Most writers are dirt poor.
Charlie from Charlie and The Chocolatteo Factory has more spare change. It gives me no joy to say that.
But I’ve seen it too many times in my 8 years of writing on the internet.
Writers get lost in a fantasy of writing a book that gets picked up by a book publisher and becomes a standout hit. They’re romantic about the construction of their sentences, meanwhile, forgetting about the quality of their ideas or the depth of their reading.
They have poor writing habits or never like to mix the word writing with money. “That’s too salesy. I can’t do that!”
At the same time, I have a network of writer friends who make10–20X what the average writer earns while working 4 hours on average a day. They’re not smart, brilliant, or funny. Most are average guys and gals.
This is what they do and how they think (copy or get inspired).
Think like a business
Unprofitable writers think like romantics.
They are all woo-woo. Writing is a form of magic. They put a spell on the words. They think they’re gifted. They praise their english teachers. They worship the long-form essay art form.
Profitable writers think like a business…
- Look at the data
- Own the outcome and take responsibility
- Don’t dream. Plan, act, iterate, keep going
The part I find fascinating is I’ll speak to a writer that has never made $20 on the internet. They’ll have been doing it for 5+ years — and they’ll think nothing is wrong.
This is insanity. When writing creates value for readers it makes money. If your writing has never got you paid then it’s a sign to change strategy.
There’s no shame in that.
Where you should feel shame is when you write online for half your life and don’t earn any money to help pay a few bills. And then think you had nothing to do with it. You did … so own it.
Find a way *not* to be better but DIFFERENT
I have zero desire to become a great writer.
All the writing chops in the world won’t help you earn a living and make a small profit to feed your family.
What’s helped me is to carve out a voice in a few categories. Rather than be better I’m just different. And I become more different when I focus on being me rather than copying someone else’s form of writing.
- Write like you speak
- Write as if you’re talking to friends
- Leave in all the odd language
- Disregard grammar/spelling rules
Break the rules and make up your own rules — that’s how you become different, and when you’re different, readers actually remember you.
Show up enough times and those same readers will happily pay. It’s that damn simple amigo.
Own your audience from day one
Profitable writers make 95% of their money from their email list.
Most writers don’t get that. They don’t have an email list or don’t spend enough time nurturing the list they’ve already built.
Instead, they stay in acquisition mode and keep wanting to get more readers rather than turn their existing audience into an income.
Making money from writing isn’t a bad thing.
When you deliver value to a reader it’s an act of kindness, and kindness makes the world go round. Never forget that.
So the key message here isn’t just to make money from an email list. It’s to own the readers you attract so that if the gatekeepers ever decide to lock the gate or limit access to your work, you are unaffected.
This is what future 6 and 7-figures writers will do
The creator economy is slowly rising from the ashes of ruin.
The Web3 trend is the one profitable writers are paying close attention to. In this new world, creators will have a 1–1 relationship with the people they serve. And ownership of content will be written in verifiable code that can’t be altered. Where not there yet, but we’re not far away.
Once 1–1 writing becomes the norm, every writer will jump onboard.
Those who arrive at this new Web3 destination first will get paid unfairly, the same way early adopters of the internet did in the last boom cycle. Either way, all of our writing is going to become NFTs.
The question is, where can people get your writing NFTs and what benefits will they get (other than access) by owning them?
Stack new micro-skills
Writing online is a choose-your-own-adventure made up of these skills:
- Email Lists
- Landing pages
- Various social media apps
The skills you need to add to your stack depend on what path you want to go down. The most profitable writers are always adding more skills so they can reach readers in new ways and share the value creation with them.
If you’re not constantly stacking new micro writing skills, what the bloody hell are you doing?
Learn how to pitch in DMs to increase distribution
Profitable writers don’t publish and pray to a buddha god.
They increase the reach of their content by adding extra distribution. The truth is writing online is a team sport. You find your teammates and then share each other’s work.
Too many writers don’t get this.
They think quality writing will naturally go viral and magically land in front of the right eyeballs. Noooopppeee.
To find your teammates you have to send direct messages on social media to people similar in topic and audience size to you. This is why introverted writers often get ignored online.
The beauty is direct messages are just text so you don’t need to meet anyone in real life or even have a Zoom call with them if you don’t want to.
But you do have to get people to share your work if you want the algorithms to happily amplify your writing. That’s just the way the writing world works.
Algorithm sees zero comments/likes, algorithm blocks your work.
They hang around other profitable writers
Otherwise the “algorithm has collapsed and is on fire” narrative becomes your default thought.
I’ve never been a smart writer.
But I’ve always hung out with smarter writers than me. They taught me how to stand out and gently persuade people. They taught me the power of sharing your truth versus writing what’s in fashion and copying everyone else.
Most of all, other profitable writers have taught me how to get paid for my work so I never have to work a job again if I choose.
It’s not hard to make money from writing. But it can be counter-intuitive.
How to (realistically) trade your job for writing
If you follow the steps above you’ll be well on the way to becoming a profitable writer.
The final part of my headline promise is to use writing to quit your job and start an online business.
Here’s the short blueprint to make the transition…
Figure out what topics people want to read from you
Look at the data. Double down on the topics that work for you.
Build a daily writing habit
A writing habit lets you practice in public and slowly find your voice. The more you write, no matter how crap you are, the better you’ll get.
Consistent writing is the ax that sharpens ideas into viral bombs.
Stick at it for this timeframe
Most unprofitable writers give up too early or pivot too often.
Write online for 1–2 years to pass the threshold of participation. From there, readers and fellow writers take you seriously and see you’re not a one-night stand writer looking for a sexy time.
Monetize your work
- Sell an eBook of your best writing
- Charge a subscription to access (some of) your writing
- Turn non-fiction writing into teachable frameworks that can become an email course
Use the money to buy back one day a week
Going from zero to hero doesn’t happen. It’s a unicorn fantasy.
Once money starts to come in the door, reinvest it back in. See if you can decrease your hours at work by 20% (1 day) or take a pay cut if you can afford it. Use that extra day to write more, self-educate, and consume content.
Now think of your writing as a business
Start thinking about how your writing can become top-of-funnel awareness for an online business.
Maybe it’s freelancing, ghostwriting, 1–1 coaching, or a social media agency service. Or maybe it’s a digital or physical product you can sell off the back of the topics you write about.
Remember: you can sell someone else’s product/service.
This works great because it lets you test the waters before you sell yours. If you can’t sell a product created by a fellow content creator who’s 10x more successful than you, it’s probably the wrong time to create an online business.
The big day that feels incredible
If all goes well you should arrive at the day when your online writing has reached a point where it’s close to or has overtaken the salary from your job.
Now it’s just a matter of deciding whether you want to keep writing on the side and working a job, or go all-in on writing and an online business.
I chose to go all in. Best decision I ever made.
Writing online can change your life and allow you to quit your job if you have enough self-awareness to follow these steps and get around the right people.
Why not you?