Earning a living from writing is challenging. You will earn more if you challenge yourself instead of waiting for the challenges to come to you. Many good writers fail commercially because they don’t have a game plan, and they wait for luck to send a break their way. You’ll have better luck if you stack the odds in your favor by following a personal development strategy for your writing business. Here are seven strategies you can use to increase your writing range and boost your income potential in the process.
1. Develop a Writing Business Plan
If you want to write for fun without making money, that’s fine; but you should treat your writing as a business if you want to earn a living writing. This means you should develop a business plan for your writing. Some of the most important items your plan should cover include: + Income goals: How much income do I need to generate from my writing to meet my overall financial goals? + Career options: What type of writing can I do to generate that level of income? A few examples of writing specialties: business writing, copywriting, grant writing, medical writing, and technical writing. There are dozens more that could be listed. + Job Opportunities: What kind of writing job do I need to reach my target income level? Will I be a regular employee or a freelancer? If I’m going to be a freelancer, how many clients and projects will I need per year and month, and what will I need to charge?
+ Operational plan: How many hours a week do I need to write to meet my income goals? What will my daily schedule be? + Job hunting plan (if seeking an employer) or promotional plan (if seeking freelance clients): If I’m seeking a regular employer, where will I apply, what will I include in my portfolio and resume, and what communication tools will I use to approach prospective employers? If I’ll be freelancing, who will I promote myself to? What will I emphasize to communicate my expertise? What promotional tools will I use? How much will this cost? + Start-up capital: What office equipment and other resources do I need to meet my goals, and how much will this cost? + Training: What writing skills do I need to acquire, develop, or improve, and how much will this cost? + Financing: How will I finance my writing business expenses? + Taxes: What tax forms will I need to file? What do I need to report? Can I claim any deductions?
You’ll get the most out of your business plan if you keep it short and update it periodically. When you first write your plan, you should be able to briefly cover most of the items listed above in about three pages or less. You can always expand points you need to develop (for instance, you will probably want to add some pages to develop your promotional strategy in more detail). But keep your main points short so you don’t get overwhelmed, and you’re not inclined to let your plan gather dust once you finish it. Refer to your plan periodically to renew your focus and update it quarterly and annually to reflect any new information or changes to your situation.
2. Set Writing Goals
To implement your plan, it’s important to set specific writing goals. You should set three of the most important goals when you start: + How many job applications or prospecting contacts will I make per week to get enough interviews for jobs or clients? + How many hours a week will I write? + How many hours a week will I train to improve my marketable writing skills, and in what areas? The rest of this article will focus on the third goal by suggesting ways to expand your writing skillset.
3. Read Inspiring Authors
Almost every good writer started as an avid reader and learned by imitation. Today I earn an income as a nonfiction business writer. Still, my original inspiration to write came from reading things like DC and Marvel Comics, the novelization of Star Wars, The Hobbit, and Stephen King novels. Fiction remains my preferred mode, and I go back to certain authors periodically to draw inspiration and study techniques. Read authors who can motivate you, teach you, and refresh you when you need a break from commercial writing.
4. Expand Your Vocabulary
I grew up in a home where card games and word games were war, and a Scrabble board was a battlefield. I wouldn’t say I like to lose, so I hit The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary early. I set a goal to increase my scoring average to 20 points a play, then 30, then 40. My record before I quit playing for points was 212 points for one word (“SERVICED,” crossing two triple word squares with the “V” doubled plus a 50-point bonus for a bingo) and 605 points in one game. Today I play only for fun, so my family now has a rule that I’m only allowed to play four letters a turn. This handicap has actually made me a stronger player because it forces me to be more alert to word opportunities inherent in combinations of four letters. I look at the first letter on the rack and study all the words I can make starting with that letter. Then I move to the second. I keep going until I find the word that will make the most points.