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The Freedom and Security of Being a Writer

This guest post was written by Rayne Hall. Rayne has authored over sixty books and is an expert at grabbing readers and selling books. Visit her website, or follow her on Twitter for writing and publishing tips.

What I’m saying here is food for thought, and it may provoke, because it goes against common perceptions.

Writing used to be a precarious career, with unsteady and uncertain income. But the world has changed. As a writer in 2017, I actually have more ‘job security’ than most people in employed jobs.

Instead of depending on a single employer (who may go bust or fire me, in which case I would lose all my income), I have multiple income streams. Should one of those income streams close (say, Amazon goes out of business), the others will continue. Even if I become ill and unable to work for a while, I’ll continue to receive royalties (‘passive income’) from my published books.

Another factor is age. Many employers would consider me too old for the good jobs, but for a writer there is no age limit. Indeed, my life experience is a distinct plus.

On top of that, writing is a job I can do wherever I go. I don’t need to live near an employer, or even in a specific region with access to customers. All I need is internet access, and I can work anywhere in the world.  This flexibility gives enormous freedom, and it also increases my job security.

Just how much flexibility, freedom and security writing gives me has become clear in the past few months. As a German national, having lived in Britain for thirty years, I’ve regarded this country as my home. Now with Brexit, I may have to leave.

(I don’t want to talk about politics in this post, and I don’t want to bore you with details. Lets’ just say it’s not a good situation. If you want to find out more, contact me via my website.)

If I had a conventional job, I’d now be terrified. As well as my home and my social life, I’d lose my job and my income. I’d worry if and how I as a middle-aged woman could find a job and support myself in another country.

My cat Sulu has a European pet passport which allows him to travel with me. He can already purr in fluent Bulgarian.

But as a writer… it’s easy! My career is completely portable.  I don’t need to worry about that aspect at all.

Indeed, if I move to a country where the cost of living is lower than in Britain, my international income as a writer will stretch much further. Instead of of earning a modest income, I can afford a very good lifestyle indeed. This takes away so much of the worrying!

I feel blessed. As a European, I can settle anywhere in Europe. And as a writer, I can work anywhere in the world. So much freedom, so much security!

Yet back in my youth, all the sensible adults warned me against becoming a writer, because it was too risky. It turns out that my dream career was safer than the ‘sensible’ options. The world has changed, and I’m glad that it has.

So if you consider making writing your main career, don’t automatically assume that it will mean less security than in an employed job.

Where will I go? Well, I’m still at the planning stage, but it looks like I’ll head for Bulgaria before long. One thing is certain: wherever I go, I will write.

rayne-hall-author-photoRayne Hall is the author of over sixty books and has been both traditionally and indie published.

Her acclaimed Writer’s Craft series has 22 titles so far: Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Villains,Writing Deep Point Of View, Writing Vivid Plots, Writing Vivid Settings, Writing Vivid Characters, Writing Vivid Settings, Why Does My book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes, Getting Book Reviews, Writing Book Blurbs And Synopses and more. These are guides for writers who have progressed beyond the basics and are ready to take their skills to the next level, and for indie authors who want to boost their books’ success.

She has worked as a museum guide, belly dancer, bilingual secretary, apple picker, development aid worker adult education teacher, magazine editor, literary agent,  publishing consultant and tarot reader, often in several roles at the same time. Now she writes full-time.

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, Rayne has settled in a seaside town in England. She enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore, braving ferocious seagulls and British rain. Her black cat Sulu – adopted from the rescue shelter – likes to snuggle between her arms while she writes, purring happily.

Visit her website, or follow her on Twitter  for writing and publishing tips.

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44 thoughts on “The Freedom and Security of Being a Writer

  1. Rayne,
    Firstly, I have to say that reading this article really excited me about my passions, which are writing and music. I have tried becoming a full-time musician, and it can be a very difficult career, however, in directing my attention toward my writing and developing my voice I am gaining confidence in my ability to write for a career.
    I just recently got into writing as a source of income during my time in the Amazon, and I connected greatly when you mentioned the freedom and security it promises. Though I am new, I am finding great truth in that. Thank you so much for this great read!

    • Hi Dylan,
      Full-time writing can be a difficult career too – every career can. But if you combine passion with skill and effort, it’s a realistic option. The great thing about building a writing career is that you can do it gradually, writing at first in your spare time, then part-time, then full-time. This gradual, low-risk, flexible approach exists in few other careers.
      By the way – if music and writing are your passions, have you considered combining them, and becoming an expert writer about music topics?
      Best of success!

  2. Rayne, your experience is an inspiration, as well as a renewed confirmation that “conventional wisdom” isn’t always right. Best of luck in Bulgaria!

