Mark Terry

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Writing Business

April 15, 2009
Last week I had lunch with an old friend of mine. He runs his own business, employs about 6 people and, from the looks of it, is very successful.

I run my own business. I don't employ anybody, and within the type of business I run, I guess I'm very successful.

We got to talking about business in general and here are some things we had in common. By the way, he conducts market research and I'm a writer and editor.

--Sometimes you do things for free or for low money just in order to learn to do them and be able to charge more in the future. In my case, I wrote a nonfiction book proposal on my own. I intended to market it, but primarily I wanted the reason to do it and the feedback I got from agents was very helpful. So when I was hired to write one as a collaboration, I knew what I was doing and charged accordingly, and we picked up an agent, did some more rewrites and our agent is going to start sending it out shortly (today, probably).

My friend has done the exact same thing, doing specific sorts of projects and reports for little or no money just in order to be able to do them... and charge more in the future.

--There are things in your business portfolio that make no sense financially, but you continue to do because you like to do them. In my case, fiction. My friend wasn't specific, but he said he definitely has things he does where he asks himself why he continues to do them, but the reason is, because he likes to do them.

--There's a fair amount of worry involved in running your own business. My friend worries more--he's supporting a total of 7 families, after all, and he seems to be even more dependent on the economy than I am. I worry some, although I tend to define it as "concerned watchfulness." Either way, it's a burden you don't necessarily have on a normal day job.

--ownership is great. Both of us agree that working for someone else would be difficult if not impossible now. We like that the work is our own, that how hard we work results in how much money we make (in his case, seemingly a lot more than me, but I think there are tradeoffs on that. I wouldn't want to travel as much as he does and I'm not terribly interested in all the other headaches involved in having employees).

--the so-called freedom and flexible schedules are great--we spent an hour and a half on lunch--but ultimately, we both work a lot with pretty regular hours, sometimes in the evenings and weekends. As I've demonstrated post-Disney, there's a price to pay for a non-working vacation, and it's taking me a while to dig myself out of that hole. Worth it? Yes, but the immediate workload after a vacation can be frustrating. I worked Saturday and Sunday (yes, Easter) and put in 11 hours on Monday just trying to get where I felt I was a little bit on top of the work.

--our work has taken some odd little tangents and bounces. He guest lectures at a local university once a term and actually taught the professor's class one semester while she was on sabbatical. I'm actually running a seminar later this month called "Freelance Writing for Fun & Profit." I don't think either one of us started out thinking we'd do this, but the opportunities came up and we took them. There's some money in it and some exposure and maybe more importantly, just a new experience.


Mark Terry


Blogger Adam Coronado said...

Damn, man, six in the morning?!?!?!?

6:32 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I think it was closer to 7:30. Where do you get 6:00?

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

You sum up how I feel about being self-employed. It's pretty much all good as compared to the alternative. There's no possible way I could go back to working for someone now. Yes, there is a certain amount of worry about being able to keep bringing in work, but you know, I just signed several contracts which guarantee me work until next fall, and that's more security than I had in my last few years on the job and more than many employees have today. I don't need to worry about turning on my computer every morning and maybe finding my login disabled

10:40 AM  
Blogger Adam Coronado said...

It must be a time zone thing. The end of your post says 6:03 a.m., but I'm central. Where are you?

11:05 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Michigan, eastern time.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, I worry some, but ultimately I figure something will come up just because I have confidence in my particular skill set.

11:17 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

I have some corporate work coming in the next year that will keep me in writing fiction about as much as I want. For me, though, success does mean sales to some extent, and so I tend to focus on that, and the money. Sometimes it's a fiction job, sometimes it's writing help text on a program. You just never know.

3:31 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Then there's working on one's vacation while the husband is off playing. That can be hard, LOL.

I'm in Michigan right now, LOL, and I have to tell you: we have accidentally passed more music stores than are left in all of Ohio. It's incredible. My piano teaching business is SO in the wrong state.

And I hear about the cheap work. Geezuz. It's why I'm working on vacation for pennies an hour. SO irritating. Never doing it again. I mean it this time! I do! I swear!

4:11 PM  

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