Thursday, March 22, 2012

Treat Your Career Like Your Writing: 5 Tips for Making Money as a Writer

Earlier this week, I saw something I didn't expect to see while looking for Arcade Fire songs on YouTube. Before one of them, a nearly 2-minute advertisment ran for ghostwriting services. A ghostwriter was pitching his services to public speakers and business professionals. It's the first time I'd seen such an ad on YouTube, especially from a freelance writer. And it's a great idea!

How can you take your writing career to the next level?

Earlier this week, I also ran across an article about tweeps on Twitter with large followings charging hundreds and even thousands of dollars for sponsored tweets to their followers. If done tastefully, this makes all the sense in the world for tweeps who have six-digit (or more) followers. Another great money-making idea!

One week and two new potential money-making ideas for writers (to add to already established money-making ideas for writers). But then, these ideas aren't entirely new, because they're both related to advertising. The new spin is that writers can apply these concepts to their platforms (in the case of Twitter) or use new platforms to find clients (in the case of YouTube).

This got me thinking about how writers can get creative with their careers and oppotunities. The solution is simple: Writers should treat their careers like their writing.

Here are five ways for writers to grow their careers:

  1. Observe. Just as a writer observes people and situations for stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, a writer should also observe other businesses and freelancers (writers and non-writers). What do they do to get clients and make money? What techniques do they apply? What do you think is smart? What do you find annoying? Writers are (or should be) expert observers, and they should apply this skill to building their freelance businesses.
  2. Imitate. Just as fledgling artists imitate other artists and fledgling writers imitate other writers (in the writing process), it also makes sense to imitate successful business practices of other writers. Imitate their negotation strategies, website designs, blogging techniques, etc. If you think a writer is doing something the right way, then imitate it. Try it out for yourself.
  3. Refine. While imitation is how a lot of artists and writers start their careers, they eventually get to a point where it's time to find their own voice. For instance, my poetry blog Poetic Asides started off imitating other poetry blogs while I was getting the hang of blogging, but eventually I figured out what I was trying to accomplish there--and I feel like I've made it my own unique space in the poetry blogosphere.
  4. Experiment. As part of that refining process, I made several experiments and false starts. You have to be willing to fail to eventually succeed. Advanced writers do this. They take risks--sometimes calculated, sometimes not so much--and attempt to push their writing into brave new places. Writers would be wise to try this with their careers as well. There's nothing wrong with taking a risk every so often.
  5. Innovate. This experimentation can lead to innovation. You can be the first ghostwriter to score big with advertisements on YouTube or the first travel writer to sell $500 sponsored tweets to Hotwire or Expedia (or whatever company) on Twitter. You can have articles and blog posts written about you, because you took your career to the next level; you treated your career like your writing--as if it's art.

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:


Anonymous said...

I think you are right to say that people have to be willing to fail in order to eventually succeed. Great post!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thanks for the comment, Brooklyn!

Tzirel Chana said...

this was really good.

Monique Liddle said...

You provided a lot of useful information (as usual) for me to keep in mind once my blog has some followers (hopefully). Even though I may not use all your suggestions right now, these ideas are great for me to remember as I see other people make money from their blogs (observation).

I do have some possible options in the future. One is to become an Amazon affiliate. I believe this allows people to click on the link of a bk (from the blogger's site) which the reader can buy on Amazon or Kindle. Even if the person doesn't buy the bk but shops and buys anything else on Amazon, the blogger gets a percentage of what Amazon receives.

I enjoy your posts becaue they have been so helpful to me as a beginner blogger and also as a writer. Remember to start sharing on Google+ again - if nothing else than to share your posts and additional ideas.


HeideB said...

Good stuff. The art of writing is more than just putting words on paper. It takes a lot of work! But I still enjoy it and am constantly learning how to adjust and learn more. I always enjoy reading your blog. Thanks!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thank you, Monique, for your thoughtful comment. Affiliate links is a nice passive way to dip your toes in the monetization pool. The Amazon Associates program is particularly easy to use. That said, traffic is important to help get sales. But it'll happen if you stay consistent with posts, great content, etc.

Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Tzirel!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thank you, Heide, for the nice words!

I believe there is a craft and art to writing. Great writers learn the craft, and then, they turn it into art.

The same can be said for how some people attack their writing careers. They learn the craft of getting their work out there and earning a living from their writing. Then, some turn it into an art.

Cora said...

Good information. Thanks for sharing it.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thank you for stopping by, Cora!

Unknown said...

Great article! If I had to pick #6 it would be to Share. :) Share your work with friends, online, or join a local writing group.

Selena said...

The one line that really popped out at me was: "You have to be willing to fail to eventually succeed." Thanks for the simple yet frightening reminder!