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CaroGirl
08-03-2012, 09:30 PM
I'd like to hear from anyone who has taken the risk of quitting a day job to write full time. How did you finally decide to do it? What sacrifices (if any) did you have to make?

If you've done it, please tell me about your journey. If you're thinking about doing it, let's talk pros and cons.

Thanks!

Phaeal
08-03-2012, 09:43 PM
I thought about doing it for about five minutes, but I like my family health insurance and pension and retirement fund contributions too much.

And even with a huge advance, I'm not sure I'd quit. Being out in the world every day keeps me in touch with my peeps. ;)

James D. Macdonald
08-03-2012, 10:08 PM
I made the jump when I had contracts in hand for the coming year that were worth twice what I was making in a year, and I had to choose between working and writing, because there weren't enough hours in the day to do both.

Words of advice: Before you jump, have enough money in the bank to live for two years even with no income at all. Before you jump, pay all your credit cards down to zero, cut them up, and cancel the accounts. Be ready for the "don't get sick" health plan, because health insurance is just too expensive to buy if you're making common writers' income.

CaroGirl
08-03-2012, 10:25 PM
Thanks for the responses so far.

A bit about me:

I'm in Canada, so I don't have to worry about health coverage. My husband has a good job but the loss of my income would seriously impact our lifestyle. I have two teen children who do various activities (one is a competitive downhill skier) and who, I hope, will go to college. We have savings and no credit debt, although we have a mortgage.

I don't enjoy my job. I'm good at it (have been doing it for more than a dozen years) and I like my colleagues, but it's deadline-driven, which is stressful, and in an area that holds no interest or passion for me.

I'd like to be prepared for the reality and have a contingency plan, should I decide to leave my job.

victoriastrauss
08-03-2012, 10:29 PM
I made the jump in 1998, after I signed a two-book deal for my Stone duology. It was at that point that I made up my mind to pursue writing as a serious career--as opposed to writing half-time and working half-time and not being able to make up my mind to fully commit to either.

Words of advice: Before you jump, have enough money in the bank to live for two years even with no income at all. Before you jump, pay all your credit cards down to zero, cut them up, and cancel the accounts. Be ready for the "don't get sick" health plan, because health insurance is just too expensive to buy if you're making common writers' income.

I'm extremely lucky in that my husband was willing to fill the gaps that frequently occur in the highly irregular income of a writer, especially a painfully slow writer like myself (I simply can't manage a book a year, or, for bigger books, even a book every two years). Without his willingness to be the main financial support, my career wouldn't be feasible--because of my non-prolificness, I don't make enough from my writing to even approach a living wage. Just as important is his moral support--he is totally behind me, and has never once commented or complained about the fact that we have a lower standard of living because I don't have a conventional day job. A few years ago, when it seemed possible that I might never sell another book (fortunately, that turned out not to be true), he never once suggested that I chuck the writing thing and go out and get a real career. He is amazing.

Of course, I also do 100% of the housekeeping. So it's not like he isn't getting some benefit out of the deal.

Before I made the decision to write full-time, we sat down and looked at our finances to make sure we could manage it. We decided on the sacrifices we were willing to make, and how we could arrange things so we could still manage to save. The fact that we don't have kids makes a huge difference--we don't have that expense--as does the fact that my husband has a solid career that provides health benefits for us both.

It was terrifying to take the plunge. And I haven't always been wise in my career decisions (hindsight is 20/20). But I've never regretted going full-time. And I don't miss the day job. Not one little bit.

- Victoria

Anninyn
08-03-2012, 11:38 PM
I gave up work to write.

Of course, I had a breakdown and was 'made redundant' instead of being fired, couldn't actually leave the house for six months and have a husband who earns enough to keep both of us.

I wouldn't suggest it unless you have enough money coming in from somewhere else to keep you if it doesn't work out.

Bear in mind, most writers don't earn a living wage.

MDSchafer
08-03-2012, 11:42 PM
All the full time authors I know either have spouses that work or promote themselves like mad. While I don't know for a fact, I suspect some writers I know make more money off producing their own workshops and working as writing coaches as they down their own book sales.

Years ago I interviewed Hollis Gillespie when Trailer Trashed came out and she had just quit her job as a flight attendant a few months before. It didn't make the story because it didn't relate to what I was writing about but it what she said was part of an on-the record interview and I don't think she'd mind me mentioning this.

