When I was fourteen, I determined I wanted to grow up and write for a living. School counselors laughed. So, as a high school senior, I enrolled at Arizona State University, majoring in aeronautical engineering. I dropped out of school, went back several times, and after a series of jobs and “careers,” which resulted in an extensive collection of hairnets and nametags, I finally got serious about being a writer, and figured out the first obstacle to working at home full time: money.
Make no mistake: determining to be a writer full time is starting your own business. You should evaluate if you have what it takes: a clear plan with realistic and achievable goals, a network you can count on for support, and a realistic definition of success. In establishing these things, I established what I call the Three Legged Stool Approach to successful writing entrepreneurship. It’s slightly more involved than that, but I will outline my path briefly here:
I Had a Clear Plan with Realistic and Achievable Goals
In 2005, I determined I wanted to write full time at home, and started writing articles for content mills. I learned to write meaningful content fast. The faster I wrote, the more I got paid. Since I was still holding down a full time job, this was really important. Second, I learned to release my writing by a deadline. Even if it wasn’t perfect, it was as good as it was going to get with the time I had.
In 2009, I set goals for a five-year plan to be completely independent without a day job. Through writing books and taking on research contracts for a museum, and then directly for government entities and other businesses, I was working at home full time in just three years. This was made possible by my three legged stool.
Leg 1: Writing
I wrote both technical papers, research, and analysis while at the same time authoring fiction works, from short story collections to my first novel that was worth anything, titled Redemption.
Leg 2: Editing
I took my skills as an author and an editor of both fiction and nonfiction and began to take contracts with publishers and independent authors alike. This created both residual income from publishers, and instant income from private editing contracts.
Leg 3: Research/Consulting
Building on the research I had done for a museum (my day job at the time) and the success I had with nonprofits, I began to consult with organizations regionally about fundraising and other issues, and began to do the same kind of historical research I had done for the museum on a private contracting basis.
A Network You Can Count On
In this process, I met other writers, editors, and consultants taking similar approaches to mine. We exchanged clients, ideas, and business plans. Since there is plenty of work out there in our fields, we were not competing with each other. Instead, we cooperated so all of us could achieve more.
I networked in all three areas of the stool: became a member of the Idaho Editors Association, the International Thriller Writers Organization and other writing organizations, and joined the board of the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology, along with becoming a member of the Idaho Association of Museums. The networking brought me more work.
The definition of success is nebulous at best, but as a writer, determining what is a dream and what’s realistic is very important. Selling a million copies of your novel and scoring a movie deal involves a lot of luck, and you don’t gamble with the grocery money as they say. So, while that may be the dream, more realistic goals are in order.
Things like being able to pay your bills while working at home, eating out a few times a month, and upgrading your car are more realistic.
The pros to a three legged stool? Well, if one area, such as fiction sales, are slow, more money often comes in from another, like editing. And, if all three areas are doing well, you have a really good month or even quarter.
The cons? You’re busy. Really busy. And, if one area starts to lag, it is your job to go out and hustle up more business. Being a solopreneur means you do all the work, all the time, at least until you can afford to hire help in the areas of accounting, public relations, and marketing.
Can you do it? Well, if I can do it, almost anyone can. Tell me about your success story and your methods for getting there in the comments below. I hope my success inspires you toward yours, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Troy Lambert is a freelance writer, editor, and author of thriller novels who lives and works in Boise, Idaho with his fiance, son, and two dogs. He is a hiker, skier, cyclist, and horrible golfer.
Redemption by Troy Lambert
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7.625 STRATEGIES IN EVERY BEST-SELLER - Revised and Expanded Edition
At this moment, thousands of would-be authors are slaving away on their keyboards, dreaming of literary success. But their efforts won’t count for much. Of all those manuscripts, trade book editors will sign up only a slim fraction.
And of those titles--ones that that editors paid thousands of dollars to contract, print and publicize--an unhealthy percentage never sell enough copies to earn back their advances. Two years later, most will be out of print!
Acquisition Editor Tam Mossman shares seven essentials every book needs to stay in print, and sell!
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