Independence from a day job.
Freedom to write.
Freedom to imagine, explore, adventure, and do what we want, when we want.
That’s the dream most of us have somewhere in the back of our mind, even if it’s not what originally inspired us to become writers. Somewhere along the way, as we start publishing our books and making some money on the side, we start thinking: “Could I do this for a living?”
The answer is yes!
You absolutely can make a full-time income as a writer, quit your day job, and have the life you dream of!
Write a Couple of Books
Before you even think about quitting your day job, you need to have something else going.
Becoming an independent entrepreneur is scary—there’s a lot of unknowns that you don’t deal with when you’re employed by someone else. You don’t know what your income will be from month to month, you don’t know whether people will suddenly stop buying your books, and you don’t know what curve balls life will throw at you.
So the best way to make the leap into being a full-time indie author is to eliminate as many of those unknowns as possible.
You can do this by writing a few books while still at your day job. You’ll get used to the writing process, develop your skills, and build a team that can help you streamline the publishing process.
You’ll also start developing fans and a steady income from your books.
At TCK Publishing, we’ve found that authors typically need at least three books in their catalogue in order to really start generating sustainable income and growing their audience, so you should probably have at least two book published and another in the works before you consider quitting your day job.
A good benchmark for having done enough groundwork to quit is replacing 60% of the income from your day job.
After that point, growing your writing business will require much more time and energy from you—it’ll become a full-time job to write, produce, and market more books, set up online courses, and so on.
So it makes sense to get to that point, then take the plunge.
Review Your Goals
Before you quit, make sure that’s what you really want to do!
Our society has started glorifying entrepreneurs—there’s hundreds of websites and books that sing the praises of running your own business, creating a personalized lifestyle, being location-independent, and so on.
But this life isn’t for everyone! And that’s totally okay.
Some people just don’t like the lack of structure that comes with being your own boss. They need someone else setting deadlines, making sure they’re working instead of watching cat videos, and keeping on top of things.
Others don’t like the fact that running your own business means you’re in charge of everything. You have to be responsible for the accounting, the bookkeeping, the invoices, the emails, the marketing—everything.
It’s a lot of work!
Plus, it’s easy to have your simple lifestyle business spin into something more than you bargained for.
All of a sudden, you find yourself working 24/7 to promote your books, write a new manuscript, redesign some old covers, produce the audiobook, and build a consulting business to leverage your expertise in the field.
Instead of declaring independence from working all the time, you’re sucked into a whole different kind of grind!
So before you quit your job, it’s best to review your goals, your strengths, and the things you don’t like, then figure out how to best manage all that.
Is your goal to be location-independent, traveling whenever and wherever you want? Is it to spend more time with family? Be able to take a few days off when you need to, without asking for permission? Earn twice your current annual salary?
All of these are doable. You just need to be clear with yourself about what your goals are and what you’re working towards so that you can stay on that path when you’re going it solo.
Do you hate doing accounting or bookkeeping work? Make a plan to deal with it before you dive into full-time writing. You can use software like Quickbooks, an online app like Wave Apps, hire a part-time bookkeeper or office manager, or get an online service like Bench to take the sting out of that part of your new life.
Can’t stand marketing? Plan for that, too. Hire a marketing consultant or outsource your marketing work to another author in exchange for handling some task that they hate and you love, like cover design.
There’s a way to deal with many of the wrinkles that come with running your own writing business…you just have to plan ahead and be realistic when it comes to dealing with them so that you minimize your surprises after you quit your day job.
Set Up Your Business Plan
Minimizing unpleasant surprises is pretty much the entire point of writing a business plan
You can never cover every possible thing that will come up in the course of running a business, but you can outline the major possibilities and brainstorm ways to deal with them.
Business plans are much less scary than most people think—especially when you’re establishing a writing business, not a multi-million-dollar international manufacturing firm.
At a minimum, you’ll want to establish what your market is, how you’ll fund the business, and how you plan to grow your business.
For more on how to create your author business plan, check out this article
Your business plan is your roadmap for your business. Before you quit your day job, you’ll want to map out your first year or two in detail, so that you can check in with yourself and make sure everything is going the way you want it to.
After all, it’s easier to do course corrections when things are only a little off target than when they go completely off the rails!
With a business plan, you’ll know what you need to do to reach those goals you established, and you’ll be able to see how important spending more of your time growing your writing business is.
Basically, your business plan gives you the written proof that you’re on the right track and that you can quit your day job!
Build a Cushion
So you’re now earning about 60% of your monthly income from your day job from your books and you’re ready to quit. Yay!
Hold on a second. You also need a cushion in case of emergencies.