Hollis is a single mom and she said in order to quit she had to make sure that she had enough money saved up to see her through a couple of years, and had several other revenue streams set up. She owned a few houses and said made sure she was living in the smallest house and was working to pay off the mortgages on the others she was renting, was doing her "Shocking Real Life Writing Academy" workshops and Laura Dern had optioned her first books/life for an HBO series, that series is now going to be "Enlightened," which appears to not be based on Hollis' life sadly.

Anyway, she waited until she had reached that level of success and had a non-creative income stream before quitting her day job. It's also worth pointing out Hollis hasn't published a book since Trailer Trashed came out, and that was three or four years ago.

For what its worth after years of trying to make a living as a full time writer I'm going to nursing school because even if I sell a novel, and even if it's a hit, the money from publishing isn't what it used to be and it could be getting worse before it gets better. My advice is if you like your day job plan on keeping it. If you don't like your day job find something else, because the odds of being able to support yourself, or a family, as a writer isn't very likely anymore.

Jamesaritchie
08-04-2012, 08:07 PM
I made the jump as soon as I received the check for my first short story. That story sold for slightly more than my day job paid in a month, so I said what the heck.

But I knew I could walk down the street and be offered ten jobs just like the one I quit before I hit the edge of town, so I really wasn't taking much of a chance.

Jamesaritchie
08-04-2012, 08:35 PM
I thought about doing it for about five minutes, but I like my family health insurance and pension and retirement fund contributions too much.

And even with a huge advance, I'm not sure I'd quit. Being out in the world every day keeps me in touch with my peeps. ;)

Full time writers like all these things, as well, and generally have better health coverage and retirement money than most nine to fivers. Though darned few writers ever retire, no matter how much money they have.

As for getting out in the world, I hear it this often, but I have no idea where people get the idea that full-time writers don't get out in the world. They sure don't get it from writers. Writing is isolating only if you want it to be, and while some do want and like isolation, most of us do not. We usually get out much more than nine to fivers, and better, we get out to different places each time. Most nine to fivers go to the same place day after day, week after week, and month after month.

For me, twenty-five hours per week is full-time, and I can put in those hours just as easily whether visiting family in South Carolina, sitting in a houseboat on the Ohio, or working in my office at home.

It does depend on what your nine to five job is, and on whether you actually can make a living as a writer, but nearly all the full-time writers I know are better off in every area than the great majority of nine to fivers.

shaldna
08-04-2012, 10:26 PM
I wrote full time for a while - mostly research and academic stuff.

It was stressful, and there was always the worry that I might not make next months rent.

I was sort of plunged into it with no idea, but if I could go back I would make sure that I had savings, a full larder and enough money to fill my car and pay my rent for at least three months regardless of the amount of cash in my hand.

I found, as many self employed people do, that I worried a lot more, I planned a lot more, I sure as hell never let food go to waste and I had to give up on a lot of luxuries, not because I couldn't afford them, but because I wasn't sure that, if I spent the money now, I wouldn't need it later.



I made the jump as soon as I received the check for my first short story. That story sold for slightly more than my day job paid in a month, so I said what the heck.

But I knew I could walk down the street and be offered ten jobs just like the one I quit before I hit the edge of town, so I really wasn't taking much of a chance.

With all due respect James, times have changed considerably and for folks now this just is't the case anymore.

For instance, in the UK and Ireland there are over 90 applicants for every graduate job. For unskilled work you are looking at 1000 applicants for each post.

I know people with law degrees, good law degrees, who are working in retail for minimum wage because they can't get another job. My sister in law's sister works behind a make up counter in Boots because her MA in genetics wasn't landing her a job in her chosen field.

The times of an educated, qualified person being guaranteed to get a job are over, and I'd be even more hesitant to advise anyone to let their day job go regardless of how big an advance they just got.

kaitie
08-05-2012, 04:25 AM
I can't imagine being able to afford quality health care better than what's available through a company, much less being able to put away as much for retirement and so on as you would get with a company matching your investments. Maybe once upon a time, but I've gone through insurance plans and premiums even for the bad ones are sky high.

I could see it working if you were one of the lucky few to make a large amount of money on books (and not just one, but many), but I think for the average writing it would be difficult to make enough to be as comfortable in all these regards as someone who has a well-paying job with benefits.

