50 Ways to Sell Your Writing (Part Two)

A little while back I wrote the first part of this two-part series on the myriad ways to make a living putting words on paper (or on the ethereal electronic shared hallucination that is the internet). Click here for part one

The short version of why I’m writing this. Our culture and school system do a terrible job of explaining how to make a living doing creative work. I don’t know how to make a living as a singer, or sculptor, but I know 50 ways to do it as a writer.

So here’s the second third of those 50 ways.

17. Cyrano DeBergeracing. Online dating doesn’t really have a stigma anymore, and why would it? Some people take it a step further and have people write their profiles, and even communicate with potential dates, for them on Match.com and the like. Pros: surprisingly robust market. Kind of fun. Cons: A bit sleazy.

18. Press Releases. Since the Internet made everybody a journalist, the demand for press releases is greater than ever. It’s a specialized skill, but one you can pick up pretty quickly. Pros: High pay per word and per hour. Cons: Becomes formulaic quickly.

19. Native Content Creation. Native content is the newspeak word for advertising that looks like journalism. It’s the “investigative” article about a vitamin supplement that comes to the conclusion that it’s pretty neat and people should buy it. There’s a bottomless market for this kind of work. Pros: Regular work. Cons: Pay is low, and the work isn’t the most honest ever.

20. Grant Writing. Nonprofit organizations, corporations, and individuals can ask governments and charities for money. Writing the request is a skill in and of itself, and one the people who run those organizations and corporations lack. Pros: You’re bringing in money, so your employer will invest accordingly. You’re doing good works. Cons: Specialized and highly competitive market. More feast-or-famine than other writing gigs.

21. Catalog Copy. You know those little blurbs describing products in print and web catalogs? Somebody had to write them. Often it’s the person at the company who said “123 Not It!” last, but the best companies hire it done. Pros: Lots of repeat work once you get in the door. High pay per word. Cons: It gets really, really repetitive. If doing it online, you’ll probably need some strong WordPress or other light coding chops.

22. Technical Writing (Full Time)Technical writing is the art of translating from geek to regular english, and consists of writing the instructions and spec manuals of things. The bulk of this market is for software, but you can still find gigs for actual, physical products. It’s also one of the few writing gigs that has a strong market for full-time jobs with benefits and paid vacation. Pros: Very high pay scale for writing. Cons: all the disadvantages of a regular job.

23. Technical Writing (Freelance). You can also do technical writing as a freelancer, though this usually consists of taking full-time assignments serially. Pros: Even higher pay scale. This specific gig routinely makes the list for Top Ten Jobs For Quality of Life. Cons: you will need more formal education to be seriously considered for these writing jobs than for others.

24. Webcomics. If you like to draw, the comics market has exploded online. Blogging a regular comic strip takes a huge amount of work and dedication, but the rewards can be equally huge. The Oatmeal‘s card game Exploding Kittens Kickstarted at 8 Million. Pros: really, really interesting work. All the freedom of self-publishing. Cons: Very niche market with high barrier for entry. Requires extremely regular updating.

25. Webseries. What happened with publishing books last decade is beginning to happen with film. If you can write a good script and find actors and a cameraperson, you can put your work up on YouTube and derive ad revenue. If it succeeds, Patreon and Kickstarter will provide other forms of funding. Pros: Potentially staggering income. Lots of secondary income possibilities. Cons: Most webseries make very little money. Requires more skills and people to make happen.

26. Graphic Novels. You can also write your comics in book form and release them in volumes online. Many of the most successful webcomics collect their online posts into graphic novels once or twice a year. Pros: The graphic novel industry is growing hugely, and becoming more critically accepted. Cons: You have to know how to draw. Print costs are much higher than a regular book.

27. Online Curation. The great thing about the modern web is there is so much information available. The problem with the modern web is there is so much information available. Online curators find the best and most relevant pieces of info and guide readers to them. You’ve seen this in the form of listicles and slide shows recently, and they pay about $100 a pop. Pros: you end up learning a lot of cool trivia. High pay per word. Cons: time-consuming for those high-pay words. Individual clients come and go quickly.

28. Podcasting (Monetized). Step one: write a script for a podcast. Step two: record the podcast. Step three: grow a fan base. Step four: use advertising, affiliate sales, and products to make your fortune. Pros: dynamic and surprisingly easy to succeed if you can put in the regular, disciplined time. Cons: costs a bit to set up. Will definitely require you to learn a few new skills.

29. Podcasting (Audiobook). You can also record your own voice, or somebody else’s, reading your books or short stories out loud. Then you sell those stories. The market for this is only beginning to really shine, but the potential is strong. Pros: gives a competitive edge to your fiction over the millions of self-pubbed books out there. Cons: costs to set up, and requires new, non-writing skills.

30. Movie Scripts. This one’s a lottery ticket. You write a script and you (probably) don’t sell it. Then you write another script. If you win, it’s six and seven figures overnight and your life changes forever. If you lose, you’re still working at home depot twenty years later. In the middle, you can get a high 4 or low 5 figure fee from an independent film producer somewhere. Pros: exciting, potentially enormous money. Cons: the lowest chance of success on this list.

31. Television Scripts. You won’t sell your script on television. This. Will. Not. Happen. But you might get the attention of a producer or manager who will put you to work on somebody else’s show. This is working-class scriptwriting, and a good career for many. Pros: regular work once established. Your stuff will be on TV. Cons: high barrier to entry. Requires as much social skills as it does writing chops.

