Making Money as a Writer Isn’t What You Think
The truth about what it takes to become a profitable writer.
I’ve been writing only consistently for about 4 years. In that time I’ve delved into a few different areas, each related to my background where I felt that I had some knowledge and experience to offer the world. For the first couple years I made virtually no money, which to be fair I really wasn’t even trying. At the beginning I hadn’t monetized my blog or attempted to sell books or newsletters, even once I started to I made virtually no effort to promote or push sales and revenue.
I started out thinking that “good” writing was pure and that all people did was share their sincere thoughts and got popular. While it is true that authenticity shows and greatly helps you succeed, you have to tailor you writing for an audience. You also have to make your writing addictive to read and offer a return to the ready.
Profitable writing almost always shares a few characteristics:
- It’s actionable- This means that the reader can take what you read and apply it to their own life and get a successful result. This could be advise, how-to, personal experience and knowledge, etc. The point here is that the reader can gain some amount of valuable information that they can use to improve themselves.
- Provocative Images and Title work- We all know that you need an interesting headline or photo to get attention. I knew this going in, I just didn’t know how important this was. In some situations and platforms, this is the only thing that matters, content is almost irrelevant to get clicks. I tried an experiment on Quora where I would write answers on real questions and put my best effort into the writing, then I’d insert the move clickbait photo I could to see the effect compared to similar responses with no photo. After 100+ questions, I concluded that a picture of an attractive woman in a bikini was hands down the winner as clickbait. I was expecting a 25–50% spike in attention, maybe even 100%; what I got was closer to 10–100x more views. This was stunning.
- Make Money, Lose Weight, Have Sex- All advice ties back to one of these three. The market for advise on any of these categories far outweighs everything else, not just by a little, but 100x.
- Popularity is Random- Big budget movies with A-list casts and directors flop all the time, Tik-Toks shot in under a minute on an phone get 50 million views. You can’t buy popularity, even the best artists in the world don’t know if something will be a hit until they release it. Some posts get 100,000 views, others get 100, I rarely know why. This makes quantity valuable.
Writing for a living isn’t about sharing your thoughts and feelings, it’s about creating a product people want to read, just like any other business. This doesn’t mean you aren’t helping people or that you’re just a hack. Every successful business adapts their product until it’s perfect, writing is no different.
If this isn’t the type of writing you want to engage in, that's ok. At times I haven’t wants to engage in it either. I still write things for myself and share them with people because it makes me happy. Writing is the best way for me to understand my own thoughts and organize concepts. It’s a valuable tool, whether I ever make another dollar.