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From Hobby Writing to Profitable Business in 10 Steps
by Beth Fowler

Does the idea of turning your writing hobby into an income-generating business get you excited? Has your writing-related income reached a plateau and you're looking for ways to net more zeroes in front of the decimal point when you tally up your annual income? If you answered, "You bet!" then it's time to start running your writing as a business, not a hobby. The IRS http://www.irs.gov/ lists 10 factors to distinguish between a business and a hobby. Among those factors is this: "Whether you change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve profitability." Following these 10 steps can improve the profitability of your writing.

1. "People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan" holds true for small businesses, including writing. A plan is a roadmap to profitability. The success rate of businesses that do write business plans is roughly 80%. Writing a plan forces one to think of opportunities and obstacles, strategies and markets. Dig into How to Really Create a Successful Business Plan by David E. Gumpert and Instant Business Plan by Gustav Berle and Paul Kirschner. Sites with business plan recommendations and examples include http://www.office.com/ and http://www.sba.gov/

2. Note the advice of authors who run successful businesses. Books to check out include $ix Figure Freelancing (http://tinyurl.com/a2y4j) by Kelly James-Enger, The Well-fed Writer (http://tinyurl.com/8xzfr) by Peter Bowerman, Writing for Quick Cash (http://tinyurl.com/73fgr) by Loriann Hoff Oberlin, The Renegade Writer (http://tinyurl.com/bwsef) by Linda Formichelli and How to Become a Fulltime Freelance Writer (http://tinyurl.com/94y2k) by Michael A. Banks.

3. Glean inspiration, information and winning tactics from books written for entrepreneurs - Six-Week Start-Up (http://tinyurl.com/83oq7) by Rhonda Abrams, Guerilla Marketing (http://tinyurl.com/ddr2d) by Jay Conrad Levinson and You Can't Teach a Kid to Ride a Bicycle at a Seminar: The Sandler Sales Institute's 7-Step System for Successful Selling (http://tinyurl.com/8zb7o) by David H. Sandler. Look into The Home-Based Business Kit: From Hobby to Profit (http://tinyurl.com/7eskv) by Diana Brodman Summers. Visit your state's official website to get the proper forms for starting a business.

4. Negotiate (or have an agent or attorney negotiate) rights advantageous to you while keeping you in good standing with reputable editors and publishers. It's in the publisher's interest to obtain as many rights as possible, and it's in your interest to keep as many rights to your work as possible. According to Writer's Market, first serial, foreign language, foreign English language, audio, and electronic rights are negotiable. Every right you retain is a product you're entitled to sell. Find info about contracts at The Authors Guild (http://www.authorsguild.org) and The National Writers Union (http://www.nwu.org). Get basic copyright information at (http://www.copyright.gov).

5. "Many times we love to do something, but that doesn't mean we love the process we have to go through to enable us to do that thing and make money," says a career coach. Increasing net earnings from writing requires scribes to engage in non-writing activities. Hone skills to market, advertise and sell your writing. Develop the discipline to track income and expenses. Demand a good day's work of yourself.

6. Sell more to your current clientele. Editors who bought your writing before are likely to buy from you again. They know they can count on you to provide interesting, informative material in a timely, professional manner. Every article I've sold this year has been to editors who've been buying my work for years. Hmmm… it's time for me to follow L. Peat O'Neil's advice in Travel Writing (http://tinyurl.com/9dcgz).

7. "Few writers start at the top," O' Neil said. "Find your own level, work in it, then work up out of it… start with your local publications." Build credibility and a clip file of your published works. Then "aim higher as you sharpen your writing skills and get to know what various editors want." You'll earn higher fees from higher-level markets.

8. "Sell solutions, not products or services!" Ray Potter says. Potter is a volunteer counselor at SCORE (http://www.score.org), an affiliate of the Small Business Administration (http://www.sba.gov). First identify the customer's need or problem. Second, identify a product or service that makes the problem go away. Third, create a business that zaps the problem the way the customer wants it zapped. Identify publishers' needs by studying their websites and entries in reference books. American publishers are listed in Writer's Market (http://tinyurl.com/dxc83), British publishers in Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (http://tinyurl.com/7gx85), and Down Under's in The Australian Writer's Marketplace (http://tinyurl.com/8c646).

9. Identify other organizations' needs and problems by reading their materials or noticing a lack of written materials. Click http://www.elance.com where businesses and individuals post requests for academic papers, college admissions documents, copywriting, creative writing, editing and proofreading, grant writing, press releases, articles, speeches and more. Visit http://www.writerswrite.com/buscomm for business communications resources.

10. Create an income stream. Rudy Aukshun proposed a biweekly opinion column written from his senior citizen perspective. The local newspaper editor OK'd the idea. Marie Heil, an expert on guns, writes regularly for three special interest magazines. Her reputation earns her plum assignments and speaking engagements. Trade and niche publications prefer relying on regular contributors rather than gambling on writers unknown to them.

Dun & Bradstreet cite "Mistaking a business for a hobby," as one of the most common contributing reasons for the 70% to 80% failure rate of small business start-ups. Operate your writing activities as a business and you'll defy those odds. Writers who are serious about getting paid treat their beloved avocation as a vocation.

© Copyright 2005, Beth Fowler

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