Born in 1985, Talitha Kalago lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She loves reading, video games, documentaries, horror movies and vegetable patches. She lives with an alarming collection of previously abandoned or unwanted animals that include dogs, cats, birds and snakes. She loves aquascaping and dedicates too much time to her numerous aquariums and aquatic invertebrates.
There is a 23% chance she is watching a horror movie as you read this.
Her first young adult novel, Lifesphere Inc: Acquisition was released on the 20th of May. You can find out more about Talitha at her website: www.traditionalevolution.com
Writing professionally can be very rewarding; assuming you find stress, eating cereal for dinner and weeping silently on your keyboard ‘rewarding’. I always have, so I knew from a very early age it was the ideal profession for me.
If you think cereal, stress and sobbing sound perfect for you, but you’re still on the fence about writing as a full time career, I want you to imagine you have a full afternoon where you have no responsibilities. Which of the following most appeals to you?:
- Movie or bar/nightclub with friends.
- Watching TV/playing video games
- Locking yourself in an empty room without internet or a phone, with an old laptop that has nothing but Microsoft Word installed.
The good news is that if you picked number four, you might have a promising career as an editor. However unless number five sounds like your idea of a party, one through four are always going to win when it’s time to actually get work done.
Assuming now that you love eating only cereal, sobbing is your only exercise, stress makes you feel alive and you’re upset reading this article is keeping you from locking yourself in a specially designed, distraction free cell, what now?
After you marry a chiropractor and/or someone who can treat your crippling carpel tunnel syndrome, you learn everything you possibly can about running your own business. Taxes, contracts, financing, business plans, projected income, marketing, sales, promotion, salaries, insurance, websites, social media, business licences and contracts again, because they’re really important.
If you are thinking ‘I don’t need all that, I just want to write!’ it is my turn to say: “Congratulations, writing is a fabulous and rewarding hobby that you will enjoy for the rest of your life. It will NEVER be your career. Ever. Try not to sink too much money into it.”
You think I’m being mean, but it’s actually the kindest advice you’re ever going to get. It’s going to save you a lot of money and heartbreak in the future. Imagine your words are apples. It’s the difference between selling them from a box at your front gate and owning a fruit store. If you want to do it professionally, you have to treat it as a business, which means learning business stuff.
Okay, so you’re down with the cereal, stress, sobbing and you now know more about business than Donald Trump. You’re locked in your writing cell and your chiropractor spouse barely remembers what you look like. How do you spend your time?
I like to split up my day like this: four hours of writing, four hours of promotion/marketing/business housekeeping and four hours of researching the market/my competition/job opportunities. Usually I eat dinner while doing research. Breakfast and lunch happen at about 2pm. I try and have one day off a week, but those are actually ‘clean the house’ and ‘make a week of dinners for the freezer’ days.
It’s pretty easy to work 70 hours a week in freelancing and not pay the rent or mortgage, so if you’re horrified by those hours, I have bad news for you. Please see my earlier note about hobbies. If you’re still onboard, read on:
There are two vital elements to a freelance career. They are, without fail, the most important things to remember and you should be thinking of them every waking moment.
First is your reputation.
Second are your contracts.
Word of mouth is the best marketing tool you have. Do good work, be an easy, nice person to work with. Regardless of how annoying/horrible/stupid someone is, you should always be aiming to have them positively refer you to another client. If they don’t, you have failed.
Contracts are what get you paid and stop you from being sued. Never, ever under any circumstances do ANY work on a project for someone else without a signed contract. And make sure you understand it. It protects you and the client. Make sure it’s perfect and everyone is happy with it.
Reputation and contracts. Print it, frame it and hang it over your computer. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Write it wherever you stare when you are on the toilet. Write it on the ceiling over your bed. Do not ever mess up either of these things and you’ll be okay.
Side note: your reputation has a lot of elements: How you look/smell/sound. What you say. What you do. The quality of your work. The quality of your website. Your spelling and grammar. The photos of you on facebook. Your work ethic. Your tweets. Your status updates. The appearance and smell of your office. The standard of the paperwork you send out. The quality of your business card.
If you have a poor sense of smell, please ask someone else what you smell like and what your office smells like. If you are a smoker, paper traps the smell. If someone hands me paperwork that stinks I won’t work with them again. I’m allergic. Same goes for oodles of perfume and people with hay fever. Carry mints everywhere. Use them.
This stuff matters.
So is it really worth it? Is the career writer’s dream really worth the pain, hours, stress and intensely focused learning and education required to be a success?
I’ll tell you something: as I write this, it’s midday. So far I’ve eaten two dark chocolate Tim Tams for breakfast and I’m still in my pyjamas. There’s a dog on my feet and a cat occasionally poking me in the face. I am living the goddamn dream.
Talitha’s first young adult novel Lifesphere Inc: Acquisition tells the story of Eli, a thirteen year old orphan living in an immense garbage tip that rings the city. He sells trash to survive, while on the Topside, citizens live in hedonistic luxury. Eli dreams of obtaining citizenship by becoming a handler; bonded with a bio-organic life form called a meka. On the Topside, handlers are celebrities, pitting their skills in televised meka battles. But new legislation will only allow those with citizenship to become handlers and Eli can’t raise the money to buy a meka before the law is passed. A grifter named Kalex offers Eli a trade: meka of his own, if he competes in an illegal fight to the death.