Everything I learned about writing, promoting, and making money
Recently, I published my 200th article. It was a massive milestone for me, something far away for others, and a speck in the rearview mirror for many more.
Whether you’re publishing your first, 20th, or 1,000th article, there are valuable lessons to learn at every leg of the creative journey.
Lessons in tone, titling, formating, and storytelling. Discoveries within your profession, new understandings in time management, promotion, and business; the knowledge keeps stacking.
The fantastic thing about lessons is that you learn them once, and they still surprise you with their simple wisdom later in a project, a career, or in life.
What I’ve uncovered on my journey to 200 articles might be a heads up if you’re earlier in your writing journey, or they might be a pleasant reminder if you’re further along.
And because everyone’s journey is a little different, you might get a bit of both.
But without further ado, here are my lessons learned on the way to 200 articles — they’ve been foundational for me, and I hope they find you well.
22 Essential Lessons in Writing & Blogging
Every lesson here has been from my own experiences and isn’t a catch-all, they’re my writing and blogging principles, and I expect them to grow and change with time!
1. Don’t get hung up on articles that do poorly or even the ones that go viral
You’ll publish some articles that don’t quite work, and you’ll post others that’ll explode.
You can make some decent conclusions in 5–10 minutes of asking “why,” and that’s okay, but analyzing it to death will lead to a creative low. It’ll start affecting your next piece of work — move on and be free.
2. Great Ideas + Valuable Content + Digestible Format
The three together equal a fantastic article but leave one out, and it feels wrong. It’s like putting half the sugar in a cake, it’s cake, but it’s off.
3. A fantastic article is only as good as the title
If people don’t click on the article, we’re only writing for ourselves. This is still lovely, but I’m sure we’d prefer to share the gold.
4. A great title leaves the reader asking questions and wanting more
It’s readable at less than 60 characters, uses small words, and catches a reader’s attention. If you can stop them scrolling, you’re halfway there.
5. A great title isn’t complete without a great thumbnail; these go hand in hand at intriguing potential readers
The image has the same job as the title — make potential readers ask questions, get excited, and garner interest.
6. Potential readers are cool, but actual fans are who you want to impress
Your fans will follow your writing religiously; they like how you write and want more of that; you’re the product here.
Common readers are only interested in the topic and the value they can get from that one article; you’re a commodity there.
7. Your articles should wow at least one person: you
Never publish an article that you’re not proud to have written, if you don’t even like it, chances are, others won’t. Sometimes it sucks, and that’s okay — start again.
8. The purest form of storytelling is to recount
If you recount in the order of what happened first to what happened last, it’d be hard not to tell a story that makes sense.
I had a thought that led me to try something, trying that thing caused this to happen, because this happened I learned something, here is that thing learned.
9. Backing up assertions you make will make you sound diplomatic and trustworthy
Mainly because evidence helps to build trust, and even if you know a thing to be right, the reader might need convincing.
10. Writing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme
The number of articles out there about making money with writing is crazy. Some writers make good money from royalties and niche blogs, and there are many more making nothing — it takes time.
11. Multiple revenue streams are where you make your money
Just like successful creators on YouTube, or more traditional TV celebrities, if all they had were earnings from advertising or their salary — they wouldn’t be in the position they are. Diversify revenue:
- Subscriptions (premium emails, private community, Patreon)
- Premium downloadable content (eBooks, courses, series)
- Educational Programs (Skillshare, Udemy)
- Affiliate Programs (Amazon, CJ Affiliate, niche products)
- Advertising Networks (Ezoic, Adsense, Adthrive)
- Freelancing and Consulting (freelance marketplaces, Calendly for bookings)
With how scalable the digital landscape is today, the sky’s the limit with potential revenue streams — you simply need to make great content.
12. Intrinsic motivation is everything
Writing isn’t a means to an end— it’s craftsmanship; it’s grit and patience. It’s possible to make it a full-time income, but ask yourself, “If nothing comes of this in a couple of years, would I feel like it was time wasted?” Yes means it’s likely not for you.
13. Writing is the Yin to reading’s Yang
They’re complementary, and both need to be a regular part of your improvement diet. Spend as much time reading as you do writing, and suddenly both skills improve.
Hot tip: I’m guilty of reading a lot of articles and non-fiction, and not enough fiction. The more I read in all formats, the better I get.
14. Don’t be open to rejection; welcome it
You’ll get rejected from sites, publications, papers, and that should be fuel. If you welcome the fact that you’ll be rejected now and then, it’ll be one less barrier in your way. Believe in yourself and submit a pitch.
15. If you’re proud of your work, promote it
We all hate being a bother, that nuisance of a guy or gal saying, “Hey! look at what I did.” but a fact of the matter is that you aren’t annoying, you’re doing everyone a favor, you’re providing value.
But there’s a caveat.
16. Promote your work in the correct places, to the right people
As a guy, nothing is more annoying than being invited to like a Facebook page from a distant acquaintance that’s selling a make-up kit. I’m not the audience; targeted and thoughtful promotion would work much better.
- Find a subreddit on Reddit.
- Find a few relevant Facebook groups.
- Find the Quora Space that makes the most sense.
- Pinterest is working great for Sinem Günel and Philip Hofmacher.
- Create a community on Discord or Slack.
- LinkedIn is content central at the moment.
17. Great ideas aren’t always meant to be articles
What you should write about is at the intersection of fresh ideas and what you know. Research and experience can boost the latter.
18. Leaving breadcrumbs throughout the article is the most effective way to keep a reader engaged
The end of each sentence should trigger intrigue in getting to the next one; this is way easier said than done.
19. Collecting emails should be a day one activity
If you’re trying to get those 1,000 true fans, you need a way to talk to them. Email is an almost-untouched medium for direct communication, so its value is unrivaled.
20. Don’t write when you’re inspired, write out of habit
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” — William Somerset Maugham
21. A disproportionately effective factor for success in blogging is the frequency you publish
Your efforts will compound, so the more work you put in, the more dramatic that hockey stick graph is going to look when it goes from linear to exponential.
22. Man, I still suck
You’ll have this feeling at your 200th article and probably your 1,000th. We’re our own most prominent critic, and if we let ourselves believe we’re some completed masterpiece, we’ll slide back down the learning curve to stagnation.
These lessons aren’t exhaustive, and a lot of the time, they aren’t even following my rule #9 — they’re anecdotal, from one blogger to another.
But I like to think they make sense, and the more I stick to these principles, the higher the quality of work I seem to produce.
Seth Godin says that the goal is the destination, the strategy is the path, and the tactics are the actions you employ to walk that path successfully.
The goal is to become the best writer you can be, the strategy is to provide valuable content for your readers, consistently.
And the ever-changing tactics — they’re what I’ve provided for you today.
I hope they serve you as well as they’ve served me so far.
Best of luck.