Working as a Writer is Great but I Miss the Security of a Regular Job

I’ve now been working full-time as a writer for almost two years. I’m still convinced that it was the right move, and I’ve no regrets. I’m one of those lucky people who get paid for doing what they love. I can’t imagine making my living any other way, but there are times when I really miss the security of a regular job.

Writing is Easy

It would’ve been unreasonable to expect life as a writer to be easy. It hasn’t been, but it is not the writing itself where most of my discomfort arises. I’ve never suffered from writer’s block – I’m not even convinced that such a thing exists. Of course there are days when I can’t be arsed to write, but I don’t see any reason to give this a fancy name. The state of my finances is usually enough to get me past this laziness. My problem is not so much the writing but all that goes with it. I’ve written before about the price I pay to be a writer, but my main cause of suffering is the lack of security.

Financial Headaches Keep Me Awake at Night

I make enough money as a writer to keep going. I pay my bills on time, and my family always has food on the table. I can even afford the occasional treat. My life is far from extravagant, but I don’t have too much to grumble about. It would have been nice to be able afford to take the family back to Ireland this year, but it’s not the end of the world. My financial worries are all about the future. It wouldn’t take much bad luck to put me in the poor house.

In the past I gained comfort from my certainty that I’ll always land on my feet. I’ve been in some desperate situations, but it always turns out good in the end. I suppose the secret is that I’m not afraid of things going bad; I know the tide always comes back. I managed to climb back from homelessness and alcoholism, and I can’t imagine being in a more desperate situation than that. What’s changed though is that I now have a family. I can no longer be so caviler about the future. If things go wrong it won’t only be me who suffers this time.

I get days when my mind feels almost frozen by fear about my financial future. I gave up a secure job as a registered nurse because of wanderlust – I wanted to see the world. I then gave up the regular paycheck of a teacher in Thailand to become a writer. In a lot of ways I’ve burnt my bridges. I couldn’t afford to work as a teacher again in Thailand; I’ve a lot more financial commitments then I used to. I’ve also been out of nursing so long that I’d probably have to do an expensive back-to-nursing training course if I wanted to return. I wouldn’t want to go back to either profession, but having the option would remove some of the worry from my life.

I’ve usually no problem getting out of bed in the morning to go to work. I still love writing. Maybe this financial insecurity is the price I pay for a dream job.

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30 thoughts on “Working as a Writer is Great but I Miss the Security of a Regular Job

  1. I’m an independent contractor in my industry, and I can’t agree with you more about the insecurity of work. Living in Thailand and having a job, I can throw around money like it is nothing. But then I go months without work and I start to wonder what the hell I am going to do. It is a constant headache which makes it extremely difficult to secure any sort of future plans.

  2. Keep writing for yourself as well as the other stuff you’re doing. I’m going to follow my own advice if I could just figure out what to write that will sell. Some first-time writers are killing it, writing for the Amazon Kindle. Others are losing a lot of time writing about the wrong topics. I’m doing some of both. lol. Hoping to figure it out before the end of the year. Cheers Paul – best of luck to you.

  3. Paul the security of a regular job and monthly pay check does take a few burdens off one’s chest but the mundaneness of full time work can lead to mental boredom.

    You are a free bird who has to forage for food and I’m a well fed budgie locked in a shiny cage. There’s two sides to the argument to which bird is better off.

    A good thoughtful post and well worthy of an online social networking bird impression. Tweet Tweet.

  4. My thoughts are reflected in the posts of your last comments. Stick to what your doing and by the sounds of your life shit normally works out…

    Is that picture you? When was that taken??

    1. Thanks Colin, most of the time I do go comfort from the idea that things will work out. I just get the odd bad day when self-doubt puts me in a downer.

      That picture was taken a couple of years ago. I’m a bit more organised these days 🙂

  5. Paul, glad to hear you still are loving what you do. I prefer having my salaried position over being a complete free-lancer, but the boredom and tediousness of it can be draining.

    Say, you should do podcasts more frequently!

  6. HI,

    I have worked in construction all of my life (so far) but have been fortunate to have never been out of work or bored , as every job is different with new faces and challenges. But lately as I get to the end of this carreer, I have started waking up at night in a cold sweat,probably more of the unknown than anything. If you are looking for advice, mine would be to have at least 2 carreer options, as you can do what you love with less fear when you have a solid back up plan. Where I use to live in NEw Hampshire U.S., because of lack of industry or anything for that matter, many people have 3-4 different work options, I know one who is a writer, lumberjack, as well as a part time breakfast cook on Sat. mornings. Good luck as I know you will do what you need.


    1. Thanks Ivan, it would be nice to have something to fall back on. I know that there is usually work available for registered nurses, but because I’ve been out of practice for a while it makes things more difficult. I suppose if push came to shove I could probably find my way back into nursing. I hope that it never comes to that.

  7. Hi Paul,
    I fully agree that one should always try to find ways pursuing their passions rather than aiming for a well secured income doing boring or silly things most of the time. Having a family could slow this process down a bit, but doesn’t really change things. I mean, would they be happy with a grumpy person around the house?
    I assume you get a fair amount of royalties paid from your first book Dead Drunk, and perhaps your publisher paid a certain amount in advance to be able to write a second book about becoming a Muay Thai fighter.
    Personally it would scare me a bit if the second book isn’t as well received as the first and consequently income would decline. No proper backup plan would freak me off.
    On the other hand in the worst case scenario you still will probably have enough time to do a backup course and pick up (part-time) nursing again ): and continue as a part-time writer, until you’ll earn enough from your passion again.
    If someone has a drive like yours, it seems unlikely that they will not succeed in the end.
    And if this is really the worst what could happen I would say: Go for it!

