I didn’t go to school and get a degree in English or creative writing. In fact, writing wasn’t even on my radar until many years after I’d joined the working world.
When I first took a step into the entrepreneurial world, my husband and I opened up our photography studio. Like other photographers, we both had full-time jobs, yet knew we wanted something else in life. My husband loved photography, and someone told him he was “good,” so we clung to the dream and started building a business around it.
If you pull up the demographics for the photography industry, it’s synonymous with being a low income position. Even today, the average portrait photographer makes $22.50 an hour, according to Payscale. At the low end, about ten percent of the industry is making right around $10 an hour. That’s pretty consistent to when we were starting our business.
I didn’t want to be average. I wanted to be one of the top paid photographers in the industry. So I did things differently. Our first full-time year, we made just over $60,000. Then we doubled it, and doubled it again.
Out of curiosity, I also looked at how much the average freelance writer is currently making today. It’s almost identical to the pay a photographer makes presently, with the average at $23.82 and the lowest just above $12.
See the bottom figure? That’s always the problem with any type of freelance or “work for yourself” jobs.
Working for yourself is hard. Really hard. Especially in these cut-throat businesses where people are willing to give away what they do for pennies on the dollar.
All you have to do is go to freelance sites like Elance or Fiverr to know that. Go and type “writer” into either of those sites, and you can find a writer willing to write fully SEO’d blog posts for $5 or $10 each.
And it’s not just these freelance sites. I spoke with a friend the other day who found a digital advertising company willing to pay writers $25 for a 1,000-word fully SEO’d article. And people were jumping at the opportunity.
(If you are a numbers person, let me give you a few things to ponder. It takes me about an hour to write a 1,000 word article. At $25 an article, assume that’s roughly $25 an hour. A 40-hour workweek would bring in $1,000. At that level, for a 52 week year, that would be $52,000 a year. I will also tell you that is completely undoable – there is no way a person could write 40 1,000-word articles a week. That would equate to 2,080 1,000-word articles per year. And that would be 2,080,000 words written per year. At this level, you would completely wear yourself out and face a significant case of burnout.)
If you’re not a numbers person, don’t worry. The numbers aren’t the point of this article. Instead, what I want to talk to you about is your dream of becoming a writer.
As a photographer making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with only 30 or so clients per year, I cracked the code of building a successful business. I carried that forward into my writing business.
But even back as a photographer, I knew I was the exception, not the norm. Most people choosing to be photographers did so for very little money. That’s why I started a coaching business, teaching the business side of photography.
Now, as a writer, I see those same things happening all over again. Very few people turn writing into a successful income stream. Most struggle to get by.
And I think you can increase your chances of becoming a successful writer by asking yourself these three questions.
What does success mean to me?
Success is a catch-all word. If you look it up in the dictionary, it means:
the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
Of course, defining that is subjective at best. What counts as an accomplishment can change from person to person.
As a writer, I’ve attended all kinds of groups trying to connect with like-minded people. I’ve met with writers who have spent ten years writing their epic novel. And I’ve met authors producing a book every month, making millions in the process.
I believe the only way to achieve success is to first define your goals. What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?
• Do you want to write because you enjoy it??
• Do you want to create enough income to take a vacation every year??
• Do you hope to make it your full-time career, replacing your current income you get through working a corporate job??
• Do you have hopes of being one of the most successful authors of all time? ?
If you don’t know your goal, you’ll never have something to shoot for. And you’ll wind up one of the many writers who says: “That just didn’t pan out.”
When I define my own success, as I’m setting my own goals, I like to play with the numbers to see what’s possible.
Let’s say I want to write a novel. By self-publishing it, I plan on charging $3.99 for it. If you place it on Amazon – Kindle – you’ll make 70 percent of the profit, or $2.80. Now you can use that number to start calculating your dream.
If you want to take a two-week vacation in Europe, a goal of selling around 1800 books will net you just over $5,000. You could have a pretty incredible two-week trip for $5,000.
Or maybe you want to replace your income – let’s say you currently make $75,000 a year. You would have to sell close to 27,000 books per year to hit the same income level.
That may seem like a lot of books, But someone like Nicholas Sparks has published twenty-one novels and sold more than 115 million copies around the world.
But only if you “see” it first.
What do I want to write?
I had over a dozen nonfiction books to my name when I finally sold off my photography business and decided to head in another direction.
We were in the middle of reinventing our lives. Our daughter was heading off to college; we were facing our empty nest. We decided to sell our forever home, simplify our lives, and slow travel the world for the rest of our lives.
But I was just reaching my fiftieth birthday. I wanted to start another business.
I fell into writing as a photographer. As a photographer making hundreds of thousands of dollars photographing weddings, I started speaking at photography meetings all over the US. I was in Las Vegas one year when a publisher came up to me and asked if I’d ever thought about writing a book. A few weeks later, I had a contract in place. A few months after that, my journey into writing books had begun.
Studio Without Walls was my entry into nonfiction book writing. But it wasn’t my last. Thanks to Amazon and the growth of ebooks, I started self publishing books, and within a few years, had more than a dozen published books to my name.
I still love writing nonfiction – it’s an awesome feeling knowing I can take all of the knowledge I’ve learned over the years and share it with people looking to follow in my footsteps. Nonfiction writing has been very good to me.
But I also had another dream, a dream I brought to fruition when we sold our business, our forever home, and moved to the Pacific Northwest. I wanted to write a novel – a completely different form of writing than nonfiction.
I made it a goal. I wrote. My first book took over two years to bring to market.
I just published my eighth novel this month.
Do I want to be seen?
I love writing. I love to have my name out there, to have people find my books and my writing, and associate me with my content.
I love to create blog posts every week, and share my opinions with the world.
I love having people contact me and say things like this:
“Your piece has given me much to think about..and I wanted to let you know I appreciate you writing it.”
But not everyone wants to be that “seen.” And I get it. Whether you start a blog, or pen a novel, if you use your name, you’re at risk of being trolled. That’s the way of the world …
Way back when I was starting one of my first blogs, I wrote new posts every week. I was proud of what I was saying, and believed in my advice. I had a few books for sale, and a coaching program that allowed me to work with clients one on one.
One morning, I opened up my email and found a letter from a woman who told me she loved my writing, but could never work with someone who looked like me.
I read it. I read it again. I read it to my husband to make sure I was reading it right.
I deleted it.
And burst into a fit of giggles.
To be a writer means you have to have thick skin.
Because you will be trolled.
You’ll get horrible reviews. You’ll get nasty comments. You’ll have people say absolutely horrific things.
But you’ll also have people tell you amazing things.
“You motivate me when I’m feeling lazy or simply inertia-filled! I feel happier after reading your wonderful words in my email or on one of your blogs. You are a muse for so many people….you reach out and give courage! You give confidence! You give license to be ME…just me, with all of my silly life included.”
“I just wanted to say you are a great motivational speaker and writer. You make me feel better about me.”
“Thank you for all your great posts and emails. Your work is stellar and I truly look forward to all you do.”
“One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.”
I write because I want to share. I have a story to tell. I want to inspire and influence readers to live their best life.
And I think that before I sit down to write anything. (Including this post right here!)
If you’re a writer, if you want to write, I feel you’ll know it in your heart.
And once it’s there, nothing will stop you from writing.
P.S. If you’re still trying to find your voice, or are looking for a way to bring writing into your life in a bigger way in 2021, check out my course The Art of Better Writing. I provide you with tips and strategies to find your inner writing voice, be clearer in your message, and use it to reach out to your audience in a big way.