Many young musicians out there dream of one day being discovered and making it big. Do they become legitimate musicians only after they are offered a recording contract? No. Any musician who is playing regularly, honing his skills, and gaining industry experience is a “real” musician, even if he isn’t getting paid yet.
The aspiring garage band will probably begin by doing free performances at local fairs and festivals. Eventually, the group might get hired to play local gigs where they will be paid a small amount to perform. Down the road, they may be given the opportunity to open a concert for a more famous band. Sooner or later, if they keep at it, they may be scouted by an agent and offered a recording contract. Or they may choose to publish their music independently.
Although they are not professional musicians until they get paid to play, the band members have been legitimate musicians all along. On their journey to stardom, they will have to invest in equipment, instruments, and probably music lessons.
Being a writer is much the same. You need to keep learning about writing as you hone your craft. You will need to make investments in your writing career, like taking college courses or attending conferences. The thing that makes you a “real” writer is not getting published, but writing.
You will probably see small successes, like published short stories or articles, long before you see big ones. That’s okay. The important thing is to keep your writing business sustainable. Otherwise, you could easily spend so much on writing that you can no longer afford to pursue your passion.
Like the garage band, an aspiring writer needs to develop an online presence. Without a website, the band won’t get any gigs. Potential fans won’t be able to find them when searching the internet.
An author website is your most important online asset because it is under your complete control (unlike social media platforms). You can tailor it to suit your needs. It provides the means for your audience and colleagues to contact you and to read your work.
While an author website is important, be realistic about how much you spend on it. An author who is just starting out needs a modest website that won’t cost an arm and a leg. A pre-professional writer can’t yet afford to hire a professional company that specializes in creating and maintaining author websites.
If you ask around, you can probably find a high school or college student who is interested in web design. Ask him or her to help you get started. Offer to pay only as much as you can afford.
The best rule of thumb for business expenses like a website is this: will it cost more money than it will bring in?
One final word of caution: remember that as an aspiring writer, you are a garage band. Beware of anybody who wants to take your money to make you feel like a rock star.