You Pretty Much Have to do These Things to Become a Full-Time Writer
How to Not Suck at Writing Episode #11
It’s never been easier to start writing online, but that doesn’t mean writing online is easy.
There has been an explosion of new writers entering the field on Medium, Twitter, LinkedIn, Substack, and more.
Everyone and their mom is calling themselves a writer now. It feels like the space gets noisier and more crowded by the day.
This is what happens to fields and platforms over time. The early adopters are rewarded for being early, everyone else piles in after that, platforms mature, and reach goes down.
The longer you wait to start, the more likely you are to be late to the next trend.
There will be new opportunities. You can still do well on mature platforms. But you have to stop sitting on the sidelines.
You have to change your mindset around writing.
Ditch the attitude of entitlement, and embrace the fact that you’re probably going to have to do all of these things to become a full-time writer.
You Have to Stop Describing Yourself This Way
“I’m not a tech person.”
You do realize that you are attempting to make money writing on, you know, the internet.
A lot of new writers get it in their heads that they can’t learn tech skills when, in reality, they just have to grit their teeth and figure it out.
Here’s a list of things you’ll have to learn:
- How to navigate social writing platforms like Medium, Twitter, Substack, and LinkedIn
- How to use email marketing software to start building your list
- Setting up hosting for a personal blog
- Creating landing pages
- Understanding analytics
- Learning how to use short bits of HTML code
- Searching for images online to use in your posts
- Using tools like Canva to create graphics, thumbnails, lead magnets, etc
Just to name a few…
I get it.
Learning some of this stuff is painfully boring. Drink extra coffee, block out some time, and hack your way through those mind-numbing tutorials.
It is what it is.
Sorry, This is Unavoidable
You have to learn marketing, persuasion, and sales.
You have to get good at figuring out who your audience is, what they want, and the best way to give them what they want. It doesn’t matter what form or genre you use, you still have to learn how to market your work.
How else are people going to find it?
A lot of writers have a surprisingly large blindspot about this subject.
They will launch a book on Amazon that has a weak title, a boring cover, a lackluster description, with no marketing vehicle like an email list behind it, and they’re genuinely surprised their book sold 12 copies.
They thought the algorithm would do the work. A lot of writers feel this way. They just put their work on a certain platform and expect it to take off. The build it and they will come mentality is cancerous to your writing career.
Some brutal truths you must embrace:
- You’ll have to be what you consider pushy. I sent 10x the number of emails for my second book than my first book. Sales were much higher.
- Catchy headlines, hooks, numbered lists, etc, are tested and proven tactics that work. If you don’t want to use or learn them ever, fine, but don’t be upset if you don’t get views
- It’s called a best-selling author, not a best-writing author
- If you want to make big bucks writing, you’re going to have to turn it into a business, which means learning different forms of writing like email funnels, copy, sales pages, etc
- You might have to *gasp* actually talk to people
Great books and guides on marketing and the psychology of persuasion:
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
- $100m Offers
- Building a Story Brand
- DotCom Secrets, Expert Secrets, and Traffic Secrets
“Just Writing” Isn’t An Option
It’d be nice if you could just sit back, write, and watch the money come piling in.
You can make four figures writing on Medium, but you’re going to have to do something else on top of it if you want to go full-time.
Zulie Rane put it well:
True passive income for writers is rare, and even more rare is passive income for freelance writers. Most of our work is active.
Instead, I recommend you find boring but doable writing income streams and use the rest of your time on your unprofitable passion.
For example, most of the fiction writers I know who’ve done well make a decent chunk of money from writing fiction but also teach other people how to write fiction to supplement their income.
Creating courses and coaching is one option.
If that’s not your style you can try:
- Serial kindle publishing: You write a handful of short kindle books each year & the money piles up eventually
- Big-time book publishing: There are people like James Clear, Brianna Wiest, and Ryan Holiday who have written major bestsellers, but they had to build up large audiences and email lists to attract the attention of big publishers
- Affiliate marketing: This is where you promote other people’s products for a commission. Usually, to pull this off, you have to have a personal blog with strong SEO and lots of traffic.
- Paid newsletters: Again, the math here means you have to build a big list to make money. Say you want to make $5,000 a month with a $10/month newsletter. At a 10% conversion rate, you’d need a list of 5,000 people.
- Freelancing: This is the quickest, fastest, and most profitable way. I have clients who pay me $600 per article. Check out the video below for a deeper explanation
You Have to Stop Thinking Like an Employee
If you expect an immediate reward for your writing like you get from an hourly wage at a job, you’re going to get frustrated, burn out, and quit forever.
One of my favorite quotes comes to mind:
“Work to learn, not for money.” — Robert Kiyosaki
First, in order to be able to make money writing, your writing has to be good. If you’re new, it’s not.
There’s a lot of really bad writing on Medium. Like, really bad. Which I’m fine with because you need to write poorly to get good. But these writers don’t seem to make the connection between their bad writing and their lack of money.
Take the amount of time you think you need to practice to get good and multiply it by ten.
You can write junk for content mills and get paid scraps, but if you want to get premium freelance clients, you need to have premium-quality writing.
You need to practice just for the sake of getting good now, so you can make money later. You also need to do a bunch of activities that don’t do much for you in the beginning, but pay huge down the road:
- Writing for exposure and to build your audience/email list
- Watching a bunch of YouTube videos, readings guides, listening to podcasts, or buying courses to study the ins and outs of the game
- Writing stuff that gets no views and earns no money because your following is tiny
The biggest hurdle comes in the beginning because nobody knows who you are. Your audience is so small that there’s not much to compound. But, just like investing, compounding will take effect if you give it enough time.
The first 90 days to 6 months is where 90 percent of writers quit. Make it past that and compounding will start to work in your favor.
You Have to Write A lot. Like, A lot Lot
This is why I always tell people…
If you don’t like to write, then don’t try to become a writer.
I can give you tips, tricks, and tweaks to make your writing better.
I understand what it’s like to be afraid to start. I was. But once I got settled in, I got accustomed to doing the work because it was fun. If writing feels like a chore to you instead of something you look forward to doing, it’s going to be a rough road ahead.
Don’t fall for the hype.
Some gurus will tell you writing is one of the easiest ways to make money online.
It’s one of the hardest.
I’m reminded of this quote from mark Manson:
As a business plan, blogs suck. They take years and thousands of hours of work to ramp up to a level where you can monetize them.
Either a) you have some other business and blogging would be a nice way to help promote it. Or b) you just really, really, really enjoy blogging. Outside of those two reasons, there’s no legitimate reason to start one.
There are so many ways to make a living. There are easier ways to make a bunch of money that don’t involve writing your ass off. If this is the path you choose, accept up front that it will be long, winding, and grueling.
I love the game.
I’ve had my fair share of heartbreaks, lows, and moments of frustration, but I wouldn’t take those moments back because they made me that much stronger.
The fact that it’s hard is a good thing.
If becoming a full-time writer was easy, it wouldn’t be so impressive to tell others that you do it.