32. E-Courses. The market in online classes and instructional videos is surprisingly large, and a lot of people need them written. Right now, most people think they can write their own, but those who can’t are willing to pay pretty well for the work. Pros: high rate of pay. You learn interesting stuff. Cons: inconsistent market. You will not make a full-time living doing this and this alone.

What on this list has you excited to try it on for size? Stay tuned. Next time we’ll finish off the list.

6 Ways I Screwed Up Big Time

I spend a lot of time on this blog telling people how to do stuff, as if I’m such a high-and-mighty, super-duper success with a cherry on top. I’m not that.

I have had a lot of success in this writing thing, and some success lately in speaking and coaching about writing and business. I’m proud of those things, because I’ve worked hard and practiced discipline and applied things I learned.

I’m happy to say I’m pretty awesome that way. But folks who’ve seen me speak might recognize what has become one of my taglines:

Here’s what I learned by making mistakes, so you don’t have to make them yourself. 

In the spirit of that, I wanted to admit some of my biggest failures and mistakes. These aren’t one-and-done anecdotes. They’re habits I need to break, or habits I can keep but only if I adjust some of my life goals. For better or worse, here they are.

1. Too Many Ideas

I have a lot of ideas. A lot of ideas. Many of them are terrible ideas. Many more are good ideas, but not good ideas for me to do. Some are good ideas, even good ideas for me to do, but not ideas I should take on right now. And even the ones that are good, good for me, and good for now will fail if I try to do them all at once.

And yet I keep trying to do them all at once. Or I walk away from an 80% done project to take on something new and shiny. Of all things in my professional (and honestly my personal) life this is the worst habit I have. What’s worse is, as I plan and schedule my quarters I can’t help myself from saying “Well, all right, let’s let you three in anyway.”

2. Not Keeping the Front Door Open

Some small business advice people use the metaphor of the front door and the back door to describe the two kinds of customers. You keep your “front door” open — meaning you’re always welcoming in new clients. You keep your “back door” closed — meaning you retain all the clients you can.

Despite what I said in #1, I can overfocus at times. When my dance card is full, I consistently quit looking for new work. This becomes a problem when the existing assignments end, since the money dries up with nobody on deck. What’s worse is how easy this is to solve. Just a matter of putting the hours in.

3. Planning as Procrastination

My heterosexual life partner Matt Zanger (and my lovely and talented better half Rachel Letofsky) will both make fun of me for saying this out loud. They consider me an overplanner, and I consider them both underplanners.

I talk a lot in this blog about the importance of planning (I even did several articles about choosing my favorite planner). None of that is false. Planning is as vitally important to succeeding in your life plan as proper driving directions are to taking a successful road trip.

But sometimes I overdo it. I spend time planning and overplanning, because planning is comforting. And sometimes I plan again when I should be sticking to my earlier plan. It’s hard for me to admit that I plan too much, but at times…I….um…ergh…erk…plan too much.

4. The Shoeless Cobbler

I make a huge deal on this blog, in my books, and in my presentations about the importance of a good website, a solid mailing list, and systematic, tactical social media. I do that because they are hugely important.

But do I practice what I preach? My website is out of date stylistically. My newsletter gets updated on schedule (some of the time). And my social media is random. Hit and miss. I tell myself that’s okay because their job is to get me work, and I’m not doing it because I have so much work.

But still.

What makes this work is the one time I really nailed this, I had five books all in the top ten of their Amazon category just from the tactical social media part of it. This stuff really works, and could skyrocket my career. It’s there for the taking, and will still be there next week.

5. Saying Yes Too Much

This is so common  there are books about it. People give in to social pressure to take on more and more responsibilities and activities because we all want to be liked. Then you start dropping balls, or being surly during performing those responsibilities, or generally screwing the pooch because you overcommitted.

I am really, really bad about this. For me it’s a double-edged sword because my two superpowers are boundless energy and hyperfast work speed. For a long time, there wasn’t much such thing as “too many commitments.” I got it all done, and done well.

But I’m older now, with kids and a family and friends and all manner of hands on my time. I recently made myself stop pretending I could get any work done on weekends. It never happens. So baby steps, baby steps.

6. “Too Busy to Sleep”

I wrote an article once upon a time about the ROI (Return On Investment) of putting time into self-care. One of the best, most clearly proven examples, was getting enough sleep. Multiple studies show that sleeping 7 hours instead of 6 makes you at least two hours’ worth of more productive in an 8 hour workday. Six hours instead of five is even better.

This is something I know, both from research and personal experience. And yet one in the morning finds me hitting the Netflix feeder bar more often than I care to admit. Like the first item on this list, what’s even more frustrating is how easy it would be to act on my knowledge here and just kill that bad habit.

These are the things that keep me in the job I have, instead of the job I want. I’m working to fix each of them. In fact, a monthly piece on how I’m fixing them item-by-item is part of my plan for the coming few months. I’ll close today with a pair of quotes that’s always been near to my heart, and applies to these screwups and screwups of all kinds.

“Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

That’s one of my very favorite Japanese proverbs (“Nanakorobi yaoki”).  Or, as Rocky Balboa put it while talking with his son:

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Either way, success in all things isn’t a matter of not making mistakes. It’s a matter of learning from those mistakes and making each mistake less often.

How have you screwed up? What are you doing to screw up in that way less often? How can I (or anybody else in the blog community here) help?