Most authors start out having to juggle their writing and publishing work with a day job, and most authors fantasize about the ability to ditch that job and focus exclusively on their creative work.
It is fun to fantasize about the life of a full-time writer: rolling out of bed not to the strident buzz of the alarm clock but to the sound of birds chirping outside, making that perfect cup of coffee, sitting down in your favorite writing location in your comfiest clothes (or, heck, in your pajamas), faithful dog at your feet, and spending the day with your story and your characters.
It’s a compelling fantasy, but as with any decision relating to your livelihood, considering it soberly and logically is key.
As a project manager by day, I know that any project must be assessed against both quantitative and qualitative measures. Let’s take a look at the cost-benefit analysis of keeping or quitting your day job from both these perspectives.
The quantitative analysis considers those easily measurable aspects of a decision—in this case, money and time.
As of this writing, my earnings from my day job far outpace my earnings from my writing and publishing. I find it’s a lot easier for me to be creative when I’m not worried about whether or not I will be able to pay the mortgage, and it’s certainly a lot more enjoyable to be able to take that book research trip without pinching every penny.
So how does one address the dilemma of having a limited number of hours in the day to make progress against an unlimited amount of work?
Consider hiring an assistant.
I resisted this notion for a while, reasoning that the income from my books would make barely a dent in the wages for even a few hours of help a week. But this is a limiting way of assessing the cost-benefit considerations. If you’re an indy author, you need to treat your publishing endeavor like the business it is, and no one would ever think of building a business without some initial outlay of funds. You wouldn’t expect someone who is going to sell handbags on Etsy to say, “I’ll buy enough material for one bag, and then with the proceeds of the sale of that bag, I’ll buy enough materials for a second bag …” No, you would expect the handbag maker to invest in a judicious amount of material to create a reasonable amount of stock, with the understanding that she will need to sell a number of bags before she recoups her investment.
It’s the same with publishing. You may think of writing and publishing more as a hobby, in which case containing your expenses is probably a good idea (although I know plenty of people with hobbies that require a significant outlay of money), but if you want to grow it into a career, then you should be willing to make some informed initial investments.
For me, hiring someone to help with the parts of my publishing business that I know the least about (and enjoy the least)—such as publicity and promotion—made much more sense than reducing my hours on, or quitting, my day job.
As a not inconsiderable additional benefit, having an assistant leaves me with more time to focus on the things that only I can do: write my blogs, record The Indy Author™ Podcast, participate in author events, and, of course, write my books.
If you hate your day job, or you’re dying to spend all your time on your writing and publishing activities, then the math is a bit different. But if what you’re really looking for is a way to expand the publishing and promotion that gets your creative work out to your audience, then hiring an assistant can be a far less expensive option that cutting or eliminating your day job salary.
Next up … the Qualitative Analysis.