My dad and I used to get in an argument about whether or not I was a professional writer. I said I was because I commanded pro rates to do my work. His point was that when my work could support my family, then I was a professional.
The dream of many writers is to be able to live solely off income generated from their writing. As Nick Mamatas pointed out in Starve Better, this can be done by adjusting your lifestyle and taking on non-fiction gigs. Slapped in the face with that reality, what we really mean with our dream is that “we want to live solely off writing what we want in the comfort of the middle class lifestyle we enjoy.”
As I talk to other freelancers about living the life of a freelancer we have a certain amounts of income banked away until you get to That Time. You can define “That Time” different ways, but it’s all semantics for “when your spouse tells you it’s time to get a ‘real’ job.” And by “real” it isn’t that they don’t necessarily support what you’re doing, but they don’t want the constant anxiety of “where’s the next check coming because we got bills to pay.” They want steady income and little things like health benefits.
We crashed into That Time a few months back. Thus me doing substitute teaching and tutoring to make ends meet while I searched for a “real” job. The realities of making a go as a full-time freelancer involved and brief stint on food stamps and enrolling our kids in Medi-Caid (one of the biggest hurdles in the life of a freelancer is health insurance). One of the things that helped the freelance larder refill, and thus pushing back That Time, was expanding into freelance editing and ghost writing.
You do what you have to do in order to live the dream. Taking on non-fiction gigs where you can find them is little different than having a “day” job. It IS my day job. And it lets me give my creative muscle rest times as I switch between projects.