less worry in the long run. Paying your quarterly taxes is pretty high on that list, because if you don’t do it when you’re flush with cash, how are you going to manage later? Second, pay your bills. Third, pay off the things that demand money every month – because those are the things that will hurt the most on months when you don’t have enough money coming in. If your car is paid for, then you don’t have to worry about repo; if your house is paid for, then you don’t have to worry about eviction or foreclosure.
(One caveat: if you’re planning to move within 3 years, don’t sink it into the house. Rule of thumb: you’ll lose 1% of the value of the house when you sell, and another 1% of the value of the house when you buy. Because fixing a place to sell, and fixing the little things on the house after you buy one, costs money. Keep that cash in a separate account that you call “New House”, so it’s available to make buying and moving easier.)
Now, obviously this can’t cover every person’s life. If you were forced freelance before you had 6 months cash cushion, “remove worry” may be much more immediate. Have you been limping by on tires so bare that you can’t see any tread left? Is your spouse putting up with near-blinding pain because you can’t afford a root canal? Are any of your bills coming with an “overdue” stamp on them? Set aside enough to cover the quarterly taxes (so you don’t get hit with the freight train labeled IRS) and take care of your most immediate pain and worry. Use the breathing space to get a couple good nights of sleep, and then tackle the world.
And if you want more good advice, Kris Rusch tackled the same subject Thursday: http://kriswrites.com/2017/02/22/business-musings-writer-finances-versus-the-paycheck-world/
And if you want a bit of an escape from reality, where the good guys triumph and the bad guys get what’s coming to them, try Scaling the Rim. It has action, adventure, romance, and plausible science fiction! What’s not to like?
As I was looking for potential topics for today’s post, I came across one of Kris Rusch’s posts and knew I had everything I needed right there. In fact, I considered e-mailing Kris and asking permission to simply repost the blog entry here. I consider what she said in Business Musings: Introductory Remarks (Dealbreakers/Contracts) to be mandatory reading for every writer out there, whether you are wanting to go the traditional route or indie or a mix of the two. My advice to every writer and wannabe writer is to read and then reread and bookmark the post. It is that important.
I’m not going to rehash what Kris had to say. However, I do want to build on it — at least in a way. To me, beyond being a warning about what to look for, the post comes down to a simple premise: treat your writing like a business. If you designed widgets and you spent time negotiating a contract with someone to manufacture and then distribute your widgets you would — I hope — get an attorney to look over the contract before you signed on the dotted line. As writers, we should do the same for any contracts we sign, be they with an agent or a publisher. We should keep in mind that we want our rights back and we certainly don’t want them tied up not only for the length of our lives but potentially our children’s lives as well. We want the best terms for us, not for the publisher or agent.
There’s another aspect to treating it like a business as well. If you have a “real” job — you know, one of those things jobs where you will be fired if you don’t show up or if you don’t produce — you have to go to work whether you feel like it or not. Sure, you have paid time off (hopefully) but those days are limited. After using it up, you are SOL. If you don’t perform up to standard, you are let go. That means, as most of us know, when those days come along when you would prefer to stay in bed — or go to the zoo or play video games or whatever — you can’t. You have to drag yourself out, mumbling and grumbling and go to work. No work, no pay.
Writing is a lot like that as well. It is that 9 to 5 job with more distractions and a greater need for self-discipline. It is very easy as you sit at your desk, staring at the computer screen and not having words come, to find cleaning the bathroom suddenly very attractive. If you are like the majority of writers, you have that 9 to 5 job, so you have to grab writing time where you can. I know how difficult it can be to force yourself to sit down at the end of day, once everyone else has gone to bed, to get in an hour or two of writing. As someone who is not a morning person, having to etch those hours out before the household gets up is even harder to do. But writers for years have done just that. They have done it because they know they have to treat writing just like they do their “real” job. They have to put but in chair and and just do it.
That also means you have to set yourself a schedule. I don’t mean you have to have specific hours — or a set number of words — you have to write each day/week/month. I guess what I’m trying to say is you have train yourself — and your family and friends who might not view writing as a “real” job — that when you go to your writing space, you are at work and nothing short of compound fractures, spurting blood or Girl Scout Cookies are cause for interruption. Yes, you have to tell yourself that you are going to write regularly and you have to follow through. If you allow distractions to take you away from writing, it soon becomes much easier to find excuses for doing anything but write.
It also means you keep track of your expenses, just as you would with any “real” business. How much have you spent on paper and printer ink/cartridges? Did you buy reference books this year for something you are working on? How about trips? Did you take any and use them, at least in part, for research? Do you belong to any professional writing organization that you pay dues to? Do you pay for web hosting and have a website/blog/whatever that is used to promote your work as a writer? Did you go to any cons or workshops that you paid for (or paid for travel)? Were you invited to speak at any cons or workshops and were your paid or have your travel paid for? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, do you know what — if any — of them can be used as tax deductions? What about income? Would any of it have to be declared as income and, if so, what sort of IRS form would you need to use?
In other words, along with a good IP attorney to vet any contract you might get from a publisher or agent, you need a good accountant to help you navigate the oddities of the Tax Code where writers are concerned.
