Author and freelance writer extraordinaire John Scalzi today offered some sage business advice to writers on his blog.
I recommend to all writers of a professional or semi-professional stripe that you have a look at it in full.
Some of my readers might well ask, “But do you follow the advice of the Great Scalzi yourself, Dave?”
Well, let’s see, shall we? I won’t reproduce his details, just his bullet points.
1. You’re a writer. Prepared to be broke.
Story of my life all through my 20s, and I am readying myself to return to that state. As a hedge, however, I have saved quite a bit of cash in an interest-bearing account….
2. Don’t quit your day job.
Up until now, I have followed this piece of advice. But I intend to defy it in the near future, for the sake of my sanity (save the jokes, not in the mood for it tonight). Keeping the day job has made good sense up until this point, but the corollary to rule #2 is….
3. Marry (or otherwise shack up with) someone sensible with money, who has a real job.
Well, I blew it on this one — at least at first. I married for love, you see. In the years since, however, I obeyed Rule #2 in order to put my lovely wife through graduate school, so that she could fulfill the “steady job” portion of Rule #3 (I’m the sensible money manager in the house).
4. Your income is half of what you think it is.
Don’t I know it. I live in NYC, so my income is actually 40 percent of what I think it is.
5. Pay off your credit cards NOW and then use them like cash later.
Did that in 1998, been doing it ever since. So I was way ahead on this one.
6. Don’t have the cash for it? You can’t have it.
This has also been one of my guiding principles for much of my adult life. Unsecured debt is the enemy. (Note that this does not apply to collateralized, equity-building debt, such as mortgages or car loans.)
7. When you do buy something, buy the best you can afford — and then run it into the ground.
Again, I’m in complete agreement with Scalzi. So why don’t I make anywhere near as much money as him? (Again, stifle yourselves, you clowns. You know who you are. Yeah, I’m talking to you.)
8. Unless you have a truly compelling reason to be there, get the hell out of New York/LA/San Francisco.
I’m trying, man, I’m trying. Unfortunately, after college, I literally could not afford to move out of the city. I had no savings, and there was no work in my field outside the city. Now I have some savings built up, but it looks as if Kara’s best job prospects for her clinical fellowship year might be here in NYC — which means another year in the big, expensive city.
Of course, Scalzi’s only measure of cost-of-living comparison between his home in Ohio and NYC are rent per square foot of property and retail prices. However, he fails to account for the fact that nearly 4 million New Yorkers are able to get by without owning cars — which means no car payment, no car insurance, no fuel costs, no maintenance costs, no parking costs, and no tolls. Renting also means no property taxes. Most renters also pay only gas and electric utilities, but not heating oil costs or water bills. We also don’t pay for trash removal or snow removal — luxuries that in “America” can cost quite a bit of money.
I’d be willing to bet that when one factors in all those costs of living in “America”, the net savings become far less than Scalzi boasts.
All the same, as soon as we can get the hell out of NYC and into mainland America, we’re going.
9. Know the entire writing market and place value on your own work.
Okay, I haven’t done this, and I should. Time to pick up Writer’s Market and start doing my homework.
10. Writing is a business. Act like it.
I do my best. I’m incorporated. I maintain separate business and personal accounts. I keep meticulous records. I keep a tax and business lawyer on retainer year-round. I pride myself on delivering exactly what I have promised, at exactly the time I have promised to do so. I try to do my work as cleanly and as completely as I can, so that the client (i.e., my editor and/or publisher) can publish my work with as little effort as possible.
Do I do any of these things well enough to one day compete at Scalzi’s level? We’ll see.