Episode 48 :
In this show I discuss a decision every writer will need to face at some point. Are you writing just for pleasure or are you writing to make money as part of a business. Even though I have a business (Stoneham Press Ltd), which I originally created for my writing efforts, that part of the business is the part I’ve most neglected. I don’t really have a business mindset for my writing, unlike for example, this podcast.
There are advantages and disadvantages for each mindset. You might hear a lot of people advise that you need to treat self-publishing like a business, but really you don’t need to, at least to begin with.
The Hobbyist Writing Mindset
- Spend as little as possible on every cost. Barter, economise and spend your own time learning how to format, self-edit and create covers. While quality will suffer, there is a lot to be said for this approach as the financial risk plummets.
- Do everything yourself, if possible.
- Use free tools rather than pay for better more expensive tools.
- Don’t create a company, run everything through your own bank account.
- Generally ignore the opportunity for paid advertising.
- Concentrate much more on the writing skill than marketing and other business skills.
- Assumes income is coming in from another source, at least initially.
The Business Writing Mindset
- Spend money like an investment. If the money you spend will bring in more money than spend it.
- Make use of virtual assistants and paid help so you can focus on what you are good at..(writing -hopefully!).
- Set up a company with its own bank account.
- Pay for any tools you might need (Scrivener etc)
- Make use of many paid marketing and advertising opportunities if they create a return.
- Concentrate as much or more on business training than writing skills.
- Assumes income is going to come in from the business, at least in the medium term.
- Takes a bet on success. Much more costly if you fail.
Pros of a Hobby
The main advantage of the hobbyist mindset is that the cost of failure is so much less. Setting up a business is not cheap, and neither is the cost of keeping one going. The prime disadvantage of the hobbyist mindset is that it limits your chances of success. It is very easy to end up in a “write-another-book-and-I’ll be successful” attitude, rather than analysing why your current books aren’t selling.
Pros of a Business
The main advantage of a business mindset is that if you are successful you are in a much better position to scale up your efforts, hiring in help so that you can focus on what you are good at. From a tax and income perspective businesses will provide you with a much better deal, as many costs can be written off against your profits. The big issue is making those profits in the first place. This is the main disadvantage of the business mindset: it is much more of a financial commitment as you are betting on success.
Personally I still haven’t fully moved myself to the business mindset, at least in terms of my books, I know I should do as I paying the cost of running a business without the revenue to pay for it. But I know I have to go all in, as really there is nothing worse than being between the two mindsets. It is easy to criticise hobbyists as being unprofessional, but in my opinion it is a perfectly good choice to make. Similarly it is easy to underplay the risks of taking a full-on business attitude to self-publishing, especially if you don’t have another source of income to rely on.