To bring it all back to a simple point, writing is a business. You have to show up, just like you do to that job at the office or on the line. You might “work” three days a week or five or even seven. But you have to do it. If you don’t, you will be fired. This time it will be by your readers (or by your publisher if you are traditionally published). Even if you show up, if you aren’t producing, you will be “fired”.
You have to treat it like a business in that you have to pay your taxes — so you have to know what you must declare and what you can use as deductions. You have to make sure your contracts are at least as favorable to you as they are to your publisher or distributor or agent. You must have the proper people (IP attorney, accountant or tax expert) in place to help you navigate all these distractions so you can focus on writing.
So go put your butt in your chair and fire up your computer — or pull out pen and paper — and start work. If you don’t, no one is going to do it for you.
And, on that happy note, I’m off to work. There are books to write, others to edit and money to be made.
* * *
Part of treating it like a business is also doing promotion. So here are three books for your consideration.
The first is Changeling’s Island (Baen) by Dave Freer.
Teenager Tim Ryan comes into his own as he faces danger on a remote Australia island where magic lurks in land and sea.
Tim Ryan can’t shake the feeling that he is different from other teens, and not in a good way. For one thing, he seems to have his own personal poltergeist that causes fires and sets him up to be arrested for shoplifting.
As a result Tim has been sent to live on a rundown farm on a remote island off the coast of Australia with his crazy grandmother, a woman who seems to talk to the local spirits, and who refuses to cushion Tim from facing his difficulties. To make matters worse, Tim is expected to milk cows, chase sheep, and hunt fish with a spear.
But he’s been exiled to an island alive with ancient magic—land magic that Tim can feel in his bones, and sea magic that runs in his blood. If Tim can face down the danger from drug-runners, sea storms, and the deadly threat of a seal woman who wishes to steal him away for a lingering death in the land of Faery, he may be able to claim the mysterious changeling heritage that is his birthright, and take hold of a legacy of power beyond any he has ever imagined.
Officially out today, although I know it started shipping before now.
Next up is Sword And Blood (Vampire Musketeers Book 1) by Sarah A. Hoyt.
The France of the Musketeers has changed. Decades ago, someone opened a tomb in Eastern Europe, and from that tomb crawled an ancient horror, who in turn woke others of its kind.
Now Paris is beset by vampires, the countryside barren and abandoned. The Cardinal has become a vampire, the church is banned, the king too cowed to fight.
Until now, the three Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis have stood as a bulwark against the encroaching evil, their swords defending the innocent and helpless.
But last night, in a blood mass, Athos was turned into a Vampire. And a young vampire orphan has just arrived from Gascony: Monsieur D’Artagnan.
Things are about to get… complicated.
Today is the “official” release date.
Finally, Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) by yours truly, written under the pen name Sam Schall, is available for pre-order.
War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.
Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.
Release date for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is April 18th.
Sarah is away from computer today, so we’re being helpful Mad Geniuses and posting this for her. Hopefully there isn’t a rain of carp in our future. Although with carp, I could make a few recipes… Anyway, she did put this up at According to Hoyt, but we thought it was good enough she should say it again over here.
So, some of you know I finished the Superstars Writing Seminar this weekend, which is why this will be a very short post. There’s a field trip today and I’m going. (And yep, this afternoon will find me typing away on Through Fire, because I was writing by hand at the Seminar.)
Anyway, it occurred to me that writing is such a strange avocation, pulling things out of non-existence and putting them in someone else’s head that writers – by which I mean true writers, not people who write so that they can get their next promotion in academia or what have you, but people who are compelled to tell stories – need these seminars and workshops, even if they learned nothing new at them. Why? Because we spend three or four days in the middle of a bunch of our peers and we start thinking we’re not the cursed outliers of the human race.
Now this is the third year I’ve attended Superstars. I’m not going to say there was no information. Among other things, we had the inimitable Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith as speakers, and even if you know the information, you always catch some nuance in what they say that lights up a lightbulb.
There was also a lot of info I’m not ready to use yet, and might never use – Hollywood, comics – but which is good to have in my quiver because one thing in this business your career is likely to do is take a sudden turn to the weird when you least expect it.
That’s all fine.
But the most important thing about it for me, this year, was feeling energized by knowing I wasn’t alone and even my peculiarities (writing a book while listening to talks) were shared by some of my peers.
After the seminar yesterday, a friend asked how she could finish her book really fast, and ramp up on her career (she writes romance) to where she’s making money.
I wished she’d taken the seminar (I tried!) but since she couldn’t this year, I am going to distill some stuff from the seminar for her.
- Don’t stop. You can’t sell books you haven’t written.
- Write through the distractions. There is never going to be a distraction free life while you’re alive and in the world.
- Keep writing. Particularly in the indie game, but really in all of it, you need productivity to make actual money. As in, living and buying groceries money.
- If at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and write again. This business is WEIRD and even the best get knocked down. The long-terms continue working through everything.
- There is money in them there hills, but it is work to get there. So – as Kevin Anderson says – the books ain’t gonna write themselves.
- Vary what you do. You never know what will hit. The more tickets you have the better the chance of winning the lottery.
And now, I’m going to go to my field trip and to write.