Don’t Give Up Your Day Job!

by Tina Isaacs


An interesting discussion began amongst my local writing community today. One lady was making plans to write full time and posed the question in our group timeline inquiring on the kinds of jobs she could do if her writing career didn’t work out.

Having contemplated the same idea myself not so long ago, I shared with her an epiphany that came to me after interacting with many writers from around the globe. And so I thought I’d share it here, in case anyone else is facing similar crossroads in their writing careers.


Now, lemme give it to you straight:

Many, or I should say most, writers DO NOT make enough money to subsist on writing alone. Especially if you have other dependents too. There are even writers who have had NYT Bestsellers who cannot afford to give up their regular paying jobs, although they consider themselves ‘full time’ writers. 

The fact is, unless you have written a multi-million bestseller like JK Rowling, Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, Harumi Murakami, EL James and Stephanie Meyer, or unless you have a millionaire husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/life partner who is willing to pay for everything while you write, write and do nothing but write, then hell, yeah, you have to juggle work and writing at the same time. 

Ask any of the prolific writers in your community whether they have given up their paying jobs to survive purely on book sales, and I can guarantee you find less than a handful who’d say yes (and not be lying to your face).

One established Malaysian writer told me: it’s great pocket money and that once-a-year-bonus to buy that little something extra for yourself, but it doesn’t pay the bills.  

So, as someone put it, DON’T GIVE UP YOUR DAY JOB! 


If you are one of those who must do something related to writing, then there are many jobs out there that actually assist you in furthering your writing career while you do it: 

  • get a Masters/PhD and become a college lecturer teaching English or creative writing, or with an English or Literature Degree so you can teach English or creative writing in schools/learning centers; 
  • become an editor, proofreader or copywriter for a periodical or publishing house [some of these positions require an English Degree too, although some allow you to advance based on experience];
  • freelance by writing and submitting articles or blogposts for periodicals which pay you. Many are constantly looking for well written pieces. Here are some useful links: http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/…/30-types-of…/ and http://thewritelife.com/find-freelance-writing-jobs/… and you can find more if you participate in your local writing community and follow their bulletin boards;
  • get a regular job writing blog or web-content, or book reviews;
  • become a news journalist, reporter or columnist for a print/online periodical;
  • if you are good at translations, try to get into literary translations;
  • many writing competitions have cash prizes too, so you can give those a try while you practice your writing.

There are thousands of options out there; you just have to know where to look. But, be warned, it’s also a highly competitive market, so you have to be tenacious, hard working and good at it before you can make any headway.


When I had reached those crossroads in my writing career, and after having gathered all the advise from fellow writers friends, I decided to write part-time while maintaining my day job to pay for monthly expenses. Surprisingly, after making that decision, it lightened a burden I hadn’t even realized I was carrying, worrying too much about which career path to take.

Oh, I haven’t given up on my dream to push for a successful writing career. It’s just that having come to that epiphany, I write with a managed expectation of what a writing career can bring me.

With clearer expectations in mind, I began figuring out ways to make all my professional experiences count in my fiction. This I did by weaving into it little anecdotes and observations during my lifetime as a litigation lawyer, because one always remember that a good writer aims to WRITE WHAT ONLY YOU CAN WRITE (in other words, ask yourself what makes you unique?); this is what translates into your individual writing voice. 

Also, I went on to capitalize on my legal experience by integrating it into my writing, starting with my two non-fiction side-projects – a guide to legal practice for newbies, and a book on Copyright & the Author.  

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