How to Turn Your Writing Into a Success Story


Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

There are plenty of articles out there on how to be a successful writer. Write. Read. Study. Repeat.

All of that is important, and I did that for years. I have been fairly successful. I’ve sold hundreds of articles through various sites and agencies.

But I felt like each time I wrote an article, I was starting over. I wrote good content on either subjects that I knew well or had researched thoroughly. I placed them with agencies that did an excellent job of marketing, so eventually, 90% of my work has sold. I feel that was pretty successful.

But to a certain degree, I was leaving that success in the hands of others. So I decided to change that. Here is how I did it.

Use What You Know

One basic tenet of learning is to take what you know and apply it to something new. Not the exact same knowledge, but the basis of that knowledge. You can’t apply principles of carpentry to alpaca farming, for instance. But you can apply the fundamentals you learned in carpentry to be successful in alpaca farming. Learning and knowing the tools. Practicing for success (measure twice, cut once). The exact elements aren’t exactly the same, but the principles behind them are.

I’ve been a successful photographer for longer than I’ve been a writer. And for years, I had the same problem. I did excellent work and placed that work with agencies that sold it for me. Based on their marketing efforts, I sold a lot of images. But I was relying on them. Mostly, no one knew who I was. I had no name recognition.

Like you probably do with writers, I followed many photographers that I admired. They were always posting their work, as did I. But there were a few that I followed that posted at least once a day about an image they had just sold. They usually did this was under the guise of thanking the buyer or agency, but it was really self-promotion. I got to thinking, wow, this guy is really good.

Toot Your Own Horn

Then I realized something. I sold images every day as well. But I told no one about it. So, I began doing that; thanking buyers with a copy of the image, or posting tear sheets where someone used my photo in a magazine or website. Soon, my following increased. Not because I had gotten any better, but the perception was that I was successful.

And that is one lesson I have struggled with all my life in whatever job or profession. Pat yourself on the back; no one will do it for you. You have to, as the saying goes, toot your own horn.

And it worked. It always does. If you tell people you are successful long enough and often enough, they will believe it. Of course, you need to have some actual talent, but there are millions of talented people out there no one will ever know about. Why?

They didn’t toot their own horn.

Brag about your successes. You can think about and learn from your failures, but there is no value in crowing about them. Do you remember that video of when Hank Aaron struck out for the 715th time? Neither do I, because no one talked about it. Hank Aaron struck out almost exactly twice as many times as he hit a home run. But what is he known for?

Build on Your Successes

To continue with our baseball metaphor, home runs are great, but they create a lot of strikeouts. You can swing for the fences every time at-bat, but unless you are Hank Aaron, it will probably lead to you sitting on the bench.

Or you can hit a single every time.

Think about it. (I hope you guys understand baseball). What’s easier, a home run, or a single? If you hit a single every time you’re at-bat, that’s literally batting 1,000. And in any profession, batting 1,000 is the metaphor for complete success.

So, go ahead, submit the occasional photograph to National Geographic or your article to Time Magazine. But you will probably strike out a lot. So start small and build on your successes.

Back to photography, I earn most of my money from a market known as micro-stock. Rather than the traditional model of selling exclusive rights to an image for $1,000 or more. I sell limited rights for an average of $1, but I do it thousands of times. It’s taken a long time for that concept to catch on, but with the internet, the same as with writing, the playing field is getting leveled.

Once I complete work on an image, my investment in that image is complete for all time. In accounting, they know this as a fixed cost. That time/money/effort is gone and can never be recovered. The only thing left to the equation is gross revenue. And here’s the thing that many photographers, especially old-timers, have a hard time with. Selling an image once for $1,000 or selling it 1,000 times for $1 is exactly the same money for exactly the same effort.

And that’s how I have become very successful with that industry. I have 50,000 images and they have sold for as many as 2,000 times each. Of course, I have some that have never sold. But here is the takeaway from this and I’ll get back to writing.

Most of my total income is from images that I have made less than $5 each from.

Write, Market, Sell, Repeat

And that is the principal I have shifted to this year in my writing. In the first month, I made almost nothing, but by month four, I have exceeded the income I made using the old model. And there are four components to that success.


Trust me. This doesn’t go without saying. Write. A lot. If you’re not writing, you’re thinking about it. Everything is an idea. Prior to this year, I tried to write an article a week. Often, I missed that target. One time, I remember, I got up to one a day and sustained that pace for almost a month.

Since January 2020, I have written a minimum of one article a day. Most days, two, and sometimes more. I didn’t necessarily finish them. Some I did, but most, it was the first draft. I’ve written almost 200 articles in four months and have an idea list a mile long.

It doesn’t do much good to write 30 articles in a month if your total for the year is 50. You have to keep it up. You need what I call a sustainable rhythm. Maybe for you, it’s two a day or maybe it’s two a week. Pick something that works and stick with it.


I’ve written many articles on this, but marketing your work and building a following on social media is dead easy. You just have to do it. If you throw a party and don’t tell anyone about it, you’ll be eating microwave popcorn and binge-watching Hogan’s Heroes. Alone.

And you can’t go to a party, stand in a corner all night and then leave complaining that no one was friendly. Market yourself. Be friendly, helpful, and kind. And in doing that, sell yourself. Not only share your stories but share your successes. People respond to that, just like I did with photography.


There are many outlets for your writing. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. And don’t pitch the same audience. You’re probably not going to get published in Time or Reader’s Digest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t send them something. One thing. Something you feel is good enough and fits the market enough to be possible.

Then look at the second-tier markets and pitch a few stories there. Wait for a response and then query back in a couple of weeks. Do the same with the next tier, but offer them more work. Finally, whatever the bottom tier is for your writing, or just for your blogs, keep publishing there, and building your credentials. Your blog or News Break posts and your lower-tier clients, that is where you will build the foundation of this pyramid.


Just looking at one market, I have doubled my income every month I’ve been there. There have been a couple of home runs, and a few doubles and triples. (I really hope you know baseball!). But there have been a ton of singles. This morning at 7 am, I had about 150 views for the day. But they were spread out over 33 articles, out of my total of 150. So if my quality, quantity, and audience continue without hitting a home run, all I have to do to double my income is double the articles.

Don’t get me wrong. Quality is king, but quantity is key. Too many people feel that writing (and photography for that matter), is some sort of get-rich-quick scheme or that it’s easy. It’s not quick or easy.

But it is doable

Just do it.

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I am a writer with over 16 years of experience and hundreds of articles. I write about photography, productivity, life skills, money management and much more.

Alpharetta, GA

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