If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a lot of your writing years dreaming of that moment when you’ll eventually be able to quit your day job and earn your living as a writer. This month I’m celebrating my one year anniversary of being just a full-time writer. (I was a full-time writer for years, while also working full-time at another job.)
Like all modes of living in the modern world, that writer’s dream requires money. Some people have sources of money that aren’t dependent on work. Some people have a partner in their life who can help pay the bills. Others of us are simply on our own, reliant on our work to keep ourselves housed and fed. There was recently a bit of a kerfuffle in the literary world when someone revealed what happened after they got that dream advance and weren’t really prepared for it. I want to offer a different perspective on how you can prepare yourself for your dream coming true.
Define the terms of your dream. It’s exciting and a little overwhelming when you sign the contract and see the dollar amount of that life-changing advance. While it’s tempting to play the lottery game and fantasize about all the things you could do with the money, before the first check arrives, you need to make plans. How are you going to live? How are you going to manage your money? How long do you need that money to last? My dream was to continue to live the same way I’ve been living the last decade or so, but without working two jobs. It was a fairly modest goal, and I knew how big of an advance I needed to embark on that dream. Defining my dream and knowing how much money I would need to put it in motion made it easy to pull the trigger when the opportunity came.
Hire an accountant and a financial planner. These are the two professionals who’ll help you implement the plans you make in step one, and it’s best to find ones who have experience with people working in the arts. You’ll need to be brutally honest about your living expenses, your obligations, and your goals. If you love eating out, don’t imagine that will change just because you want to suddenly become someone who can live off less. A financial planner will help you figure out long term strategies, but an accountant will help you deal with a lot of very important things in the short term. This was the cheapest thing I did to celebrate the book deal that let me quit my job. The first invoice from my accountant was less than the high end bottle of champagne I bought and, as delicious as the champagne was, I’m getting more out of my accountant. [Read more…]