You’re a new freelance writer, or maybe you’re established freelancer, but you’re stuck in a rut. Your ambition is to become a top-selling writer. How do you do that? Chances are that you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do: you’re setting goals, are completing projects successfully, and are managing a little marketing too.
Become a top-selling writer: know what you want, then grow where you are
This isn’t a tip; it’s a mindset. I’m often shocked by writers who have no clear-cut idea of where they want their writing to take them. Yes, this is the age-old job-interview question: where do you see yourself in five years?
Let’s say that you’re not-so-happily working a day job. You’re also writing Kindle fiction on the side. You’ve written three novels, and you love writing fiction. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Or perhaps you’ve quit your marketing day job to be a freelance copywriter. You’ve settled into a rut. You’re bored by your clients and bread-and-butter copywriting projects. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Before reading on, please answer that question. Write down your answer. It may surprise you.
Then, commit to growing where you are.
Yes, this means staying in your day job and writing fiction on the side, or handling your bread-and-butter copywriting gigs, or doing whatever you’re doing now. Commit to doing whatever you’re doing today, and throw yourself totally into it, while keeping your “where I want to be” in mind.
Over the years, I’ve found that giving your all to whatever you’re doing matters. Trust me, it pays off. You’ll find that life has a way of giving you what you want, but only if you’re doing your very best, right where you are.
Now let’s look at some tips which will help you to become a top-selling writer.
1. One for you, and a little one for me: save 20% of your writing time for “me” projects
Time is precious. It’s all we have. The challenge for any freelancer is how to manage time, so that you not only complete projects, but also can grow your business, and can grow as a writer.
Freelancers tend to over-commit, because you’re never sure where your next gig is coming from. This means that you can be working hard, but you’re writing what you’ve written many times before, and your creative self checks out. When this happens, you burn out, or procrastinate on projects because you can’t face writing.
You need to write “for me” projects at least 20% of your writing time. Up until 2013, Google gave its employees time to work on side projects. This resulted in products like Gmail and AdSense.
Give yourself 20% “me” writing time. On many days, you’ll spend that time staring into space. That’s OK. Over a year or two, your me-time will change your business — it will guide you effortlessly to where you want to be.
2. Read: commit to spending at least half an hour reading each day (schedule it)
Just do it; it’s essential.
By the way Facebook doesn’t count as “reading.” 🙂
3. Learn how to do it yourself: no one cares about your writing as much as you do
After All Romance E-books closed, I worked with several authors to salvage their dreams. They were were badly shaken and disappointed. It’s unfortunate, but ARe won’t be the last publishing company to fail. Large or small, publishers fail. Companies fail in general.
You can’t protect yourself from the occasional disasters of business life, but you can decide that you’ll take the reins of your writing into your own hands. No one ever cares about your writing as much as you do.
- Learn how to do it yourself. By “it” I mean everything you could well learn to do yourself, like self-publishing, and learning how copyrights work;
- Read ALL contracts. Seriously. Read them. If you need help, go and visit a lawyer, and pay for an hour of her time, so that she can explain your contract’s mysterious clauses to you. Ask questions if you’re not sure of EXACTLY what something means. Never let anything slide. This applies even if you have a literary agent. (Maybe especially if you have an agent.)
4. Speak up and get out of your comfort zone: get more clients, and/ or promote your books more, and learn more
At least once a week, I respond to a writer’s question with: “I don’t know, please ask (your client, your publisher, your agent, a website, a company, etc .)” It’s not because I’m a mean person and don’t want to respond, it’s because I don’t know, only the source knows, and you need to ask the source.
When you get a client, ask for referrals to his contacts. Usually, it’s as simple as asking. Ask for a testimonial too. Again, it’s usually as simple as asking.
Similarly, if you want to work with a company, or a publisher, or anyone, ask who in that company accepts pitches. You may need to hunt for a contact number. LinkedIn can be useful in helping you to track down contacts.
When it comes to book marketing, many authors have found that it pays to collaborate, not only on books, but on marketing activities. If you want to collaborate with someone, ask them. Ask via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, et al.
I know it’s hard to get out of your comfort zone and ASK, but after the first few times you do it, it becomes much easier. Before you know it, you’ve formed a great new habit.
5. Be prepared to start at the bottom, always — no one starts at the top (and if they do, they don’t stay there)
Remember we said: commit to growing where you are.
You can only get where you want to go by realizing where you are, and that your best chance of getting what you want is to do the very best, exactly where you are. That applies to everything.
Occasionally, you’ll get “lucky”. That luck can well mean disaster, long term. More than one bestselling author never wrote another book.
You become a top-selling writer by doing your best with what you have — you have everything you need. Before long, your way forward becomes clear. You’ll receive unexpected help. Way before your five years are up, you’re where you want to be. So have fun. 🙂
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