A couple of years ago, when a few of my primary fiction markets dried up and a few others started dragging payments, I altered my household budget. I eliminated fiction income from the budget and adjusted my projected expenses based on the presumption that my only income would be provided by my three biggest clients.
It's a good thing I did. Even though I brought in more money last year than in any year since 1996, my year-to-date income in 2010 falls short of 2009. I continue to sell fiction at a steady pace, but the long-term markets I'm writing for continue to drag payments and the new markets I've found don't pay as well as the markets I lost.
Through careful budgeting and a little luck my year-to-date income after expenses is slightly better than last year, but I don't like the financial direction my fiction writing has taken. It's no longer a question of budgeting cash flow as much as it is budgeting time and effort.
Do I step back, adjust the type of fiction I write, and take a hard run at some of the remaining top markets? The risk, as I learned early last year when I took a hard run at Woman's World, is that I may wind up with a lot of unsold and possibly unsellable short stories.
Do I attempt to increase my productivity, writing more for lower paying markets in an attempt to compensate for lost income? The risk is that I wind up Walmarting myself, making a little money from each of many sales rather than making significant money from each of only a few sales.
Or do I continue to write for the better paying markets that still publish my work, even though they now drag payments several months? The risk is that the publications don't survive the recession and disappear owing me significant amounts of money.
The life of the average freelancer is not easy. The life of the average freelance fiction writer is harder still.
And the recession just complicates everything...