No matter what you write, you don’t have a book.
You have a business model.
This can be hard to wrap your head around, especially for the artsy sorts who often want to be writers, but it’s absolutely true. Every professional writer is a small business owner, a serial entrepreneur. The degree to which you internalize this basic fact is the degree to which you can be successful (financially) with your writing.
And thinking about your writing career as a small business means thinking about the resources small business owners use to keep their businesses afloat.
Here are the 10 indispensable ones you should start using this year.
Some are specific branded items, others are concepts. Both types of resources will help the business side of your writing take off.
1. Your Local Small Business Association
It might or might not have that exact name, but the small business association or Chamber of Commerce in your town exists to help small businesses expand, grow, and succeed. It makes available classes, training, mentorships, equipment, and sometimes grants.
As a writing entrepreneur, these organizations are handy resources for you in two ways. First, you can use them as intended and get the business help you need for your writing career. Second, attending their events puts you — a working writer — in a room with dozens of business owners who need writing done.
See also: Local Chamber of Commerce, Trade Associations, Service Groups like Rotary or Elks
If you ask an agent or publisher to look at your work, that agent or publisher will ask you about your platform: how many people you have following you on social media and subscribing to your blog or email newsletter.
Social media is often the “also ran” in a writer’s task list, because it requires consistent and daily upkeep to make your followings grow. Buffer is the best resource to automate your social media engagement. It keeps you on a schedule, but also reminds you to check in and stay involved in your content.
3. Virtual Personal Assistants
It’s pretty easy to make enough money to get by as a freelance writer or working author. It’s harder to make enough money to hire someone to do all the frustrating little tasks that take away from your writing time. Tasks like tracking invoices, preparing for taxes, basic research, and managing your submissions.
VPAs are the elegant solution here. Using the Magic of The Internet, you connect with a competent professional who lives in a country where a generous pay scale (from their perspective) is easily affordable by working writers living in the developed world. Everybody wins.
4. H&R Block Tax Preparation
Taxes are complicated and scary, with serious repercussions for making even small mistakes. This is especially true for micropreneurial businesses like most writers have, since the tax difference between claiming income as a sole proprietor vs. a writing company can equal thousands of dollars owed or saved.
Online tax preparation is your first line of defense, and H&R Block’s service consistently performs well. Also, their personalized business tax prep services are reasonable, so you can upgrade if things get more complex than you’re comfortable handling just online.
The Service Corps of Retired Executives is exactly what it sounds like: an organization of retired people who were successful in business, who want to give back by mentoring, training, and otherwise helping you. These volunteers are one of the best and least utilized resources for small businesses in America, and they’re available to take your call or email tomorrow.
Besides the mentoring, SCORE also offers online courses and classes, making it a storehouse of information about best practices and simple tweaks to help your writing business shine.
See also: Small Business Association, local trade groups
6. Expense Tracking Apps
Remember a few paragraphs ago when I mentioned how confusing and complicated taxes are? They’re a lot easier if you come to your tax prep session with all of your expenses already categorized and totaled up.
Which is what makes expense tracking apps so beautiful. You can use them to enter your expenses in real time, and you can access them later both for tax purposes and to help you stay on track in controlling your spending month by month. The best let you scan receipts with your phone’s camera, and divide up the bill according to how much is business and how much was personal.
7. Lead Tracking Software
Unless you’re an extremely unusual writer, tracking leads and submissions and queries is one of your weakest points. It takes you way too much time, and things fall through the cracks more regularly than you like to admit. It’s the Achilles heel of most writers who I work with and mentor.
Enter CRM — customer relations management — software. These apps and software suites are built to help small businesses manage their leads. They’re highly customizable, automatable, and will send you reminders when it’s time for you to get involved. The best ones are free up to a certain number of leads, and that number is usually smaller than the number any writer has active at any given time.
8. Bullet Journal
Tracking your time, tasks, and commitments is key to any successful entrepreneurial venture and writing is no exception. You can buy yourself a Franklin-Covey planner, or take a four-figure organization class, or use any of dozens of complex phone apps.
Or you can use bulletjournal. It’s a free app that simplifies keeping track of the promises you’ve made to yourself and others, and is easy to gamify to stay motivated. Its system is easy to learn and apply, and takes little effort to stay on top of.
See also…there is no real equivalent to bulletjournal. It hits the sweet spot of being effective without taking time for upkeep. Plus it’s free.
9. Your City’s Aquatic Center
You need to exercise. Healthy writers are productive writers, and recent research suggests a 30-minute workout equates to as much as 2 hours’ worth of better-used time in an 8-hour workday. That comes from the extra energy and focus a moderate workout gives you in the hours that follow.
Options for getting exercise include joining a pricey gym, hiring a personal trainer, enrolling in the local pilates school, buying a Stairmaster…
…or joining your local aquatic center. These are usually cheaper, with all the facilities you need, and with a decent schedule of fitness classes. For most working writers, it’s all you need.
See Also: fitness classes at your parks & recreation department
10. Invoicing Automation
Invoicing is fun because it means you’re getting paid. It’s also a huge pain in the tuchus we have to do every single month. The good news is it’s easy to automate.
Programs that automate invoicing simplify how you input your hours, your charges, and your descriptions of work. They send the invoices automatically on the right day, and generate reports about who has paid you and who still owes. This will save you hours each month, and usually increase your bottom line by keeping your clients on track with payment.
The Snowball Effect
It might seem intimidating to try to use all 10 of these resources, but I’ll tell you a secret.
Each resource gives you extra time, money, and energy. Pick the one you like best, then use the hours, funds, or focus it liberates to take on the one you like second-best. Then use what that frees up to add a third.
Before you know it, you’ll have all of them in place and working for you. Your writing business will be more profitable, and more fun, than you ever imagined it could be.
Want to learn more about how to run your writing business? You’re in the right place!
- Starting a Writing Business: How to Structure Your Career as a Professional Author
- Building a Six Figure Freelance Writing Business at Twenty Hours a Week
- Business Plans for Writers: Planning Your Way to a Profitable Writing Career