Ask Wendy: How Do I Plan For the Long Haul?

wendywotr.gifQ: What kind of planning benefits your writing career in the long haul?

A: Earlier in my career, my long-term planning was built around getting clips. Most of my planning now is based on time and finances.

With finances, once you’ve decided you want to write for a living, there’s more to it than just paying the bills. For the very long term, you’ll need to do all those things that sound like drudgery to most of us: set up a 401K, life insurance, disability insurance and a savings fund. There are some simple and inexpensive options out there – even for sole proprietors. I have them set up on automatic withdrawal so I don’t talk myself out of them as I write the check. It might sound odd, but knowing I have these things gives me confirmation that I’m a “real” writer. Heck, I have friends that work regular 9-to-5 jobs and don’t have a 401K! It’s also nice to know that I have a savings account for the day I finally sit down to write that novel. (Unlike nonfiction, with fiction you don’t get an advance to live off for just pitching an idea!)

As for the time aspect of planning, you’ve got to prepare yourself for things like a vacation or planned leave of absence. (This could even include time to recuperate after a surgery or taking care of a sick relative.) In my case, this most recently meant preparing for a maternity leave. I had to not only prepare financially, but also prepare my clients by finding a back-up editor and writers. I also wrote several columns in advance, changed my voice message so anyone calling knew I would be unresponsive for a while and emailed several media contacts to let them know whom to contact in my absence.

Even though these situations (vacation, leave of absence, etc.) might seem like short-term planning, they’re actually not. You’re solidifying your future by maintaining your clients even when you can’t work for them! Remember, a good portion of your work in the future will come from past clients in one way or another (referrals, references, editors who moved on to another magazine). Keeping them satisfied along the way is an investment in your long-term success!

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Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just four years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer, MSNBC.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful children, Gracie and Ben. Visit www.BurtCreations.com to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad.

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