  3. Building a stable career requires diligence and effort. I know too many young writers who thought the world would embrace the wisdom and beauty of their words overnight just by posting a blog site. If you have a job as a writer or editor now, you’re off to a good start. But you need to build your writing creds before you leap into the water. Develop a few free lance gigs, publish a few articles or stories in respected publications to build a portfolio. Leverage that into a book with consistent sales.

    Or move in with your parents, if they’ll let you. I wouldn’t take that route (e.g., my folks wouldn’t let me), but don’t start with no plan.

    In the meantime, make sure to hone your skills with Rayne’s books and following the advice from her website, especially her tips on building your writing career.

    • Absolutely. Becoming a a writer takes diligence and effort, just like any other career. Those who say “I don’t want to do all this work, I just want to be a writer” aren’t likely to earn a living. 🙂

  4. Wow, Rayne, you are absolutely right about having more job security. I never thought of writing in that way, but it sure can be a lucrative career if you work at it! Thanks for your insight!

    • Hi Lynn,
      I’m not sure I would describe writing as a particularly ‘lucrative’ career. Most writers will earn a lower income in this field than in another. But it’s possible to earn enough to live on. And I’d rather do something I enjoy and feel good about, than get paid a lot of money for a mind numbing job or one in which I have to do unethical things.
      Also, as writers we don’t have the expenses people in other jobs have. For example,we don’t have to commute to work, so we don’t have to pay for bus tickets or keep a car. We also don’t need to buy smart business clothes to impress colleagues and clients. Those savings are substantial.
      So, although writing is probably not the most lucrative career choice, it’s certainly a realistic one.

  5. Freelancers from all over the wolrd … come to Bulgaria!
    Well … I am not quite sure where to start … 🙂
    Bulgaria! My home country. I am glad you are thinking about it! 🙂
    And the best thing is – you are not the only one! There are Swedes who moved to Bulgaria in order to afford a better quality of life, while keep designing websites. I met a Polish guy who is doing youth related training in Bulgaria. I read stories of Americans, who stayed in Bulgaria for months, doing different IT, design and internet marketing jobs/ gigs.
    Actually, Bulgaria was mentned as one of the best places for freelancers in a series of publicatins. (I can easily find the links to the publications in case somebody is interested.)
    The best thing about Bulgaria? You get fast and reliable internet connection everywhere and in most of the cases – it is for free! (Except at the airport!)
    It is safe to travel and there are many places to visit and experience.
    In terms of cuisine – nothing very special to mention but it is very diverse and you can find (almost) anything you like. 🙂 And it is cheap! Almost all services and very affordable.
    I can go on … but you can do your own research, too.

    • Bulgaria is great, I agree. That’s why I’ve chosen it as my destination.
      It’s generally regarded as a great country (one of the best in the world) for online freelance work, because of the excellent internet and the low cost of living. It’s very popular with digital nomads (the kind of people who live a few months here, a few months there, while they do online work), as well as with retirees, and people who want to settle permanently.

      The internet is really reliable in Bulgaria. I find it’s far more reliable than in Britain.

      I love Bulgaria’s beautiful landscapes, unspoiled nature, good public transport network of buses, the food (I’m keen on fresh organic fruit & vegetables, yoghurt and coffee, so Bulgaria is a paradise for me), the low cost of properties to buy and rent, the rich art and culture. It has a low crime rate and a good standard of human rights.

      (Let’s not talk about the potholed roads, the underfunded public health service, the dilapidated trains and high level corruption, lol.)

      And the Bulgarian people are genuinely welcoming of foreigners who want to settle there. I’ve never experienced that anywhere else to such an extent. It’s probably because Bulgaria’s own population numbers are dwindling.

      A drawback is that we need to learn the language with its cyrillic alphabet. But it’s not as difficult as it looks, and many people speak English.

      I think Bulgaria is great for freelancers like me. If anyone else is considering it, get in touch. 🙂

  6. I like how we can choose to go independent, small press, or traditional when it comes to publishing. Good luck with your proposed move to Bulgaria and keep on writing! (P.S. Rescue cats are awesome.)

    • Yes, the choices we have as writers for publishing our books – indie, small press, corporate (traditional) publishing – are great. They largely didn’t exist in the 20th century.
      Then there are the many freelance writing gigs – writing blog content, ghostwriting memoirs, writing stories for ezines, writing product descriptions, copywriting marketing emails, etc. That market is huge, with a lot of well-paid work for specialists.
      Of course 95% of those freelance writing gigs pay peanuts or are unethical – but I simply ignore those and go for the remaining 5%.
      I specialise in writing book blurbs, synopses and author bios, and that’s a nice additional income stream besides my book royalties.

  7. Great article, Rayne. Lots of food for thought. The ‘normal’ workplace is such a tough environment now and as you say no longer that stable. Everybody is hunting for bigger and better jobs that pay more money which leads to increased stress and very little happiness. Writing may not bring in much money most of the time, but at least we enjoy it and the satisfaction of achieving even just one sale is still a terrific thrill.

