Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How I Became a Full-time Writer

Today is my last day of work before launching out on my own as a full-time writer. It’s also Good Friday, a day of new beginnings only made possible by something else ending.

Pro writer

Photo credit: gilles chiroleu (Creative Commons)

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Today is the result of years of hard work and hustling, culminating in a dream finally come true. It’s a good day, but one not without its cost.

When people ask me how I did this, how I became a writer, and what advice I have for them, I usually caution them. Pursuing a dream is hard and costly. It requires lots of energy and dedication, but it can be worth the effort.

These days, most people I meet are talking about their dreams. They want to launch out into their life’s work or pursue a calling, and they’re doing it all wrong.

They think they need to take a giant leap out into the unknown when, in fact, the opposite is true. It’s all about small steps over time.

Step 1: Turn pro

Most of the work of a dream is committing to it in the first place, deciding to stop acting the amateur and do the work of a pro.

For years, I played around with writing. I wrote when I felt like it and told myself little lies about how I’d be a writer… some day. I wasn’t taking my craft seriously.

Then one day, a friend asked what my dream was. When I said it was to be a writer, he said these words that changed my life:

You don’t have to want to be a writer. You are a writer; you just need to write.

So I started calling myself a writer. Everywhere I went, I introduced myself as “Jeff Goins, Writer,” even put it in email signatures and on my Facebook page.

And you know what? I started acting like it. Eventually, I even began to believe it. Turns out sometimes you do have to fake it before you make it.

The lesson here is simple: If you wait for someone to give you permission to start pursuing your dream, you’ll be waiting a long time. You have to begin before you think you’re ready.

Step 2: Practice in the margins

After I decided to pursue my dream, I still had to find the time to do it. Working a full-time job and having a wife and other commitments, I didn’t have unlimited free time. I had to find time to practice in the margins of life.

For me, that meant getting up early. Like, 5:00 a.m. early. Every morning, I would wake up, get my coffee, and write for two hours. At first, this was difficult; I had to force myself out of bed and downstairs before the sun rose. But eventually, it became habitual. I did it without even thinking about it. And soon, what started as a discipline became a daily joy.

By doing this, I learned the excuse I had given myself — “I don’t have enough time” — wasn’t true. I did have enough time; it was just hiding in “inconvenient” places. I learned that the secret of mastery is frequency, not quantity. It’s more about small, regular repetitions than volume of work.

Step 3: Build a bridge

When my side gig starting yielding results — getting published, having 10,000 people subscribe to my blog, being asked to speak at conferences — I didn’t jump ship.

I stuck it out with my day job, partly because I loved the work and partly because my family was counting on me to not flake out. I didn’t want to dive into a dream prematurely, and I didn’t want to burn any bridges with my employer of six years.

So I took my time, building a bridge between my day job and my dream job, finding ways for the two complement each other. This meant applying what I’d learned from my blog to our organization, while practicing my craft at work so I could do it better on the side.

Wherever I could, and always with my employer’s permission, I recycled materials, using my time and opportunities efficiently. I refused to believe the lie that pursuing my dream and doing my job well were mutually exclusive.

When it came time to tell my boss that I would be moving on (after a lot of deliberation over this), he told me he was proud of me. We both got emotional, said a prayer together, and agreed to stay in touch. I realized then that because I included him in the process, he’d been cheering me on the whole time.

What I learned & what’s next

These past two years, I’ve learned a lot about honoring commitments, pursuing a dream, and launching a business. As I look back on this journey, three lessons stick out in my mind that are worth sharing:

  1. Don’t wait for permission. You have to start acting like a pro before others will believe it.
  2. Don’t jump too soon. There may be an opportunity to build momentum on the side so you can minimize risk once it’s time to launch. People are counting on you; don’t take that lightly.
  3. Don’t believe the people closest to you want you to fail. Some of the people you fear the most could be your biggest allies. They were for me.

In this next season of life, I’ll be focusing on writing books and speaking more. I’ll also continue to create new courses and eBooks for all you lovely readers. But today is about reflection and celebration. So that’s what I’m doing, appreciating that it took to get me here (and how grateful I am to everyone who helped).

The secret to launching your own dream

If this inspires you or makes you think you might want to do this some day, allow me to share something with you.

The real secret to launching out as a full-time writer or full-time anything is will. It comes down to owning your calling and committing to the work, however hard it is.

For me, this meant I had to stop saying “I don’t know how” and start saying, “I’ll figure it out.” It meant learning to be more patient and perseverant at the same time. And you know what? I did figure it.

