The other day, it finally hit me.
I am following my dream and becoming a self-published author. Every day that I work on my outline for my novel or interact with other writers on Twitter, Facebook or WordPress I feel like I belong to a special community of creatives who all share my passion.
The idea that I could spend my days grinding away at my next novel, reaching out to readers and connecting with other authors, attending conferences, marketing my books and leaving my day job is intoxicating.
A little too intoxicating, in fact.
I’ll admit, ever since I promised myself I would pursue a writing career, my motivation in my day job has plummeted. I haven’t been happy in my day job for a while, but I’ve always cared about the quality of work that I produced and the people on my team even though the office environment is toxic.
Currently, I oversee the marketing for a student services department in higher education. It is high volume, high stress, low paying work. (If anyone else has experience working public higher education in the US, you’ll understand my pain.)
But because I have invested in my team’s success and believe in helping the students, I’ve stuck around. For a long time, I’ve wanted to leave because nothing is going to change and I am undervalued and underpaid in my current job.
The reality is, I can’t quit my day job (yet!).
What I can do is find little ways to make my day job also contribute and work towards my dream job. I am currently in marketing and oversee all design, copy, social media and strategy for our office. A lot of those same skills are needed in an author business.
Here are 5 ways my current day job is helping me work towards my dream job:
1. I’m constantly required to learn and find new content
Part of my job involves digging around for content relevant to put into marketing pieces and social media posts. Although the sites that I may be visiting or the articles I am reading for work are on topics unrelated to writing, the process of finding relevant content to share is a skill I can certainly use in my writing and social media posts. In my day job, I am a member of professional organizations and get regular newsletters from industry leaders which I mine for content and to learn from. In my author business, I’ve started joining in on Twitter discussions related to writing and authorship and have signed up for newsletters in order to get content to share and learn from.
2. I’m learning how to grow a social media following
Our office social media platforms don’t have huge followings compared to most, but we are always looking for ways to reach students who may have interest in our resources or events. I’ve researched social media strategies, hashtags, etiquette, posting schedules and ways to schedule out posts in advance. This has helped me understand social media from a larger perspective and has helped tremendously in my author business. As an introvert, social media is a scary place. But working behind the scenes on social media for my current employer gave me the confidence to create my own author accounts.
3. I’m in charge of crafting and scheduling out email messaging
This includes putting together newsletters, event invitations and promotions that look attractive, are easy to read and resonate with an audience of 18-24 year olds. I’ve experimented with subject lines, emailing times and frequencies and have collected data to analyze and inform our future email campaigns. Now, I am not naturally a data person and to be honest it is tedious and boring work to compile this kind of information and then dissect it but doing so has helped me be more comfortable looking at these numbers and understanding what they mean. This kind of knowledge will certainly help me when I decide to build my author mailing list, even though the audience will be totally different.
4. I’m working on a redesign of our entire website
User experience and web design are things that I have zero clue about. But I’m about to learn! We are currently in the beginning phases of surveying users of our site to see what’s working and what isn’t, and what their expectations are when they are browsing for content. We will then work with an outside organization to give guidance on UX and design. This is all handy knowledge I know will carry over to my author site (when I create it….)
5. I’m succeeding in many ways, but not without failures
One of the biggest takeaways that I have gotten from this job is that you can’t expect everything to work the first time around. I have been in my office for 4 years and over the course of that time have tried and failed at many things. However, what I’ve learned from failure has been way more valuable than if everything had gone perfectly. As Indie authors, we can’t expect to skyrocket to the top of the charts with the first book (although some people do!). It is going to take a lot of experimentation.
Now, I know that my position in marketing has a lot of natural crossover with my author business. However, if you are in any day job there are ways for you to build skills that are going to cross over and help you in your writing and authorship.
You can do it too.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Employers will not penalize you for wanting to pursue professional development opportunities.
Why not ask if there are any projects outside of the scope of your work that you can help with?
Are there any writing needs that your office has that aren’t currently being met?
How is your organization’s social media doing?
Are there ways you can pitch in and help?
If there are professional development classes on writing in your area, see if your employer would sponsor for you to attend. Writing and communication are always skills that you can advocate for as they help in all aspects of business, especially customer service and sales.
For authors that are not able to go full-time yet, these types of experiences can not only help you in the long run in your authorship but also may make your day job a little more bearable because you will be working on your craft.
And if your day job just really does not work for your dream job, why not find one that will?
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