Three Universal Laws of Writing You Need to Know To Become More Successful and Earn What You’re Worth

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

We may ignore these three laws but doing so can get in the way of our writing success.

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I haven’t been as productive as I’d like recently, and have been struggling to write. I know others are having similar difficulties and that the quarantine, especially for us doing it alone is causing many people to experience a type of brain fog that gets in the way of us doing much of anything.

Personally, I have relapsed to Netflix and knitting, with writing taking a backseat. I started writing a bunch of articles, but they are forced or feel trite or don’t seem like something that many people would be interested in. So I decided to leave them where they’re at and try to generate topics that might actually help other writers instead of focusing on generating tons of content to try to up my earnings.

Truthfully, last month my earnings were higher than they ever have been before. I’m not sure if this is the result of so many people being home and needing something to fill their time with but whatever the reason I am pleased.

While still under $500, with earnings going up, I don’t feel quite as pressured to produce new content/ I've decided to try to switch my focus to producing useful content instead of trying to find the next viral topic.

Truthfully, I’ve never been a fan of those who are clearly just trying to find the next big thing, though I admit at the beginning I did some of this as well. But I think it’s important to write genuine content, content that you as a writer find interesting, creating a piece that includes information the reader can use.

As I was laying on my bed watching Kim’s Convenience (a good show if you are looking for a funny, lighthearted series in these troubled times), my mind began to multitask. I realized there were some things that I had thought about when reading other people’s work as well as while interacting on social media that others might find applied to themselves or their writing. It was time to turn off Netflix and turn on the computer.

Writing of one kind tends to lead to more of that same, and translates into the same response from similar readers leading to similar earnings

Many writers write about the same topics, in the same voice from the same point of view day in and day out. This can be confused with niche writing. Niche writing doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to a few subtopics and write them according to a template so they all sound alike.

A lot of new writers think that this defines consistency and consistency translates into readers which translates into money. The fact is that even when people are looking for a particular topic to read about they are more likely to click on content that excites or surprises them in some way. Otherwise, you are likely to see your earnings stagnate or decrease.

Consistency is fine in terms of how much you publish or writing-related pieces to establish a niche. But when your writing always feels the same to readers and they can predict the topics you’ll write on they can become bored and more likely to switch to read the work of writers that they find more enticing.

While you may be earning money rehashing popular articles you wrote before when readers and potential clients see this they are often turned off. They may you aren’t able to come up with unique ideas to write about and look for writers who can.

Take a chance and try to write pieces that challenge you and excite your sense of learning something new. Then communicate it to your readers. When you do this, your excitement will translate onto the page and readers, and potential clients will feel it also.

If you are a niche writer, make sure you have at least one other minor niche that you also write about regularly to increase your attractiveness to your potential audience and clients. It also won’t hurt to branch out every so often by writing about things that may just be tangentially related to your area, to show that you are versatile and can generate content on different subjects if asked.

If you write poetry or fiction, don’t feel you need to hide this. Even if this isn’t what clients are looking for it demonstrates that you have a variety of writing skills that could be used to generate original content.

Also remember that even if you are writing on a platform like News Break and not currently looking for freelance clients, there is always the possibility that someone will see your work, and want to hire you to write for them, either as a one-off or as a regular consultant/contributor. So making sure your collection of online work can be positively viewed as your resume to lay the groundwork for what you might get paid to write tomorrow.

This means it’s important to choose your writing niches and topics carefully, because like tends to beget like, in the topic, and in the quality of the readers and clients you attract. You are more likely to see your earnings go up and to attract potential clients with some variety in your writing, both in terms of niche-specific topics as well as expanding beyond your niche topic.

If you are looking for freelance clients (and you should be if you want a sustainable writing career) write what you hope to get paid to write in the future and disseminate

If your dream is to become a successful freelance writer who can support themselves through their writing business, you have to land paying clients. One way of doing this is to write something that resembles the sort of writing you’d like to get paid to do in the future.

News Break and other platforms where you can write articles and earn a bit of money doing it, are good first steps. To widen your reach offer to write unpaid guest posts for blogs that are well known in the area you want to work in. Eventually, you’ll want to have a way of presenting your best articles in a collection that a client can peruse without having to wade through other things that aren’t as related.

A good way to do this is to establish an online portfolio through a free service such as Clippings.me or Contentedly.net. I have used Clippings and it is extremely easy to learn. Contentedly has more features that you can use free of charge including marketing options.

A portfolio provides a professional presentation of the work you want clients to see and it is always ready to be sent to someone should you choose to. If you are only using the service as a portfolio, you can also collect articles you have ghostwritten for others provided you give the site credit and don’t try to earn in any way from it.

Beware the Law of Ever-Expanding Work

Perhaps you’ve noticed this law in action. It says that content creation will expand to fill all available time no matter how small the article you initially envision. I know I’ve had this one hit me in the head over and over again recently. What it means is that even if you only have an idea that should take you long to write up, you find it going on and on until you are ready to stop writing.

If you have experienced any success as a freelance writer you will know of those days that you have several articles or assignments you are intent on finishing by the end of the day and you manage to get them all done. But on other days when your ideas aren’t as apparent, you come up with something that should be only a quick write up but somehow you can’t quite envision it properly, structure it so that it flows, figure out exactly what you want to say, or you add subtopics as you write that lengthen the article unnecessarily and the time it takes to construct it.

If so then you know how the law of ever-expanding work operates. When we have no other ideas of assignments we know we want to write, we will over research, expand upon tangential topics, over-explain our points or simply ramble on and on.

The result is a weaker piece that then takes eons to edit as well. You worry about marketing which you don’t feel like you should focus on until you have gotten the piece finished and published. But by the time you are done, it’s late and any marketing efforts you attempt are likely to have limited effect.

  • If this is a problem for you, try these strategies: Come up with two or three articles that you want to write that day. For each one, the intro paragraph and layout three points you intend to cover. Start the first one and work on it until it is done and ready for publication. Then move to one of the others, and finally the last one.

You won’t likely complete all three that day (though it’s possible. But the very act of having other things on your plate that need to get done, sets your mind into a pace that allows you to work fast enough to complete at least your first work quickly and in a straightforward manner that avoids such things as meandering or overexplaining.

  • Determine beforehand how much time the article should take, assign that much time and set an alarm to go off 10 minutes before. When it goes off, no matter where you are in the article, you have 10 minutes to finish it and not a minute longer. When the final alarm goes off you have to just finish the sentence you are on and bring it to a close.
  • If this problem extends to your editing process, do the same thing. Set an alarm for no more than 15
    minutes, with a warning five minutes before. You must complete your editing in that amount of time and no more.

You probably won’t achieve your goals the first few times you try them. Since the pieces are intended for publication or an assignment, they obviously have to be as perfect as possible so I’m not advocating when you stop, that has to be the end of it and you turn in whatever you’ve done. You should take the extra time you need to complete your work to the level it needs to be. But over time you will get better at writing to the clock and find that you are actually done before your alarm sound.

Take Away

If you know these universal writing laws and can work on implementing strategies to address the problems under each one, you will find you are writing more, attracting more readers and clients, and making more money. Once you are using your strategies without thinking about them, it will be easier to expand your reach, increase your following, and experience greater success as a writer.

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Stories on this channel include a discussion about the things that cause us stress and the various ways we cope with an increasingly complex and chaotic world. Topics included are psychology, positive psychology and mental health, writing and writing advice, relationships and social support, maintaining a positive mindset and humor.

Chicago, IL
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