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Packing Heat 114: Taking the Leap


Petit Morts1: Sweets to the Sweet hit #1 in Gay & Lesbian literature on Amazon.de, and #7 in Romantic Suspense. You can buy it with worldwide free shipping at The Book Depository.

Taking the leap

VJ wrote in my Yahoo group that she'd be interesting hearing my take on "the sheer terror of quitting my day job." Since quitting that pesky nine-to-five ranks very high on the "Yes, please!" list of many writers, I thought I'd share my 10-year journey to self-employment.

Your Living Situation

My first step was to move to a place where the cost of living was less expensive. (This cost-of-living analysis turned out to be flawed, and then an emergency wiped out my savings and I had to grab the first day job I could find...which I ended up staying at for nine years.)

Despite the unforeseen emergency, my move ended up being a useful one, as I was paying a mortgage on a trailer rather than a rent on an apartment, and with some creative financing, I managed to pay it off. Ah! Relief! Now I didn't have as much pressure to earn grownup paychecks.

Can you Do Part-Time?

When my first paperback came out in 2006, I cut my day job hours back as far as I could cut them while still retaining my sick days, vacation and health insurance. (I had to pay for half my health insurance, which sucked, but it made my take-home paycheck so low it was added incentive to leave.) Is it possible for you to switch to part-time? What if you did that, and then treated writing as your second job, with as many weekly hours as it would take to reach 40?

(Also, I didn't mention in the cast, but I turned down a promotion at this point as well, both because I knew I'd be miserable as a manager, and I knew that working 40 hours per week would take me farther from my ultimate goal: to be a full-time writer. There was incredible staff pressure to take this job, too, because they knew I'd be an easy manager to deal with. AKA pushover.)


I wouldn't recommend leaping into writing full-time without half a year's worth of salary saved up. Is there any way you can build your savings faster? Maybe you can cut out some unnecessary utilities. I got rid of my satellite TV and land line. Do you have credit card debt? Pay it off and stop buying anything you don't absolutely need. Think of your savings as your freedom fund.

Expect the Unexpected

Right after I ended my day job, my partner and I split up, and my halved household income was halved again. Because I was well-prepared with a cheap living situation, good writing connections, my own business in place, a good credit rating and no debt, I was able to stay on my path and not go screaming out the door looking for a job flipping burgers. It's fortunate that I wasn't relying on him for my health insurance, though if I had been, I would have done the same thing I did when I lost my day job's coverage: obtain an independent policy.

Jordan's "Ditch the Day Job" Checklist

  • Find a cheap place to live
  • Pay off your debts
  • Save half a year's salary
  • Treat writing like a real part-time moonlighting job
  • Go down to part time in your day job and increase your writing job hours
  • Double up on the jobs as long as you can stand it, but know when to let go

Your Assignment

How much money do you spend, really? Where does it go? I challenge you to do your budget for the month at Budgetsimple.com and really verify the numbers. Don't estimate. I discovered that I overestimate my income and underestimate my spending. Surprising, since I'm so thrifty!

Listen at PackingHeat.net, 21 minutes

ETA: also some fun discussion with one of my old co-workers at my Facebook fan page!


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 28th, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
I would love to write full-time. It'll never happen but I can dream ;o)
Jul. 28th, 2010 12:11 pm (UTC)
Never say never. You have several published works--lots of unpublished writers are salivating to be in your position!
Jul. 28th, 2010 12:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you
But I don't see it happening. However, right now I am being distracted with ideas for a gift basket with items that would promote our stories... Sandalwood is easy but a potato??? I love this type of thing and can easily fill a gift baasket, nudge the other authors out ;o)
But the Mist Grey story might prove difficult...
Jul. 28th, 2010 12:35 pm (UTC)
Great post! You keep things concise and clear and relevant :).

I'm plunged now, however, into a personal pit of Unlikelihood *sigh*. Better not go there :).

Just many many congratulations on what you've planned and achieved *hugs*.
Jul. 28th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Clare. I just used you as an example today of someone who has job/household/kids/etc. and still manages to get writing in.

Obviously I've engineered my life so that I can be more "selfish" than I'd be able to be if I had kids to consider.
Jul. 28th, 2010 01:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Jordan, thank you for all your "been-there-done-that" advice on writing, living as a writer and as a determined person to make wishes and dreams come true for her. . Tyler
Jul. 28th, 2010 02:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you
Hi Tyler, welcome to the LJ! Thank you for all your kind words about Packing Heat. I'm pleased the podcast is of use to you.
Jul. 28th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
Timely stuff. I've been thinking about it lately. It's not something I can do yet, but definitely keep turning over thoughts for the future. The part time thing is definitely one I keep thinking about. The issue with that for me is that the income goes down but the major expenses don't. So I have to see how much income I will actually get from writing! So that's something to look at in a couple of years, not now.

But you advice is great. Makes the dream seem more realistic.
Jul. 29th, 2010 09:11 am (UTC)
I sometimes find it discouraging to think about stuff I'd like to do that seems so far in the future I'll never attain it, but I've found that if I say, "It's in my five-year plan," it actually sounds kind of optimistic. It's better than a wistful "someday."

My five-year plan was to move to a better house, but then my income was quartered :(

Then again I'm grateful I don't live in a box under a viaduct.
Jul. 29th, 2010 10:55 am (UTC)
I know I used to be too impatient to do everything right NOW! Especially as I feel I spent too long not writing. But I feel I'm more at peace with letting things take as long as they take now. And planning, even just writing a goal down makes anyone more likely to make it happen. Without that it's no more than a wish.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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