ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to handle the business side of commercial writing

Updated on July 8, 2012
Source

Most professional writers soon learn the hard way that basic business practices that work for retailers and other types of business and definitely do not work for them. If you've ever had any business training, (and you should), it soon becomes obvious that you need a methodology that works for your type of business, not the textbook bookkeeping and accounting practices.

If you've ever used MYOB, or any of the other big accounting packages, it can be a real horror story, as well as a waste of time for writers. These packages are not designed to deal with the type of business that most professional writers do on a daily basis. You can actually achieve very much the same result simply using a few Excel spreadsheets and trying to be conscientious about your accounts and expenses.

Business basics

As a writer, you make and spend money on a different basis. Your expenses can be very esoteric, and they can also be quite expensive. When you're buying new software, like media software, dictation software, printer ink, hardware and media equipment, you could in theory put all that into a cost centre, but let's face it, these expenses are quite unpredictable. The average monthly balance sheets of invoices and expenses will do the job quite effectively. You don't have to be an expert in using spreadsheets, just try and keep your figures accurate.

Thanks mainly to better banking practices and the ability to search electronic statements, you can in fact keep pretty good track of your income and expenses. The other side of this equation, naturally, is setting up a good invoicing system for your clients and keeping your records up-to-date as much as possible regarding your expenses.

Invoicing

Invoicing clients is a bit of an art form in itself. It's a good idea to have a standard online invoice format which can be adapted to any client. Set it out like a business letter, with contact details on one side, the basic subject heading and invoice number (many clients will insist on this for their own audit trails) and a very straightforward text detailing the amount being billed and any payment requirements.

Receipts

Many clients do require receipts. This is not a bureaucratic process; it's a business necessity. The receipt should preferably be in much the same format as your invoices, easy to manage and easy to read.

Note: Any business record of transaction should be as simple as possible and as clearly spelt out as possible. Generally speaking, a reference number, a date and an amount are quite sufficient.

Taxes

Unless you're a professional tax accountant or a masochist, make sure that you do use a tax accountant to properly prepare your returns. This is a good idea for a number of reasons but from experience, I can tell you that at one stage I attempted to calculate my own tax, and overestimated the amount of tax payable by $8000. That should be sufficient hint for all writers to leave this work to the experts.

The most important thing about doing your taxes as a writer is to make absolutely certain that your financial records are in at least reasonably good shape, and above all comprehensible. A good tax accountant will give you a valuable education in how to both manage and understand your financial requirements in terms of records and tax entitlements.

Managing your money

If there's one thing that any creative person needs, it is money. It's not quite a cliché, unfortunately, to say that many creative people are actually almost suicidal in the way they manage their money. It's critically important for you as a writer to pin down your expenses and make sure you have enough money to live a decent life as well as do your writing.

Materialism may be a particularly annoying problem on so many levels, but it's also a problem best avoided, preferably completely, if at all possible. The kind of stress which can be caused by money problems is horrendous for creative people. I know from my own experience that it’s certainly no holiday for writers, either. Whoever came up with the idea of the "tormented artist" has a lot to answer for, but this is one type of torment you really can avoid, with a bit of care.

Virginia Woolf, no slouch in her own right as a writer, mentioned in her book A Room Of One's Own how important it was to writers to have that space which she called a room and I call buffer, to be able to write at all. People both overestimate and underestimate the issue, often fatally. I spent enough time on a very low income to know a bit about this problem, and I can tell you now that managing your money will save you a lot of quite unnecessary, self-inflicted suffering. The bottom line for writers is “Make money and don’t spend it unless you have to”, and it applies until you’re making big money and a lot of it.

Manage your business well, and you can get on with your writing in peace and be as creative as you like. Get messy or don’t take the business side seriously enough, and you’re asking for trouble and your writing will be at risk, too. You don’t have to become a raving, rabid capitalist, but you do have to get it right.





Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg COA OSC 

      6 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Great hub, really puts writing in a different perspective for me, I need to really start thinking about it as a business! Voted up and shared!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)