Friday, December 17, 2004

Business decisions

It's that time of year again. Time to review the previous year and time to plan for the coming one. Time to make decisions about financial goals, writing goals, personal goals. The part of the business most writers hate.

I can't say I hate this part. I'm an organized person, so I like feeling as if I'm getting this part of my life in order. I would say, however, there's a certain degree of fear involved in making business decisions. No one else in my family has ever done anything like this, and in fact, when I first started talking in 8th grade about writing for a living, almost everyone in my family told me it was close to impossible - for me, at least. (Thanks to my teachers, subversives they were, who kept stoking the fire.)

Freelancing was fun for the first two years, when my irregular paychecks paid for things like vacations, but once our son was born and my husband took a pay cut to teach in a different school, it became business, and I had to face my fears. And many of them came true, not the least of which was the major shakeup having a child caused. I was late on a lot of deadlines. Many articles didn't get published on time. Thus I didn't get paid when anticipated. I'm still not sure how we stayed out of debt.

Worse, the writing itself got tough. There was a major metropolitan police department's press office, which wouldn't return my calls (after I was promised by both the source and the vendor that the story had been approved) and so caused an article to fizzle. There was a renowned retired FBI agent who told me (not in so many words) that he felt talking to me was a waste of his time. There was the feeling of burnout starting to creep into every PR-type sentence I wrote about vendors' products. These are the things that make you question your calling. And I did. I prayed hard, and I was so close to applying for a job at the local supermarket. The thought of it broke my heart, but we needed the money.

The turnabout happened in the last few months. Little things, enough to convince me to stay in the business and not turn to stocking shelves:
  • One of my editors, responding to my request for an honest critique of my work, had nothing but good to say about it.
  • An editing job I took for a friend/fellow freelancer/fellow mother who'd just had a baby turned into a new writing opportunity.
  • My website received favorable reviews, and my blogs have gotten attention.
  • I finished the next-to-last draft of my novel.
  • The ends are finally meeting.
No big revelations, no thunderclaps from the sky or other BIG proclamations that I Must Remain a Writer. Just little things that added up. It was a business decision to listen to them. I'm just glad business agreed with my gut.

However, to ensure 2005 doesn't end up like 2004, I need to make even more business decisions.
  • Must write business plan. When freelancing was "fun" I had only the outline of one, because it was all I needed. Now I need it to be detailed. Marketing plan, competition analysis, financial statements, and all. Hard work, but doable.
  • Speaking of finances, it's not just about the business. It's also about my family. My son's college fund, for one. Our retirement plans, for another. My income is the one thing we'll be able to depend on to save for our future, be it vacations or sustenance. I don't make a lot, so careful planning as to where it will go is a must.
  • Focusing. My son is a full-on toddler and I will still need to balance his needs with mine - monetarily and emotionally. There are playgroups, and then there are interviews, and then there's my novel. I'm sure one or two will win out over the others on many days, but as the saying goes, if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
I'm sure there are more, but those are the major things. I love what I do, and I hope and pray I will never need to bag groceries to make ends meet. Here's looking at 2005. May we all prosper.


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