007: Three Simple Steps to Starting a Writing Career [Podcast]

You see it when you close your eyes. A log cabin on the shore of a lake, the forest rising high on the mountains all around you. Just you and your trusty Underwood.

(OK, you can keep the MacBook.)

Photo credit: David Goulart via CC
Photo credit: David Goulart via cc

If you’re holding down a day job, fitting writing into the cracks and crevices of your life, it’s easy to dream of making a dramatic change. It’s even easier to think you need to.

But the truth is, you don’t have to abandon everything to build a career as a writer.

In this episode of the podcast, we tackle three key questions from reader Arlen Miller submitted through my Facebook page.

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You can also download it at iTunes or on Stitcher.

The three simple steps to a writing career

Arlen jumps to the good stuff early when he asks:

What are the bare basics for launching a writing career?

I get asked this question a lot. And the answer is simple, but it’s not easy.

It starts with the art, but it overlaps with the business. And before you start crying “I just wanna do my art,” those things are not in conflict. Because all a business is, is helping people.

The business side of your art is helping by providing value — whether it’s entertainment or inspiration or education or whatever — and allowing people to compensate you for that value.

The three basics:

  • Build your craft.
  • Build your brand.
  • Build your business.

We don’t make movies to make money, we make money so we can make more movies.
– Walt Disney

So who are we helping?

Arlen then takes us a step further, asking:

What are the keys to engagement with your audience?

Engaging your audience is really about building a community, starting with your current relationships.

You have people in your life who care about what you’re doing. By connecting with them in ways that serve them well, you can leverage those relationships to reach more people and get your work the attention it deserves.

Simply focus on growing to reach:

  • Friends
  • Fans
  • Patrons

Friends and fans aren’t hard to connect with. It just takes time.

But patrons?

They are mentors. Friends who have influence. Building relationships with these people is hard, but worth the effort. Show them your teachable spirit — prove that you’ll take their advice and apply it. Show them you’re worth investing in.

There’s nothing new under the sun

Then Arlen asks about one of the most common fears new writers share:

What about the bane of being a copycat?

I’m not sure this is a bad thing. It’s inevitable, really. So embrace it.

Some of the greatest artists and authors, people whose work is timeless and revered, started by literally copying the classics. Painters traced and copied paintings to learn. Writers typed out pages of classic books to get the rhythm of the language.

Ultimately, it’s impossible to be original, yet we still see work we find interesting and original. Because each artist is unique.

You are unique.

And when all your various influences come together, they transcend what you’re trying to do and combine the inspiration into something fresh.

So, now what?

Don’t over-think this. It’s hard work, but it’s not complicated to build a career as a writer:

  • Grow as an artist and a business person
  • Serve your friends, fans, and patrons
  • Don’t worry about being unique, because you already are.

I’m working to apply all this to growing the community around this podcast. And I’d love for you to leave an honest review. I want to know what you think.

You can also copy and paste this URL into the podcast player of your choice: https://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePortfolioLifeJeffGoins

Also, if you have any questions for future episodes like this one, let me know (just shoot an email to jeff at goinswriter dot com).

Lastly, I want to hear about the community you’re building. Leave a comment below. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please tweet about it or share it with your friends on Facebook.

How is this podcast helping you move forward? Share in the comments.


28 thoughts on “007: Three Simple Steps to Starting a Writing Career [Podcast]

  1. I’m humbled by your kindness, Mr. Jeff. Thanks so much for answering my questions so fully and comprehensively. I learn so much from your life and your example. Thanks so much for making a real difference in my world. Thanks to Jeff and Jared. All the best on your continuing Portfolio Life podcast.

  2. Jeff, your thoughts on being a copycat got me thinking. I’ve been intimidated by some of the “greats” in my area, & it has held me back. You are so right that great artists and musicians have done this for ages as part of the learning process. I had never thought about how that applies to writers before. I feel relieved.

  3. Listened to this first thing this morning while getting the kids rolling. Some great inspiration to start the day. I’m ready to write!

  4. Hey Jeff

    I haven’t listened to your Podcast yet, but I AM SURE it is going to be wonderful. I am YOUR evangelist after reading “You Are a Writer: Just Write”. #HUGS

    I especially admire your ability to pay attention to your audience and work hard to answer their most pressing questions.

    Thank you so much for being YOU 😀

  5. What are you playing with? A candy wrapper? LOL. A little distracting, but the content was great. Thanks. As far as brands — you are the Guacamole guy. Jon Acuff is the Queso guy. This is real life Jeff…it just got real…Hahahaha.

    1. Thanks for the keen ear, Dayna. 😉

      It was my microphone. We had a recording snafu that has since been remedied. Future episodes will be better… promise. 🙂

  6. Jeff, your words are always a great encouragement. You remind me that this is a process, and that the joy has to be in the process. Years ago I began writing in a national magazine for emergency medicine physicians like myself. I have since evolved into the voice of the average, practicing doctor. My column is read widely, even internationally in some instances. And now Lippincott is publishing an e-book for the first time, using a compilation of my work. It really is about friends, fans and patrons! Thanks!

  7. The hardest thing for me was realizing you have to focus on your “art”, and your business will flow from that. If you don’t concentrate on creating quality content and value for your reader you will never make it as writer. Marketing yourself is great, but what’s the point if your writing has no appeal? It’s reassuring to hear you say we don’t have to abandon everything to become a writer, because I think for most of us it’s just not practical. Thanks for sharing Jeff.

  8. Thanks for sharing these awesome insights! I do have a question. At the moment my fans are mostly my friends and family. They are great, but are sluggish about spreading the word about my writing and my music. Do you have any tips on how to motivate fans to spread the word without being overly pushy?

  9. This has been a great reminder of keeping focused on my writing, I have been guilty of spending to much time on the business side, and although it is an important part, I realise I need to produce more content as it has suffered lately. Thanks for the gentle reminder Jeff.

  10. I really appreciated this podcast. I recently started blogging myself (https://necessitateleadership.blogspot.com/) . I started it because I am passionate about leadership, and think that everyone has the ability to be one… and figured as you mentioned that its a great way to make me learn more while giving me an avenue to just share my learning with others.. I originally was thinking I would wait awhile before looking to share the blog with friends, family, mentors, ect… But this was a great reminder that they are the support network that can help you grow, they’ve been there for me in the past, and they are the ones that will help grow it forward. Lots of the points you discussed really hit home for me. So thanks for sharing them. Check out the blog at some point if you’d like, I welcome any feedback… and I guess I need to go now and contact some individuals in my network to see what they think.

  11. Some brilliant advice and great questions to spark them off. As a newbie to the scene, I’m trying to build my platform through my blog https://davidjdelaney.wordpress.com as well as through twitter and google +. It’s hard to know it what I’m saying it hitting the mark but I try to be consistent with the message. It’s a tough one to judge but I’ve met some great people through making online connections that I wouldn’t have it I didn’t start.

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