Q: What is an important piece of advice you'd give to someone who wants to write professionally?
A: Find out how to run a business. Yes, it’s left-brain stuff, but if you want to make a part- or full-time living from writing, you need to either consider and crunch the numbers, or pay someone to do it.
In 1993, I started writing professionally, and during my first year, I made about MINUS $7.00 an hour. I had no idea how to evaluate the jobs that were offered as to whether they were worth doing, and I was ignorant of the daily business practices that would turn my money-losing hobby into a profitable business.
In 1994, I qualified for a 42-week entrepreneurship course through an organization called Women and Rural Economic Development, and I completed the program. I learned how to price (including when to say no), market, invoice, keep a basic set of books, etc. – you know, the stuff we writers would love to ignore. My income shot up right away. Over the years, I zoomed ahead of the average writer in Canada, who still brings in a pitiful $25,000 annually, to regularly earning six-digit revenues.
Writers whine about the left-brain practices, but realize we’re no different from any other businesspeople out there. I’m sure plumbers don’t love doing the paperwork that comes along with all of the above, but they do what they have to do. The advantage they have is that people don’t offer them the chance to sign their pipes rather than pay them.
Advance your writing craft, for sure, but when it comes to making money from your passion, find out how to make money, period.
More about Dorothea…
Dorothea Helms owns two freelance writing businesses: Write Stuff Writing Services (WSWS.ca) and The Writing Fairy (TheWritingFairy.com). A six-digit freelancer, she teaches workshops and courses on how to run a writing business, along with other topics. Dorothea is internationally published; has won numerous awards for nonfiction, fiction and poetry; and is a sought-after writing instructor and keynote speaker. Her work has appeared in LICHEN Arts & Letters Preview literary journal, The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, Homemakers, Canadian Architecture and Design Magazine, and she has been featured twice on CBC Radio. She’s also often referred to as “a hoot.”