Please welcome my fellow writer and GLVWG member, Ruth Heil, who kindly agreed to write a guest post for me today.
A Call for Order in 2011; You Can Do It! by Ruth Heil
Facebook posts, query letter follow up, workshops, emails, events, audience building, manuscript editing, contest submissions, collecting debts.... how is a writer supposed to keep it all straight? I thought writing was supposed to be a dream.
We are creative people. We don't track market data, crunch numbers, document plans, or make lists. Or do we? If you and I want to increase our writing profits, we simply have to. We must operate like professionals even when the required tasks do not complement our primary skill set.
There is hope.
These things can be learned.
And after they're learned, you'll see they're not so awful after all.
First you must make a commitment. Like any worthwhile endeavor, you have to WANT to learn how to operate a business. Each of us has a motivating factor that we can use to trick ourselves into wanting to do something that our nature otherwise despises? If it's money that motivates you, recognize the value in the task; if its time, understand what efficiencies can be gained; if it's confidence, focus on stress reduction.
For instance, on April 15, you are going to have file a tax return. Would you prefer to get the most deductions and keep more money? Would you like to get it done as fast as possible? Would you like a clean return with few audit flags? Your best chance lies not with the cleverness of a high-priced accountant, but in the completeness of the information YOU supply to him or her, and that depends on your day-to-day process.
Accounting software (such as Quicken® or QuickBooks®) is a powerful tool that records both expenses and income, in real time, and then organizes and spits out line-by-line details for the IRS. But if you don't build in a routine for entering data into the program, the result will be a hodgepodge of incomplete information that is virtually useless and inefficient.
Hiring an assistant might sound nice, but it's up to you to tell that assistant exactly what you want done. He or she is not going to be a magic fix. The routine must still be defined.
The point is, once you take the time to build an administrative process, you'll immediately begin saving money, time, and effort. In the tax return scenario, the rewards will be revealed during those dreaded days leading up to April 15.
The fact is, stressing over administrative tasks causes us to expend far more bodily energy than the actual doing of the task. After you invest a little time and brainpower into learning what needs to be done, you soon see that staying organized is not all that difficult. You can hire someone to teach you, ask a successful writer for advice, or use online searches and software tutorials.
Every for-profit writer is burdened with unpleasant business functions. Is it more burdensome than a daily commute, corporate politics, and unforgiving time clock the average American has to deal with? Absolutely not. It's a small price to pay for the freedom of self-employment. You can chose to put them off, or you can chose to tackle them head on. Either way, they are eventually going to have to be done. A proactive approach places you in control whereas procrastination is more likely to control you.
Contact address books for recording prospective agents, other authors, sources, and fans.
Spreadsheets to track query letter submissions.
Task lists for both short- and long-term goals.
Logical filing structure for folders on the computer (or in a tangible file cabinet).
Procedural documentation and checklists so you don't have to remember every detail of every infrequent task.
A written business plan that forces you to identify your niche, your market, your core strengths and your goals.
Is any of this as fun as writing? Of course not. If it were, we'd be database managers, accountants, file clerks, or project managers.
So how do you start? Identify one goal. Then begin writing the story that is you achieving that goal. Research, outline, draft, edit, and polish. When you're done with that story, move on to the next.
Just as in writing, perfection is not necessary. And NEVER let anyone make you feel foolish because you had to ask. When someone reads your work, do you belittle him or her when they ask, "How'd you do that?" No. The ask is a compliment. Now go compliment an organized friend and ask for help.
Before you know it, you'll be back to the dream that is the writing life.
Are you ready for a successful 2011?
Ruth Heil is a freelance writer and former office management consultant. Learn more at www.thewritebeat.com or read her blog at http://thewritebeat.com/BacktoBasicsBlog/blog1.php