Cultivate Stick-to-itiveness In Your Writing for a Successful Career
I was reading an article several days ago (I apologize to the author but I didn’t write down which one) in which the author spoke about how when one thing didn’t make an immediate profit they would jump to something else. This was something that resonated with me since I do this quite often. I began the think about what it meant and how I could find a better way of making the platform I was was writing on work for me as part of becoming a successful writer.
Jumping ship when we don’t see much of a profit is something I think many of us do. We are looking for a quick, simple opportunity that will have a linear relationship between work put in, number of articles written and earnings. We are searching for an option where all of these things go up at the same time.
If I put in the effort, and generate a body of quality work, then I want to see my earnings go up. I’m not even looking for it to jump astronomically, just increase regularly, relative to the number of quality articles I spend time writing. Yet this doesn’t seem to necessarily be the case.
While we want respect and readership as writers, we also want to make some money. When we join a new platform and hear about others who are making four and sometimes five figures a month we figure “Hey,that’ll be me soon. All I have to do is work hard and write a lot.”
I have done this time and time again. On some platforms I would make $40 or $50 that first second month and think that would automatically mean I would make more the next month and the month after that. Then, within say six months I figured I would be making enough to pay the bills and by the end of the year I’d be flush. What really happened was that I’d stay about where I was in terms of earnings. Maybe I’d make a bit more some months but then other months it would go in the opposite direction.
It’s frustrating when this happens, there’s no doubt about it. But the truth is, success is hard work. It definitely takes effort and consistency with publishing. You can’t succeed at earning money with writing on platforms like Medium by publishing several articles then dropping out of sight for a few months.
But it’s not all about writing either. There are a number of other things that go into becoming a successful freelance writer. It takes methodical testing of options. For example, evaluating which titles are the most effective, what topics gain the highest readership and what type of writing style and voice elicit the greatest reader engagement.
Along with that, there is a learning process that has to take place. Successful writers know about SEO strategies and marketing methods, how best to develop a following, and different ways to maintain regular communication with fans. Online classes, webinars and podcasts, articles and books and even classes taken at nearby colleges are just a few of the ways top writers hone their skills to be able to meet their goals.
The bottom line is that becoming a successful writer has a lot to do with value. You need to make readers feel like you are giving them something they want, that you are answering questions they’ve been asking or solving problems they have. You need to do this in a skillful way, writing in an accessible manner, and provide practical information that helps the reader somehow.Then you need to make sure the readers you are targeting will find your work with is where many of the other steps come in to the equation. In essence, you have to make your writing into a business that you are committed to seeing work.
Many of us take a lackadaisical approach to freelance writing. We are good writers, we may have had success before in terms of people liking our writing and receiving other accolades. But this is different from making a career of it with a significant income, especially if you want it to be a full time income.
Where to Start
There are a number of things you can focus on up front that can help you meet your writing goals so you don’t feel the need to jump from opportunity to opportunity.
- Determine your personality — This is one of the first steps you need to take. Figure out how much you can realistically handle at once. If you get overwhelmed by taking on too many things at the same time you won’t succeed at completing any of them. This means nothing will change and it will likely be a while before you try to make a go of it again.
- Don’t compare — This is one of the most important things, I think to your mental state as it relates to your writing. Don’t compare your income, the number of articles you write a week, the number of followers, likes, claps or whatnot that you receive to that of others. While you can probably find those who you surpass, your focus will be on those who outperform you. Compare your own numbers from month to month and take any increase as a win.
- Set work schedule — For freelancers, the lack of structure can often be crippling. When there’s no deadline other than ones we may choose to set ourselves, we can sleep as late as we want, work when we want for as long as we want, and even choose not to work. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of wasted time and procrastination. Perhaps we have spurts of energy when we produce a lot. But I find without a formal work schedule, I can get lost in a lot of things other than writing new articles. Then before I know it, it’s nighttime and I start to feel anxious about not getting enough done. I try to force myself to get something finished by the time I go to bed but more often than not I’m too tired to really give it my all. So I either put it off until the next day or produce a piece that isn’t as high quality as it would have been when I was at my most energetic and clear minded.
- Find accountability partners -I have found this is invaluable in terms of keeping on track and preventing myself from jumping too quickly from one thing to another. Having someone that I have to check in with regularly and give an account of where I am on the goals I set makes me work even when I might not otherwise feel like it. I know that looking for new opportunities or jumping ship and trying out yet another platform will take time away from actually producing new work. An accountability partner makes it impossible for me to do this unless I’ve completed the work I’ve set as my goal.
- Consequences for missed goals — While this may seem kindergarten-ish when other things aren’t working well enough, consequences for not meeting goals can be really effective, especially if it’s monetary. Try setting an amount you have to give to your accountability partner or to charity for not completing your work on schedule. You will be amazed at how even a small amount like a dollar or two will motivate you to keep going. Given we are looking to earn money from our writing, the loss of even a small amount of money for not doing what we’re supposed to do, is something we will work to avoid.
- Mentors — One of the best strategies for learning how to do well in any business is to find those who have succeeded at it and get them to teach you what strategies they used to do it. This can prevent you from reinventing the wheel as you can avoid the mistakes others made and learn effective strategies early on.
- Constructive criticism — One of the best strategies for strengthening your work is to find people who are skillful writers and asking them to provide you with feedback on your work. Having others read your work before you publish it and critique it, will also help you catch mistakes you might have missed.
- Methodical testing of changes — Taking older posts and changing things methodically to test different options will help you make each post the strongest it can be. This will also help you learn what the best strategies are for gaining traffic, growing your readership and increasing earnings.
- Collect data — Create a spreadsheet that you can use to track the outcomes of the changes you make with the corresponding outcomes. Some people make graphs to be able to visualize the effects of systematic changes.
While there are numerous other steps that go into being a successful freelance writer who succeeds on platforms like Medium and others, these are some of the first ones that will form a foundation for you to build on. Once you have these in place, you can begin looking into other areas like SEO and marketing to improve the results of your efforts.