Becca and I love you guys. We want to see you break barriers, build careers, and enjoy success after writing success. Supporting you is what we’re about and what we do. We enjoy helping however possible, encouraging each of you to grow and be awesome as only you can.
To do this well, sometimes we have to nudge. Push a little, even. But our hearts are in the right place, because there’s no point candy coating the work it takes to be a successful writer. It will require every drop of strength and persistence you have to keep moving forward in the face of obstacles, rejection and doubt. You will have to grow thick skin, thicker than you ever thought possible. You will have to wear the hat of a learner, because you will never know it all or reach a point of ‘good enough’ when it comes to writing. There will always be more craft to absorb, more skills to hone, more marketing and business challenges to overcome, more work needed to expand your career, year after year.
So in our tough-love yet encouraging fashion, Becca and I are starting the year with a challenge for you: steer your own ship. Make a plan. Treat your writing like the business it is.
And this isn’t hot air, I promise–we live what we preach. Since organizing ourselves and adopting a yearly business plan in 2012, we have accelerated our careers. Not only have we built multiple businesses, published books in 5 languages, created a one-of-a-kind writing library and grown Writers Helping Writers into a learning hub with a loyal following, we teach and speak professionally as writing coaches. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen easily, but it happened.
And guess what? Neither one of us is special. We don’t have a magic 8-ball, or pet hamsters that shoot lasers out of their eyes while predicting the future. We’re just Angela and Becca, two writers who met in an online critique group.
What’s I’m saying is…if we can do this, you can too. So let’s get started. 🙂
Organize The Chaos
Most say writers write, but I think writers actually juggle. Yes, they do write, edit, and learn. But they also research the industry and their audience, build a brand, create a platform, handle marketing, promote, and run a business. And that, my friend, is juggling.
Trying to master all these aspects of a writing career is chaotic. There are countless books and articles to read on various subjects of writing, publishing and marketing, experts to heed, social media platforms to navigate, people to connect to and opportunities to take advantage of. And often what happens is the writer is pulled into so many directions at once, no real headway is made on bigger goals. Instead writing time is spent on a million mini tasks that seem valid at the time, but may not be.
In 2012, Becca and I found our time was being eaten by all the little things that come with running a larger site like Writers Helping Writers. Our days were spent neck deep in email, social networking, blog comments, and guest posting. And guess what wasn’t getting done? Writing. And well, that’s sort of the point, wouldn’t you say?
We knew we needed to organize ourselves and prioritize better. We wanted a way to measure each opportunity that came our way and make better decisions with our time. Luckily, my husband is a business management consultant, and he led us through the process of creating a business plan. The start was to assess where we were at, and define where we still needed to grow.
Ask Yourself The Tough Questions
In the business world, assessments are common. People are brought in to examine departments and processes, do risk assessments, and conduct 360° reviews on employees. A company needs to be efficient and functional to prosper, and a writer’s career is no different. So take a step back and look at where you are at. What areas did you focus on this past year, and what was your progress toward big goals? If you could do it all over, would you do it the same way, or organize your time differently?
Taking stock of where you are, and where you want to go is a great way to hone in on what to focus on in the coming year. If you can be honest about areas you are weaker in and what you must strengthen to position yourself better, you’ll save yourself heartache. For example, if your writing is really strong, you have a book you feel is marketable but you have no online presence whatsoever, spending more energy honing your craft isn’t the best use of your time. Instead, you might want to make getting yourself online, learning how to network and find ways to build relationships with your potential audience a primary focus. Yes, this might seem scary, but pushing out of your comfort zone will help you grow.
Likewise, if you are a Social Media queen but your writing skills are less-than-adequate, start boning up on your writing craft. Read, take classes and practice technique. A great platform will not sell a poorly written book.
Be a Planner, Not a Pantser
Lots of writers like to “pants” it. A little, a lot, maybe the whole book is written on the fly, a joy ride from start to finish. What will the main character do? Where will he go? How will the book end? Who knows—that’s all part of the fun.
And pantsing might work great…in fiction. But in business, pantsing will hurt you, or perhaps better said, will hurt your potential. Because while you’re flying along, researching weather patterns for a new story idea you have here, increasing your twitter following there, and flirting with a group promotion or two when invites roll in…you are missing the forest for the trees. Rather than take confident strides toward achieving specific goals to help you leap forward, you’re taking half-steps in too many directions and hardly getting anywhere.
Like Becca and I did, you might need some structure. A road map, a way to determine what areas are the most important to work on, what goals should be the focus, and the timeline needed for each. You won’t believe how well this will help keep you on track, and just how much more you’ll get done in a year.
I realize for many, the words, “business plan” probably sounds intimidating, but it really is so simple—7 steps will get you there. In fact, I wrote a post about the process at Jane Friedman’s blog, so please, check it out. Everything you need is there—the steps, a template, and even an example of one of our old business plans. (Take advantage of some free professional business consulting!)
You love what you do, and you work hard every day, I know it. You are capable of so much, so challenge yourself! Make this your year.
Happy writing and business-planning,