Monday, 10 March 2014

The Business of Writing

The April issue of Writing Magazine is just hitting the shops now and contains the first article in a series the editor has commissioned me to write, about the business of writing. Many people, myself included, begin writing as a hobby: something to do at the end of a busy working day at the office to help us unwind.

However, even though it may be a hobby, if you’re looking to submit your work, whether it be to a competition or other paying market, you should remember that you are competing with the professionals, so you should take a professional attitude to your writing. This means dealing with it in a business-like way. I did read somewhere online that you shouldn’t call yourself a professional photographer unless you earned more than 50% of your income from your photography, but I disagree with that. In my opinion, professionalism is an attitude of mind, not a figure on a bank balance.

My first article looks at tax, because we’re approaching that time when the new tax year starts. If you’ve been successful and sold some of your writing, then you do need to tell the tax man so you can pay tax on this income. I know nobody likes paying tax, but it’s better to pay what you owe as soon as it becomes due than find yourself owing lots and being liable to a fine. And, actually, I like to think that paying tax on your writing earnings is a sign of success - it proves that people have paid for your words. For those who think professionalism is about money, well, if you’ve paid tax on your earnings from your words then you can’t get any more professional than that, can you?

Over the coming months this Business of Writing series will look at other aspects of writing, such as keeping track of records, contacts and interviews, understanding the rights we have available in our works, and how to remain productive.

When people dream about being a writer I’m sure the business side of things doesn’t play a big role in that dream. (Does anybody dream about admin?) But a business-like attitude can help you to maximise your writing opportunities. And opportunities are the stepping stones to further success.


Good luck!

9 comments:

  1. Had a quick look at the article and will study it later.

    As much as we hate paying tax, it's very satisfying to know we've earned from writing - not everyone achieves that...at least that's what I tell myself when I click on 'Pay'!

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    1. I think we have to think of anything that lessens the blow of paying tax, Helen!

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  2. This is a really important issue, Simon. We all hate the idea of the taxman but as you say, having to fill in a tax return is a sign that you have had some success as a writer. I pass it all over to my husband to deal with, I'm afraid! Looking forward to reading the article.

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    1. I hope your husband finds it useful too then, Wendy!

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  3. Simon, I've read your article and found it very useful (NI was something I really wasn't clear about, for example, but you've answered that one!). The tax man is querying a return of mine from a couple of years ago - aaagh! I had a letter on Friday. Looks like I made a mistake when I filled in my self-assessment - not, I hasten to add, intentionally and it wasn't to do with my writing income, but my 'day job'. and the P60 I was sent that year. Got to speak to my former employer about it but it looks like I may be facing an additional tax bill of £500 plus, possibly, a fine for doing it wrong!! So, it's important to get it right...!

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    1. Good luck with getting that right Helen, especially as it's with a former employer.

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  4. Excellent piece in this month's WM, Simon, and very timely. So many people are keen to offer advice about HOW to write that the business side of things sometimes gets pushed aside. No-one wants the tax man knocking at the door, so not being organised is not an option.
    I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. I hope you find the rest of the series useful!

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  5. I like the post, it was very much how I perceive writing, and yet reading your words reaffirmed the validity of maintaining a professional attitude. Yes, being a professional writer is an attitude to cultivate.

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