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When I was a young girl and dreamed of becoming an author, I imagined a life of intellectual and financial luxury. What else did a writer do but get paid six-figure advances to type brilliant words, take pensive walks on a private beach while editors waited with baited breath to publish their every sentence? Photographs of writers, the ones I grew up admiring, worked from deliciously dilapidated home offices surrounded by overflowing shelves of books, smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails at the Algonquin table. I believed creative writing was a way to make a living, and a good and financially rewarding one at that. (Spoiler alert: you probably need savings to quit your job, even with a brilliant business idea: Here are some of the best online savings accounts to put your money into right now.)
I’ve worked steadily as a journalist and a writer for 15+ years, but it was only recently that I’d gotten up the courage to propose a book and then land an agent and a publisher. The financial reality of writing a book didn’t puncture my dream of authorship, but it certainly shook me into reality. There would be no massive advance and I would have to write thousands of words on a lightning fast deadline. And I would do this while juggling freelance assignments and questioning my sanity for quitting my job to write a book about dominatrixes and their philosophies on personal power. In the end, I learned that managing your money while giving yourself the space and resources to create something unique requires discipline and organization, but it can be done. Here’s the financial advice that I wish I’d received before and after I’d written my first book.
Start saving ASAP
Quitting your job to pursue your dreams costs money, and it’s going to require savings. I paid for a relatively inexpensive (but sanity-saving) writing space where I could work in silence, I ate a lot of meals on the run, and took a lot of cabs. My advice to anyone looking to quit? Start saving money before you leave your job. (Here are some of the best online savings accounts to put your money into right now.)
Cut expenses where you can, even before you quit
Anything you can do to lower your bigger bills will make a difference in your stress levels. Before you quit is a great time to renegotiate your rent or refinance your mortgage to lower your monthly expenses since rates are rates under 3% now (find the best mortgage refinance rates in your area here.)
Think hard before you quit your job
But wait, you say! You quit your job. I did! But it was a risky move that I took because I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to write, research, and edit a book while managing a team of writers at a billion-dollar startup. I agonized over the pros and cons and then took the leap because, due to my tight deadline, I told myself that I’d make money on my book tour and I could always go back to work. (Plot twist: Pandemic).
That said, if you have a job that allows you the flexibility to write on your own time and you can do both without having a nervous breakdown, I’d recommend it. That biweekly direct deposit may be cold comfort when you wish you had the entire day to work but on the flipside, you won’t have to hustle for side gigs while you’re focusing on your book.
Track your expenses with budgeting software (I promise it will help a ton at tax time)
Keep tabs on all your spending, save your receipts or organize them using budgeting software (I used Intuit for the Self-Employed, which starts at $7.99 per month) for tax time. I found it incredibly helpful to see all my banking and credit card transactions in one place and then mark them as either business or personal expenses. And remember, you will need to budget for extras: I put money aside for book promotion–not every publisher will put money behind your book so you may have to front the cost of hiring PR, influencers, or whatever you’ll need to get noticed.
And before you whip out your credit card and begin charging everything, telling yourself that you’ll write it off for taxes, take a pause. While you’ll be lowering your taxable income, you’ll also have to pay off that debt on your own if you don’t, that interest will accrue every month, adding more stress to your already overworked brain.
Your book or project might not make you rich — but it can help your career
It’s entirely possible that your book or business will be a smashing success and you’ll make bank. But what’s more likely is that it will be a modest success with no earth shaking effect on your bank account. That said, writing a book or starting a business is a massive accomplishment and , it shows future employers and colleagues that you’re an expert in your field and can do something that requires extraordinary discipline, drive and imagination.
For my part, my book hasn’t made me rich but I’ve met and networked with dozens of incredible people, appeared on podcasts, panels, and received job offers. Most importantly, I’ve shown the world that I’m committed to writing . I didn’t get that six-figure advance but the adventures I had writing it and the opportunities that came after were and are priceless.
Also see: We could barely afford a babysitter. But we bought a $340,000 house in Savannah. Here’s how.