There’s a story in “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki about Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, challenging a group of MBA students with a simple question, “What business am I in?”
Everyone laughed but didn’t answer him. He repeated the question. Finally, someone told him the obvious answer: the hamburger business.
Ray chuckled before announcing that he wasn’t in the hamburger business but the real estate business. Although his profession was selling hamburger franchises, his business was owning the real estate underneath those franchises. McDonald’s today owns more real estate than the Catholic Church, including the best street corners and thoroughfares in America.
The point that “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” made from this story was not to confuse your profession with your business. Your profession is something you do; your business is where you make your money. Most people don’t know the difference.
I thought my business was being a short story writer. I wrote short stories, sold them to the anthologies, and republished them as short story ebooks.
As ebook sales continued to outpace short story sales, I found myself spending more time on developing ebooks than writing short stories. This frustrated me. I started missing the “old days”—about six years ago—when I wrote short stories, dropped them in the mailbox and collected 300+ rejection slips before I sold my first short story. Since my ebook sales were dependent on my short stories and essays, I would never find the time to write a novel to earn bigger ebook sales. I saw a vicious circle forming in my life with no easy solution.
Are you in the writing profession or the writing business?
I started thinking hard about that question since the beginning of the year. The answer I came up with is that I’m in the writing profession—when I’m not consoling hurt computers and broken users as an anonymous technician in Silicon Valley—but I’m also in the content producing business. Writing is central to everything I do, but not the only thing that I do.
Since I’m in between non-writing jobs at the moment, I’m in the process of revamping my family of websites. I spent the past three weeks updating my free open source software to get back into web programming, quadrupling web traffic and click-through for advertising. Updating the personal blog will be every week and this writing blog twice a month. (The key for writing multiple blog posts is to stay under 500 words for each one.) I’m still publishing two short ebooks every month. Writing new short stories are on hold until I can revise or spit polish a dozen short stories for submission.
If everything falls into place over the next year or two, I should make enough money from my business to ditch the non-writing job and start writing novels as my profession.