For a busy freelancer, professional writing devolves into:
- Getting clients/ gigs
- Doing the work
- Getting paid
Lather, rinse, repeat.
It takes most writers a few years of writing before they start thinking about their platform – that is, their readers. Me, too. 🙂 Writers are forced to think about it, because someone – an editor or an agent or someone else – asks them about their platform, or couches a “not for us” rejection in terms of: “if you had a platform, we’d be very interested.”
Readers are essential to writers. If you’ve got readers, you’ve got clout.
Not only do readers equal clout, they also equal more income. While I was creating my Flipboard guide, I thought about Flipboard Magazines primarily in terms of platform. Robert Scoble for example, worked for Microsoft, then curated content into a huge platform. Naturally, he’s using Flipboard Magazines to extend his platform even further.
Get them any way you can: readers are valuable. As I’ve often said, it’s not who you know. It’s who knows you.
If you’re writing Kindle ebooks, you’re aware of Amazon’s KDP Select program. Freebies equal readers, and money, as long as you’ve written a good book which gets good reviews.
It might take you a while to break into a new form of writing like copywriting, or magazine writing, or Kindle ebooks, however, once you do break in – once you have readers, and people know you, it’s very hard to get out of it. Editors and previous clients will keep contacting you, and asking you to do a particular form of writing, even if you’ve moved on to something else. It’s the old story: if you want a job, you must be in a job, and if you want to borrow money, you must have so much money that you don’t need it.
The reality, everyone in publishing (including the Web) wants readers
I write book proposals for clients, who tend to have the benefits of publishing a book backwards. They want to publish a book because it will build their platform. They’ll get more speaking engagements, or will get hired, or will reap the benefits of a platform in other ways.
Au contraire, you need to bring your readers to publishers. (They’re greedy beasts.) They want an established readership, then they’ll consider publishing you. Thank heavens for ebook publishing. You can do it all yourself – you don’t need publishers.
How a platform helps
So, how does a platform help YOU?
- You’re writing Web content
A platform helps you because you can tell the Web editor when you send in your query that your blog gets 5,000 readers each month, and you have 4,000 Twitter followers.
- You’re writing Kindle ebooks
You can tell everyone you know (your mailing list) that your book’s out, and they should go and read an excerpt NOW.
- You’re a magazine writer
Every publication wants readers. If you have readers, they’ll like you, and more to the point, they’ll trust you, because they know that writers who care about platform are professional. These writers know how publishing works: eyeballs are everything.
A platform brings you opportunities in ways you’ve never considered
Once I had a publisher, ghostwriting gigs came my way. These gigs were an unexpected bonus of having a platform, especially since I opted to be paid a flat rate fee, rather than waiting for royalties. Publishers are always looking for people to write books. When you have readers, some of those readers will work for agents, or publishing houses which need writers for projects.
Ruth, one of my SYWON (Sell Your Writing Online Now) students, started as a Web writer when she had her third son. She wanted to stay at home. Then she was offered a Web content editor’s job. She was still at home, but had a full-time job, too. Since the job paid so well, she was able to hire someone look after her kids while she worked.
Start thinking about your platform now. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, platform is vital. Every reader is valuable. Treat them like gold. So, what will YOU do to build your platform today?
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