Professional writing – getting paid to write as your full time job – may not be your dream and your goal may fall somewhere between hobby and pro. Even if it’s only your side-business or hobby, if you wish to be taken seriously, you want to act and present yourself as a professional.
There’s lots of self-help tips for writers that advise setting aside dedicated writing time, keeping to a schedule, claiming a writing space in your house and other things in the realm of building good habits that will get you writing every day. No question those habits are important to build to keep you producing work.
On the other hand, none of those things talk about the business of being a writer. Because if your intent is to pursue writing as your dream, then remember, it’s also your business. That means, outside the creative aspect, the rest of it needs to be treated and approached the way you would a small business.
While it’s easy to forget as we spend hours immersed in producing content, as a writer, you’re also a small business owner. And from that perspective, there are things you should be doing to ensure you present yourself as a professional.
Invest in some business cards to have on hand when unexpected opportunities arise.
Business cards don’t need to be fancy or expensive. Though this may seem like something a writer doesn’t need, understand that they’ll help promote you.
And business cards are definitely lighter to carry around than copies of your books!
If you have your own design image created, you could take advantage of a service like Vista Print to print your own cards. They have good prices, have a mirror site for different countries so you can make purchases in your native currency, and they do a great job – I’ve used them several times myself.
If you need help with your design, ask your network who they’ve used to design their cards so you can see their artwork work before you buy. I use my production company partner Samantha Willison for my cards, book cover graphics and sometimes help with my website design (she did the book covers for Blood Runner and The Seer).
Register your name or pen name as a business.
Remember, your name is your brand, so it’s also your business. If it were any other small business, you would register it – being a freelance or career writer is no different.
Registering your name will help legitimise the business of your writing from an outside view. It’s an indication that you’re taking it seriously. Even when you’re just starting out.
If you use a pseudonym, registering your pen name will allow commissions to be issued in your writer name. This will help you separate commission income from other income you accrue over the year. As well, if you’re using a pen name, you can keep your real name under wraps during contest or other submission situations and royalty or contest prize winnings can be issued in your pen name.
At tax time, having the registered business provides you with the added freedom to claim expenses you’ve incurred for equipment purchases or other supplies for the business of your writing.
Use good writing habits to convey you’re a professional not just in your art.
Never allow anyone to see anything you write that’s less than perfect or conveys you’re an amateur. Putting your raw work up on websites does allow your audience a peek behind the curtain, but be selective with what you share.
Not everything you’ve just written is suitable to share with the world. Weigh the cost of allowing your following to see your mistakes against how this may undermine their view of you as a professional. Over-sharing can affect the perception that your work is worth spending money on.
Use good writing habits in your texts, emails and social media posts. Allowing bad writing habits to creep into other parts of your life can allow those bad habits to leak into your composition – don’t do it. Not to mention, bad writing skills displayed on social media can kill your credibility as a writer. Appear professional in everything you do.
Submit your work to contests – the added exposure is good promotion.
With the technology to publish now available to everyone, the ease of jumping directly to publishing has broken down the hurdles that writers would need to jump and sometimes never get over in the past. While you may choose to publish through Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo or any of the other online platforms, don’t forget, competition is a time-tested way to accrue clout. There are millions of people who self-publish now, but very few of them have bragging rights as winners of legitimate writing competitions – along with good reviews, this is something that drives sales. As something more you can use to promote yourself and your business of writing, don’t discount writing contests as an avenue of snagging some street cred.
Recognise the clout that even an honourable mention in a contest could give you. No matter you won’t get paid for this writing, having your work reviewed by professionals is a great way to get noticed in the greater writing community, as well. And anything that gets your name out there is worth your time.
Also realise that the continued pursuit of contests demonstrates a dedication to your craft. If you’ve been toiling away in anonymity, submitting to contests helps legitimise you even when you don’t yet have anything published. Since some of those contests come with opportunities for writing contracts and prize money that could allow you to spend less time in a traditional job and more time writing, they are very legitimate avenues to pursue.
Write guest posts for other writers’ blogs.
If you don’t yet have a large following, writing guest posts is a great way to get your name out there. Some bloggers have very large audiences that sometimes include influential readers or writers. If you put time and effort into your guest post and make a great presentation, that definitely can’t hurt your reputation. Increasing brand awareness when you’re starting out will directly affect the number of visitors (and potential buyers) who see your published work.
The number one reason for guest blogging is the legitimate traffic it drives to your own blog or website. This isn’t about the number of hits your site may receive after your guest post goes live. More important, it’s the quality of visitors who will visit you, who may stick around to read your other blog posts, and who then may purchase your books.
Posting on large or high quality blogs will also positively affect your search engine ranking. While you’ve (hopefully) already done extensive work on your website to improve SEO, guest posting on a high ranking blog will bring you an immediate benefit in the way search engines view your own site. And without you doing a lot more extra work on SEO.