Monday, November 25, 2013

Track Expenses

It amazes me how many people have no clue about tracking their expenses. 

I'm asked all the time if I keep receipts, how do I do my taxes, etc.

From my experience with the IRS (US), the more you keep track the better off you are especially if you're doing a tax filing showing yourself as a writer. 

I track all my writing expenses: conferences, hotels, meals, etc., that includes car mileage.

There are various ways to track, and you can find various ways on the Internet or by asking people what they use.  

But it is important to track your expenses before and after you've published.  

I started claiming my writing expenses many, many years before I was published.  Now, I will say, there were many things I could have tried to write off my taxes but chose not to.  This was my choice.  I wrote off dues to organizations, conferences, hotel expenses while at conference, meals, etc.  

Now, you don't have to claim your writing expenses before your published with the IRS.  But it is important to tack them, because it will give you an idea of how much money you are spending.  And when you do become published, you'll already have a good tracking system in place.
There are expenses I never thought about and year after year I keep track and see what I'm spending my writing income on.  

I track both incoming and outgoing income, I do this by spreadsheets.  It's not hard and as long as you keep it up, so it's not time consuming.

You are going to have expenses as a writer so it's important to track them.

Next week: Know what your publisher does for you

Monday, November 18, 2013

Time to Write

One of the things that make us professional writers is we write.

You wouldn't believe how many people forget that.  As a writer, I have to write my books and short novella's and get them to my editors in order for readers to read them.

If I don't write, I don't get paid because I've sold nothing to my editors and there's nothing for the reader to buy.

Some of the most successful writers do just that write.  Some write 365 days a year, others take time off for the holiday's, others write Monday through Friday and take weekends off.

It doesn't matter how you do it, but you must write and submit your work.  Otherwise, how will readers find you and buy your work.

Writing, at least for me, is a part of me.  When I'm not writing, I'm not happy.  Right now I don't write every day, but I'm working on it.  And I've found so far, for two weeks now, I've been writing or editing every day and I feel so much better about myself and my writing.

This leads in to last weeks topic, keeping track of time.  If I hadn't been keep track I wouldn't have noticed how much I'd progressed in the last two weeks.  I finished editing a novel, which I'd been ignoring, and sent it to my editor.  I'm now working on a novella that has a deadline of the end of this month (November).

I've had things come up in the past two weeks to throw me off my game, but I've made a commitment to myself so I write or edit every day.  Sometimes its very late a night, and I really don't want to do it, but I do and I feel better that I'm keeping my commitment.  Even if its only to myself.

Next week: tracking expenses

Monday, November 11, 2013

Keeping Track of Time

Some wonder why this is important.  It's important to me because I need to know where my time goes, plus by keeping a log of time, I can prove to anyone this isn't a hobby but a job.  

It also helps you as a writer to see are you spending too much time researching than writing?  Or at least where your time goes.

What do I keep track of?

I keep track of:

Research time
Writing time
Reading time
Conference time (attending or giving)
Workshop time (attending or giving)
Professional meetings

Anything related to my writing.

I also keep track on a daily basis what I do, so sometimes my typical day looks like this:

online - 1 hour
My blog - 30 minutes
Doctor appt.
WIP - 2 hours

This way when I look back at a week when I have missed my weekly goal (it happens) I can see that I had a doctor appointment and laundry which wasn't expected.  I'll even put down when there's a family emergency so I know what happened.

Overkill?  Maybe, but six months to a year from now I may not remember why there are four blank days on my calendar, just have the words family emergency, reminds me.  

Also this helps me when planning out my schedule for writing the next month or even year, because I can see a pattern to where things happen and plan for them.

Next week: Write

Monday, November 4, 2013

Writing Goals

Goals are important to any professional, but especially to writers.  I know when I had the dreaded day job, I hated it when my boss asked what my goals were.  When I was fresh into the company I could tell the boss, but when I was within a few years of retiring, my goal was to retire.

With writing, there is so much more to it.  One has to be realistic about their goals, but that doesn't mean we can't reach for the stars.  We sometimes want to reach higher than we think we can.

The main thing about goals to remember is they need to be SMART goals.


Specific goal - write 5 pages a day, 6 days a week

Measurable - the number of pages per day or week

Attainable - can I write 5 pages a day, 6 days a week?  If yes, then it's attainable, if not, then need to change the goal

Realistic - look at what a typical week looks like, is it realistic for me to write 5 pages a day, 6 days a week

Time-bound - 1 week

This is pretty simplistic but this is what I do.  I have daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals and yearly goals.  I also have 5 year and 10 year plans/goals.  The reason for this is to track where I am, plus the IRS (in the US) can ask for your 5 year and 10 year plans if they think you're not doing this as a business.

It's amazing on how things change which is why you do re-evaluate your goals. I always look at my monthly goals to see how I progressed and change the next month if needed.  On the yearly goals, I look at them once a year at the end of the year to see how I did and make the next years plan accordingly.

The 5 and 10 year goals, I do look at maybe once a year or every other year.  

If you're not making a weekly goal, take a look at your daily goals and see what happened that week and then adjust.

This isn't written in stone, but it gives you a benchmark.

Just remember goals don't make you a professional, but they make do make you look better when asked what your goals are.

Next week: Keeping Track of Time