Most do freelance work as well, maybe editing, but they do more than one thing. Does that include me? Yes, I’m afraid it does. I’ve done a couple of dozen book deals in the past year but that wouldn’t sustain me full time as an agent. I have a book out and another on the way but that wouldn’t sustain me full time as a writer. I’ve written some short things and did a ghostwriting gig on a novel for a publisher but that wouldn’t sustain me full time as a freelancer. I’ve done workshops and programs somewhere every month but that wouldn’t sustain me full time as a speaker.
But together they work. Together I make a living full time in this business. I have writing friends that tell me they do these other forms of writing in order to pay for their novel writing habit. There’s a lot of truth to that.
So when can a writer quit the day job? Most forms of writing income is not dependable. By that I mean we don’t know when the next contract is coming up, they may involve differing payment schedules, and the money is often slow coming in. The smart writer has a pool of money to live on in the bank and pays all the bills and living expenses from it, a dependable flow. As money comes in it goes into the pool and hopefully keeps the level of the pool where it needs to be. How much of a pool? A very bare minimum of six months to a year.
Just like a swimming pool, if the level of the pool starts going down we better quit diving in, and if it gets too low we better figure out a way to fill it up even if it means a day job again. And if there’s nothing in the pool? Really, be serious now, would you dive into a pool that had nothing in it?