It is every writer’s dream to earn a living doing the work we truly love. Most of us know we want to be writing; the challenge is to figure out how to support ourselves doing it. If you really want to do what you love and love what you do, here are four ways to go about it:
1. Find a job writing in an environment that fosters autonomy and creativity.
If you want to be assured of a steady paycheck, this is certainly your best option. Other than putting up with all that goes with working for someone else, this approach provides a number of pluses: financial security, professional stability, people to talk to, feedback and creative input from others, and structure. That’s the good news; the bad news is that such jobs are pretty hard to find. Landing a writing job is a challenge in itself, but it is nothing compared to finding one in an organization that allows you space and autonomy .
2. Find a good-paying, full-time job you enjoy, and freelance part time on the side.
If a dependable source of income is one of your non-negotiable criteria, and option #1 doesn’t pan out, another approach is to keep your full-time vocation and write as your part-time avocation. As long as you can maintain enough psychic and physical energy to write, it is possible to carve out time to freelance. That may be all you need, but, if it isn’t, consider the next possibility .
3. Begin now to build a freelance business that will become full time, eventually.
Novice swimmers don’t compete at the Olympic level without intense preparation. They train, they practice, they build their form and self-confidence over time, and they work their way up the competitive ladder. Only when they are sure they’re ready, do they compete at the highest levels. Part-time writing is the best kind of training because it gives you the same opportunity to practice—to polish your skills, build your confidence, and learn the ropes—before you go for the gold .
4 . Build a financial safety net, do the groundwork, and take the plunge.
No matter which way you approach full-time, freelance writing, remember that it is a business. It takes a lot of planning to start of business, and one of the most important aspects of that planning is being sure you can support yourself for six months to a year, even if you don’t earn a penny. Doing the groundwork means learning everything else you need to do, from printing business cards to keeping accurate financial records, from building a database of potential clients or editors to showing your portfolio, and from writing an informal contract to enforcing its terms when the work is completed.
There is an optimum moment to hang out your shingle, and you will know when you’re ready to take that step. Just trust your instincts.