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How to Master (and Survive) a Career as a Solo Writer!
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Return to The Business of Writing · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

"Two heads are better than one."---Anonymous

Read author's bios in an article's closure or in the intro of best-selling books, and you'll find that the vast majority include a reference to a spouse who served as a cheerleader, or editor, or sounding board, or motivator, or muse, or hand-holder... In nearly every book dedication, you'll find a word of thanks to the partner who helped the writer pursue his/her dreams.

But what about the individuals for whom there is no "better half?"

Consider the widow who discovers her passion for writing later in life. The corporate ladder-climbing diva who moonlights as a writer, who has yet to find her Prince Charming. There's no one to bounce ideas off in the middle of the night. No one to inspire poetic thoughts. No second income to prevent this "starving artist" from starving figuratively and literally.

Being a "solo act" as a writer is definitely more difficult and less glamorous than other forms of artistry. (And did I mention there are no adoring groupies?) Consequently, a scribe who is "unattached" or unmarried must be more strategic, committed, and resourceful than his partnered peers.

Consider the following statistics, provided by the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • In 2012, there were 103 million unmarried U.S. citizens 18 and above.

  • In 2012, 53.6% of unmarried U.S. residents 18 and older were women.

Additionally, changing norms, global travel and career aspirations are causing many to postpone marriage. Perhaps you're even one of them.

If so, read on. While this article won't help you change your marital status, it can change your writing status, and enable you, as a solo act, to enjoy a more successful career with many encore performances. But, before we address how to approach a solo career more strategically, let's examine a few reasons why single scribes have different dynamics.

Solo scribes frequently fall into the following categories...

  • They often have fewer creative options, in terms of turning down low-paying clients, or projects that are uninteresting, due to a lack of financial support.

  • They must be very self-motivated, due to a lack of spiritual and moral support often provided by a significant other.

  • They must be effective time managers, in that their non-writing responsibilities are not typically shared with a partner.

  • They often must be more skilled at juggling and prioritizing, due to holding down a 9 to 5 job (in addition to writing) for the benefit of medical insurance that might otherwise be provided by a spouse.

Traditional advice for writers does not always apply to them; they must know when and how to "adjust" to their needs and individual lifestyles.

Let's look at what a few writers had to say about how their marital status affected their writing status...

"My friends who have husbands who provide a home and insurance don't feel the pressure I do, and never have to take projects they don't like, because they're covered -- but they don't have the freedom I do to take off on a research trip whenever I need to. So both have advantages but when it comes to ease, having someone remove the burden of being the sole "bread winner" does make it easier to focus on what one loves to write." ---Cynthia Clampitt, President of Midwest Writers Association

"I truly believe that if I hadn't been married to my husband, I might not have been published. He was my biggest cheerleader and critique partner. I went to my first writers conference because he gave me a push (okay a shove)!" ---Susan R., Novelist

"I have a relatively unique scenario in that I was "married but single" when I started my freelance career. I lost my job as the editor of a business newspaper when it folded in January 2003. My husband had just been sent to Iraq for more than a year so I figured, "If I can't make a freelance writing career now, I'll never be able to do it." I had the financial advantage of his income, but the schedule of a single woman. I could work until 2 a.m., eat on my own schedule and go days without leaving the house if I wanted." ---Wendy B, Author, Editor, PR Executive

"As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, I can attest that "flying solo" is definitely harder on the psyche and the soul. When I was married, even though my husband didn't truly understand my creative efforts, his income helped me to have less stress. Stress can often lead to writer's block. In writing, no output means no income." ---Elaine Cooke, Blogger and single mom

The good news is that even with certain obstacles and limitations, today's single scribe can learn to work smarter, not harder, and build a successful business. Even if you're not a solo act, the following tips will help you to think more strategically and better survive the rigors of freelance writing.


One of the biggest hardships for those who are single freelancers is not having the benefit of insurance coverage through a spouse's plan. Being without insurance is one of the worst "vulnerabilities" for entrepreneurs. An accident, an unexpected illness, or other life mishap could potentially devastate you financially. If you're currently uninsured, here are a few viable options to consider.

  • Depending upon your age, A.A.R.P. provides various types of insurance to people 50 years and older. For a membership fee of only $16 a year, they offer an array of products for car, health and life insurance coverage. For additional information, check out their website: http://www.aarp.org/benefits-discounts/insurance-products/

  • The National Writers Union offers writers dental and vision insurance plans to defray the high cost of dental work, surgery, eyewear and diagnostic tests.

  • If you're a homeowner, check your current policy provider. Many times, you can get policies added on at a favorable rate, such as business insurance, health insurance, and car insurance.

Support (Spiritual And Emotional)

Living life as a single scribe can be a bit lonely and challenging. As mentioned above, those who are solo, often don't have the benefit of having someone to share their dreams, bounce ideas off, keep them motivated, help manage their business, or to serve as a general cheerleader. Perhaps you're one of them.

Though these suggestions won't quite replace having a mate, they can help you to feel supported, more "connected," and motivated to go the distance.

  • Join a local writers group in your area. The benefits? The camaraderie and creative input of people who know some of the trials and tribulations you're going through can be a real morale booster. I have a group that I meet with once a month at our local library. It has been tremendously helpful in keeping me on task, helping me to see the lighter side of writer's rejections, and allowing me to see my creative work more objectively. Different groups meet for different purposes. For example, some meet to critique work, while others meet to network and share publishing and writing job opportunities. Some are devoted to nonfiction, while others focus upon other genres, like fiction or blogging. Choose what works best for you based upon your individual needs and writing level. Meetup.com is a fun site devoted to this purpose.

  • Expand your social horizons through social media. Cast a wide net to people who may live in different regions but share the same interests. It's a great way to network, collaborate on creative projects, and build your business and your bottom line. A friend of mine recently shared how Twitter has been instrumental in allowing her to connect with some high-profile folks to land lucrative interviews. She once interviewed singer Chaka Khan and the legendary Maya Angelou.

Support (Financial)

No matter what your vocation, having to survive off one income in today's tough economy can seem next to impossible. With writers, "the plot thickens." Many times publishers pay months after work is completed. Online scams await the unwary writer, so that you may not get paid for work performed at all. And who can forget the "feast or famine" cycles? It becomes crucial for writers to develop other forms of income and opportunities.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you're a blogger, make your site pay for the sweat equity and time. A simple task like placing a "donate to this site" button on your blog can provide gas money, office supplies, or weekly groceries, and tide you over until your next check.

  • Got a great idea for a film, book, play, or other creative project, but lack the finances to move forward? KickStarter.com is a popular platform that provides funding for various artistic endeavors to make your dreams a reality (instead of a "dream deferred").

  • Remember never to put all your eggs in one basket. For example, in addition to writing, I also teach writing classes online, set up blogs for other writers, and have even been paid for poetry recitals in my area. Take inventory and see what marketable skills you have that would enhance your career and your bottom line.

Don't limit your creativity to your writing. By following these timely tips you'll meet the demands of today's "solo act" -- and put a song in your heart, money in your bank account, and more freedom in your freelancing choices.

Copyright © 2015 Jennifer Brown Banks
This article is not available for reprint without the author's written permission.

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, pro blogger, and ghost writer. Her guest posts have been featured at "top-dog" sites such as: Men with Pens, ProBlogger, Daily Blog Tips, and Write to Done. Visit her site at http://Penandprosper.blogspot.com/.


Copyright © 2018 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors and may not be reprinted
without the author's written permission, unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor

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