How Lucrative is Stay-At-Home Writing?

Well, You Aren’t Losing Money…

Let’s start off with a little perspective. As I like to mention often, paying someone else to watch your child can be quite costly. Child care centers cost $10,000 – $20,000/year depending on where you live. I didn’t look at the cost of nannies because if you operate in a realm where a nanny is a plausible possibility, then you probably  stumbled onto my blog by accident when your yacht captain made an unexpected turn and a wine glass spilled across your diamond-crusted iPad. In any case, staying home with your kid and not having a nanny saves you money. You’ve got that going for you. Starting off in the black.

Photo Courtesy of Brenna Richardson © 2013

Photo Courtesy of Brenna Richardson © 2013

You Develop Depression Era Grit.

For most stay at home writer/dads, switching from, “Double Income No Kids,” to “Half Income with Kids, Diapers & Formula,” can be jolting financially. It often requires a complete rework of the family budget, which, in turn, leads to belt-tightening. This, believe it or not, will benefit your writing career. Like businesses that learn how to cut the fat in lean times, if your family can get by *comfortably* on one income, there is not undue pressure for your writing to succeed. Pressure, for sure, but no one will starve. Work at it. Allow your craft to marinate and mature. Then, once your writing makes it big…

It’s All Gravy Baby.

Everything you make from here on out is bonus. Put it in the kiddo’s college fund. Chub up your retirement account. Buy yourself a Maserati, whatever. You already know how to live off the land, so now you can use the money your writing brings in for whatever you’d like.

Ballpark Figures?

Anyone’s guess. It depends on what you write, how much you write,  and how well people decide to pay you for it.  Assume that you will make exactly zero, then anything you make will be a pleasant surprise. Some people make a comfortable living at writing/fatherhood. Some even do so well that their spouses can quit their jobs and take over the kid-caring responsibility.  Others, even NYT bestselling authors have to hold down a part-time job to pay the bills.

Generally,  writer/dads who divide their time equally between long-term “tent pole” projects (novels, screenplays) and short-term quick-money projects (magazine articles, professional blogging, short stories) tend to average out the best overall.

Some Round Numbers

Here are some average payouts by writing genre.  They are derived from my own experience, a survey of writers I know, and publicly available figures. Some of the estimates are on the conservative side.

1) Books. The industry average for an advance on a traditionally published, first-time author’s novel is somewhere between $5,000 – $15,000. Nonfiction titles for someone with a decent platform pay a little more. How much you are paid for each successive book depends on the success of the first book, and what kind of deal you are able to reach with the publisher. E-book sales vary widely and depend exclusively on your own marketing efforts.

2) Screenplays. For a non-union writer in North America a feature-length screenplay for an Indie film can reasonably bring in $5,000, or sometimes, 2% of the production budget.  But only if the project receives funding, I hasten to add.  A WGA-member writer will easily get 10-20 times as much per union rules.

3) Magazines / Trade Publications. Well-researched  nonfiction articles bring in more money than fiction or poetry. A mediocre magazine will pay $250-$500 for a good feature story.  Some pay considerably more. Those that accept fiction or poetry often do so for a pittance of around $50-$100 (though there are exceptions).

4) Professional Blogging / Content Writing. Businesses are looking for people to write their content for them. The problem is that good gigs are hard to find due to overseas competition driving down minimum pay rates. A decent blogging job will pay you $30-$50 per 500 word post.

The Stay-At-Home Advantage

All of the above genres can be written from the comfort of your own home while your kiddo sleeps.  This is one of the many reasons that writing is the perfect job for the stay-at-home dad. It requires no boss, overhead, or inventory. You alone determine how much work you get done in a day. And, consequently, how much money you’ll make in the end.

What about you? Are you a stay-at-home writer/dad? How are you doing financially? What are you writing to bring in money? How often? Let me know in the comments.

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Joshua Rigsby is a freelance writer, tea drinker, and full-time father based in Los Angeles, California.

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