    • Many employed jobs are not at all well paid.
      There are people who work a mind-numbing 9-5 job for a minimal wage, with no chance of progressing.
      I’m not earning great riches, but I earn enough. I enjoy what I’m doing, I’m my own boss. And to a large extent, what kind of work I want to do and how much I earn is up to me.

  8. Wow, Rayne, good luck in Bulgaria! You and Sulu are lucky you have the freedom to move around to where is best for you. Thanks to the internet, we’ll all still be able to keep in touch. Happy writing.

    • Yes, the internet makes it easy to keep in touch with people all over the world.
      I also found it makes research so much easier.
      Thirty years ago, when I came from Germany to the UK, I had to glean information from library books – ten years out of date and aimed at tourists. Any additional information had to be sent for by snailmail which meant a two week wait if I was lucky.
      Now I just go online, read expatriates’ blogs, join forum discussions, look up any address on Google Maps, watch youtube videos and live webcams.
      When I wanted specific info about a region or town, I simply hired a ‘virtual assistant’ who lived there for a couple of hours (usually around $6 peer hour), and I got the insider info.
      The internet is great for migrants and freelancers. 🙂

  9. Awesome post! You have a knack for cutting through all the doubts and uncertainty and going to the heart of the matter. One can write anywhere and with internet access make a living. It does take determination and skill. You have to know your stuff to do things right and Rayne has all the qualities for success. Godspeed on the next leg of your ventures! You are an inspiration!

  10. As a young writer (I’m 29 and I’ve just published my first novel) I’m dealing with people who think that writing is just a hobby and you should have a “real job” in order to earn enough money. So, your post gives me hope that If I work hard and don’t give up on my dream, I could experience this freedom and security of being a writer myself.

    • Hi Ralitsa,
      Many writers work in day-jobs to pay the bills for several years before they take the plunge. During this time, they hone their skills, produce a body of work and build a fan base. So when the time comes, they’re ready.
      This is a sound strategy (it worked for me). The important thing is to keep working at writing, not just to dabble and daydream about being a writer. It takes time and effort to build a writing career. Too many aspiring authors treat their writing as a hobby, and unsuprisingly, their writing never grows beyond a hobby.
      You can have a day-job to earn the bills, but you need to focus your passion and energy on the real career you want to build, the career of a writer.

  11. I just hate that you’ll have to leave England. I’m sure you’ve grown fond of living there. It’s a real shame that because of a political decision, it will displace you. But you have a wonderful attitude about that.
    I, like you, love being portable doing my job. As long as my computer works, I’m good to go whereever I need to. And since I’m retired from another job, I’m relieved that my writing income adds to my retirement income.
    LOVE Writing. BEST JOB EVER! I’m so blessed to be able to do what I love every day. I know you feel the same.
    Teresa Reasor

    • Thanks, Teresa.

      Rejoicing in the freedom of my writing career, I can feel positive about other things too – such as politics-triggered upheavals. If I had had to worry about keeping/getting a job and where to find money to live on, I wouldn’t be able to be so laid-back.

      As it is, I’m able to say ‘Right, what happens is a loss, but it’s also a gain. I’m ready for my next adventure in my life’s journey.’

      Writing is an ideal occupation in retirement, and I’m glad you’re doing it. Being able to devote this phase of your life to your passion, doing what you enjoy doing, and earning money to supplement your pension – that’s wonderful.

      Enjoy! 🙂

  12. I have to say that I do not know many people that have the perspective on writing careers that you do, Rayne. I, myself, am a new blogger and I absolutely love writing. I love how you described writing careers as providing you with more job security. One of the things I love about blogging is that you can always take your work on the go, unlike other jobs as you described. Blogging is still a mere hobby to me at this point, but I definitely hope to make it a full-time job at some point. Props to you for breaking into the industry and also doing well. I hope you enjoy Bulgaria!

    • Hi Shelby,
      I think my perspective is rare. That’s why I’ve shared it.
      I’ve realised a while ago that the flexibility that comes with freelancing allows us to adapt to difficult situations, and that not depending on a single employer actually gives us more security than employed jobs. But just how much freedom and security it gives, that’s something I’ve realised only a few weeks ago.
      What you need to bear in mind about freelance writing is that it probably won’t be a matter of ‘breaking into’ the field (which implies a single sudden event) but of gradually building the career over time.
      Blogging is a good option. Whether you seek to monetise your own blog, or whether you write articles for other people’s blogs, both are currently possible. Bear in mind that the market is changing constantly and rapidly, so in a few years, blogging may have become obsolete and something else may take its place. As writers (like all other freelancers and entrepreneurs), we need to adapt to developments.

