By Sonja Hegman
I used to think I had to starve to be a writer. It’s the constant that’s driven into us: artists don’t make money. Artists are always poor. Only the Hemingways of the world make a decent living from their words. Screw that noise.
Being an artist of any kind isn’t an easy path. Competition runs rampant. If you’re a writer, illustrious book deals are few and far between. Making a living as a writer means taking gigs that aren’t necessarily glamorous, but ones that will pay the bills. Being a successful writer is much more than writing powerful prose while drinking $8 espresso in a coffee shop. However, if you’d like to be a poser, by all means go for it.
If you want to succeed as a writer, stop thinking of yourself as “starving.” Easy. Erase the phrase “starving artist” from your vocabulary. Just because others think starving is a part of paying dues, it doesn’t mean you have to think that way. It’s the main reason so many creative types are struggling and poor.
How does one change their mindset? Start thinking of writing as your business. Writing IS your business. You make money at it (or at least try to), and therefore, it should get the same respect as any other business. You must spend time on the business side. This includes marketing, networking and selling yourself. These aren’t things we writers enjoy, but they will move us to the next level. The best thing you can do, next to erasing “starving artist” from your vocabulary, is to stop using the word “freelance.” Start calling yourself a “business owner” because that’s what you are. How did I change my thinking? I had a chance meeting in 2009.
I was at a business event in New York City. A friend of mine dragged me there. I had no idea what I’d talk about with business owners because I was a “freelancer.” Then I had a chat with the head honcho of the event. She asked me, “What is your business?” My response, “Oh, I don’t own a business. I’m a writer.” Then the words that completely changed my life, “Writing is your business.” I stood there a bit dumbfounded, but it made complete sense to me. Writing IS my business.
It made sense, not only because it explained why I wasn’t super successful as a “freelancer,” but also because, if done right, you can make serious cash as a writer. From a business perspective, I thought about other things I could write aside from books or freelance articles that bored me to tears. And there was a lot. I specifically started working with small business owners on their social media and blogs.
The scariest part about starting a business is taking the leap. The unknown is always unnerving. Just like in your freelance life, you might not know when that next check is coming your way. But if you have a plan, know the kind of clients you want, and aren’t scared to ask for help when you need it, you’ll make it. I was terrified. I thought I could write on the side and still create a viable business. It can’t be done. When I gave my writing and my business the attention they truly deserved, that’s when things started to happen. My childhood dream of becoming a successful artist has come true and I didn’t have to starve to do it. Now, what are you going to do?
Sonja Hegman is the Chief Wordsmith at Hegman Editorial and author of “Trials of an Entrepreneurial Virgin: How to Create a Successful Writing Business.” Her online class, “Quit Your Day Job: The Entrepreneurial Side of Writing,” starts April 15. Follow her on Twitter: @ChiefWordsmith or check out her blog.
Image courtesy of Arcobal