Author to Business Owner is designed to provide first-hand business tips for any writer. Each special guest has graciously imparted knowledge of their writing business in hopes of encouraging fellow authors to grow and manage their own businesses.
I am eager to introduce author Susan Bowman! Susan has a fascinating background. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, spent time in the financial world, was employed by the Welfare Department of Mississippi, and worked as an engineering assistant among many other ventures, before feeling a call upon her life to become an ordained Episcopal Priest. Her ministry earned her the name “Lady Father,” also the title of her book published last year. Susan recently retired from ministry after 20 years of service. We are thrilled that she is here this month to share her life story, experiences, and wisdom from her writing business with us.
Welcome, Susan! Could you tell us what you write?
I write memoirs, creative non-fiction.
Are you writing full-time?
I am a freelance writer – mostly part-time, but full-time when I can get assignments.
What’s the story behind your writing career?
I have been writing for more than 25 years but didn’t realize it until I began looking for supplemental income on the internet and discovered oDesk.com. I was looking for positions such as virtual assistant, data entry, and any kind of part-time work from home. For some reason, I began to get job openings for writing assignments but, since I didn’t consider myself a writer, I ignored them for a while. One opening intrigued me (I have now forgotten what it was) and I thought, “I could write something about that.” I applied, got the assignment, did the work, and received RAVE reviews.
I was so shocked; I was an Episcopal Priest and, although I had nursed a secret desire to write a book for my whole life, I didn’t know how to go about it so I just threw myself into my calling in the church. When I wrote that first article, I suddenly realized that I had been writing for 25 years – sermons, newsletter articles, comforting letters, theological treatises – not to mention the “tomes” I wrote in seminary. And, I knew that I was an excellent preacher because I had an excellent professor who basically taught me to write compelling, powerful, and concise sermons for which I consistently received RAVE reviews! That was the moment when I realized that I WAS a writer and a good one; I began to actively pursue writing assignments and, when I was challenged to go for the book, I finally embraced my gift.
What a neat story! What was your big break in writing your book?
An internet entrepreneur asked me to be a guinea pig for a project he was working on to help authors with marketing a book, from pre-publication to Best Seller! He pushed me to write the book I had been working on for a long time by convincing me that it was a story others would want to read and would find meaningful and inspirational. As I wrote it and shared it with him, he continued to be overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging.
Let’s take a look at your writing business. What is your business structure?
What do you love about being a business owner?
I love being my own boss and not having to answer to anyone else but me. I was raised by self-employed small business accountants and so the value of a small business was engrained in me from day one. I saw the freedom my father enjoyed and, for all the years I answered to human overseers and punched clocks to make ends meet, I dreamed of having the freedom my parents had to make their own rules and control their own destiny.
On the other hand, what is it that you hate?
I hate being my own boss and having no one to send the “buck” to when I don’t want it stopping with me. I hate the same thing I hated about my parents’ business – when there is no one else to do a job, I have to take up the slack or lose my business. I had to declare bankruptcy once and the sense of failure was so intense, I swore “never again!” But, it must be in my blood because, here I am in my retirement from active ministry (during which I was considered self-employed), “enjoying” the benefits of working from home, being my own boss, and living on the edge.
Do you have any parting advice for other authors about being a business owner?
Take plenty of time to create a comprehensive and doable business plan; then stick to it and, when you have trouble doing that, find help.
Susan, thanks for your time! You have an incredible story and I am looking forward to picking up a copy of Lady Father soon. Be sure to visit her website and dig deeper into her story. She now has a podcast series as well. Susan mentions that a business plan was key to the success of her writing business. I couldn’t agree more! Unsure of how to formulate your own business plan? Get started with my book, Business Tips and Taxes for Writers. Several of its chapters deal with sections of a business plan to get you off on the right foot. Happy writing, authors!
Carol Topp, CPA