And with God’s help, some faith, and a little luck, you will too.

Free Bonus: Want to know how to tell if you’ve found your calling? Click here for a free download.

What’s your dream and the story of how you’re pursuing it? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • Marko

    Your post inspired me to finish a 35 page, 10,000-word mini ebook which I finished in 6 days. It’s still subject to some revisions and tweaks but the hardest part is over. Thanks for empowering other writers out there!

  • http://www.unpluggedrecreated.com/ Justin Harmon

    Congratulations Jeff! Sorry I didn’t stop in and say it sooner. You’ve come a long way and it’s good to see you doing well with what you love man.

    Cheers

  • Yobial Marin

    My whole life I have been searching to find what I want to do when I grow up. I have been all grown up for a long time and have been still searching. It has only dawned on me in the last few weeks that it has been in front of me all my life. I love to write!! Thank you for the inspiring pep talk. It is never too late to pursue your dreams.

  • Christian DiPonziano

    Hi Jeff,

    To tell the truth I am a young writer who has just started on the long path to becoming a full time writer. I have always taken time out of everyday I can to write, in my novel, on story web sites, and any other method I could stumble across. Though I always hesitated to get out into the world as a writer thinking I needed to learn more before I started down the road. This article opened my eyes to the fact that I need to start now because I am a writer and I wish to write. Congratulations on your success as a writer and for thank you for the inspiration I needed to get started on my own career.

  • Megan Belich

    Congrats on a dream come true! My dream is to be a pilot who rescues orphans.

  • susan j boston

    Jeff, I wish you the very best of all that life has to offer. Following dreams is not an easy thing and I agree that many jump into it expecting it to be a breeze, moving so fast they rush ahead of them self and fail or at best make it makes their dream harder to follow.

    Bless you :)
    Susan Boston

  • Marielle

    My dream is to be a sociologist. To travel around the globe learning about people and one day help my country, and the people in here , live a better life. Im pursuing it by going to study abroad..thats an start. I love to write too, and I already have the ideas of the books I will soon write.

  • http://www.davelafferty.com/ Dante Explorer

    Congratulations, go for it!

  • http://juxberg.blogspot.com/ Jux Berg

    Just took the leap in February– was in sales for 10 years and finally had enough– you’re right, it’s about calling yourself a writer, being a writer, acting as a writer, etc. Judging by the amount of comments on here, you’ve got some great momentum– way to go, fellow writer.

  • Tanakorn Numrubporn

    You make my day Jeff! It’s so coincidence that I do the same thing as yours to awake at 5:00 and writing for 2 hours in my spare time—in my case translating. From now on you are my mentor indirectly.

    My Gratitude for you.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      A complete pleasure, Tanakorn.

  • Su Mason Chen

    Hi Jeff, just dropping to say this post hits a nerve. I am a life coach and personal development writer and have struggled with the simple act of introducing myself as a coach when I first started and I would always follow that with a very apologetic “oh I am new at this coaching thing” when people ask me how I coach etc. It took me time to adjust mentally after going full time. Great article and I am damn sure that many people can relate!

    Cheers from sunny Singapore,

    Su

  • Jeffrey Agar

    Thank you for your blog and “The Writer’s Manifesto”. I am encouraged and challenged.

  • Amylynn

    This article really hit a soft spot for me. Not only because it’s hard to pursue your dream, but it’s hard to figure out yourself while pursuing that dream, if that makes any sense. I went to school for journalism, and I’m scared I’ll never find a writing job. I love to write, absolutely love it. This article made me realize that you can go for your dream, even if it takes a while. If you are willing to to wait and be patient, you will be able to find your dream. Thanks Jeff, this article was outstanding.

  • blessedlounge

    My dream is to write stories, unabashedly put down my thoughts on paper and temper these words so I can, in whichever way inspire people to also dream and be whoever God designed them to be. Thanks jeff for inspiring your readers. Oh, I am a writer. There, I finally declared it on my blog.

  • Kyle Hart

    Your insight about ‘building momentum on the side’ really speaks to me, Mr. Goins. My day job, although I don’t completely loathe it, often encourages me to think things like “I could be doing so much more if I didn’t have to be here for X hours each day.” But really, I’m beginning to appreciate and understand the time, strength, and dedication that couples with the pursuit of a dream. I’m willing to invest whatever resources it takes and I thank you dearly for your wisdom.