Go From Hobbyist Writer to Pro in 5 Steps
Love to write? Sadly, writing won’t pay your bills if you just love it and expect to be paid for your passion. Yes, you may be “discovered”… but that vague hope won’t pay your grocery bills and mortgage. To develop a real writing career, you’ve got to set goals, and work out how you’ll achieve them. It’s (wince) work… 🙂
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had many questions from writers interested in our romance writing online class, Hot, Hotter, Hottest: Write Bestselling Kindle Romances. A popular question is: “If I love to write, can I really make money?”
I understand the question, because I grew up telling anyone who’d listen that I would “be a writer.” My nearest and dearest didn’t approve, but I kept writing. However, it wasn’t until I decided that I would get paid for my writing – or stop writing completely – that writing stopped being a pleasant hobby. I became a professional writer.
Looking back, that decision turned me into a pro. Here’s why. I had a deadline. I really, really didn’t want to give up writing. I couldn’t imagine it. But I made the decision anyway. Within around six months of making that decision, I was a professional.
Over the years, I’ve watched many writers go from treating writing as a lifestyle, to committing to a career. Here are the steps to take.
1. Decide What You’ll Write.
Start by deciding what you’ll write. You can write anything you like, as long as someone will pay you. There are two options: trade hours for dollars, or create work you can license.
Tip: it doesn’t matter much what you choose. Your writing will decide the direction. Just start, and keep going. I started out as a romance novelist. Then I wrote for magazines, and became a copywriter because people asked me to write advertising material for them. I wrote business books for many years because magazine editors recommended me to acquisitions editors at publishing houses.
Once you get into the habit of writing every day, and writing as much as you can, things will happen IF you write what people want. That’s the major difference between hobbyist writers, and professional writers. Professionals write what SELLS.
What do you want to write? Your DESIRE is a good indication of ultimate success. Do you want to write genre fiction? Do you want to write advertising copy? Website copy? Choose.
2. Give Yourself a Deadline.
Next, give yourself a firm deadline. I gave myself ten years to get a publishing contract from a publishing house. In those days, things were very different if you wanted to write books. It took years to get published, even if you had a publishing contract. Moreover, there was little chance that you’d make a living wage from writing books.
Today, it’s very different. If you want to write a book, you can self-publish, and you’ll make more money – H.M. Ward isn’t alone – than you could if you were traditionally published.
Whatever you decide to write, give yourself a firm deadline. Make it an “I do this or die in the attempt” situation. I swore that I would give up writing if if I didn’t make my ten-year deadline.
3. Make a Plan – Commit to Daily Tasks.
You know what you’re writing. You have a deadline.
Now it’s time to make a plan.
Tip: your plan will change. So don’t worry. There’s no way you can plan WRONG… Any plan will do, because all the plan achieves initially is to get you writing. That’s ALL it has to do. You’ll get feedback and you’ll adjust as you go.
Daily tasks are essential. You must write every day, before and after you start making money with your writing. Your writing is the key.
4. WRITE! Write as Much as You Can, Paid or Not.
See above. Write.
5. Review Your Feedback, and Adjust Your Plan…. Then Keep Going. DO NOT Give Up, No Matter What.
I’ve lost count of the number of writers who’ve said something like…
- I was just about to delete everything from my hard drive, when I got a phone call…
- I told myself that it was all over…
- I’d had enough. That was the last straw, and then…
Write. If you’re building a copywriting career, work on your website, use social media, and keep reaching out to prospects. If you’re writing romances, start another novella, novel or short story as soon as you publish your first.
Expect despair, sooner or later. It’s a cliche that you’ll succeed beyond your wildest dreams just beyond your (almost) final gasp. It’s darkest before dawn, etc. So when you despair, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Your life is about to turn around. 🙂
Remember your deadline. By the way, your deadline is for you. Keep it to yourself. This is a commitment to yourself, no one else. Use the energy you’d invest in discussing it with others for writing.
I sincerely hope this helps you, if you’re about to launch yourself into a professional writing career. Writing won’t always be easy, but the joys far outweigh the pain. I walked on air for FOUR days after I received my first publishing contract. If you want a writing career, you can have it… Happy writing. 🙂
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