10 Secrets Professionals Know about Creating a Profitable Writing Career

Jessica Lynn

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By Dean Drobot

Creating a new lifestyle around a certain goal — like writing — is a process, not an outcome. For the new writer, it’s hard to believe that in creating a process, you’re getting closer to the outcome you desire — making money online. You want to write, you do, but you give up before you see the buds of success or before you’ve planted enough seeds to turn into buds. Don’t. Build better habits, and you win the outcome in the process.

If you aren’t seeing the monetary gains from writing you desire, here are some things to think about and implement towards making an income from writing.

1. They don’t waste the reader’s time

There is no shortage of good content. I can’t get through all content I’ve bookmarked and the books stacked on my nightstand. Readers have a ton of writing vying for their eyes and attention.

Cream rises to the top.

As writers, we are here to entertain, inform, and share a part of ourselves with the reader. Are you doing one or all three of these things?

Aim for all three.

2. They place importance on smaller tasks first

In the beginning, place importance on other outcomes over money.

Successful writers often give the advice to make monetary rewards secondary. You won’t make the kind of money you want if you don’t focus on quality first.

Here is the order:

  • Establish the habit through repetition
  • Focus on quality
  • Market your work
  • Create connections with other writers

There are more essential goals to focus on before the money comes. Creating a name for yourself, finding your voice, developing rituals that form the habit, discovering topics you love to write in, having a successful, consistent marketing strategy, forming bonds with other writers.

These things are pivotal to success and usually come before the green stuff. (I’m a fan of money too. Money buys your time back. With more time, you get to focus on activities you love).

But you have to put in the effort and focus on smaller tasks first before you see success in anything. Success is the combination of small actions that gain momentum and eventually culminate in greater success.

Think of the “secondary” rewards as an investment in your writing career. Those are the rewards that keep you going in the long-term. Money won’t. You think the money will, but you’ll need more substance than money offers to keep you writing. Helping your audience by creating value will be the engine that keeps you writing more than money will.

3. They know good writing is like a fine wine; it needs to breathe

If you’ve been writing for a bit, you’ll relate to reading your old work and wanting to rework every word of it. When we put in the time and deliberate practice, we get better at what we pursue, we become experts. We become better writers.

Good writing is in rewriting.

Not only does writing need time to breathe, but the writer also does before she comes back to revise. Forget it for a bit. Put it down, mentally as well as literally. Then, come back and read it aloud from the top. You’ll be surprised how much room there is for improvement. “Easy reading is damn hard writing,” as Maya Angelou quipped.

The mistakes will be obvious and glaring when you put a draft away for a day or two. Work on something else, or go live your life. But put space between you and your last draft.

4. They under-promise and over-deliver

My partner taught me this. He has a high rate of returning clients in a competitive business. One reason is he’s the best at what he does in the city he works in (I think in the whole world). Along with that, he tells me his secret is to under-promise, over-deliver. I think he uses this strategy in our relationship because he rarely lets me down. He is one of the most reliable people I know — he doesn’t overpromise. This quality starts with realistic expectations.

Make the headline great, but the text even better. Over-deliver what you promised the reader in the headline. Put some stank on it. Provide your personal flare. Writing is not only a skill but a talent. Show yours. Each writer is unique. Add your personal stamp. If you write with your personal perspective, you’ll never have any real competition.

This brings me to the topic of confidence.

5. They have chutzpah

We all have those days when we feel it, loving ourselves and wake as Masters of the Universe. We are full of confidence like we’ve never known a moment self-doubt. I love these days. They usually come hand-in-hand with a great night’s sleep. I write really well on Master-of-my-Universe days. Sure that what I wrote will resonate. Because it resonated with me while I was writing it.

During these rare days, my confidence doesn’t falter, I don’t second guess myself, I’m assertive in my opinions and have a bit of an attitude about them. When I come to writing with this attitude, those posts usually do well. This assertiveness shows in my writing when tackling a topic I have thought a lot about and am self-reliant in.

