Even though my last day of full time teaching was June 6th, the beauty of electing a twelve month pay schedule has kept my pay checks coming all summer long. For someone going into business for themselves, three months of guaranteed payment is a glorious thing. This summer I have been able to test out my “working hours”, add to my freelance work load, advance a few fiction manuscript projects, and still take all of our family vacations. (Which, when you have a two-teacher family and no work in sight for several weeks, is admittedly, a lot.)
A few days ago, on September 1st, I needed to officially start earning my own way. I have done a lot of things to make this opportunity a success. If you are thinking of quitting your day job to “go pro” in your creative pursuit, here are some steps that I took, that you may want to consider.
Go Pro Envelope
In January 2017 I made the resolution to set aside 20% of my writing earnings into an envelope (Dave Ramsey style). I lovingly called this my “Go Pro Fund”. In a year and a half, I amassed just under two months of income. My plan was to have a pool of cash to pull from if I ended up short of my goal earnings at the end of the month. (Tip: Figure out what you make in your take home pay on a monthly basis from your day job. Use this amount as an earning goal as you move forward into self-employment.) When my computer unexpectedly crashed in July, my Go Pro Fund also acted as an emergency fund to replace this necessary tool without negatively affecting my family’s savings. This purchase was the first time I ever pulled from the envelope, and I did so guiltily, but how is a writer supposed to earn a dime without a computer!?!?
Business Bank Account
The second financial step I took was to create a business bank account. It is where I have been putting the other 80% of my writing earnings. I use this money to pay for conferences, book orders, contest submission entry fees and office supplies. At this point, the account is not bursting at the seams, but it does hold a balance that will allow me to continue to pay for a few of these expenses for a while. This account will allow me to continue to operate as a financial benefit to my family, instead of a drain. I have also pre-paid the conference entry fees for events I am attending in September and October and have a healthy supply of (already paid for) books in my basement. (Let me know if you want one, or a dozen!) It feels good to know that my major financial obligations are covered in these first two months of my self-employed journey.
Diversify Income Opportunities
Another important action I took was to diversify my income opportunities. I now am paid by Western Technical College, Big Shared World, Teachers Pay Teachers, KWiL Publishing, Amazon and events including in person book sales and school visits. At their varied income levels, one of these income streams alone could not sustain me, but at the same time, I am not reliant on any single company/employer/revenue generator to keep me afloat. Should one collapse or cease to exist, I could still press on and make it. I also worked to fill up my calendar, giving myself guaranteed money making events in the near future. You can check out my website for the fun word nerd events I have scheduled in October, December, February, March, April and June!
Have a Back Up Plan
And finally, I have a back up plan. On paper, I have earned all I need for the rest of 2018. BUT, if everything crashes and burns by January 2019, I always have the option of substitute teaching for $120 a day. It’s not ideal and it’s not what I really want to do. But I can, if I have to. It’s peace of mind, and mighty fine to have in my back pocket should I need it.
Starts ups take time to grow. I know because I’ve been at this writing gig for 7 years now and am just now ready to take this leap.
If you have any tips of your own to add, please share them with us in the comments below. If you have any questions for me on how I made it to this place, feel free to comment on this post or email me!
If you are contemplating your own creative leap, I wish you the best of luck. With passion and planning, you can do this. I know it, because I have.
What was once a dream, is now my reality.