Don’t Quit Your Day Job! Or Should You? The Realities Of Money and Writing /@StephanieKeyes
When I began my first novel, I had no intention of leaving my job. I loved Human Resources training. Not only did I enjoy helping people, but it was a role that couldn’t have suited me better. So, even as I worked on my first draft of The Star Child, I planned to continue working full-time, dedicating my weekends to writing and family.
So…I Might Have Changed My Mind
My discontent with trying to fit both working full-time and writing into my schedule kicked in after I had my second son–the one we affectionately refer to as Bam-Bam. With a generous maternity leave, I not only had time to spend with the new little guy, but also to self-publish The Star Child. It was a huge accomplishment–especially with a newborn. It also planted a seed:
What if I don’t go back to work?
It was a big decision. There were dozens of factors to take into account. My company had always been extremely generous–I’d be giving up a lot more than just a salary if I left. At this point, I only knew two things: I was done sidelining my writing and tired of leaving my family to travel all over the country.
With my husband’s support, I decided to turn in my resignation. Signing my first publishing contract with Inkspell Publishing, spurred me on–the suggested I demanded release schedule for the series, which I was determined to meet. I’d get to write full-time and stay home with my boys. What could go wrong?
The Truth Behind the Choice
It all sounded good on paper–or to be exact, my color-coded Excel spreadsheet. Once I’d left my job, though, it all hit me. After being a high-earner for years, I came face-to-face with life as someone without an income. Sure, my husband was still working, but I wasn’t making any money. I’d told everyone I’d freelance in whatever–graphic design, web design, whatever I needed. The truth, though, is that freelancing is tough work. Customers have strict demands. Freelancing rarely paid well, at least when I factored in all of the time. Plus, there was the culture shock.
I went from being able to buy whatever I wanted, to pinching pennies to buy coffee. With my job, the health insurance was so wonderful that I never saw a bill. With my husband’s insurance? I saw $4000 worth of bills in three months. Yeah, I wasn’t prepared for that.
By the time my first book launched in September of 2012, I went from having no credit cards, to $10k in credit card debt. Then my first royalty check came–well, at least I could afford to buy that coffee.
The good news was that I was still able to pay all of my bills. The bad? I couldn’t take my kids to the museum or on vacation or do anything at all. How could I possibly promote my upcoming book with no room to breathe financially? Forget trying to promote my work. I couldn’t afford to buy a copy of my book, let alone spend it on advertising.
The Proof Is In The Budget
Something had to give. So we took a good hard look at our finances–here’s where we landed. We:
- Looked at every bill. Where could we cut? We changed cable plans, cell phone plans, paid off our cars to eliminate car loans.
- Consolidated loans.
- Refinanced our house.
- Wrote down every recurring expense and tried to plan for them.
- Tracked expenses by category.
- Did our best to budget for expenses and put aside money for savings.
- Talked about every expense we had–in-depth.
- Started shopping smarter, buy food at stores like Aldi, devising stricter grocery lists. This even resulted in healthier eating.
After all this was said and done, I rebooted my expectations. No, I couldn’t live the way I used to, but I could live a better life, a richer one.
Now, I make hard choices about where and when I spend money. Book marketing is usually done on a quarterly basis and planned in a year in advance. I try to minimize surprises.And all those bills? Well, they’re still there, but we’re working on them.
Okay, maybe it’s not writing for a living J.K. Rowling-style, but I write every day, watch my kids grow up, kiss my husband goodnight each evening. The only time I spend on airplanes is on family vacations.
So, guess what? It didn’t work out the way I thought it would. But now, coming up on my third anniversary outside of the corporate world, I’m still more than okay. And most important? I’m still writing.