Do you struggle between writing for passion or profit?
At some point, every writer realizes that it’s not enough just to write for money, or simply to write for love.
To sustain a fruitful long-term relationship with writing, you need to dance between the two, which can be sometimes difficult, often exhausting.
We become writers because we love to write.
We want to share our opinion on things that matters to us, expressed in ways that no one’s used before.
Yet, if we don’t earn an income, the time and space to write that we so desperately cling to, can come in danger of being replaced by a full-time job.
So how can you feed your soul even as you earn the income to feed your body?
By finding a balance.
In the twelve years that I’ve been freelancing for a living and writing for myself (I start work on novel #2 this week), I’ve found several ways to write for money and love. Even better, I’ve found that sometimes, the work you’re most passionate about ends up making you the most money anyway.
Here’s how I keep both parts of my writerly identity in balance.
#1. Work on both every single day
Except weekends, of course, because you need time to recharge.
During the week, however, make it a point to spend time on the work that you’re passionate about and the work that will pay the bills.
Most writers find it easy to ignore one or the other, but they’re both important, so make sure you’re devoting time to each.
#2. Have separate writing spaces
One of the best things I ever did—by accident—was writing fiction in a completely different area of my home than I did my nonfiction work that pays the bills.
I didn’t realize it at the time but by creating artificial boundaries, I was training my mind to view each setting differently and therefore, to work differently.
When I arrived at my desk each morning, ready to tackle my deadlines, my mind immediately went into the productive worker bee mode, where I had to get tasks finished and articles written and sent.
When I came to my little nook on the couch, however, my mind was free to wander, observe, and create much more slowly.
#3. Give yourself deadlines
Of course you have deadlines for the work that pays the bills—you would never get around to doing it otherwise.
But have you considered that perhaps the reason that novel took three years to write (guilty!) is because you never assigned a weekly target or a completion date to it?
When work gets busy, the things we love to write are often the first to take a backseat. By assigning yourself deadlines for your personal projects—big or small—you ensure that this doesn’t happen routinely.
#4. Have a monthly income goal and stop when you meet it
This is a big tip, and a difficult one.
Mostly because if you’re like most writers, you’ll be overambitious in terms of setting that goal in the first place, and then you’ll try and exceed it when you do hit it.
Figure out how much you absolutely need as income from your writing on a monthly basis. Seriously, just sit down and run the numbers. How much do you have to make to sustain your career? If you’re able to get to that number by the 15th, you have 15 days to play around with projects that don’t make money yet, but if you get to that number only on the 29th, you have just one full day for your own writing.
This keeps you motivated for both personal projects and income-generating ones. The faster you get through the latter, the quicker you can move on to the writing that really makes you tick.
#5. For every 4,000 words you write for pay, write 1,000 words for fun
I like to spice up my writing and set up challenges that make my writing routine fun. (What can I say? I’m easily distracted.) So I make up fun rules for myself every once in a while to keep it interesting.
When I was at my workaholic worst, I implemented this rule so that I could stay connected to my novel (passion project) and force myself into taking a break from the paying work that sucked up my days.
#6. Mix passion with work
Sometimes, your passion will overlap with the work you do for a living.
In my own career, the work that I was most passionate about ended up winning me two international awards and earned me more cash than any other assignment ever has.
Why? Because when you’re passionate about something, you go out and find the stories on that topic that no one else does, you talk to the people no one else wants to talk to, and you dig up research and statistics that no one else will go looking for.
When you’re passionate about something, you stop counting the hours you’ve spent on it. You simply give it your all.
And you end up earning more as a result.
#7. Develop the habit of submitting
Your passion projects need to be sent out into the world just like your income-generating ones do.
They need to find their way, bring home some money, and eventually become income generators in themselves.
And when that happens, you’ll find that the work you love and the income you generate are both in sync.
To become a successful writer, you need to focus on both parts of the equation— the passion you feel for your career, and your ability to bring in the cash.
Passion without the profit can send you straight to another day job that you don’t want, while profit without passion threatens to suck all the joy out of something you love.
Find both and you’ll not only be a successful writer, but also a happy one.
Do you write for love, money, or both? Share in the comments, please!
About the author:
Mridu Khullar Relph is an award-winning freelance writer who has written for The New York Times, TIME, CNN, and more. She runs The International Freelancer and happily shares 21 of her best query letters with subscribers of her free weekly newsletter.