Caro, have you considered looking in to part-time work, or perhaps changing careers altogether? Writing full-time would be awesome, but I'd be tempted to go back to school or look into another field before jumping straight in. That way if you hit a snag with a book that won't sell or poor sales or something of that nature in the future, you have a backup plan that you won't hate.

Unimportant
08-05-2012, 05:11 AM
I'd like to hear from anyone who has taken the risk of quitting a day job to write full time. How did you finally decide to do it? What sacrifices (if any) did you have to make?

If you've done it, please tell me about your journey. If you're thinking about doing it, let's talk pros and cons.

Thanks!
It does seem to come down to 99% $-reasons. But, of course, individual circumstances do vary a lot.

I have one friend who writes full-time, and his partner has also stopped working. However, to survive on his writing income, they had to dramatically change their lifestyle. They moved to a very remote, isolated area where the cost of living is extremely low and they can pretty much subsistance-live off the land and sea -- but, obviously, this entailed giving up a lot of stuff.

My partner and I moved from the US to New Zealand, in part because of the national health care system. If one or both of us decided to write full-time and not have paid employment, our access to (and cost of) health care would not change at all. (We also looked into moving to Canada and South Africa, but NZ was always our top choice. Ten years on, we have zero regrets.)

For some people, the lack of a guaranteed, regular paycheque can be very difficult to deal with, so not having a steady part- or full-time job will drive them more nuts than not having sufficient time to write. (I'm one of those people.)

dangerousbill
08-05-2012, 07:49 AM
I'd like to hear from anyone who has taken the risk of quitting a day job to write full time. How did you finally decide to do it? What sacrifices (if any) did you have to make?


I did it, in a way. I retired.

It didn't help. When I was working, I met people and encountered situations every day that filled up my store of inspiration. When I wasn't working, I lost my major channel for staying current with the outside world.

Also, when I was working, my time was structured. No one argued with me when I had to go to work. I didn't hear, "Don't go to work. Go to the store and get a gallon of milk instead."

Now that my time is no longer structured, my relatives and friends think I'm just sitting on my ass and available to handle every real and imagined emergency at a moment's notice. Being a typical procrastinating writer, I'm a sucker for excuses to rush to everyone's aid. Then the end of the week comes, and I've written about 300 words.

shaldna
08-05-2012, 09:20 AM
If I remember correctly Holly Lisle wrote a good article about this topic - she was a nurse and gave up her job to write full time, but she said it was really hard to do, makes for interesting reading:

http://hollylisle.com/how-quit-day-job-write-full-time/

She goes on to talk about handling money etc, which gives food for thought.

One thing that a lot of self-employed (which is what a writer is) folk don't think about are pensions and National insurance contributiions.

No one really wants to live on a State Pension alone, but you'd be surprised at how few people have a private pension - there are many available, most banks can provide one, private companies and I think even the post office does one. They don't cost a lot, with some starting at just 50 a month. But it all adds up, and bear in mind that any private pension you set up is in ADDITION to your state pension.

Also, another point - if you have ever worked for a company which provided a pension scheme as standard - such as any of the armed forces, civil service etc, then, even if you have left, keep them updated with your details, changes of address etc because you will still be able to claim that pension - depending on your circumstances and how long/how much you paid in, this might not be the full amount, but it all adds up.

jjdebenedictis
08-05-2012, 10:36 AM
I read on an agent's blog once that you shouldn't give up your day job until you've got a backlist of five or six published books that continue to sell well enough for you to live on the royalties.

So, basically, they were saying you shouldn't give up your day job for a rather long time.

lorna_w
08-05-2012, 03:28 PM
Various writer friends of mine have waited a long, long time to do it. One fellow has 30 novels out (one a year), and just quit his day job, but more because he just qualified for getting to his own retirement funds here in the US (that's 59.5 years) than because he ever got out of the midlist or a short publication-to-remainder time. He is married and can stay on his wife's insurance until retirement coverage kicks in.

Others have depended upon a spouse. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn't at all. Power differences, resentment--they can become a problem.

Some have managed part-time jobs and never buying anything except food and thrift-store clothing and a replacement computer when it breaks. If it's a priority, we can learn to live without a lot of things. (Whether your kids can learn to do without, that's another matter.)