Should You Quit the Day Job?

Have desk, will write

Image by Bright Meadow via Flickr

Ummm… I hate to disappoint you, but… probably not.
Before you make that decision, though, you have to ask yourself a lot of questions. Once you’ve made that decision you’ll have to live with it, which may be harder than you think. Take it from someone who has been there, and knows.
Can you really do without your income in this economy? No job is truly secure anymore and the unexpected is almost guaranteed to show up once you’ve made that decision – illness, unforeseen expenses, layoffs, etc.
Do you have enough work in the pipeline to support your decision and is it truly viable? When I left my day job I had the second of a proposed three book series submitted to my publisher, plus another book I was certain they would like. Feeling reasonably secure, I quit my day job. Both ‘sure things’ fell through and suddenly I had no income at all. Even with Indie publishing, it will take about three months before you start generating any income and that’s usually pretty small at first. Very few Indie writers become best sellers overnight. As painful as it is, keeping that day job may be more useful than you know, for reasons you don’t expect. Freedom from the day job can take away the pressure to write. Knowing you’ve got time allows you to get distracted by things like FB and Twitter. If you’re not disciplined, you should start practicing now. Set a schedule but don’t jinx yourself by not allowing yourself some latitude. Stifle the muse too often and getting her back to work can be difficult. (and terrifying).
If you do decide to quit:
Designate a place to work. Whether fiction or non-fiction, you need a place that everyone in the family understands that when you go there, you’re working. (For men this doesn’t tend to be as much of a problem. If you doubt me, just consider that no one talks about woman-caves. Apparently women have no need for private space.) Be prepared for knocks on the door JUST as you go into the flow.
On a similar subject – Even though you’ve discussed it with them and you think your spouse is prepared, understand that quitting will change the family dynamic. Since you’re ‘home’ you’ll still be expected to have everything done during the day that you used to do at night in between everything else. And they will expect you’ll also be more available since now you can write during the day – even if the muse happens to hit you at night.
Your income, too, or lack thereof, will be the invisible elephant in the room. Until you are actually earning what you did in your day job – offset by health and car insurance costs, etc. – there will be an unconscious shift of power in the direction of the earning spouse.
By the way, don’t worry about how much free time you might have. Now that you’re a ‘professional’ writer, when you aren’t writing you’ll be editing your manuscripts and marketing. Believe me, there isn’t enough time in a day to get it all done, you’ll have to balance that all out as well.
Once the schedule has been set and the details worked out, the biggest mistake most new writers make is to over-commit themselves and burn out. Learn how to say no to yourself. Yes, in the beginning you have to do interviews, post blogs, and find advertising venues – but schedule that for the dreariest time of day, like three in the afternoon. Leave your most productive time for writing. If the muse is with you, write. That’s what you love, that’s what you do.
A little advice – change things up now and then, go to the library, Starbucks, Panera Bread, anyplace they have wifi, and work from there. It’ll help keep things fresh.
If all of this seems a bit much, or puts you into anxiety mode, then I’d suggest not quitting the day job yet. Not until you can at least feel comfortable that the income you are generating is enough to at least offset your expenses – like paying for editors, cover art, advertising, hair cuts, gas/petrol, etc.

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Kai Wilson-Viola writes under various names, and in all genres. Co-founder and webmistress of the IAG site, she writes content on request of members.
She has written several books including the Ten Hour Marketing Plan and 12x12 - tutorials for social media.
When not writing, she can be found maintaining sites, designing themes, managing a charity called the Less than Three foundation, gaming, knitting or reading.

0 thoughts on “Should You Quit the Day Job?

  1. Thanks Valerie,
    I’ve been debating the day job issue ever since I started my day job. Maybe it’s easier because I work in retail and jobs there are a dime a dozen and pay about that. Maybe it’s because that was the plan when I got married and got sidetracked by life. I have six months to plan the transition. I doubt most people take that long, but it is what it is. You make some good points and I am sure there will be complications, but I used to be a writer and I think inside I’ve always been a writer and I can’t keep playing at a job that eats at my soul much longer. I guess that’s why I can do this–I don’t have a real choice.

    • That’s when you know it’s the right decision to make, and the reason I made mine. We planned for at least six months, until I couldn’t bear it. Still, the transition wasn’t always easy but I’ve never regretted it.
      Good luck on your journey!

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