“Don’t quit your day job” is about the most insulting thing a person can say to someone who has been pursuing their passion for art, music, or writing.
That sentence basically tells the creative person: “You’re not good enough. So shut up and go back to office job and die a little bit on the inside every day like the rest of us.”
I think we call an relate to that in one way or another, right? People who have no dreams don’t understand those of us who do. And I think it’s fair to say, a great number of us who are pursuing a passion DO hope to “someday” ditch the day job.
But how do you do it?
If you’re visiting this blog, I assume you’re a writer of some sort, so you already understand that there are no overnight successes and nobody simply writes a book and sells a bazillion copies out of the blue.
But my point here isn’t really on how to build your writing career, it’s about taking that next step. Or maybe that first step, pending on how you look at it.
Either way, quitting your day job to write full time isn’t a decision you should make lightly. It’s something you should put a lot of thought, prayer, and planning into before you take that risky leap.
So here are my six steps to quitting your day job:
Step one: Write
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. If you’ve never really written before, but know that “You’ve always wanted to be a writer” then this is not something that you should seriously be considering at all yet. You need to actually be writing before you can call yourself a writer.
This is important for a couple of reasons. First off, you need to know if you’re actually any good. Because if you’re not, well, then you’re going to want to hold on to that source of income while you learn how to become good at writing.
So keep working. Spend a few years writing in your spare time learning the craft. Learning your strengths and weaknesses, and learning about the business before you throw yourself into it like a high diver without a parachute.
Step two: Get debt free
I’ve been a fan of Dave Ramsey for about fifteen years. I was even reading his Total Money Makeover when I met my wife. In our marriage, most of our financial decisions are derived from his teachings. Anyhow, due to whatever, I believe wholeheartedly that it is vital to be 100% debt-free if you’re going to make a life decision that will affect your income as much as cutting off your source of income and quitting your job. And while Dave will often say “debt free except for your house,” I disagree. Debt is still debt, even if it comes in the form of a mortgage. But if you think you can quit your job and still make your house payments, that’s your prerogative.
But don’t even think about holding on to those credit cards or that student loan that’s been part of your life for the last two decades.
Step three: Save
This is just as important as step # 2. If you’re going to write full time, you need to be able to focus on writing full time. It’s a good idea to cut as much stress out of your life as possible while you do this. What’s more stressful than wondering where your next meal will come from, or whether or not today is the day they shut off your heat.
So save up. I’d seriously suggest having a full year’s worth of expenses put aside. Let the bills “pay themselves” while you build your writing career, without the pressure of needing to make money for a little while.
Step four: Check your infrastructure
By this, I mean to make sure you have everything you need for “being a writer” in place. Mostly I mean your author’s platform. Set up all of your social media accounts, web sites, connections, etc. already in place. Try to have a novel or two ready to pitch before you quit your day job so that while you’re shopping those around, you’re already working on the next one.
Step five: Have a backup plan
As much as it hurts to say, we can’t all “make it” as writers. If, at some point, you have to take a step back and go back to a steady job, that’s okay. Just have something in mind. Maybe you don’t want to go back to a full time career. So look for a part time job at a coffee shop. Whatever it is, just have a timeline and a fall-back.
Something like: If I’m not making X dollar a month writing by this date, I will __________. (And still keep writing on the side until I can try again.)
Step six: Take the leap
Not much to say about this step. Just do it. Don’t be too afraid, and know that we’re all rooting for you!
So, to close out, I’ve got to say that, yes, I’m still holding onto my day job, and expect to do so for the indefinite future. I’d like to think that, as writers, we’ve all got the potential to make a full time living from our craft.
I really wish all of you reading this success in your writing goals, and if you are one of the lucky ones who are already there, please feel free to share your story in the comments section.