    • Yes, it’s sad about having to leave what I’ve built here and love… but i can take my writing career with me, and I can create a new garden in Bulgaria.
      The way I see it, when something in our lives comes to an end, it’s the opportunity for something new. I feel ready for my next adventure.
      (And my cat is coming too. Unlike other cats, he loves change, and he adores exploring new places. He’ll probably hate the journey, but love taking possession of a new home.)

  13. Dear Rayne

    I read your comments with more than a passing interest. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
    I am about to publish my first book at the end of August.
    Consequences by Sam Boyd.
    My editor and publisher like the book so it will be interesting to see what happens. I am just finishing my second book which hopefully will be out by the end of October.
    Whether I can make a living at writing we shall see. But your encouragement could not have come at a better time.
    Like you I am living in a foreign country. A Brit. Living in Thailand.

    • Hi Sam,
      Writing is a career that you can build gradually. You’ll probably need several books (and maybe other writing income streams) to make a living. Getting your first book published is the first major step towards that goal.
      Best of success,

  14. Thank you for your words of true encouragement. The truth that you share is unseen by most, but for those who understand it is a breath of fresh air. Best Regards, John

    • A breath of fresh air? Oh, good, that’s what I’ve hoped. The subject is complex, and I hope I’ve showed a facet of it that’s important and true, but that few people see.

  15. Hi Rayne,
    I’ve followed you for a number of years now and read several of your books. I’m sorry that Brexit has happened and that it has caused uncertainty for so many. I wish you the best of luck wherever you decide to go. At least I will continue to be able to read your books no matter where you are. I think you’re right about the newfound freedom for writers. It’s still hard work, of course, but there are many more possibilities now.
    Best of luck to you and Sulu cat!

    • A breath of fresh air? Oh, good, that’s what I’ve hoped. The subject is complex, and I hope I’ve showed a facet of it that’s important and true, but that few people see.

      • Hi Lisa,
        Yes, I’ll be able to write my books, and you’ll be able to read them, wherever I am. This is amazing too. When I was young, it was difficult and costly to get books published in another country. Now publishing is international, and with few restrictions, it’s possible to download books published in other countries.
        I think we live in a golden age for authors.

  16. First of all I want to say terrific blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing. I’ve had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Appreciate it!

    • Two suggestions.
      1. It’s normal that your brain takes a while to get into gear. Allow yourself those first 10-15 minutes of each writing session to ‘warm up’. I often do ‘freewriting’ (i.e. stream-of-consciousness writing), just writing uncritically whatever comes to my mind.
      2. To really clear your mind (e.g. after a stressful day at the dayjob), go for a walk. I find that after 20 minutes of walking, preferably in the fresh air, creative thoughts flow freely and clearly. (And at the same time, we get exercise for our bodies and burn calories, so that’s a win/win.)
      I hope this helps.

  17. This is truly an inspiring post. First of all, I must say I am thrilled by the fact that you ignored the naysayers and followed your dreams to be a writer. Writing has served as a gateway for many people, a platform where they can truly express their feelings and emotions. Thanks also for clearing the notion that a person can’t make a living from writing.

    • Oh, I didn’t ignore the naysayers. I followed their advice and chose a conventional career. But writing always stayed in my life, even when I tried to give it up, it always came back. I wrote as a hobby, and then for many years a s a part-time job, gradually shifting more and more towards writing. Only in 2015 did I finally make it my official full time business.
      It’s definitely possible to make a living from writing, although you have to be good, and it takes time to build a writing business that provides a full income.

  18. I thin you’re right Rayne.
    The rapid development of the internet technologies and the booming online market have transformed the act of writing and promoting the material.
    Now i have the chance to work on different projects from anywhere in the world. This gives me satisfaction and creative freedom. However, it also requires a great deal of determination and persistence, since there is no one to watch over me and tell me what I need to do. I’m used to working under pressure so my biggest challenge is procrastination and loss of focus when things are calm…

    What are the things you are struggling with as a self-employed writer? And how do you deal with them?

  19. Rayne,
    I am so happy someone disproved that writing is a risky and ‘unreliable job. A lot of people quit before they even tried because of what most of society thinks about the writing as your only job and income. I wish more people were brave like you and pursued their dreams. And the flexibility it provides – you can work from anywhere and maintain your lifestyle. I wish you good luck in Bulgaria!

  20. Hi Rayne,
    I love your story. I spent much of my life building a shipping company and finally retired a few years ago. I will be 70 next year and have just started writing a mystery detective book.
    The thrill of doing this is just awesome. Cracking 2000 words a day and loving it.
    I have already published a short non-fiction book on Amazon (Easy Ways To Happiness). I did this as a trial run to learn the indie publishing game. It taught me so much.
    Your story will inspire so many budding authors.
    Be Happy,