Managing a writing career is tough. It’s even tougher when you’re worried about money and how you’ll pay bills every month. Not everyone who begins a writing project or business will have the financial wherewithal to support themselves – at least not at first. Most writers, including yours truly, have had to find ways to support themselves while keeping alive their creative passion.
Below are 10 possible avenues that you can pursue to fund your writing career or a specific project. Granted, it might mean less free time to work on your masterpiece, but it will also give you some peace of mind, knowing that you can make ends meet.
- Personal savings. If you’ve been in the work force awhile, or were lucky enough to have had a previous career that offered a savings plan, such as a 401K, those funds can act as a cushion for when you’re transitioning to your writing lifestyle. Experts suggest having at least six months of savings in case of emergencies, and with the current economic climate, I’d recommend more than that. Things always cost more than you think. Be sure to budget yourself and refrain from overspending on non-essential items. That will stretch out your savings even further.
- Part-time jobs. There is such a thing as scaling back on your schedule to allow more time to do what you love. As with your personal savings, budgeting will be key to success because you won’t have as much of an income to live off of. But at least a part-time gig will give you some cash flow to cover basic expenses while freeing up valuable time in your schedule for writing.
- Freelance and contract gigs. Most writers I know choose this option because it gives them the freedom to set their own schedule. On the other hand, you may spend more time marketing yourself and searching for well-paying assignments than actually working on your own writing projects. Many clients don’t pay enough to cover your basic expenses, so you have to pile on lots of small assignments for any reasonable income, which can cut into your personal writing projects. You’re better off with three or four steady gigs that pay well rather than 10 or 12 that pay pennies.
- Temporary assignments. Temping can provide some stability and a somewhat steady income whenever you need it. But the days when temp agencies automatically offered assignments is long gone. These days you need to apply for assignments as if they were regular full-time jobs, which means you may be competing for work against other candidates. On the positive side, you can choose to work a few days at a time or longer assignments that last more than a year. You can opt for part-time or full-time assignments too. Even with its somewhat inconsistent nature, temp work can provide financial support when you need it.
- Internships. If you’re starting out with little or no experience, internships can help you gain valuable real-world experience that looks good on your resume and helps you build a portfolio of samples that you can show to future clients and employers. Some internships pay, others do not. But you gain in real-world experience while on the job. Find internships on job sites like Indeed or Internships.com.
- Grants and fellowships. If you don’t mind working for the experience and earning living expenses while you do so, then grants and fellowships may be right for you. Grants are an outlay of cash that doesn’t have to be paid back. They may require a certain expertise or writing focus such as writing about social justice issues or being of Native American descent. Read the grant application requirements carefully.
Fellowships are usually offered through a university and allow you to earn money while you contribute in some way to the writing department. You may be required to teach classes, manage the writing lab and attend workshops in exchange for a stipend. Fellowships give you a chance to work on a specific project and get feedback on your work from fellow students in the program and instructors. Some fellowships can be done at a distance while others require in-person sessions. Study the application carefully to make sure you understand the requirements. To find grants and fellowships near you and to learn more about them, check out Profellow.com.
- Home equity. Tapping into your home’s equity can be a practical choice, especially if you’ve lived in your home long enough to earn significant amount of equity. If you’re uncomfortable tapping in your home’s equity, author and artist Cassandra Gaisford suggests another option. Instead, ask the bank for a mortgage holiday of two or three months. Then use the savings to finance a business startup or live off of it while you focus on your writing project.
- Crowdfunding. If you have a specific project you’re working on, try setting up a crowd funding page on one of the crowdfunding platforms. Some have categories for publishing and other creative projects. Crowdfunding can help you test your book idea with potential readers and gain financial support from them if they like your idea, especially if you plan to self-publish. Check out Indiegogo, Kickstarter and Unbound.
- Sponsorships. Is there a local business you support that could help you in return? Perhaps a coffee house you frequent where you’ve been drafting your novel? Or some other place that knows of your efforts to get published? Ask them to sponsor your work-in-progress. Even a small amount of cash can help you defray publishing expenses. In return, off something that can help them, such as offering a free banner ad for their business on your website or plug their business via social media.
- Seek investors. Don’t be shy about asking friends and family members for their financial support, which can help you get the project or business off the ground. Just be sure to put all expectations and financial requirements in writing so all parties know what’s at stake. Be clear about what your needs are and whether and when you’ll be able to pay them back.
Starting a writing project can be both exciting and daunting. There’s no cost to you to begin your writing project, just a steady supply of paper and pens will suffice. But when you’re ready to publish the manuscript, produce a play or design a website, that’s when costs can become apparent. Still, if you plan your time well and stick to a budget, you can make your writing dream a reality.