Ten years ago I launched my software business, perfectly coinciding with the biggest economic downturn in decades. But while other companies were laying people off and downsizing to cope with the pressures, my company thrived, grew, and is still going strong.
When I decided to turn my hand to my passion of writing, it seemed like it would be a completely different animal to running a business.
There were many things I learned over the years of being an entrepreneur that were directly applicable to writing. By following simple practical rules, I have already been published both in print and online and had interest from several literary agents.
Here are six rules I follow that I believe have contributed to my success, and could help you with yours.
Have clear working hours
When you don’t have the pressure of co-workers or a boss and you’re working from home, it’s really easy to procrastinate.
Start with a lie in – everyone works better when they’re fully refreshed, right? – have coffee and breakfast, put on some laundry, check emails, take something out of the freezer for dinner… and before you know it, the day is gone.
Some people work best in the morning when their head is clear, others are night owls who prefer to be typing away in the wee hours.
It’s not important when you work, but it is very helpful to decide in advance the time you will start and the time you will finish – then stick to both (not just the start time) as if you did have a boss breathing down your neck.
Get power dressed
Another hazard of working from home is the temptation to lounge about in your dressing gown.
It doesn’t sound important, but how you present yourself, even when there’s no-one around, has a strong psychological impact on how your think and how business-like you feel.
So get dressed properly – it doesn’t have to be a suit, comfortable clothes are fine, brush your teeth, brush your hair and sit down at a desk.
This and the above tip have the same foundation – if you don’t mentally treat writing like a proper job – it will never become one.
Have clear, measurable objectives
When I’m writing a novel, I estimate how many words it’s going to be and decide when I realistically want it to be finished by. I divide the number of words by the number of available days, and that’s my daily word target.
A very successful ghost writer friend of mine writes two proposals per week, without fail.
You need to decide what targets are appropriate for you, depending on what you’re writing and your personal circumstances, but the key is to make sure the targets are achievable, measurable and that you take them seriously.
For example, ‘keep my social media profile up-to-date’ is a bad target, but ‘post at least one writing related resource across three social media profiles for the next seven days’ is a good target.
For more info about setting good targets, google SMART targets.
Make a plan
I’m a big fan of breaking all tasks down into manageable, bitesize chunks, and preferably into an ordered set of repeatable steps.
So if I’m writing a novel I follow my Roadmap, or if I’m writing a blog post I’ll come up with a working title and bullet point sub-headings before I start to write the actual content.
Do what makes you happy
When you’re trying to make a living, it can be tempting to chase the money, even if that means stepping off the path you saw for yourself.
I’m not saying you have to be whiter than white and never write anything that doesn’t perfectly align with your goals and morals, but if you love paranormal romance, don’t start writing psychological thrillers because that’s what’s on the Amazon bestseller list.
And if a freelance writing client asks you to cover a topic that bores you to tears, turn it down and spend that time searching for a job on a topic that really makes you excited.
Otherwise you risk taking the gleam off why you wanted to write for a living in the first place.
Don’t live in a bubble
Writing can be lonely.
As with starting your own business, it’s easy to get lost in your own little bubble and lose track of what’s going on in the wider world.
With running a business, networking and meeting with other small business owners was an invaluable source of advice, socialising and sanity checks.
With writing there are lots of communities out there – online, but also in person – where you can mingle with others who are on the same journey as you, but perhaps at different stages. You can commiserate and learn from each other’s mistakes and best practice.
If you want to make a living writing, you need to approach it like a professional – but that doesn’t mean taking the fun out of it. It just takes a little planning and the cultivation of a few good habits.