What I Learned (the Hard Way) About Becoming a Full-time Writer

Note: This week, I’m finishing up a free series on building an audience and writing for a living. Don’t miss it! Watch the first video here.

I used to think becoming a writer was just about writing a lot and waiting for your big break. It’s not.

hard way

It’s probably not a coincidence that Entrepreneur decided to run my article about networks and creative work the day I first published this blog post. I don’t believe in coincidences — at least, not when writing is concerned.

If you want to get your writing noticed, if you want the world to hear your message, you can’t just sit in a cabin and write all day. There’s more to mastering your craft than that. You have to put yourself, and your work, out there.

For the past week, I’ve been teaching a free series on how to build an online audience, distilling all the lessons I’ve learned from building an audience and going pro with my writing. It’s been fun, but one thing I’ve noticed when you talk about your successes is that people like to invent myths about you.

“You just came out of nowhere!” is something people occasionally say to me. They mean it as a compliment, but I always have to set the record straight.

Bonus: In video #3 of my new teaching series, I give you the exact plan I used to build an audience of 100,000 people in 18 months. Get it here.

I’m not an overnight success

I once heard Steve Pressfield share a lesson about the much sought-after “overnight success” we all dream of, and it immediately resonated. Here’s the story in Steve’s own words:

There’s a story about the Oscar-winning actor Walter Matthau. A younger thespian is bemoaning his own struggle in show biz. “Mr. Matthau, I’m just looking for that one big break!”

In the story Matthau laughs. “Kid,” he says. “It’s not the one big break. It’s the fifty big breaks.”

There are no big breaks, only tiny drips of effort that lead to waves of momentum.

I was able to build an audience of 100,000 people in 18 months because I had spent eight years failing at it. When I learned all the ways to not do it, I finally figured out one way that worked. That’s how you succeed: you fail so many times that you run out of options and the only thing left is success.

But let’s be clear about one thing: Luck is proportionate to your frequency of attempts. It increases with the amount of work you put in.

There are no big breaks, only tiny drips of effort that lead to waves of momentum.

Jeff Goins

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How I built an audience

In a nutshell, here’s what I did (and what I recommend you do to bring attention to your message):

  1. Focus on voice, not subject. People pay attention to you for how you communicate, not just what you say. This is your “one thing” that makes all other efforts inconsequential. When you hone your voice, you’ll have more flexibility as your interests and style change over time.
  2. Build a platform. This is essential. To paraphrase my friend Michael Hyatt, who literally wrote the book on the subject, you can’t get heard today in this noisy world without building a platform. And forget what you’ve heard. You actually can do this your way.
  3. Be helpful. This is the secret to expanding your reach — focus on others, not yourself. Write a free eBook. Network with people in your field by doing favors for them. Serve your way into influence. It works.
  4. Create something so valuable people will want to pay you for it. This is the final step in the process and must be done last if you want it to be successful. For some, this will be the book you’ve dreamed of writing. For others, it’ll be speaking or an online course. But if you do steps 1-3 well, you will have a line of people waiting to pay you. It’s not a matter of making them, but rather letting them. Value gets its reward.

To learn more about how I did this and have helped thousands of others follow the same process, watch today’s free video (only available for a limited time).

Don’t miss the free series

In this free video, I share the four-step process I used to build my audience but also share a case study of how one author used it quit her job and start writing novels full-time. In it, you’ll learn:

  • Why waiting for a big break is just about the worst thing you can do.
  • How to build a platform that gets you noticed, without having to change who you are.
  • The exact plan I used to pro and have helped thousands of other writers used to accomplish their goals.

Ready to go pro with your writing? Watch today’s third and final video to find out. Be sure to leave a comment on that page, sharing what you’ve learned from this free video series so far!

Click here to check it out.

13 thoughts on “What I Learned (the Hard Way) About Becoming a Full-time Writer

      1. Hi Jeff,
        I’ve been reading your posts, but the pay part doesn’t quite make sense — unless a blogger is doing what you’re doing: offering advice on something that people need and want to pay for. Given your 5 blog types, mine is more of a “personal” blog, and I’d say I’m a “journalist” type. I want to write about Chicago “then and now” and also touch on contemporary issues that have roots in the past (e.g., race issues). I’m writing a book–the true story of growing up on Chicago’s West Side and the racial and social revolutions of the 1960s that personally affected our family. I’ve searched through a huge trove of family letters and diaries to uncover long-hidden family secrets to tell this story. So…how do I make this about my readers–unless they just LOVE my writing (over the millions of other blogs out there)? Except my book, which I hope to have ready to send out to agents in a couple months, I won’t have anything to “sell” unlike you, ProBlogger, Joanna Penn, etc. How do put “the reader first?” — except by creating the best content I can?

  1. Still deciding whether Tribe Writers is for me! I just signed up for Michael Hyatt’s Platform University…curious if they are different enough to take both. Decisions. Decisions! Thanks for sharing your journey and teaching the rest of us, Jeff! You’ve always inspired and challenged me.

    1. I think they are complementary. Platform U is a community with great content that helps you along as you build your platform and get your message heard. Tribe Writers is a course full of content with a community to encourage you. There is a guided process we teach with a defined outcome (launch a blog, get your 1000 true fans, and publish a book and get paid). Also, it’s more focused on the writing.

      But I totally understand the struggle. Good luck!

  2. Hi Jeff,

    Another thoughtful post.

    I particularly like your point about ‘voice not subject’ Finding a unique voice is a challenge but as we hone and refine it, clarity follows.

    Being helpful is a favorite tip. When we give without strings, particularly to the people who count, it’s amazing how it comes back in the form of a testimonial, a referral, or them as a a new client.

    Thanks again Jeff

    1. That point about ‘voice’ stood out to me as well.

      In one sense, it was relieving, because I didn’t have to worry about limiting my material to certain topics. But then, it’s challenging because it means I have to be disciplined about writing and writing and writing to find that voice.

  3. Hi, Isn’t that just the truth? Nobody ever came from nowhere! Everyone’s worked hard. The same thing when a seemingly healthy person dies from a sudden heart attack.People say ” Oh, but he was so healthy, nothing wrong with him” Well, obviously, there was. He just didn’t know it!

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  5. Hi Jeff, you and your blog is my mentor. Whatever you say I already know, I need to take a leap to understand it. I hope it happens with time, it should I guess. Read a post or two daily on your blog. Many a times, just skim through the old posts to keep reminding myself of certain things.

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