Saturday, October 30, 2010
When we run a business, there are many tasks to perform, jobs to be done, details to be considered. And that can be really difficult, because writing is supposed to be a creative process, flowers and butterflies, and all that stuff. While business is -- well, business. It involves boring things, like keeping track of expenses, filing papers in a logical way so you can find them again, deciding whether you can actually spend a month writing an article you know nothing about and you aren't getting paid for. Things like that, and more.
No flowers or butterflies in all of that, to be sure.
And yet it is part of the writing process.
Writing is a lot like driving a car. It's great to take the key -- your story idea -- stick it in the ignition -- develop your main character -- back it out of the driveway -- your opening paragraph -- and drive down the highway, with no goal in mind -- hey, wait a minute -- you have to have a plot, right?
The plot of your story -- where you are going to take the reader on this journey you're calling a book, or an article, or a devotion, or a poem -- needs to have a destination, and it needs to be worth the trip.
While writing is a worthwhile endeavor even if you never get paid for it, Jesus said we are to count the cost. And that's where the business part of writing takes over.
You might think it doesn't cost you anything to write. You just sit at your computer and type.
Wait a minute -- computer, desk, chair. Money.
Okay, so you already had all those things, never actually put out any money to start your business.
Consider your time. What else would you be doing if you didn't spend the time writing? Notice I said "spend"? There is a cost. And even if you don't quit your full time job, if you write in the evenings, if you get up early, you could be doing other things. Maybe not money-generating activities, but something else.
Writing is a business. It is serious business. And when you are called by God to write, it is profitable, even if you never get paid one penny for writing. Jeremiah 1:5 says God knew you before you were born, and He appointed you to be a spokesman to the world. That's God's business -- souls. And our business should be focused on God's business -- that's where the greatest profit will always be found.
As you write, as you try to find time to write, as you block out times on your calendar to write, when you get up early or stay up late to write, when you get one more rejection, when one more editor ignores your emails, when one more person raises their eyebrows when you tell them you are a writer, remember -- you and God are in business together.
And His business never fails, He always pays on time, He always pays well, and His retirement plan is out of this world!
Monday, October 25, 2010
More than once I’ve found myself wishing for a quiet day at home, and the longer I ignored my WIP, the crankier I got. But trying to grab an hour here and an hour there in between other commitments didn’t exactly produce fresh-squeezed creative juice.
I know many authors struggle with balancing the creative side of writing with the business side. I certainly don’t know all the tricks. But over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered a few ways to snatch some writing time even while marketing our new release. Here’s my list of helpful hints:
1. Fast food. The health nuts have given this convenience a bad name, but when you need to spend the afternoon writing—not planning a balanced meal—Pizza Hut is your friend. Besides, tomato sauce is a vegetable.
2. Wear your clothes more than once before washing. Admittedly, this is easier for me since I spend a lot of time sitting at my laptop, not getting dirty. It can be a challenge for young children who tend to spill three of their three meals a day on their clothes and for husbands who cycle on their lunch hour. But as long as you don’t have to actually be around your family, the Wear Twice method works just fine.
3. Just say no. Yes, we all know it’s hard to refuse that PTA member or Sunday School committee organizer. But I find if you scream, “No, no, no, no,” while looking around wildly as if expecting a monster, alien, or IRS agent to materialize behind your shoulder, people stop asking and start to avoid you in general.
4. Cultivate free-range dust bunnies. If you don’t have time to clean your house, why not consider raising free-range dust bunnies? I really think this market is going to take off. I mean, everybody loves the organic, free-range, hormone-free chicken they serve at KFC, right? Why not bunny?
5. Finally, if your family simply won’t go away, try ignoring them. I’m good at this, apparently. Below is a picture my son took of me working. I have no recollection of him snapping this photo.
Like I said, I’m no expert. I’m relatively new to this writing business thing. I’m sure other authors have developed their own strategies. And I have the feeling I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to time-saving methods. Next, I intend to explore the possibilities of espresso combined with No-Doze.
So, writers out there, how do you balance the business of writing with the creative side? Does anyone have any tips for me to add to my list?
Evangeline Denmark has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (available now) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (available 1-11-11) and also writes adult fiction. Her ability to take things seriously was severely impaired by an accident in college, despite this, or maybe because of it, she leads an almost normal life. You can find Evangeline online at www.breathenbreatheout.blogspot.com and www.dragonandturtle.com
Monday, October 18, 2010
A publishing house (whom you want to publish your book) is a business. They must make enough money to produce books, distribute them, and pay their employees as well as other expenses. It IS a business as well as a ministry. You can’t keep the ministry going if you don’t pay attention to the business side.
You must think of your writing as a business as well as a ministry. In this day and age, you can’t have one without the other. Writing doesn’t do any good as a ministry if you don’t take care of business.
