When you get that first book deal I can promise someone is going to ask when you’re going to quit your day job. It seems to be a symbol of success to be a full-time writer. And while certainly quitting the day job is the goal of 90% of all authors (some of you still like that job), success has nothing to do with whether or not your writing pays the bills.
It’s okay to keep your day job while building your career as a writer. In fact, I might go so far as to say I encourage it. Many, many writers and entrepreneurs have built extremely successful businesses while working a day job. It gives them a safety net and freedom that quitting might not allow.
I did it. When I started BookEnds, I didn’t have the luxury of going commission-only with no safety net. Heck, I didn’t even have investment money other than what it cost to build a website and buy a computer. I worked a day job (at a publishing company) while launching and building this business. And even when I quit my job I took on enough freelance to offset the income I was no longer receiving. Still a day job.
Want to know who else worked a day job while launching a business? Stephen King, T.S. Eliot, and almost every writer you have come to study and admire. Very few earned enough on those first books to fully fund their lives.
The Freedom to Create
Keeping your day job can allow for a freedom you never realized. Sure you think by quitting you’ll have more time to write, but will the pressure to write, to make money, hamper your creativity? Keeping my day job allowed me to build BookEnds at my pace. Sure I wanted to work BookEnds full time, but the day job gave me reason to work harder at BookEnds and meant I never had to worry about how to pay my bills. It gave me the freedom to take chances and build the business in the way I wanted, not out of panic or fear that I wouldn’t have the money I needed.
When you think about it, a lot of new agents and editors have a day job of sorts. Most start their careers as assistants, working for someone else while building a list. When they are ready to become full-time agents or editors the transition is seamless and quitting the day job or moving up feels almost easy.
Quitting your day job is the goal of many and I’d definitely keep the goal, but whether or not you quit your day job shouldn’t be a sign of success or failure, it should be looked at as a strategic part of your plan to achieve that success.