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)

Bonus: When I became a full-time writer, I found my calling. Want to know how to discover what you're meant to do? Click here for a free download.

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.