Most financial experts suggest having about three to six months’ worth of income stashed in the bank in case of major life emergencies, like losing a job or having huge medical bills.
When you’re an entrepreneur, that savings cushion can be even more important.
We don’t have control over whether people buy our books, or whether the economy takes a dip and people stop buying books in general, or even whether a butterfly flapping its wings in Moscow makes the Kindle market for our genre suddenly dry up.
We do have control over how we plan for surprises.
Stick it out at your day job long enough to stash away as much money as you possibly can. Save every extra penny from your writing income. Consider picking up a side hustle to speed you along the way to your goal.
Aim for getting at least six months’ of income in the bank before you quit. If possible, get that up to nine months or even a year’s income.
It seems like a lot, but this can be “absolute necessities” income, rather than “living a lavish lifestyle” income. Calculate the minimum you need to pay rent and utilities, buy groceries, maintain your car, and generally take care of yourself. That’s your target.
With six months or more of income saved up, you’ll have plenty of breathing room to work on your author career without worrying about your funds drying up.
And that will give you the confidence to quit your job and take your first steps into a successful full-time author career!
Set a Deadline
While you need to plan ahead and build your cushion to help ensure your success as an independent writer, it’s also easy to plan plan plan and never do.
To avoid this, set a deadline.
Studies have shown that we’re more likely to perform our best and meet our goals when we have a set deadline.
That’s because, rather than some vague idea that you’re going to Do The Thing, having a deadline makes it concrete. It’s a firm commitment, not a wistful dream.
By setting a deadline for quitting your job, you’re making a promise to yourself to build the future you desire.
You wouldn’t break a promise, now, would you?
Pick a reasonable deadline—enough time to sort out your business plan and build your cushion—and then write it on your calendar. Put it in your planner. Print it and frame it and put it on the wall. Make it your screensaver.
Do whatever you have to do to remind yourself of your goal and then do what it takes to meet that deadline.
You’ve got this!
Have the Talk(s)
When you decide to become a full-time independent writer, you’re going to have to tell other people. Some of them are networking contacts, some of them are in your audience, and some of them might be a little more stressful, like your family or your boss.
Figure out what you’re going to say in each case.
With your friends and fans, it might be as simple as saying “I’m finally going to be writing full time!”
With your family, the situation depends on their view of your career. If you’re the breadwinner for your house, they might be concerned about keeping up their lifestyles when you change yours.
If that’s the case, show them your business plan and point out that you’ve already saved up X amount of money towards your regular expenses and are currently earning 60% of your monthly salary from writing on the side. You can probably win them over pretty fast by showing them all the homework you’ve done and demonstrating that you’ve already considered the financial concerns.
And there are more benefits than just freeing your finances from a day job. Point out that you’ll have more time to spend being present with them, because you won’t be working a day job and writing on the side. You’ll be able to travel more, spend time together, and generally live the life you’ve always dreamed of.
When it comes to telling your boss, you can be as vague or as specific as the situation requires.
Depending on the company culture and your relationship with your boss, they might cheer you on as you pursue your dream.
Or they might think you’re crazy.
It would be great if they threw you a party as you left, but even if they’re skeptical, that’s fine. You know you’re making the right decision for yourself and your career.
Simply say that you’re leaving to pursue other opportunities and that you’ve enjoyed your time with the company (assuming that’s true, of course). Give your two weeks’ notice, make sure to tie up all loose ends you can before you leave, and pack up your cubicle.
The ultimate step in quitting your day job to be a full-time writer is to write!
When you have that first day without a 9-5 grind, it’s going to be really tempting to head for the coffee shop, take a long lunch, walk around town, or generally revel in the fact that you’re free and independent.
And it’s fine to celebrate!
You just can’t celebrate all the time.
You need to set up a structure for yourself—maybe not a 9-5 schedule, but something that ensures that you get all your work done and keep on top of your writing.
Learn what times of day are best for you to do certain types of work, maximize your use of a calendar or planning system, and keep yourself on track.
You’ll still have the freedom and flexibility to live the life you’ve always wanted…as long as you have the discipline to keep on writing.
Remember, the more books you produce, the more chances people have to find you and become fans.
And more readers and fans means more income, which means more stability in your author career.
With some careful planning and a thoughtful approach to figuring out your goals and dreams, you can turn writing into your full-time job and quit the daily grind.
Declare independence from your day job and become a full-time author!
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For more on making a living from your writing, check out these articles:
- The Power of Outsourcing: How to Write a Book While Having a Full-time Job
- How You Can Tap into the $1.22 Billion Librarians Spend on Books Each Year
- The Secret to Earning Millions as an Author