Stop overthinking it. Start Publishing Online Daily. I’ll do it with you.

The Dark Secrets of Writing Online - That No Happy-Go-Lucky Guru Will Dare Tell You

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Writing

Reality is distorted.

The internet takes hard things and makes them look easy. Sometimes for financial gain, and other times to mess with people’s heads for fun.

As someone who’s written online for 10 years and reached 1B+ views, I have a different perspective. There are many dark secrets about writing online.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write.

But it does mean you should go in with eyes open ready to get slapped in the face by these boogie monsters.

Your significant other may begin to hate you

Writing online isn’t a 5-minute a day job.

Anyone who says that is lying to you. Writing takes time to do. There’s the research, networking, distribution, and answering of comments.

One thing I didn’t expect is that writing would make my wife hate me. During the glory years I wrote for 10–12 hours at a time. This meant I didn’t see my wife.

As you can imagine, she got real pissed off.

I learned the hard way that you can’t let writing take over your life. Family is important. If you neglect them then they’ll leave you. That’s why my writing obsession is much more sustainable now.

I don’t write on weekends. I don’t respond to every comment. I don’t write on every platform or publish 64 times a day.

I take it easy.

I do what I can. I put in the work but I don’t overwork. Anyone telling you to trade your family in for an online writing gig is insane. Stay away from them. Without family and love you have nothing.

Likes don’t equal cash

I run a writing academy.

My students love to talk about followers and likes. I try to persuade them to do the opposite. Followers and likes are the devil. They make you do dumb stuff and worry about a bunch of vanity metrics that’ll mean nothing at your funeral one day.

Another dark secret: the people with the most likes and followers often earn the least money.

They’re generic, copy-and-paste, viral show ponies who, when they try to sell something, confuse people because there’s no substance. There is no personality or emotion. Just empty likes.

They’re less like humans and more like robots or AI.

The smartest people online often have small cult followings and have created a movement, rather than an audience full of people who clicked like or follow and can’t even remember.

Solving real problems for people will make you more money than getting a bunch of likes ever will.

Shocking fact: people are writing to earn a living

When you talk about writing and money some people become outraged.

They can’t believe we’d be so shallow. They think people who write online don’t want to earn money or don’t deserve it. They throw mud at the creator economy and talk down to anyone building an audience.

But I’ve sent out hundreds of surveys to writers over the last 5 years. One fact stands out: writers want to earn money.

Less than 5% of them do it “for the love” or as “a hobby.”

Is that so bad? Is it bad to want to be paid for your work? Or to want to sell a book for $20 and pay some bills?

The real reason platforms don’t want writers to make money is because they want our content for free so they can sell it for a fee or run ads against it. I don’t hate them for this. They’re a business, and businesses need to make the maximum profit they can — it’s capitalism baby!

But that doesn’t mean people who write should accept $0 for their stories.

We get to choose. Elitists and gatekeepers will shame us for thinking about money so they can profit from it. I say, ignore them.

Charge money for your words. Set up a paid newsletter. Art isn’t free and shouldn’t be free. We’re living through a digital renaissance.

As AI becomes more prevalent, human creativity will thrive once more. And the dollars creative people — like writers — will earn will go sky-high once more.

A writing habit isn’t enough

Writing gurus preach the power of a writing habit (including me).

But the dark secret is writing daily isn’t enough. If all you had to do was write then anyone who learned writing in school would be an online writer with a supermodel spouse and a garage full of Ferraris.

A writing habit is step one in a 101 step process. It gives you confidence, destroys imposter syndrome, and shows you people will comment.

But just because you write regularly, doesn’t mean you’ll develop a cult following and attract book publishers. Many writers do the same thing over and over for 10 years and get no traction or income from it.

Then they blame online writing. Instead, they should take the feedback and iterate on it. They should own the results and try writing from different angles on a topic.

Hard truth: the writing world owes you nothing.

Being good at writing isn’t enough either

There are the expert types with MBAs and PhDs.

Then there are the people with writing degrees, published books, journalism backgrounds, or freelance writing skills.

