Monday, September 19, 2016

4 ways being an author can help you in your day job

A post by Mary Fan
"Don't waste time on this writing business! You'll never make any money, and you should focus on
your real job!"

Pretty much every writer has heard some variation of this line at some point in their life, whether from a friend, a family member, or the little nagging voice at the back of their heads. And pretty much every writer with a day job (which is pretty much every writer who isn't a) independently wealthy b) married to someone independently wealthy c) the child of someone independently wealthy or d) that one in a million famous author who actually makes enough to live on) has wondered to themselves: Should I tell my employer I write?

I'll admit, I was hesitant about letting my employer and coworkers know about my writing back when I was first starting out, about 4ish years ago. I was worried they'd see it as some kind of conflict, a sign that I wasn't taking my work with them seriously. For similar reasons, I was hesitant about putting all the work I do for my books on my resume. But then I decided to go for it and, you know what? It turned out to be a good decision.

Of course, every employer is different, and there are certainly reasons some writers might choose to be more discreet. However, the next time someone (or that nagging voice in your head) says that all this writing business is taking away from money-making business-business, here are four ways being an author can actually help you in your day job.

4. It makes you better at written communications, which makes you look extra smart.

Pretty much every office job involves sending out gazillions of emails, and even if you don't work in an office, you probably still had to use written communications during the job-hunting process. Fact is, people judge people based on their writing, and the only way to get better at writing is to, well, write a lot. So if you can build a world and lives and stories out of words on the weekends, you can certainly make that note to your boss sound extra-intelligent.

3. It makes your resume stand out.

Here's the thing: Most people have decent resumes. In my world, the office job world, they all tend to look pretty similar. Business major at blah-blah respectable university. Internship at blah-blah respectable firm. Previous positions at blah-blah respectable companies. But say add "author" on there and suddenly it's like, "whoa! Now that's different!" Also, it demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit--you built something out of nothing. You finished that damn book (which most people only talk about doing), and you sent it out into the world. If you did it through a publisher--awesome! "Published author" sounds hella impressive. If you did it independently, well, all the better for bragging about your entrepreneurship. And leadership skills if you're coordinating with editors, artists, and graphic designers.

2. It teaches you unexpectedly useful skills

Unless you win the marketing lottery at a big publisher, chances are, you're doing everything yourself. You're booking your own signings, making your own promotional materials, and crafting your own sales pitch. All this project management, coordination, and general getting-things-done-ness is really handy at the office. And before you even got to that point, you had to organize your time in a way that allowed you to finish writing a book while working, taking care of family, etc. Hey look, time management skills!

And then there's all the random stuff you learn how to do out of necessity... I figured out how to make PowerPoints real pretty while designing my own web banners. I also learned how to speak in front of large groups of people while doing con panels and readings... and how to interrupt in a way that lets me get my words in when someone else is hogging everyone's ears. After that, meetings were noooo problem.

1. It makes you more confident

Because after you've had to pitch your book baby, that piece of your soul that makes you feel utterly naked every time someone looks at it, to dozens of strangers, nothing can scare you anymore. And confidence makes SUCH a difference in both job interviews and work itself.


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I agree! My degree is in library science with an emphasis on YA lit. I'm not currently working as a librarian because of kids. But when I go back, I can say add author to my resume. That will count for something. Although, ideally, I make author my full time gig. we can all hope.

Mary Fan said...

That is the dream...

Brenda St John Brown said...

Agree 1000%! Also, I've learned (finally!) to bring business skills to my writing life, especially when working with budgets and contracts. In a past life, I managed a training division of a small company and had to track monthly revenue, manage freelancers, and stick to a project plan -- all skills you need when you self-publish. With my last release, I finally started keeping a spreadsheet of expenses and earnings. I don't know why I wasn't doing this before, but now I know my ROI on ad spend, days of the week to target for advertising (Sunday) and which advertisers are worth the money. It's been a bit life changing, to be honest!

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

I assume that "hogging everyone's ears" at con panels thing is a dig at me. :P

Carrie Beckort said...

Great post, Mary! I completely agree. While I'm currently at home full-time, I did start writing while I was working at Cummins. I didn't tell very many people at the time - mostly because I didn't want the rumor to start that I was taking a leave to write. I was taking the leave for personal reasons, and writing just happened to be my saving grace while I was at home and kid was in school. Once I started telling people though, it was great.

Carrie Beckort said...

Yes, yes, and yes! I try to pull on as much of my business knowledge as possible. So helpful.

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