A church must take care of business to keep their doors open. Mission organizations must take care of business to keep their doors open and help people. A missionary must raise money before they can go out on the mission field. And writers must take care of business to get published and get their message into the hands of needy readers.So take care of business.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
- Set up a separate bank account for your writing. I started with a business account, but soon found the extra fees weren't worth the amount I used in extra services. I switched to a personal account that was separate from our family account and was much happier. It meets all my needs with no extra fees. That may change someday, but for now it's the best choice.
- I use my debit card or checks from my personal writing account for all my writing purchases so they are easy to track.
- I write the purpose of each expenditure on my writing related receipts. I can deduct a percentage for meals eaten when I attend a writing meeting, but I can deduct the full amount for meals when attending a conference or seminar, so I'm careful to designate those kinds of details.
- Periodically I record my receipts in a central location where I write down all income and expenditures that are writing related. I've devised little codes to remind myself whether the expenditure was for a conference, a board meeting, supplies, etc. Smart people use spreadsheets for this kind of thing. Maybe one day I'll be that smart. Right now it's just a little sheet of paper in my desk. (Recorded receipts go into an envelop.) At tax time I work from my list and hang onto the receipts in case anything is questioned.
- With four children still at home my writing income disappears quickly. I decided from the beginning to tuck at least 10% away each time I'm paid to give back to the LORD. This tiny amount has become a huge blessing to me and perhaps the most fun part of having my own earnings. If I made $50 bucks on writing, at least $5 gets tucked away. It isn't much, but enough $5 tucked away and I have something worth sharing. Then I pray. The LORD shows me where that tithe is to go. There are few things as fun, especially when I'm feeling financially poor, than feeling that prompting inside and slipping some cash to the place it should go.
- I recently opened a savings account attached to my writing account. I put 10% into it each time I am paid. I didn't do this for a long time because my family's needs are so great, but a few months ago I felt led to pursue this. I only have a small amount in this account right now, but it's been fun watching it grow, sometimes only by $5-$10 a time. The whole chunk may end up going to one of the kids instead of being reinvested in my writing. That's the season I am in. But in the perfect world that account would grow to help cover a writer's conference or the cost of equipment break-downs.
- I find a tiny way to splurge when I get paid. It's not usually much--a Starbuck's coffee with a writer friend or a new shirt off the clearance rack for one of the kids, but being able to spend a little something the way I want helps me celebrate my work and motivates me to go after that next writing contract.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Most of us have the luxury of writing full time. But if you are taking your writing seriously, selling the occasional article or devotional, and/or are under contract/have published a book, then you'll need to consider various options.
When I first started publishing devotionals and articles, I didn't get paid enough for the IRS to care about that piddly income. But when I started proofreading for Barbour (ahem . . . ten years ago), my hubby encouraged me to find a name for my "business." I laughed. Right! So I came up with the name. Still, added to my income as a Christian school teacher, it was okay for a second income.
Then during the 2004-2005 school year, the Lord started nudging me toward resigning from my teaching position and going full-time, editing and writing. Totally freelance. Scary!! Then I really had to get serious about setting up a business.
The first thing I had to decide was what type of business would I be (for tax purposes) and were there options I might want to pursue later. With our daughter's help—she's a tax accountant—we decided that I would stay as I was—sole proprietorship, using my social security number as my Federal tax ID number. I went to the bank with that info and records of past years filing a Schedule C with our joint income tax form, and opened a business account. I also had to have this information for setting up our medical insurance as a Business of One group.
Then came the serious job of keeping up-to-date records of income and expenses, including mileage on the car every time I went out on writing/editing related business. For a couple of years, I kept separate files for income (invoices) and expenses (receipts). Kathy gave me a list of what I can legitimately claim, and I threw all those receipts into a folder. Which my husband then waded through each year when he filled out the Schedule C.
After a couple of years of that, he set up a few Xcel templates for me so I could keep track of things all year long. First, he set up an income template on which I record the date I finish a job, who the job was for, the specific project title, what I did (writing or editing or conference), and how much I was to receive. He has another column that keeps a running total of my income. Later I went in and added one more column—when I received payment—because of normal human error in losing an invoice or an editor forgetting to send my invoice to accounts payable.
He also set up a separate template for mileage, as that is figured differently on the business deductions.
Finally he set me up with an expense form. It has columns for the date the expense was incurred, the business name, product or service rendered, what category it will go under on the Schedule C, and the amount. Then when he does the taxes, he can do a simple sort (well, simple for him! LOL) and write the totals in the proper places. I hang onto the receipts just in case the IRS wants actual proof of my expenses. So far, that's not happened.
I'm willing to share these forms with anyone who is interested. They're not copyrighted, but they are flexible and you can work within the templates to set up something that works for you. Either leave a comment here with your e-mail address so I can send them to you, or e-mail me directly at marjorievawter at gmail dot com.