While the business side of writing is not my forte, I have learned a few things that help. Most of my writing contracts have earned very little. I think my first check for writing was $10! I’m now at the stage where some of my contracts are in the $1000 range, but I haven’t yet sold a large work, like a book. So keep that in mind as you read the ideas below. They are designed for writers who are beginning to bring in a little income, but not a full-time salary.
- 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.