This is the start of the Digital Writer series.
Over the coming weeks (with some breaks for a few harsh truths and self-improvement letters) we will dive deep into how to become a profitable writer while talking about your interests.
I’ve always been a creative at heart.
I loved the thought of working from my laptop, living anywhere in the world, and not having to worry about money.
Naturally, I studied things like graphic design, photography, and film.
Those were valuable skills to learn, but they never really got me anywhere.
I knew that I had to learn something that was valued by the market more, but I didn’t want to give up my creative edge.
That’s when I took a web development class in college.
I became obsessed.
The promises of a high-paying job without a degree and the infinite resources I could use to teach myself to code were enticing.
And I didn’t have to let go of my creativity if I did front-end design.
Creativity paired with coding seemed more valuable than something like graphic design alone, but only to the job market (from my level of awareness at the time).
I have always wanted to do my own thing.
Getting a job was the bane of my existence.
It wasn’t hard to observe society and see that most people were overweight and unhappy. The common theme was that they all had their precious resource, time, sucked away from them by a job that worked them to death.
Long story short, I never was able to monetize my creativity.
It’s not because I wasn’t skilled enough, it’s because I didn’t stack other skills that would allow me to make money. I wasn’t skilled in the right things that would allow me to monetize my main skill. Another loss for “focus on one thing.”
I’ll talk about my full story in one of the next letters, but for now, just know that it didn’t work out.
I had to swallow my pride and get a job.
Luckily, I was able to land the first web design job I applied for because I took a year to teach myself to code (and had design experience before that).
You don’t need to go to school to get a high-paying job.
That job can be used as a launchpad for building your own thing.
Before we start, The Art Of Focus Keepsake Box is available for preorder:
- The Keepsake Hardcover – we are only printing 2000 copies.
- The digital download of the book so you can be the first to read.
- The audiobook version when it is recorded and uploaded.
- The FOCI Planner to deconstruct your ideal future into priority tasks.
- The FOCI Coin to remember to act with intention.
- The Digital Transformation Center with 12 hours of modern entrepreneurship trainings.
- The Private Community for updates, discussion, and networking.
- A private invitation to an in-person event in Phoenix, AZ next year.
The price increases twice leading up to the release date.
How I Made Millions As A Digital Writer
I worked at a web design agency for a year.
This was a blessing, because it showed me the exact pieces I was missing in my freelance web design business.
The agency had a marketing, sales, and operations department.
Marketing and sales generated and closed leads.
Operations handed them off to the designers (me).
I built their website and handed it off to them.
It made sense, so I started studying skills like copywriting, sales, direct response marketing, and all of the other skills that people tell you to learn.
In my free time, I would try everything under the sun to land clients.
Facebook Group networking.
Paid Facebook and Google ads.
Walking into local businesses and talking to the manager.
Writing down the phone numbers of services businesses from their vehicle graphics (like pest control).
I started landing a few clients, but not nearly enough as I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I replaced my income and quit my job within my year at the web design agency.
But I didn’t just want to replace my income.
I wanted to make millions… because who doesn’t?
I was well off, making close to $100,000 a year – mostly from referrals after a lot of manual effort – and was able to quit my job.
A few things happened at this point.
And they could only happen at this point, because my mind wouldn’t understand them without my prior experience and failures.
1) I began to understand the power of social media.
Why in the world was I doing all of this manual work to land clients?
Why didn’t I realize that people posting content and building a following had unlimited clients at their fingertips (if they understood marketing and sales)?
If I could build an audience, that would save me 10-20 hours a week generating leads for my freelance services.
And if I built a large enough following, I could pivot out of client work. That would save me even more time because I could monetize digital or physical products.
You can start to see where my 4-Hour Workday philosophy comes from.
2) I had the experience to grow on X.
Centuries ago, there was a social media app called Twitter.
I never really cared for it.
But for some reason, I started using it more and more.
I noticed people talking about everything I liked.
Self-improvement, mindset, philosophy, web design, business, marketing, and more. Often from the same accounts. They didn’t seem to limit the topics they talked about, because it was obvious that they all overlapped (similar to how this newsletter can be categorized as any one of those topics). They told you to “choose a niche” but didn’t have one themselves. Their products and services were niched down, not their personal brand.
If they were generating traffic with their content and had the successful business they said they did… why couldn’t I do the same?
I started emulating their content structure and posting the ideas in my head.
Remember, I had prior copywriting and direct response marketing knowledge.
I knew what was necessary to write a post that captured attention and generated enough interest to follow me.
In my first year, I gained around 10,000 followers.
In my second year, that jumped to 50,000.
In my third year, another jump to 100,000.
Then, I used my validated ideas to post to other platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. I knew they would get engagement because I had so much data from writing on Twitter.
Today, 4 years later, I have around 2,800,000 followers across all platforms.
Talk about exponential growth and how consistency is king.
There is a lot more to this social media growth thing. I’ll talk about that in a letter soon called How To Actually Grow On Social Media (What They Don’t Tell You). For now you can read this letter on networking.
3) Everything pointed to writing.
Writing on Twitter made me realize one thing.
I wasn’t just writing on Twitter.
I was writing emails, newsletters, landing pages, promotions, video scripts, direct messages, course curriculums, product material… everything.
It wasn’t too long until I just considered myself a writer.
That’s all I did every single morning.
That was the driver of all growth in my business.
My ability to capture attention, create value, and impact my readers was all due to writing.
This is how 2 Hour Writer was birthed. That’s a course where I teach my entire writing ecosystem. Because everything in business – no matter what you do – starts with writing.
