By Susan Shain
You’re a writer. Whether it’s scenes, characters or blog posts, your passion is creating.
What your passion probably is not? Business. Budgets, marketing, networking — they make your head swirl.
But without a firm business foundation, you’ll never make money as a writer. Sure, you may find some success because you’re talented — but to truly grow your business and get paid what you’re worth, you have to start thinking like an entrepreneur.
Here are nine ways for writers to channel their inner entrepreneur — and earn more money:
1. Shift your mindset
The first step to thinking like an entrepreneur is to, well, change the way you think. Don’t just view yourself as an artist; think of yourself as a businessperson, too. Determine how to package and sell your art in a way that makes a living.
Remember that when selling a piece of your writing, you are selling more than just your words; you are selling your education, your years of experience, and your understanding of the industry.
2. Get organized
Though a messy desk can enhance creativity, that doesn’t mean a messy life will. When’s the last time you saw a successful business that was poorly organized? Probably never. The less time you waste searching for files and trying to remember deadlines, the more time you have to focus on what pays (your writing).
Some ways you can systematize your writing business: manage your schedule and deadlines with Google Calendar and Trello, organize your notes and resources with Evernote and Pocket, and track your time with RescueTime and Freshbooks.
3. Track your finances
Let’s face it: most writers hate numbers. That’s why we became writers, after all! But pretending your business isn’t based on numbers won’t make them go away. If you want to build your writing business, you have to face the numbers head on.
Here are a few simple steps to get you started:
- Track your income: Understanding how you make your money is vital to making more of it. Figure out where the majority of your income comes from, and focus on growing that part of your business. If you have a particularly weak or strong month, determine why — then work to remedy or repeat it.
- Record your expenses: You are recording your expenses, right? Not only will doing so save you a bundle at tax time, it’ll also help you figure out how much you need to earn each month.
- Create a budget: Once you have a general idea of what’s coming and going, it’ll be easier to make a basic budget. Be sure to include estimated taxes, retirement contributions, and a healthy emergency fund in your monthly fixed expenses.
4. Establish concrete income goals
Each year, business owners make sales goals — do you? Just saying “I want to make more money” isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you truly want to earn more, you need to write down concrete goals, as well as the steps it’ll take to reach them.
Let’s say you want to earn an extra $3,000 this year with your writing. That works out to approximately $333 per month. If you’re a freelance blogger earning $115/post, that means you need to write three extra blog posts each month. If you’re a copywriter earning $25/hour, that means you need to work an extra 13 hours each month — or around 3.5 hours each week.
See how much more likely you are to accomplish your income goals if you break them down?
5. Network, network, network
Though you may work alone, writing is like any other business: having strong relationships is vital to your success. Why? Basically, the more people you know, the more writing opportunities — and paychecks — pop up. But not only that: your network can also offer valuable feedback on your writing and provide support when times get tough and lonely.
Networking can be challenging for writers — especially if you’re introverted. You have a lot of options, though, so find a method that suits you and your personality. Some ideas include Meetup groups, writing conferences, mastermind groups, social media networks, and online writing challenges.
6. Market yourself
Yes, unfortunately, once you make all those connections, you are going to have to market yourself. Hustling is the only way to ensure your business grows. Think about it this way: If you were selling a physical product, would you have as difficult a time marketing and selling it? Probably not. So even though the product is you and your writing, you should still sell it like any other product.
Here are some of our favorite marketing strategies:
- Create an awesome website: Whatever type of writing you do, you need a platform. Your website can be simple, but make sure it looks updated — and that it clearly highlights your work.
- Ask for referrals: Reach out to your friends, family, coworkers and former clients, and ask for help with whatever you need — whether it’s new business or reviews for your latest book. Personalize each message so it doesn’t feel so sales-y.
- Update your social media profiles: Make sure they look professional and describe the work you do (and would like to do).
- Hand out business cards: Though they may seem old fashioned, business cards work. Give them to anyone you meet; people are always excited to meet a “real writer!”
7. Conduct reviews on a regular basis
Most businesses conduct quarterly reviews, and as a writer, you should, too. Each quarter — or at the very least, twice a year — analyze the health of your business. If you’ve been tracking your income and expenses like we recommended in Step 3, you’re already halfway there.
How close are you to reaching your income goals? Have you made any new connections? What went well this past quarter? What could you improve? By asking yourself these questions every three months, you can frequently adjust your strategy and keep your business heading in the right direction.
8. Outsource as much as you can
Smart entrepreneurs know they can’t do everything themselves, so they hire people to help them. As a writer, you may wonder what you could possibly outsource, and our answer: lots.
Outsource tasks like updating social media, formatting blog posts, editing documents, fact-checking, interviewing sources and creating promotional graphics. You can also outsource non-business tasks like laundry, cleaning, cooking and errands. Although you’ll have to make an initial investment, be confident that whatever gives you more time to write will ultimately lead to more money in your pocket.
9. Take risks and accept failure
What makes a natural entrepreneur? Besides the ability to think creatively and work hard, it’s a willingness to take risks and accept failure.
As a writer, this is difficult; it can feel quite personal if your pitch or proposal is rejected. That’s why it’s important to think of your writing as a business, rather than a reflection of yourself — this will make it much easier to overcome failure. It’s only when you take risks that you reap big rewards, so make a vow to learn from any negative experiences and use them to strengthen yourself and your business.
Making a living as a writer isn’t an easy feat, but if you start to think like an entrepreneur — rather than “just” an artist — you’ll find yourself moving up in the world.
Do you think like an entrepreneur? How has it helped you?
Susan Shain (@Susan_Shain) is a travel blogger and freelance writer who contributes to The Write Life, a website that helps writers make a living from their craft. Sign up for their newsletterto receive actionable writing tips and advice in your inbox each week. (Bonus: You’ll also get a free ebook about how to land your first paying client!)