There are even people like my friend Todd Brison who have amazing spelling/grammar skills and can deconstruct sentences. But great writing chops mean nothing online.

Readers don’t look for the smartest sentences. Or read the best words and have an orga$m. Or get h0rny over how you used commas. No.

Readers care about learning, being inspired, and finding great stories. Often the dumbest writers with 5th grader english skills win for this reason. They’re clear instead of clever.

The writing skill isn’t enough because to earn an income from writing you need some (or all) of these micro skills:

  • Copywriting
  • Email marketing
  • Lead magnet creation
  • Paid newsletter strategy
  • Online business basics
  • Accounting 101 (invoices, tax)
  • Outsourcing to VAs/freelancers
  • Networking in direct messages
  • Social media promotion techniques

Writing is a business. Read that again.

The dark secret of writing online is you must think more like a business owner who owns their sh*t, and less like an employee with a safe salary that can supposedly never go away (spoiler: layoffs exist).

You have to sell

Shocking, I know.

This “I don’t want to sound salesy” and “that’s selling out” is what starving artists say to themselves when they light their future paychecks on fire.

Everything in life requires you to sell. You sell your way into a job, college, marriage, s*x, having kids, and jumping the queue at the local pub.

People don’t know how you can help them. You must make it clear to them. Even if you don’t want to start a business there’s a high chance you want to write a book or launch a newsletter.

And guess what?

You have to sell people on why they should buy the book or pay $5 a month for your newsletter.

They won’t buy your writing out of generosity, kindness, reciprocity, or sympathy. Read that 60 times. Tattoo it on your arm.

Algorithms are a hamster wheel

Every social media app has algorithms.

They run our lives. Did you know Gmail has an algorithm? It’s used to decide whether the email you sent is spam or not. If you put “Elon” in the subject line it’ll probably go to spam, even if it was a letter to your mother.

You can use algorithms to your advantage, or they’ll use you.

  • The dumb way to use algorithms is to go to the homepage of your favorite social media app and let them feed you random content at 100 miles an hour while building a rented audience on top of likes and followers.
  • The smart way to use algorithms is to ethically generate some attention with your writing then funnel people off platform to an email list.

Use … or get abused.

Stats make you feel like crap

When an email subscriber unsubscribes a part of me dies inside.

I have a funeral for them and wish them well. Then I have a cry in my bedroom. No one tells you before you write online just how soul-crushing stats can be.

They’re supposed to be there to help you and make decisions. But often they end in tears and make you think you’re becoming irrelevant.

Look at the stats less often to improve mental health.

The bigger your audience the harder it gets

Wait, what?

Yep. I’m not supposed to say this one out loud. But screw it. Building some massive audience is often not the holy grail writers think it is.

It’s a lot of work.

There is a firehose of notifications and people coming at you with what feels like shotguns ready to blow your head off for breathing.

A tiny bit of fame can make you go stupid too. You can start to think you’re Tom Cruise or Margot Robbie in the Barbie movie.

Inner dialogue can look like this: “Do you know who the F I am?”

That’s why I say fame is a nightmare. What we all really want is a private life, enough money, and success in a tight niche that doesn’t require us to wear tight pants and appear on Saturday Night Live with YOLO Elon.

Forget going big. Go deep.

The #1 dark secret of writing

Let’s finish here.

Making money from writing is fine. The biggest hidden trap, though, is that writing has a hidden superpower. It attracts opportunities to you like a magnet. You’ll never guess in advance what those opportunities will be.

That’s why all the niche, strategy, overthinking, ads, and sponsorship talk are a giant distraction.

If you can attract opportunities into your life, it puts the money part on autopilot. More importantly, you build a life most people can only dream of — and you become self-made.

With attention, social-proof, and credibility you can literally do anything you put your mind to. That’s what 99% of writers haven’t figured out yet ( it took me 8 years to see).

Are You Operating With Maximum Energy?

For those who are tired of dragging through the day, who want to get back the fire they once had, who are ready to reclaim your natural energy… this is your book.

Unleash the fire within