MULTI-TASKING: BALANCING ENTREPRENEUR AND AUTHOR
By C. Hope Clark
Rarely do I make a presentation before someone in the audience asks how I balance my personal life with writing novels and running the award-winning website FundsforWriters. As often as I’ve been asked that question, I never have a pat answer for the question, because I don’t consider what I do any type of system, or method, or deep-rooted, analyzed design. If I had to sum my multi-tasking up in one word, it would be PRIORITY.
I work fulltime as a writer, which is a dream for many people. However, before I took the leap, I saved money in the bank, paid off bills, and made sure I had health insurance. I’m lucky enough to have a supportive spouse. There’s an organizational gene in my DNA as well. Can’t stand chaos. However, there’s something about being a career writer that I think makes one multi-task that much better. Why? Because dinner on the table and the roof over my head relies upon me managing my career well.
But let’s get back to priority. I have weekly deadlines with FundsforWriters, a newsletter that reaches 35,000 readers each and every Friday. It’s a hard commitment. In 18 years, I’ve missed two Fridays: once when relocating cross-country, and once while in Europe visiting family. That’s over 900 newsletter deadlines. Since FFW is a major cog in my writing machine, that deadline is key.
But I also have a book contract. I usually have one or two books under contract with my publisher. Those dates are clearly defined. In my mind, I’ve learned that I have about nine months to provide a book or risk losing the contract as well as have to give back the advance.
So . . . my main priorities are FFW newsletters and novels. They are ever present on my calendar and in my head. My friends, family, and followers are familiar with the fact I have these deadlines, and when I say my deadline calls, they let me be. Part of prioritizing is practicing it in clear view of those around you. Not only are you more committed but those who know you are as well.
Then let’s look at another angle of priority: income. My income comes from:
· newsletter subscriptions
· advertising in the newsletter
Notice that freelancing is at the bottom. It’s more flexible. I pitch when I like, building in deadlines I can manage. If I’m swamped with the four income streams above it, the freelancing is the one that goes lacking. There is no steady readership there, nor a task master making me work.
Then comes speaking. Those are not usually back-to-back, but 2016 involved 40+ speaking engagements. Luckily those were evening events, so I made sure I rose earlier and created more time during the day to fulfill my writing deadlines. And I created a list of topics and presentations that had proven the most in demand so that I didn’t have to write 40 different speeches.
Does my system of prioritizing, mostly based upon income, work the same each and every year? Each and every month? Of course not. As I said, 2016 leaned heavily on presentations. The previous year brought in more from advertising. Two years before that my freelancing dominated. 2012 involved a national book tour. So how’s one supposed to run a writing enterprise when it keeps changing direction?
I’ve anchored the premise that my main priorities are the novels and the Friday newsletters. All else is flexible and fluid. I decide how and when to market, and I welcome the occasional gift from heaven in terms of a networking contact that opens a door to an engagement or freelance assignment. Which means I need to be solid yet flexible.
That’s why I sit down in January of each year and create goals for myself. Which novels are due and when? What do I wish to change with the newsletters and website? What new freelancing markets do I want to crack or where would I like to speak? What other methods do I want to try to earn more income? Then from there I set quarterly assignments. I don’t like tying myself down tighter than that because life throws you curves.
This year, I’ve suddenly had to deal with the aftermath of two hurricanes and a set of parents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Changes had to be made. Of course, I kept the novel deadline, though I wasn’t able to turn the manuscript in early, as I’d hoped. I kept the newsletters on track, often creating them weeks in advance to buy time for crisis moments. The speaking was put on the backburner; however, I entertained five podcast opportunities, which enabled me to stay home and still reach out. Freelancing waned, but I accepted one large conference.
Priorities drive my multi-tasking. How about you? Determine where your writing income will come from, or where you WANT it to come from, then set your future. Understand full well that there will be shifts, highs and lows, but in those changes and unexpected alterations usually lies opportunity . . . assuming you keep on keeping on. This is not a job for a light-weight, but it’s a phenomenal career when you accept its magic.
C. Hope Clark has highs and low like everyone else in this crazy profession, but in those moments she’s found delight. She’s published seven novels, three nonfiction books, and manages a newsletter to 35,000 writers. She’s happy, even when life takes a hard left when she was going right. Hope lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina where she pens her novels, manages FundsforWriters.com, and enjoys like with her federal agent husband, chickens, dachshunds, a boat, and a garden. www.fundsforwriters.com / www.chopeclark.com