    1. Thanks I-nomad. I delayed becoming a full-time writer because of financial fears but working at a job I didn’t really like became soul-destroying. It got harder each day. In the end it felt like there was no choice but to write full-time. I would love to be able to make my money from just writing books, but only people who put out best-sellers can realistically do this. The real money is to be made by writing for other people.

  8. Hi Paul, that explains why you talk about earning while writing, I was a bit puzzled there. I never heard about that actually; OEM-writing or how is that being called? I only know about columnists etc. who getting paid on a regular basis.

  9. Paul, the day or so after our youngest fled the nest (for a second or third time) I quit my full time job and pursued my labour of love. But soon found I had to supplement the my ‘own’ work, with part-time regular paid work…because bills are regular, unfortunately.

    I guess I’m lucky, because half of the time I was able to do what I love, but for other people who were willing to pay for it…so it’s not all bad.

    Just before I came to Thailand I was knocking work back…too busy at someone else’s office! However, when I return (fingers/legs/eyes crossed) I’ll be able to work for myself, only.

    It’s hard when you have mouths to feed other than your own.

  10. Paul, I’m not sure what to suggest, exactly, but I wanted to share an experience with you. I worked as a stock broker for several years and eventually left the profession because I couldn’t sleep at night if I recommended an investment and my clients lost money (such as if the stock went down instead of up). I switched professions, going back to school to get a master’s degree in teaching, only then to not be able to find a job. I went back into the investment business in a slightly different capacity, only to quit six months later because I found I made the right decision the first time for valid reasons. I became very depressed the first time because of moral conflicts, and again became very depressed the second time, again because of moral conflicts. Whatever your reasons were for leaving nursing and teaching, I feel they must have been valid. I encourage you to find something new even if you are worried.

    Regarding writing, a professional newspaper writer once gave me a tip that I will pass along (never used it, but thought it was a great tip). In order to get the real specifications for target audience in different magazines or publications, especially if they aren’t forthcoming (and assuming they don’t have only staff writers) write to them and ask for their ADVERTISING guidelines and specifications. They will send you information on WHO their readership is in terms of demographics, which can really help you target your articles to their audiences.

    1. Hi Lynne. I do still feel certain that writing is the best choice for me. It is just that I struggle with uncertainty – which is a bummer because life is full of uncertainty 🙂

      Good tip for finding work – thanks

  11. Clients are happy and work is available for the forseeable future. In the midst of layoffs around the world, it doesn’t get much more secure than that. That said, I do understand the feeling. The value you provide is the best, and only, security there is.

  12. I used to dream of being a writer some day too : )
    So I smiled when I read this article. Sine I was young I love to write and I love to draw and I did very well in everything involve writing skills ( in Thai of course, as you can see that I’m not so good in English)

    But when I grew up I’ve learned that being a writer in Thailand is not that easy. I have parents and a younger sister to take care of .. as you know already that Thai people would stick to their family. So I gave up that dream and studying in the Hotel Management now for the more secure job in the future. But it’s fun though, working in the hotel could be kinda funny or stress sometimes. Anyway both my family and I are happy and that’s all that’s matter to me.

    To see someone could follow his dream and make it come true is very wonderful especially one that share the same dream. Keep fighting na ka .. I hope for the best that you’ll always be happy and never give up that dream : )

    1. Hi Supalux, working as a writer is tough, but I’d imagine Thai writers have it particularly hard. It took me a long time to start follownig my dreams. It is tough, but I get many days when it feels worth it.

  13. Paul, security is a nice thing but also a luxury these days. I think my fathers generation was the last to have real job security. At least working for yourself you know what to expect and you also know you won’t be let go out of the blue.

    1. Thanks Talen, I think you may have a point. My first job was in a supermarket. When I quit people said I was crazy; they were telling me that I was giving up a job for life. This was the 80s and there was mass unemployment in Ireland. That supermarket chain no longer exists; maybe given up on security isn’t such a bad thing.

  14. Security these days, even with a regular job, is no guarantee. That said, quit worrying! Such a useless activity that takes up so much energy. I know, I know, easier said than done…but take heart in knowing you are making money doing what you love.

    Good post. Because your heart was in it.

  15. Don’t feel bad. My dad advised me to get teacher credentials so that I would have a “fall back” plan if writing didn’t work out so I decided to get my master’s degree in education instead of teaching. Guess what? Where I live there are far more teachers applying for jobs than there are jobs and they get very little respect. At least 50% of them leave within five years and I was one of them. After teaching high school for a short time, I decided to take on college adjunct assignments to supplement my writing projects. Guess what? I was able to work but only managed to earn under $8,000 a year teaching one course per semester. I decided to quit teaching and focus on taking on more commercial writing jobs. I’ve since that time started earning more money and it turns out that my writing income is more stable than my teaching income was. Go figure. I love writing and plan to stick to through thick and thin. Yes, there are high and low points but no profession is safe today. We are all freelancers in a sense because job security is a thing of the past.

    I love what I do and don’t have to shop at the mall each week because I am rich in lots of ways. I am rich in the freedom to enjoy and plan each day according to my own schedule.
    The most important thing about being a freelance is to spend money wisely and live below your income. It’s worth the price to control your own destiny.

    1. Hi Shelly, you make some great points here. I do love the freedom of being a freelance but as you say this comes with a price. Just like you I feel that the price is worth it – at least most of the time anyway 🙂

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