IndieCafe (Indie Pub)SavvyBlog

Is writing a hobby or a business? by Joanne Dannon

Since it’s the beginning of the year, I was tempted to talk about goal setting and targets, however, discussion by RWA (Aust) writers got me thinking….

Hobby or Business?

If you’re considering a career as an indie writer, I think it’s important to know if you write as a hobby or as a business. There is no right or wrong answer but knowing this will help you in deciding what to do, or not do.

A hobby is an activity that you do regularly for enjoyment, usually during your leisure time. A business is your occupation or your profession.

What’s the difference?

In my opinion, hobby writers love writing and may like to have a career as an author, but in the meantime, they love socializing with other writers, learning their craft, and writing. They may or may not be published but they love the writing aspect of their hobby.

Business writers are hungry for a long-term career. They also love socializing with other writers, learning their craft, and writing, but they have built or are building a foundation on which to grow their writing career on.

To be a business writer you’ll need a registered name, a business number registered with the tax office, a professional website, and social media. A business has set up costs and being a writer is no different.

I’ve been across online discussions on whether a writer needs a business number or an ISBN for each book. My reply to those unsure is – are you a hobby writer or a business writer? If writing is your hobby, you won’t need them. However, if you’re a business writer, you will.

What does the business writer need?

Having a business number and being registered with the Tax Office tells everyone, but more importantly YOU, that your writing is your profession. It also means you can claim your legitimate writing expenses on your tax return.

In addition to setting up your business properly, you will need to dedicate the same amount of time you spend writing to marketing. Yes, you read correctly. An indie writer can often spend the same amount of time that they write on marketing and promoting their brand.

Many authors spend longer on the marketing part. Whether it be newsletters, social media or blog tours; business writers are constantly looking at finding new readers for their books and for new marketing opportunities.

As I said before, there is no right or wrong answer, but if you decide to be a business writer then you will need your own ISBN, Australian Business Number or Tax ID.

I’ll give you an example. When I started as an indie author, I had no idea of what I could achieve. I thought I would just sell my books on Amazon. I’ve now branched out into different e-retailers as well as Australian and New Zealand libraries. That means my paperbacks are widely available and I have expanded my audience. That’s fab news for me, but guess what? I needed my own ISBN. Had I not had one, I would not have been able to sell my books to the company that distributes to the libraries.

In Australia (and some other countries) it costs to buy ISBNs so the Create Space free ISBN option is tempting. If you’re a hobby writer then this option is perfect for you. Not so for business writers.

Being an indie writer is expensive and has a lot of start up costs, but this is a business and you need to establish yourself to be able to promote yourself as a writer and a brand.

Both hobby and business writers love writing and we want to sweep our readers away with stories that we love.

As much as there is the business of writing, there is also the joy of creating a storyline and spending hours, days and weeks putting those words down and creating a wonderful read.

It’s January, the beginning of the year when you have twelve months ahead of you to invest in yourself and your writing. Whether you’re a hobby or a business writer, you should set goals and work out what you want to achieve and when.

Other considerations

You should also look at –

  • How many books do you want to write?
  • How many competitions do you want to enter?
  • Are you considering different sub-genres or genres?
  • What on-line learning will you do?
  • Will you attend a conference?

Make realistic and practical goals, and don’t forget to include life events such as vacations, school vacation, holidays and family and friends visits.

Wishing you all a very happy and productive 2017. I hope the words flow and you continue to love doing what you love doing.

Until next month, Joanne x

Disclaimer – I’m an Australian romance writer, not a specialist in tax. These are my opinions but you should always consult an accountant and/ or tax consultant as regulations differ between countries.


Joanne Dannon - together at lastJoanne Dannon is an Australian author who writes to give her readers the experience she loves to savour–indulging in a sigh-worthy-happily-ever-after, being swept away from the everyday by diving into a delicious romance novel.

Joanne’s latest romance about second chances and falling for your best friend’s brother, Together At Last, is now available as both an e-book and paperback.

Joanne is a happily married mother of two heroes-in-training who loves spending time with friends and family. She can be found on Facebook and her website chatting about reading, writing, cooking, vintage-inspired dresses and all things romantic. [/box]

  • B
    Bernice Greenham
  • January 20, 2017
Thanks Joanne - that's a very good question!
And yes, goals... this is the business end of the year for good intentions ahead. Thanks for the prompt :)
    • J
      Joanne Dannon
    • January 20, 2017
    Hi Bernie - thanks so much :)

    There's been quite a bit of chatter on line about whether to buy ISBNs etc.... and I think it really comes down to whether the writer is writing as a business or hobby.

    All the best with your writing and goals for 2017 :)
  • S
  • January 20, 2017
Hi Joanne! What is the company called that distributes to libraries? That sounds like a wonderful avenue that I haven't pursued, as a 'business writer'.
    • J
      Joanne Dannon
    • January 20, 2017
    Hi Sarah

    I'm not sure where you're from (Australia, US etc...) can you please email me at [email protected]?

    Thanks, Joanne
  • T
  • January 31, 2017
    • J
      Joanne Dannon
    • February 12, 2017
    Thanks so much Tonny :)

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