Can you realistically make a living as a writer?

Mary Demuth cropped lisbon smaller I spent a good deal of time talking with a friend of mine who’s in an ancillary business alongside Christian writers at the recent Christian Book Expo. He said he’s diversifying in this economy, stressing it’s the only way to stay solvent and successful. That got me thinking about my last year of writing, and how I’ve tried to beef up my monthly income. Has my own experiment with diversification worked? Read on.

First thing I did was revamp my website and create a store. Selling books from my site hasn’t generated bucket loads of moolah, but it’s always fun to make a few bucks here and there. I use Click and Ship at USPS.com with the post office’s free flat rate envelopes to ship. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.

I also created products on my site: 150 downloadable conversation starters to use around the dinner table and a nonfiction proposal tutorial. Those both took up front time, but since they’re e-products, they’re essentially “free” income to me. Author Randy Ingermanson calls this passive income–you can make money as you sleep. Plus, both those products are beneficial, to families and to writers. I’m currently working on another major product with some writing friends.

In addition, I spent time learning how to become a better speaker. I’m thankful for the mentoring I received at Wildfire Marketing. (They also helped me with branding, my website, the products, and so much more.) Because of their feedback, I was able to greatly improve my ability to communicate, streamline my speaking process (in terms of getting gigs), and charge higher fees.

In the spirit of diversificaiton, I also write articles. This month, I have an article in Focus on the Family magazine entitled “Under Ghana’s Sky” about my now-13-year-old son’s quest to provide water for a village in Ghana. I’ve finally broken into Writer’s Digest and The Writer, which took several years. My next goal is to write for one of the biggies like Family Circle or O. (One can dream!)

I do write books, and those advances help the bottom line. But my goal is to earn out those advances, so I’m working on new marketing ideas, and experimenting with social networking. I have seen great response so far with Twitter and Facebook, though it’s hard to measure actual sales. That’s the kind of work that you can’t quantify, and it’s frustrating not to be paid for doing it, but that’s the nature of the beast, I suppose.

And last, I mentor writers at The Writing Spa. This has been a great avenue of steadier income, plus I have the privilege of teaching others. I’m toying around with doing seminars/workshops where I live, where four or five writers come in for a weekend intensive, but haven’t fleshed that out yet.

So there you have my own experiment at diversification. I’m getting closer at making a living, but not quite there yet. It’s taken me a good eight years to get to this place. How about you? Would you mind answering the following questions in the comment section?

  • What are you doing to create income as you write?
  • What has helped?
  • What has bombed?
  • Do you feel it’s possible to make a living wage as a writer?
  • Is there anything I’ve missed? (I know writing for corporations is a viable, lucrative option, for instance.)