Chip MacGregor worked as an author, editor and publisher before starting his literary agency. In answering a question at his blog, he provides down-to-earth advice on the basics of setting up an office, organisation system and career as a writer.
Photo by Bright Meadow.
Chantrelle asked, “How do you officially set up your writing business? What are the benefits to treating your writing business as a ‘real job’ by setting it up in a professional manner? And what have you done to make that happen?”
Let me offer a handful of thoughts for you…
1. Find a place. Make this your “writing” place and designate it as your office.
2. Make that your official “home office”, then read up on what the ATO will allow you as a tax deduction.
3. Establish a writing time. For most authors, that’s simply “morning”. Protect a time each day when you can do some actual “writing” and not just checking email, answering letters, meeting people for coffee, etc. When I started, I set aside 6 to 8 every morning. (I had young kids. Later wouldn’t have worked. I hate mornings.) Tom Wolfe starts writing at 9 and stops at noon. Find a time that works, in which you’ll just WRITE.
4. Create a filing system. (“Alphabetical by title or author” works well. Don’t rely on the “Eureka!” system.)
5. Set up a bank account that is just for your business. Sign up for PayPal.
6. Set up your address book. Keep emails and phone numbers handy… and if you want to move into the bold new world of 1996, invest in a phone or something that will keep those handy.
7. Create a calendar. Not just for your day, but for the big projects you’ve got. It’ll help you figure out what you’re writing when. It’ll also remind you that you’ve got to take Fiona to the orthodontist.
8. Group similar activities. Do all your mail at one time. Group your phone calls back to back so you get through them all. Ditto email, if that were possible. Things that are “occasional but regular” should be scheduled — for example, I look at submissions every Friday morning.
9. Create a budget. How much do you expect to make this year? How much do you expect to spend? (Having more of the former makes for a better business, by the way.)
10. Create a to-do list. Every day. Work through it. On Friday (or every other Friday) start at the bottom and work up — that’ll prevent you from never doing the one task you hate.
11. Create a contact list. Capture names and email addresses.
12. Invest in a separate business phone line or business mobile phone.
13. Invest in a website and business cards.
14. Make sure you’ve got quality high-speed internet. (Duh.)
15. Invest in the help you need – training or people or space or tools.
16. Invest in a great computer and the software you’ll need.
17. Invest in a good printer, preferably with a scanner.
18. Invest in yourself — take a class, attend a conference, join a support group, get therapy, whatever it is you need to grow. Buy a good dictionary and thesaurus.
19. Learn to keep good records. If you need a class on it, take one. (There are even personal organisation trainers who will help you get organised. Talk to someone like Tiffany Colter about that.)
20. Learn about taxes — expenses, etc.
And the BEST advice? Write regularly. If you don’t do that, you won’t make a living at this.
Setting Up Your Writing Business [Chip MacGregor Blog]