Brutally Honest Answers to Questions I Get About Writing
I’m only hard on you because I care.
Honestly, I could make a lot more money if I just painted a sunshine and roses picture about what it takes to become a writer.
I just can’t bring myself to do it because I want you to know what you’re in for.
Becoming a full-time writer is hard and most people who try don’t even get close to doing it.
At the same time, though, becoming a full-time writer is quite doable. Damn near anyone who knows how to be patient, follow directions, and practice their craft can do it.
There are a few traits that kill writing careers:
- Being hard-headed: I’m not perfect, but I’ve been writing for eight years. Why not just listen to me? Why question my advice? What you’re doing on your own isn’t working, right?
- Entitlement: A lot of new writers feel like they deserve views and money. You have to earn them.
- Extremely short time horizons: Full stop, you need to write for a year just to get good and it takes two to five years to go full-time.
Now, for my “harsh because I care” responses to common questions new writers ask me
“How do I Become a Writer?”
Read this 4,000-word blog post that walks you through every single step.
Don’t skip past all the detailed articles on my site, go to the contact page, and ask me a vague question like “how do I become a writer?”
It’s lazy and shows a lack of self-awareness.
There are so many guides that walk you through the process step by step, but you’re unwilling to use them.
Instead many of you will opt to reach out and ask vague questions because you’re afraid of the work. It’s an excuse mechanism.
You can either alleviate yourself of guilt if I don’t respond or, if I don’t answer the question well enough, you can blame my answer instead of blaming yourself.
These guides alone are enough to help. Maybe one percent of you will read and apply them. You’ll make it. The rest of you won’t. I’m not trying to be mean, it’s just the truth. There’s a direct correlation between implementing information and success. Grit your teeth and follow the steps.
“How Important Is it to Have a Niche?”
If you want to use your writing to create products down the road, it’s important.
You’ll have to pick one of these broad categories to succeed:
If you don’t want to turn your writing into a business, you can write personal narrative essays, essays in general, stories, satire, memoir stuff, etc.
The more niched down you are, the easier it is to sell stuff. For example, giving weight loss advice isn’t as good as giving weight loss advice to women in their 30s who just had a child.
Thanks to places like Medium, you can toy around with topics. Just understand the tradeoffs.
The critics are correct. You will make more money writing blog-style advice and how-to content. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do with that information.
“How Do I Avoid Writer’s Block?”
The more time you spend upfront putting together the structure of the piece, the easier it will be to write.
This means mapping out the ideas of your post, turning them into an outline, and getting it to the point that writing your first draft is like coloring a picture in a coloring book.
It can feel formulaic, but it will increase your output.
Also, if you want to avoid writer’s block, you have to write every day. I liken it to exercise — the only way to stop being too tired to go to the gym is to go to the gym.
These dead-simple pieces of advice will skyrocket your productivity:
- Write at the same time every day
- Give yourself a time window to work. Feel free to exceed it, but never fall short of it
- Your only two options during your time windows are to work or sit there and be bored
“Which Platform Is The Best?”
I prefer Medium because it’s beginner friendly.
Let’s say you wanted to start a substack and make $1,000 a month.
You’d have to build up your substack list to 1,000 people if you think you could convert 10 percent to pay you $10/month. If you can only convert 5 percent or charge $5, your list would have to have 2,000 people on it.
Substack is working on discoverability, but it isn’t there yet.
You’d have to get traffic to your substack, somehow, write compelling copy to get people to sign up, and keep them from unsubscribing.
I have students who make $1,000 a month on Medium just from writing.
This gives them the confidence to build a full-time writing business. If you’re struggling to get the writing done, what makes you think you’re going to be able to build up an audience on another platform and sell them something?
For everyone who complains about Medium, I’d love to hear a better alternative.
“What If I Don’t Want to Write Listicles and How To Posts?”
Ah, yes, the simultaneously inexperienced writer who also has impeccable taste.
Here’s my advice:
Do whatever you want, but then live with the results.
Maybe you really are a misunderstood, revolutionary, creative genius who shouldn’t have to bother with learning how to blog. If so, best of luck to you.
Odds are, though, you’re not.
I get it, though.
You might not necessarily want to write traditional blogging stuff. If you don’t want to, then don’t. If you’re open-minded though, I suggest using those forms of writing as training wheels to get you some momentum.
You can ditch them later.
Even if you want to strictly be an essayist or storyteller, you should study copywriting, marketing, and persuasion because they teach you to understand what people want.
You can achieve a happy Medium. There are lots of successful writers who write more artsy content while also packaging their posts well with solid headlines, compelling intros, unique sub-headings, etc.
“How Long Do I Have to Write For to See Results?”
I get this question a lot and one thing that strikes me is the phrasing.
They always ask me how long they have to write for as if it’s a burden. I can’t relate. From day one, I looked forward to writing. I told myself I get to write today. I needed someone to push me to start writing, but once I did, I was hooked.
Anyway, here are the answers:
- Write for 30 days straight just to build a habit
- Write for 90 days to get solid footing
- In 6-12 months, you’ll be making some money and you’ll have a decent-sized audience
- In 3-5 years you can build a six-figure writing business. 18 months to 2 years if you’re a ruthless executor
“How Can I Make Money as a Writer?”
If you want to start making money fast, become a freelancer. You could have a full-blown business running in 30 days.
If you want to be a freelancer, set up a profile on LinkedIn describing your work, pick a niche to focus on, and send 100 cold DMs per day to companies who fit your niche.
You’ll get ten people to say yes to a meeting, five will actually show up, three will be interested, and one will buy. Repeat this until your monthly retainer X your price = the money you need to live.
Other options are:
- Writing on Medium: realistically, the top numbers for writers are more like $1k-$10k instead of the $10k-50k it used to be. Earnings have gone down, but you can still earn.
- Publishing Kindle books: Even better, you can serial publish and write a new book every month or two. I know writers doing this who earn $20k a month or more.
- Courses, coaching, consulting: If you give how-to advice in any of the popular verticals of health, wealth, love, and happiness, you can productize your knowledge
- Affiliate marketing/ads: You can recommend products and get a commission. You can also put display ads on your website. You’ll need a lot of traffic to get this to work, so most people use SEO and focus on creating niche websites on topics that have low competition keywords
“What Can I Do If I’m not a…?”
What can I do if I’m not a tech person?
What can I do if I’m not salesy?
What can I do if I don’t know how to do marketing?
You can either quit or learn how to master the skills needed to build a writing career.
A lot of newbie writers act helpless. They get it in their head that they’re incapable of these skills when they haven’t even tried.
I promise if you said down and read a guide on let’s say, email marketing software, you’d figure out how to do it if you took the time to figure out how to do it.
Becoming a writer requires an identity shift. You have to adopt a growth mindset instead of a fixed one.
You have to remind yourself that all skills are learnable. And you have to embrace discomfort and the feeling of sucking at what you do.
There’s no way around it.
This Is The Answer to All Your Questions
All these answers boil down to…do the work.
I promise, if you practice and focus on your craft, you will get a lot better at writing
You will get more views.
You will make more money.
The process will get easier.
In the beginning, though, everything is just hard and frustrating. I get it. I really do.
I also know you’re more than capable of doing it. You just have to believe in yourself as much as I believe in you. Do whatever you can to get out of the newbie vortex and you’ll be just fine.
Now, get to work.