Most writers want to sell their writing, and they can with something like a paid blog, newsletter, or community, but that is limiting.
Writing is both a traffic generation mechanism and the means to create an information product.
When you know how to write, market, and sell, you can earn an income writing about whatever you want.
4) My income grew with my readership.
A few years ago I read a tweet that said you can make $0.50-$1 per follower per month (with your own product or service of course, not by relying on platform monetization or Adsense).
This held true for me up until a point.
From years 1-3 I made about $1 per follower per month.
So, $10,000 then $50,000 then $100,000.
I made $800,000 in my third year.
This past year I’ve passed my follower count in income, around $3.1 million so far.
There are a lot of technical details here, but one thing holds true:
If you slowly build a decent readership, launch a new product, and get 80% of things right, I find it hard to believe that you couldn’t make a million dollars.
At this point, if you stick it out, the path should be blatantly obvious to you.
The main trap I see is people playing short-term money games. Blasting their audience with promotions on a crappy product and never improving what they offer.
The Principles Of Monetizing Your Writing
I don’t want to give you hacks and tactics.
This is a long-term game.
The sooner you accept that the sooner you will get results, because the quickest fix is the longest path.
Instead, I want to give you principles to focus on.
These will be the main drivers of monetizing your writing.
1) Distribution – Choosing A Writing Platform
Distribution is how you bridge product and people.
For writers, social media is how you are going to do that.
You don’t need to start on a writing platform, but why wouldn’t you?
You don’t need to post pictures of your body.
You can prioritize learning and idea generation.
You don’t need to design graphics or edit videos.
It is a peaceful existence unless you want to expand in the future.
I recommend X as your starting point because you can control growth with strategies we will talk about later.
Medium, blog sites, and newsletters take longer to grow.
In my eyes, it’s easier to build an X following and transfer your audience to long-form writing down the road.
2) Offer – How You Monetize An Audience
Beginners tend to see YouTubers pulling in big numbers from ad revenue and think that’s the best way to monetize.
Even now with X monetization being a thing… I’m seeing this more and more.
This is arguably the stupidest way to think.
You started doing this because you want more autonomy in your life.
Don’t be a slave to the algorithm.
You have to create a product or service.
Here’s what I would do:
- Start a freelance business. You won’t have a large following at first. So you do more manual work to land writing clients for a higher price than something like a course. This allows you to make an income. (You can sell social media content, copywriting, emails, etc. Just don’t offer plain old “writing.”)
- Ween off of manual outreach. As your audience grows you can leverage that for landing clients. This frees up time to start creating a product.
- Turn your freelance service into a product. You can keep freelancing, but having a digital product, course, or physical product allows you to earn without manual labor.
- Do whatever you want. At this point, you should have the mental and financial resources to build and monetize whatever you want. Enjoy the freedom that a proper skill stack and experience provides.
3) Leverage & Scalability
If you don’t prioritize leverage and scalability, you won’t be able to make $1 million a year (at least without hating your life).
The Internet allows businesses to scale without hiring an insane amount of employees.
Digital tools, software, and automation allow you to do what used to take 10 employees by yourself.
As you are writing and building, you have to continue to evolve your products to take up less of your time.
The obvious and priority thing to do is turn your service (like freelancing) into a digital product (like a course teaching the same thing to a more beginner-level audience).
In my case, I was a freelance web designer.
So, to free up more time, I created 2 products in my first year.
One taught how to create websites and landing pages.
The other taught my manual methods for landing freelance clients.
In my second year, I stopped freelance web design as a whole.
Some people get tied to what they do even if they see a better opportunity.
I had so much more experience at this point. It didn’t make sense to continue doing something less profitable and more time-consuming.
So, I transitioned into marketing consulting for online businesses.
I had direct access to them on social media anyway. It just made sense.
Eventually, I did the same thing.
I turned that marketing consulting into a more expensive course.
You and your business must continue to evolve.
For me, it happened every 6 months.
I felt things getting slow and stagnant.
I had to create new products and services to survive in the Wild West of entrepreneurship.
4) Promotions – The Destroyer Of Brands
I’ve talked about my new book, The Art Of Focus, for close to 3 years now.
I still have people message me saying they had no idea I wrote a book.
Just because someone followed you or read one of your posts doesn’t mean they know what they can buy from you – even if they’re a perfect fit.
You. Have. To. Promote.
Promoting means telling people about your product or service and sending them to a page where they can read more and buy.
A simple framework for this is PAS.
- Problem – capture their attention by talking about the problem they are facing that your product solves. “If you struggle with…” is a great place to start.
- Amplify – talk about how the problem impacts their life and why it needs to be solved.
- Solution – Position your offer as the solution to the problem so they click and read more.
You can plug your products, services, or newsletter in the comments of your posts, in your story, or randomly in your writing like I did above.
Whenever people come to me for help with monetization, they may have problems with their marketing, but most of the time it’s just a lack of promotion.
They don’t set a schedule to promote once a day in any of their content.
This is a surefire way to get trapped as a starving artist.
Summary: How To Make $1 Million A Year As A Writer
I wish I could tell you it’s going to be easy, but it’s not.
The principles are pretty straightforward.
Use writing to build a readership (that grows infinitely with the internet if you know how to improve when you hit a stunt in growth).
Build a product that your readers want (and if it doesn’t sell, that’s not on them, it’s on you. Create a better product and try again).
Stick it out for multiple years if not the rest of your life.
Entrepreneurship means you’re in full control of how much you make.
Your income is only limited by your perspective, beliefs, skill set, and real-world practice.
Enjoy the rest of your week.
It makes sense to plug 2 Hour Writer here again, so I’m plugging it.