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Cheryl Wright

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Books by Cheryl Wright
The Ultimate Professional
By Cheryl Wright
Last edited: Friday, July 02, 2004
Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004

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Cheryl Wright

• Mysterious Liaisons: Creating Characters from Life
• Stress Relief Using Aromatherapy
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If you want to be a writer, you've got to act like a professional. This article will point you in the right direction.

If I had 10 cents for every time I read an article telling me to write in my pyjamas, I’d be rich. Not that I’m against pyjama fantasies, mind you, it’s just that I’m a, er, well, professional.
I’m going to ask just one question; do you go to your day-job in your pj’s – the bright yellow ones sprinkled with red teddy bears? I’m pretty certain I know the answer. 

Then tell me why you would ever consider writing in your nightwear. 

Comfort? Wear your tracksuit or comfy jeans and windcheater.

If you don’t act in a professional manner with your writing business – and it is a business – you will be treated in exactly the same manner; unprofessionally.

There are a number of ways to treat your writing business professionally. I would certainly recommend having a dedicated room to do your writing, but it’s not always feasible or possible. Add one or two filing cabinets if you can. As your business grows, so will your paperwork (unfortunately!).

Have set ti
mes to work; my computer is turned on at 8.30am every day – almost the second I get back from dropping hubby at the railway station. I take tea and lunch breaks, just like I would at a day-job. And I finish late in the afternoon – usually at 4.30 or 5pm.  If I’m running a workshop, or behind schedule, then I might work later, but not until after dinner is over, and the kitchen tidied up. (Thank goodness for dishwashers!)

I mostly have Wednesdays off, but I have a full-on day on Saturdays – pretty much the same times as above, sometimes longer – because I have the house totally to myself on Saturday, so I can usually get heaps of work done.

If you have a problem with your family understanding that you are a business, stick a poster on your office door:

Wordsmith Mary – Professional Writer 
Office Hours: 8.30am to 5pm.

(You will, of course, add your own name!)

When you are going to your ‘office’ to write, make sure they know you are ‘working’. I also ‘trained’ family and friends not to ring on Saturday. That’s my ‘solid work’ day. I attempt to have no interruptions on Saturdays; as much as possible, anyway.

The other thing I did was register myself as a business. I have an ABN – Australian Business Number – and have that fact printed on my business cards, which leads into the next item. If you want to be a professional writer, you must have business cards. They’re pretty cheap publicity, and are very good for networking. You can get business cards at a surprisingly low cost from Vista Print ( One-sided premium business cards cost me around $15 AU, and that includes freight costs from the US to Australia; my local printer wanted $120 for pretty much the same thing. Now that I have them double-sided with the details of my “Writer to Writer” ezine, it costs me around $21 AU including freight. That’s unbelievably cheap. (They also have regular specials, and once registered for their newsletter, you’ll get notification of these.)

Make sure you have stationery like letterheads and ‘With Compliments’ slips. I have “Publisher” in my small business software package, and make all my own flyers, brochures, letterheads, ‘With Compliments’ slips, and anything else of that type. You can also make business cards with this package, but I find them too fiddly – but I have friends who make their own, and they look great. (I’m creative, I’m artistic, but I’m also impatient!)

The best thing about making these items yourself is it’s incredibly easy to update them with changes of address, adding a postal address, domain name etc. If you had them done by a printer, it would cost a fortune. I print my letterheads as I need them. 

I recently secured a post office box, and updating my letterhead was a breeze.

Another important aspect of being a writer is records-keeping. I know – I hate it myself, but it makes it very easy at the end of the financial year; I just hand over my receipts and spreadsheets to my accountant and he does the rest.

Every country differs in what you can claim so I’m not going to go into details, but there are many items that writers can claim. In Australia, we can claim capital items such as computers and printers, minor items like stationery, stamps, and books for research, utilities such as electricity, heating costs, ISP, and telephone - mobile and land-line. And don’t forget subscriptions to the various writing associations, along with conferences and related meals and accommodation. It could be well worth your while to check with your local tax office. (Always seek professional advice for accurate information)

Next time you think about writing in your pj’s, ask yourself: ‘Isn’t it time YOU took YOUR business seriously?’



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Reviewed by Nova Scott (Reader) 11/12/2004
I truly believe that something different works for everyone. Example, a teacher is a professional also, but there is nothing saying thta it is wrong for him/her to come home at night and grade papers in their pj's. I generally dress in a tee and jeans to write, more formal for business 'outings', but I have my own little quirk. I CANNOT write if there is anyone else in the house with me. (In my house the sign thing would be ignored) Where others 'think' their ideas, I speak them-to myself, into tape recorders etc, I seem to think more clearly aloud! I, too, am creative, artistic, but very easily distracted. I liked the way your article was written but think that what is obviously working well for you, may not be the best route for everyone. Writers are an artistic, creative bunch, and oh so very unique, sometimes to the point of being called 'eccentric'.
Reviewed by Cynthia Borris 7/2/2004

Excellent advice but I draw the line at wearing my black wool suit while I write. :) My comfort clothes add to the flavor of my humor!


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