Unconventional Advice That Will Help You Start Writing Online
Starting a personal blog is a long commute to a casino, one that might not be in your best interest if you’re an aspiring writer. Most of your stories won’t ever get more than a few random views. Most blogs never get any traffic, and you’ll probably miss the early-stage social feedback.
I’m a full-time writer. I’ve published 300+ articles before starting a personal blog, and I’m still not convinced I really need one for now. Next year maybe, but for now, it’s more of a testing ground.
Here’s why, and how to jumpstart your writing career.
Most writers think they know what readers want to read.
You can’t think your way into the reader’s mind.
Sure, you can find a few superstars and one-hit wonders that nail it on the first try. However, most full-time writers publish ungodly amounts of content before building an audience and discovering what the reader wants. “The first 1,000 are the most difficult,” as Seth Godin says.
Nobody really knows what resonates until they get direct feedback from the audience.
New blogs take months and years before a few organic eyeballs roll across the website. Investing in a personal blog is like building a house with your bare hands. Years can pass before a tangible return on your time and effort.
Forget about the personal website during your first year blogging.
- Write and share as much content as you can. Quantity is the key in the early stages. How do you build an audience? Slow and honest repetition is the answer. Continuity beats authenticity, originality, or pretty much anything else when it comes to writing online. Don’t give yourself a choice. Think of continuous writing as something that ought to be done, like cleaning your house or eating. When you don’t have a choice, you can focus on work.
- Research, read, and adjust your profile every week. I’ve changed my Medium bio more than 20 times, each time with modest benefit. Think of your social presence as constant work in progress. You’re not at your destination yet, especially not if you’re just starting out.
- Keep a tab on what resonates. What do your readers want from you, and what is just noise? If you publish 100 web stories, you’ll find out the answer. People read my stories about marketing, investing, and writing. I don’t make crazy amounts of money, but my stories about making money I make often strike a cord I can’t hit with other content. That is fine. I like to think real experience trumps wild promise.
- Expand on content that gets more attention. However, be careful. The art is finding a balance between what works and what makes you happy. Some of my best performing stories on Medium are about Medium, and that is not something I’d like to pursue in the long run. After publishing the original 300 stories, other topics are taking the limelight. I now mostly write about personal finance, marketing, and startups, and that makes me happy.
- Make peace with personal weaknesses. Painfully, I came to understand that people wouldn’t care about my advice on personal development. Personal growth is one of the most lucrative topics for Medium writers. While I like to see myself as a marathon runner on the track of never-ending improvement, others might see a 28-year old boy that can’t get over himself. Either way, I keep personal development in my journal for now.
- Maybe get a website on a personal domain. Finally, we’re here. Having a personal portfolio looks professional and brings more credibility to your business. Now, you’re not just a writer. You also own virtual property, which makes you a businessperson.
- Publish pillar stories (3000–5000 words) from the tested-and-tried content. Search engines favor skyscraper content that links through your website, which many see as SEO magic. After the sparring match at social websites, you’ll have more information on what to expand into pillar websites. If you have a ~800-word-viral story on freelancing tips, maybe your readers would love a 4,000 monster-piece on the topic.
- Expand pillar stories into eBooks and courses. Nicolas Cole delivered a reasonably successful book this year. He didn’t do anything extraordinary to get thousands of people to cash out $20 for his latest compilation of greatest blog hits. Cole followed the trend lines and expanded on topics that resonated with his audience.
- Collect emails and build relationships. I’d forget about most digital companies if they didn’t send me an email from time to time. StoryBrand and Donald Miller took this approach to the extreme, sending me 300+ emails in the past six months. But I’m not mad and often gladly read his updates and latest marketing advice. Otherwise, I’d probably forget about his book and business months ago.
- Pitch to high-end companies, startups, and clients. Think of the first 9 points as an alternative writing school. You have to learn the trade somehow, and most writers don’t learn the art of business from the school bench. Once you have a website and a proven record, you’re ready to skip $20/articles and aim directly for $100/piece or a content consultant position at a newly founded startup. Here’s a neat trick. Head out to the TechCrunch page of freshly funded startups and search for a company that fits your expertise. Analyze their content game, and shoot them an email with a clear proposition that can benefit their business. The rule of thumb: new companies with fresh capital are often looking to expand. You might be just the person they need.
Following this list is only one way to get your foot in the door.
Most writers can’t find the time to churn out free content and follow the long-term data. You can reach your goals in many different ways.
Keep in mind that as long as you write for your reader and deliver immense value to your clients, you’ll have an audience and a job.