Now, if I can figure out a way to wake up with this feeling every day.

6. They know deliberate practice takes writing to the next level

At the end of 2020, I didn’t want to write.

I went through a slump. I was churning out the same content and not well, trying to hit my self-imposed five posts a week quota. I had a few pieces I was proud of, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. When I’m not having any fun, something has to change. I felt like a content zombie, half-zombie half- monster. The monster part showed in my mood at home. I was going through the motions of regular practice (repetition), not deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance, which leads to vertical growth and out of horizontal growth. Beginners show up and put in their reps, professionals look for opportunities to improve their writing.

James Clears say of deliberate practice,

Regardless of where we choose to apply ourselves, deliberate practice can maximize our potential — no matter what cards we were dealt. It turns potential into reality.

You want vertical growth, not horizontal.

While in my slump, I wasn’t growing. Not as a writer. My writing wasn’t improving, nor was I gaining more traction: followers, fans, reads. Not until I started focusing on intentional growth with deliberate practice did I see movement vertically. Actively trying to get better at writing, pushing yourself to write on more topics, and taking the editing process more seriously is deliberate practice.

When we push ourselves to get better at something, it adds to our self-confidence. We get more assured in our performance as we sharpen our skills doing smaller tasks that lead to success.

When you sit down to write, make every session have a purpose. What purpose will you reach for today? Writing, editing, starting with an outline and then breaking down each section to master it, writing until you reach a flow state that goes on for hours, reading about writing, taking a class, working with an editor? Give each writing session direction and do it with intentionality.

Beginners show up and put in their reps, professionals look for opportunities to improve their writing.

7. Pros don’t phone it in

I know when I’m writing with purpose or phoning it in. Writing with purpose sessions are when I remain focused. Concentrated effort leads to better content than the phoning-it-in writing sessions.

With deliberate practice, you’ll know when you are trying to fool yourself. Are you focused, or are you just trying to get it out the door? While getting it out the door is important, it is also essential to give your best for that day.

When we don’t enjoy the process, it shows up in our writing. This can keep us static, thus, not moving forward with momentum in our writing careers. All writers have slumps when we go through the motions and avoid stretching ourselves out of burnout or laziness. But this is a disservice to ourselves, our craft, and our readers.

Readers are giving us their time. Give them the highest quality you can in return.

8. They write on a variety of topics that interests them

The route out of a slump makes me a better writer. I started only writing what I was interested in writing for that week. I can write about any topic. This keeps me interested in the process of writing.

When you are interested in a subject, writing tends to pop, the words bounce off the page, the reader can feel your energy, even if they disagree with your POV. At least you have one when you are writing about something that sparks your curiosity.

You keep them interested because you’re interested.

9. They understand it’s about relationships

The writing world is kind of small. Quality writing and the names attached to quality stand out.

Make connections with other writers who serve as mentors, better writers you’d like to emulate. Emulate not just their writing but how they behave, how they market, how they talk to their readers, how they keep writing.

10. They write like no one is watching

No one is watching, not at the beginning anyway. In a way, I envy new writers. When I had 500 followers and hadn’t shared my work yet, I felt freer to take chances.

Good writers write like no one is watching, not their partners, mothers, exes, or peers. They don’t hedge. When we start to imagine what others think of our work, it is death to the writer. It makes the writer play it safe or color writing with some other pretext.

When I start to think this way, I remind myself that I don’t yet have to worry about too many people watching, I’m still a little fish in a big pond, and this is my journey, my work, and I need to step away from reactions to my writing from family and friends.

Whether you are a writer or a famous director, the healthy way to look at any creative pursuit is to release it after you’ve made it public. It isn’t yours anymore. You’ve turned it over to the audience. You don’t own it, so you no longer control the narrative around it.

Your audience will perceive it the way they want to perceive it. They will interpret it from their own perspective, judgments, and worldview.

Move on to your next work. You don’t want to live in your past work. You have new ideas to write about because you’re a professional.

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Los Angeles, CA
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