Friday, February 3, 2012

Someday never comes: Gearing up for the launch of my own business

This is one of those weeks when I wish I could go back over my time sheets and change "VACATION" to "SICK DAYS".  I want a do-over on this vacation.

Anyhow, despite the F4 migraine over the last three days, I did manage to get some things accomplished.  Writing wasn't one of them, unfortunately - not on any kind of a novel, at least.  Interviews - also neglected, though I intend on fixing that in an hour or so.

But:  I did write my first flash fiction (a story under 600 words), I've slept about 50 hours in the last 4 days, I won an eBook (from Ed Kurtz, horror writer), I'm attempting to volunteer at the YMCA / YWCA for literacy programs, I've edited something for the Crime Writers of Canada, I did a story consultation with Mike, and I've started setting up my own business.

Yes indeedy:  my own business.  My own workshop, my own livelihood, my own hours and office...

...No one responsible for my success or failure but me, no internal office politics... and unusual bills, complicated taxes, screwy retirement contribution policies, uncertain future, uncertain and unsteady incomes...

...long periods without any income at all...Feast and famine workloads...

...supplementary health and dental insurance that I have to pay out of pocket...

And that's why I won't be quitting my day job any time soon.  Before I make the jump, there are certain milestones to achieve first, including "find and advertise niche, collect $x in savings, gain x number of regularly paying contacts, spend x time in the business, collect x number of recommendations," etc.

But, once it's all legal, I'll be actively working my way toward full-time self-employment.  And I think I'm making some good strides already, including work on a business plan (really rough draft), researching the market, scouting prospective clients, and securing business cards.  I should have the cards in about two weeks or so.

Grand plans?  I have none beyond "don't starve and don't let the power go out."

So why bother?  Two reasons:  one is rational, and the other, not so much.

From a pragmatic position, it comes down to "I want to be a full-time writer and I want to keep eating." 

Let's say I manage to land a book contract and/or self-publish.  Chances are slim that I'm going to be able to earn enough from royalties and advances to uphold the standard of living to which I have become accustomed.  Additional money has to come from somewhere, meaning:  day job. 

My existing day job has a structured schedule and lots of perks - like a steady and predictable income, for example.  But, if I'm asked to do a book-signing on a Tuesday afternoon at a library in Montreal, I have to move around my existing work and my vacations around.  Heaven help me if I'm invited off island.  My schedule revolves around the quota of hours, the workload and when it's due.

Fortunately, my existing day job is quite flexible in terms of hours and location.  I can work virtually from anywhere in Canada.  If my passport was up to date, I'm sure I could work anywhere in the world, so long as I have access to the internet.  But what is less flexible is the amount of work, when it's due, and what meetings I need to attend.

So what's the problem?  Fulfillment.  I don't have that sense of fulfillment I once had, and it's not because of the work itself.  It's because every morning, when I log in and start updating my databases, or building new ones, or sending off my routine reports, it feels like I've betrayed myself.

And worse, I've been finding more and more that writing is distracting me during the day - the harder I try to focus on building a database, the more I think up awesome modus operandi for murder.  That can not be a good thing.

I work hard, I deliver accurate and easy-to-read reports on time every time, but I have to confess, my heart's not in it, and lately, my brain isn't either.  I've been spending more and more time going over the reports making sure they're accurate, because I don't know when a wild car chase in my head has distracted me from a critical decimal point.  That's not an efficient way to work.

And then, when I do sit down to write, all I can think about is queries, layouts, internal politics and the seeming futility of it all.

My two worlds have become mutually invasive.

I'm not doing what I set out to do.  In fact, in recent years, I feel like I've been getting farther and farther away from where I wanted to be, and that I've been settling for the easy way out.  I could quite easily work for the next thirty years at this company, have evenings and weekends off, take the odd vacation, and retire to a life of easy living.

And I would hate myself for it.  That's the irrational reason for starting up my own business.

Writing is in my blood.  It's what I do.  It's all I want to do.  Achieving a particular goal - writing as livelihood - is what I've been striving for since I was seven years old.  I can't turn my back on it without betraying who I am.

But I also like to eat, I like to go out for coffee, and I absolutely adore the fact that when it's been snowing and freezing rain for eight solid days, I can go downstairs and drive my car out without chipping, shoveling or swearing.  I also know that an optimistic advance will provide me enough for bookmarks, a website and maybe a week's vacation in Cuba.  Not enough to live by, not for a sustained period of time.

So, I want to set up a business that's "writing-like".  Editing, proofreading, ghostwriting - things I'm already good at.  Things I'm already doing for free.

And, I would much rather have an established sideline business to fall back on, rather than trying to establish a business at the same time as building up my reputation as a writer. 

Yes, for the first little while it's going to hurt, working full-time and running a business and writing and and and...but in the long-run, it'll be worth it.  I don't expect a flood of contracts the minute I open the door; I don't expect a flood of contracts even after the first 5 or 10 successful projects.

But it's the experience I'm looking forward to, as much as the cash:  editing, proofreading and ghostwriting.  I know, that sounds about as fun as building databases, but it's something I'm good at.  It's something I enjoy.  It allows me to read more, it allows me to see more of the market, and it teaches me how to be a good self-employed professional - in the event that I can write fiction full-time.

And I know the old adage: the grass is always greener on the other side.  But you know what?  I'd like to have my own lawn and make it green.  It's been a twenty-year dream of mine to own and operate my own business.  I almost had one going for a while there, too, but I was lousy at it, and I let too many other things get in my way.  I've grown up a lot in the last ten years, and I've learned a lot from people with entrepreneurial expertise (Mady, here's looking at you, kid).

I figure, if I try to set up my own business and if I fail, I might lose some money and maybe get discouraged.  Okay.  That's the risk.  And that's why I'm not quitting my day job.

But if I don't try, I'm going to regret it, because I would have assumed I couldn't do something I put my mind to, and because I didn't make an effort to try.  I would have let fear hold me back.

So, I want to try.

That leaves me too options:  start today, or start someday. 

And as Credence Clearwater Revival has told us over the years:  Someday never comes.


  1. Best part: coffee dates are now tax-deductible. Second best part: you called me "kid".
    Third best part: I have someone else to fob projects off on. ;)

    I'm rooting for you. But you already knew that.

  2. I'm totally in your corner. You need anything, let me know.