How to Make a Living Writing

Is it possible to make a living writing?

If you  had asked me that 3 years ago, I would have said "hell no."

"There's too much competition, I'm not a good enough writer, I don't have an "in" in that artsy-fartsy whatever club..."

"Maybe you can...but not me." - (Young, naive Tom's internal monologue)

Luckily, while I didn't think I could make money writing, I did believe I could make money...somehow.

After all, what is business other than providing value for people and capturing a piece of it for yourself?

Turns out, writing is the fastest way to make that happen.

I now make a nice portion of my income from writing and publishing (my own books and others).

pay what you want book sales
Sales of just one of my "Pay What You Want" books.

I'm sharing this because I know  a lot of people have the desire to write, but never get around to it.

I want to encourage you to start. Today.

And to do that, I'm going to share my non-scientific process.

It worked for me, and it may (or may not) work for you. So for what it's worth, here you go:

How I Make a Living Writing

Step #1. Start Writing

Remember when I said that 3 years ago I wouldn't believe this was possible?

Well here's how I got started writing...

I just started writing.

And then I hit publish.

Instead of living and dying on every word I wrote, I wrote and published imperfectly. Many times with spelling and grammar mistakes (I bet you'll find at least one in this article), and sometimes without a compelling story arch or even captivating message.

What can I say - it happens.

Here's the thing:

I did this so consistently that some people took noticed (those amazing people unoffended by spelling mistakes)...

So I kept doing what I was doing, one blog post at a time;, one podcast at a time; one book at a time...

And then more people noticed.

My reach expanded...

And so did my sales.

Then I connected with other writers, and they shared my work, and more people noticed...

I kept doing this, day after day...

Now I make a nice portion of my income from books and digital products I've published.

You can too...and you don't have to start off with your best work.

In fact...

Step #2. Publish Your Worst Work First

And publish it today.

I'm not even kidding.

Every single amazing author I've read, when interviewed, will tell you their original content is garbage (in so many words).

If that's the case, why do we worry how good our first blog or even our first book will be?

I'm not saying to publish needless or senseless work. What I'm saying is this: accept the fact that in 10 years (or in my case about 3) you will laugh (or cry) at the work you're doing right now.

So stop procrastinating and stop hiding; publish your worst work. Today.*

*note: this blog post is above average to me right now...but in a few years I'll probably laugh (or cry) at how bad it is. This is the never ending process of refinement and improvement. Get used to it.

Step #3. Invest in Things That Make You Better

A lot of writers go nowhere because they won't spend money on anything; not training, not editors, not formatters and designers, not marketing, etc.

If you want to be taken seriously, you should put time and attention (and money) into quality. I know this sounds contradictory to the last step, but it's not. You should still publish as imperfectly as you need to; but you should always seek to improve your work.

An editor might cost $3,000 for a short book, but it's worth the money.

It might cost $2,000 to get a paperback and digital copy of your book formatted and ready to sell online...but better that than a $5 hit job from fiverr, which will lead to people ignoring you.

In summary: invest in yourself, and invest in the things that will help people take you seriously. Your writing deserves it.

A Faster Path to Success as a Writer

As I reflect on these last few years, I wonder: what changed?

How did I go from not believing I could make money from writing, to building a business around it?

Turns out: nothing...I merely stumbled upon a formula for making money from my writing (and the writing of others), and then I kept doing it until everything started to compound (that's when you make the REAL money...but that's a story for another time).

Now I believe (obviously), and because hindsight is 20/20, I also see the formula I stumbled upon was never a secret...

Turns out, there have been people sharing this formula for a long time.


One of those people is my friend (more than a Facebook friend, but maybe less than hanging out all the time friend) Jeff Goins.

Jeff is someone I've admired from afar for a long time.

I've read all his books, and lived and breathed his advice on writing, and even interviewed him on one of the first-ever episodes of In The Trenches...

And guess what?

It worked.

And now I'm here, getting phat paychecks from Amazon and Gumroad every week or so.

It's crazy that it's real - it feels like digital alchemy; from random thoughts and words to money in my pocket...

Here's the best part: the publishing industry is growing. Books and blogs and courses are a long way from dead; and because this industry is growing, it means the pie is expanding.

As the pie expands, so does my piece...

This also means YOU can have a piece of it.

(and in fact, I think the more of us that are publishing, the more we can help one another out and grow together...ruminate on that, then hit me up in the comments below to let me know your thoughts)

And I can't think of anyone better to trust than Jeff when it comes to writing.

In fact, tomorrow, Jeff is hosting a workshop on writing for profit.

He calls it “4 Critical Keys to Make a Living Writing.

Click below to register (for free).

In case you haven’t heard of him, Jeff Goins is a popular blogger and speaker, and the best-selling author of four books.

And in this webinar, he’ll be sharing with you some of the secrets to his success, and the stuff he taught me that has helped me get to where I am today.

WARNING: this workshop that isn't for the "hobby" writer, but for the person ready to "turn pro."

If you're ready to turn pro, click here:

That's it for today.

Stay frosty.

Started, finished, and shipped just north of Aspen, Colorado.

Total writing time: 1:47 hrs

Soundtrack: CHVRCHES

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One comment on “How to Make a Living Writing”

  1. I like your suggestion of publishing first work as soon as possible. It's an important experience and if you wait for a perfect content to publish, it will never come. Experience is important. With practice, there will always be some progress and quality of the content will increase.