The 6 Things Writers Need to Make a Living (Everything I know)
What it takes to make a living writing.
Millions of people have built writing careers, and you can too.
You can work full or part-time. It’s up to you.
Most writers never get rich. You know that.
Everybody knows that.
The good news is, you can make a living writing.
These lessons have worked for me since I chose to share my art through writing. And they will work for novelists, copywriters, business writers, self-improvement writers, memoir writers, and more.
What I really do
Primarily, I write blog posts, ebooks, create courses, and recently published a book, Working in the Gig Economy: How to Thrive and Succeed When You Choose to Work for Yourself, with a traditional publisher in London.
I make a living from multiple income sources, including sponsorships, book sales, courses, affiliates, and recently the Medium partner program.
1. Read a ton of stuff
Invest in yourself. Make life learning a habit.
Surround yourself with knowledgeable sources.
Read, and read, and then write.
If you don’t like reading, you won’t like writing.
There are tons of free online resources for anyone to become a better writer.
I read not just about writing and becoming a better writer, I also read about different topics to broaden my worldview.
The internet makes it easier. There’s plenty of knowledge out there.
You can start with Pocket Explore and Blinklist.
I don’t apply everything I read immediately.
I save bite-sized chunks or the best ideas I come across in Apple Notes or Medium and apply or use them when needed.
I use Pocket to manage my favourite articles. I have thousands of articles saved for later reading, and hundreds of post drafts on Medium.
Be prepared to embrace deep reading and skimming.
You need both to get tons of ideas on improving yourself and what to write
And I use gap times for short reading.
I do most of my reading in the evening instead of watching TV.
2. Embrace the necessary mess
Don’t compare your process to everyone else’s great work.
It doesn’t work like that.
To be a great writer, you have to learn to love the process.
Your job is to show up every day and become a reliable source.
Commit to being relentlessly helpful, no matter how small and people will notice… eventually.
I shared my first post on Medium in 2013. October 17th. It received 5 claps.
Back then, I was not consistent but I didn’t stop sharing.
Everything changed in 2015. I committed to writing every week.
I started receiving more claps and attracted thousands of followers in the process.
Today, I aim to write every day.
3. Worry less about being “right” and more about creative expression
“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are — what others say is irrelevant.”― Nic Sheff
In our search for perfection, many of us end up finding comfort, stagnancy, and mediocrity.
Highly prolific writers worry less about being perfect and more about delivering amazing results.
They are too busy getting stuff done.
Writing is like a muscle.
The more your creative skill, the better it gets.
Seth Godin once said, “Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important). You’re not in the perfect business. Stop pretending that’s what the world wants from you. Truly perfect is becoming friendly with your imperfections on the way to doing something remarkable.”
Done is better than perfect.
The real world rewards people who get things done.
Give yourself time in your life to wonder what’s possible and to make even the slightest moves in that direction.
You will screw up in the process of getting anything worthwhile done, but it’s okay. It makes you better.
Start writing today, and embrace the mess. You will get better over time.
Making a living writing takes time, more time, and energy.
4. Schedule enough time
You can go from “wanting to be a writer” to “being one” by making real time for it. Allocate time for it.
I write every morning.
If I don’t write before midday, I probably won’t write at all. So I choose to write before 12 noon. I make the most of my energy.
Making writing a daily habit is hard but that shouldn’t stop you.
You won’t find your flow every day.
Sometimes the single hardest aspect of writing is … writing.
There will be blank screen moments but don’t stop because it’s hard. Persist because it matters that you show up.
Make it a priority.
Make a small change in your schedule and increase the amount of time you write. That small change will increase your chances of becoming an amazing writer.
Uninterrupted writing time needs to get blocked into your calendar.
And once you do that, defend it — against your own resistance and distractions.
It can be 10 minutes, maybe 30 minutes, or an hour.
But during that time, allow yourself to do nothing but write.
If you don’t have time to write, you can’t make it a career.
I treat writing like a full-time job.
I make time for both research and writing.
The research informs the topics I choose.
I treat every piece I want to write like it’s my first and last article.
5. Think like an artist
Humans have an amazing capacity to create anything, no matter how small, out of nothing.
Writing should not be any different.
Art is not just about the canvas or the gallery. It’s all around us.
Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work.
Treat every piece you put out there like a piece of art.
Art is your unique and personal expression you share with the world.
“What does it mean to be a “real artist? It means you are spending your time doing the things that matter most to you. It means you don’t need someone else’s permission to create,” writes Jeff Goins in his book, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age.
You have everything you need to write about every subject you deeply care about. You don’t have to be right when you start.
But it matters that you begin.
Write on Medium (an amazing platform for aspiring writers).
Write a book. Self-publish.
Share your career experiences. Inspire others by being inspiring. Teach people to do amazing things.
Great work, like a healthy financial portfolio, takes time to mature. Your best work will emerge with patient attention, time, and strategic action.
You have one life. You are the artist.
Don’t just make life work, you make it a masterpiece.
When you are the artist of your life, it reminds you constantly that your life is your responsibility. Give it all you’ve got.
Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work reveals the routines that make inspiring writers and artists tick. You can learn a lot from it.
6. Create multiple income streams
Don’t rely on a single income source.
The smartest and most successful writers diversify.
Don’t get too attached to a single income stream.
Be open to the idea of making your income off digital products, book sales, speaking gigs (as you grow), etc.
Explore your options but stay true to your long-term goal.
Like a healthy financial portfolio, be smart about diversification.
Jeff Bezos says, “Be stubborn on vision, but flexible on details.”
Think of all the many ways you can use your skills as a writer to generate income and make the most of them.
Measure and do more of what works.
Want to make a living from writing? Take a small step today.
Now is the best time to be a writer.
I am not asking you to make a bold giant step.
Just do one thing, and be consistent.
You may not have the experience to start writing, but write anyway.
Write, write and write some more.
It’s the basic step to building a tribe, growing a fan base, and making a living from your work.
Once you start showing up every day, keep learning.
Studying successful writers, and explore what works for them.
And always remember, writing is not a short-term career. If you do the work, you will see the results.
Want to get more done in a day than most people do in a week?
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