Okay, so I’ve been unemployed for nine months now and have been using my sudden copious free time to do as much writing as I can. I have even flirted with freelance projects, tempted by the idea of becoming a full time freelance writer. Oh, it’s a tantalizing prospect, as I’d be really living the dream. Unfortunately, little things like life cause me to hesitate from making that final leap. My wife likes little things in life, like security, benefits, health insurance all things I have to weigh carefully as I move forward.
So I’ve been talking to a lot of freelancers trying to gauge the reality of life as a freelancer. And to be perfectly straight, the only safety net I’m operating with is the last of our savings. Which was the first thing I was told: know The Date. That’s the date at which not enough money comes in to cover bills (trust me, Significant Others will clue you in on the date if you try to remain blissfully ignorant). For example, I figure I have a six month window, barring unforeseen circumstances, to get a real job or string together enough clients/work to continue freelancing.
After that, it’s about chasing down jobs. Research, research, research. Obviously, short of novels, I can’t make a living just doing fiction work. So then I have to do other sorts of writing from articles to ghost writing. Which means I also worry about how much of a drain the non-fiction/freelance stuff is in terms of my other primary/fiction writing.
I’ve looked into the gaming industry and if it works like most other publishing, I’ll be chasing my money. Even working for large publishers that will continue to support their products, payment can either be delayed or … optional. Royalty checks have a way of running late. Gaming companies, like publishing companies, are often run by well-meaning folks who love the industry … but don’t know much about business/money.
Which brings me to the idea of valuing how much I’m worth. It was a watershed moment, a writer’s emancipation proclamation I called it, deciding that my words were worth professional rates and that I shouldn’t settle for less in the name of “exposure.” That being said, if I want to make money, it would happen on the non-fiction side of things and I have to measure if that’s something I want to do.
Work-for-hire stuff is also problematic because I don’t get to retain any of the intellectual assets. I don’t own what I write. I might want to consider tie-in fiction to supplement my income and help boost interest in your original stuff. Video game freelancing is certainly on the higher pay grade of the gaming landscape.
It’s a lot of stuff to consider and certainly one of those things where the “idea” of it sounds great but I don’t know if it’s the “life” I want. It’s easy to fall into the trap of needing to pay bills and losing control over the kind of career you want to have (similar to the desperation to see ones name in print leading one to make bad publishing decisions). As a friend told me “a savvy writer needs to understand the difference between what they want vs. what they need to do.” So it boils down to figuring out how much I need to make, how much time it consumes, and how much of a creative drain it is. And while I’m calculating all of that, I will keep writing. At least until The Date arrives.