When you decide to be a freelancer, or an indie author, you often imagine sitting on the beach with a laptop or in some cool upscale restaurant surrounded by your fans. That’s what I thought too. And to some extent you can do that. There are even programs for sale with titles like “The Laptop Lifestyle,” indicating that you can be free and easy while living the dream.
And I do take my laptop everywhere I go, even getting a little work done in the car while Mighty Man drives. I always take it on vacation because I can get a little more work done there than I can at home. And if something happens on a regular writing day–the dog dies, somebody gets a flat tire and needs to be rescued, or you simply want to take day off, you can. Flexibility is a positive of this lifestyle.
The downside of freelance writing is that you wear all the hats. All of them. It’s a constant juggling act; You are no longer the writer who hands off a project to an editor or a publisher and dusts off her hands. Instead, now you are the writer, proofreader, editor, lunch getter, kitchen cleaner, and occasionally even the plumber.
Anything that gets done gets done by you, assuming you don’t hire it out (but that’s a whole other story). If you procrastinate (which you will, at some point, because a task is boring or overwhelming, or you lack the skills to do it) it simply doesn’t get done and the schedule falls apart. Do that enough and you’ve wasted six months or more not working.
Wearing all the hats can be exhausting. You might only plan to write for three or four hours a day, and feel like that’s going to be such a life of luxury. But by the time you’ve written , edited, run a couple of ads, checked on your royalties, made a bank deposit, and all the hundred other things that go along with running a business it doesn’t matter that you only wanted to write for three hours. You actually only got in two and a half and the day is over, and you’ve put in 12 hours all total. It’s exhausting.
Obviously, it’s not all doom and gloom, I’ve been doing it since 2005. And I’m still here. But I want you to get a good clear idea of what you’re getting into before you decide to give up your day job in favor of this dream that all of America seems to have: The dream of writing a book.
You may have already been writing in the evenings or on vacations. But you’re used to having someone tell you what to do and how to fill your time. You’re a productive full-time worker practicing your dream job on the side. If that sounds like you, and you’re about to quit that full time job, let me warn you about what’s about to happen.
For the first month or two, all that writing you were going to do? Yeah. It doesn’t happen. Did you know with no one looking over your shoulder you can spend four or six HOURS on Facebook? Do you know how many cat videos there are out there, and how much time it takes to watch every single one of them? And what about reading – there’s that list you made last summer, and always more books to be read. It’s pretty scary that we take all this advice about how hard the job is going to be and gear up to be ready and – poof! It turns into nothing. No productivity whatsoever. No timeline, no deadline.
What exactly has happened?
Whatever it is, it happens to every single one of us. It’s nothing new. The only way to get around it is to be stricter on yourself then that boss you worked so hard to get away from. You’ve got to set your goals, set your priorities, and set the schedule. From there, you’ll understand what you have to do every day and that the cat videos get relegated to evening time if you want to succeed.