Paywalls Are the Future Business Model For writers
I’ve been writing professionally as a side hustle for three years. During that time, I have researched and experimented with all types of monetization.
This has led me to a very simple conclusion.
Putting your writing behind a paywall is the simplest and most honest way to earn money as a writer and by far the best experience for the reader.
In this article, I explain why asking readers to pay for your work is the best way to earn a living as a writer.
When you're starting out, don’t worry about monetization
The worst thing a new writer can do when they are just getting started is to focus on making money. I know that’s not what you want to hear; after all, you have bills to pay, and you deserve to be compensated for your hard work.
But keep a few points in mind.
- The quality of your writing will never be worse than when you first start.
I cringe when I look back at the first 20 articles I published. As cliche as it is, the easiest way to get better at writing is to hit “Publish” as often as possible and to be receptive to the feedback you get on your articles.
2. It will take a long time to generate enough traffic to make monetization worthwhile.
According to Google's ad revenue calculator, A blogger in North America who writes about finance and generates 50,000 page views per month can expect to make $18,720 per year or $1,560 per month. That works out to be 3.12 cents per page view.
3.12 cents per view
That is not a lot of money, especially if each post is getting less than 100 views. No matter what monetization method you choose, you won’t make much money until you build a reliable audience of loyal readers. So, it’s best to focus on building that audience before you think about making money.
3. It’s easy to get bogged down in monetization strategies.
Before I settled on the idea of putting my work behind a paywall, I wasted a ton of time going down the rabbit hole of SEO, display ads, and affiliate marketing.
That’s what all the online business gurus were telling me to do, and unfortunately, I listened to them.
Here’s the thing about SEO.
Building fundamental SEO skills is important as a writer, but too many writers allow SEO and keywords, rather than their genuine thoughts and ideas, to dictate what they write.
Most online business gurus will tell you to focus on “keywords,” AKA questions people Google. Then, they want you to do research on your competitors who are currently ranking at the top of Google for that keyword and *cough* rip them off *cough* I mean, “write a better article” than they did.
Then they tell you it’s a good idea to go out and beg websites with more traffic than you to link to an article on your site.
If this all sounds exhausting and miserable, let me assure you that it is!
Did you get into writing so that you could spend most of your time trying to weasel your way to the top of search rankings?
Paywalls allow writers to do what they do best
When I stopped focusing on SEO and put my writing behind a paywall, a funny thing happened.
I was able to spend more time in my writing business focused on writing.
As I mentioned, writing is not (yet) my full-time pursuit; it’s a side hustle. Which means I spend 40+ hours a week at a day job.
That means I don’t have as much time to focus on writing as I would like. Once I stopped freaking out about backlinks and keywords, I was able to spend more time reading, thinking, and writing.
This led to a chain reaction of positive events.
- The quality of my writing began steadily improving.
- My efficiency as a writer increased dramatically. I can write a 1,000-word article in half the time it took me two years ago.
- That means I can publish more often.
- Publishing higher quality articles on a more frequent basis has allowed me to build my audience and drive significant traffic to my work.
- More traffic to the paywall means more revenue for my work and less financial stress.
It created a virtuous circle.
Paywalls are better for readers
Many writers think they are doing their readers a favor by making their work “free.”
Of course, it’s not really free. To make a living with “free” content, writers are forced to spend their time trying to sell stuff to their readers. Whether it displays ads, clumsily placed affiliate links, or sponsored articles.
If your consuming “free” content, you are not the customer; you’re the product.
Asking readers to pay for your work is the most honest way to earn a living as a writer. You are treating your readers as customers, not products to be sold to advertisers.
It also frees you to write what you want, not what will “rank.” That means you are more likely to write something that is worth paying for.
If readers no longer want to read your work, they can stop paying, and that’s that.
Paywalls allow me to add the most value possible to my audience
Over the years, I have expanded my business into writing, course creation, publishing eBooks, and soon will be launching a podcast.
Once the podcast launches, it will go behind the paywall along with every other piece of content I have created.
The podcast will be available exclusively to my readers behind the paywall. They will also get the courses, eBooks, and any other content I create in the future.
Once someone is already paying a monthly subscription to access your work, it’s simple to add more perks and exclusive content to add value to your audience.
By viewing your audience as customers, it allows you to put the customer first and add as much value as you possibly can.
So, my plan moving forward is to keep producing the best content I can that is a genuine reflection of how I feel about subjects I care about. If I can add enough value to my readers, they will be happy to pay for my work.
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