Late December / early January is one of my favorite times of the year. I love spending time thinking and reflecting on the last 365 days, as well as what I seek to accomplish in the next. And as I’m going through my year-end routines, I’m usually consuming quite a bit of content as well, because I find myself able to see it with new eyes and hear it with fresh ears.
Here I will share some of the golden nuggets I picked up in the last couple of weeks.
1. Do More of What Works & Tap into Trends
For me, this is not a new realization. It is a revisitation, though, of a critical productivity and business-building principle.
Success leaves clues, and content is the trail. If you’ve been publishing for any length of time, you should be able to identify the unicorns among your donkeys.
2. Successful People Move Multiple Projects Forward with Great Urgency
When I heard these words exit from the mouth of author Dan Kennedy, I felt as though I was being given permission to embrace this behavior. It’s exactly what I needed to hear.
See, most of us try to do everything step by step, one step at a time, just as school taught us to do. Kennedy contends, though, that successful people categorically don’t exhibit this behavior. They move multiple projects forward with great urgency.
This reflection is already changing my mindset and conduct. I am now more grateful for the work I have, and I’m more intentional about making progress in the areas that matter.
Whether you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, if your compensation relies on making things, when and where possible, take the same work, and repurpose or repackage it. If any part of you thinks this disingenuous, you should know that bloggers like Darren Rowse have had great success with bundling up free content and turning it into products.
A blog post can become a series of blog posts. A series of blog posts can turn into an eBook. An eBook can turn into a series of eBooks. A series of eBooks can become a book, and then a course, and so on.
And it doesn’t just work in linear but also in parallel dimensions. For instance, a blog post could form the foundation of multiple tweets, ad copy, a newsletter, a podcast episode, a video, and more.
What you’re reading now will go on my blog, on Medium, and in a future book, at minimum. When and where possible, look for multiple ways to get compensated for the same work.
5. Don’t Make What You Can Never be Compensated for
I’d heard this before, but this time, it really hit me between the eyes.
I’ve had a few failed launches in my time, especially in the last couple of years. And what I’m seeing now is that a) you need to know your audience, what they will pay for, and how they like to be talked to (direct, indirect, urgent, etc.,) b) even when you have the right product, desperation still stinks, and c) sometimes your hard-gotten email list is made up of a bunch of freeloaders.
If you’re creating for fun, that’s a whole other thing. But entrepreneurial endeavors aren’t a walk in the park, and you need to be thinking ahead. If you can’t foresee being paid for it, don’t make it, and if in doubt, take pre-orders to validate its viability.
People like to work with those they perceive as successful, and it doesn’t matter much whether that perception was created or imagined. if you can create it, prospects and customers will be more amenable to throwing bigger sums of money your way.
7. Build Personal Satisfaction into Everything You do
Dan Kennedy says the idea that you need to set up your business around things you don’t want to do is erroneous. When and where possible, he says, build personal satisfaction into your business, and put it ahead of profit.
Home court advantage is a real thing, and if you can get people to come to you instead of you having to go to them, it automatically puts you in a position of power, and the psychological effect is a client who is more likely to heed your advice and get results from your guidance.
In every area of business, it’s worth exploring opportunities to create more satisfaction in your work.
8. The Less Flexible Time You Have, the More You Accomplish
Some would certainly argue against scheduling to the hilt, but I tend to resonate more with Dan Kennedy’s methodology of scripting one’s day.
There’s a finite amount of time to do everything, and every activity should have a start and end time. And where most people get stuck is in establishing a proper end time for all their activities. When you schedule activity with an end time in mind, you necessarily put more restrictions on yourself and others. You start to say things like, “it will be done by 2:30 PM, because it needs to be done by 2:30 PM.” And you make it so.
Constraints lead to increased productivity when you treat time blocks as a matter of do or die, life or death.
There’s a longer, harder way of doing everything. You can start a book from scratch. Or you can draw upon content already created. You can make a new course. Or you can update an old course and make it better. You can seek out inspiration. Or you can create everything from scratch.
But just because you spent more time on something, put more effort into it, thought more about it, doesn’t mean it’s going to pay more. Identify the direct path to achievement before blazing a new trail, especially if your income depends on volume.
10. Do Something Daily to Bring Fresh Blood into the Business
Dan Kennedy says you don’t ever want to rely on one channel to bring in new business, even if it is effective. He says he’d rather have you focus on 10 channels that “sort of” work versus one that’s amazing. What I get from this is that one is the most dangerous number in business, and single-source dependency is setting yourself up for disappointment.
11. You Can’t Make Money Doing Anything Other Than Marketing
You aren’t in the business of writing, making music, coaching, infoproducts, or dentistry. You are in the business of marketing. This paradigm shift is a challenging but ultimately rewarding one. Businesses rely on cash, and cash is only generated with marketing.
Specialists tend to command greater income and more respect from their clients. Entrepreneurship is challenging enough without inevitable dream stealers and time wasters, and you are better served creating strong positioning in the marketplace, such that people respect you and your advice from first contact (which, by the way, is a commodity if people don’t pay for it).
Feng Shui expert Marie Diamond explains that many successful people reach a point of impasse on the way to the top. They work on their mentality, their spirituality, even their talents and gifts, but they get to a point where there’s no moving forward, and they’re missing just one thing – their environment is not consistent with their commitment.
To create a life harmonious with your goals and dreams, it is necessary to create an environment where you do your best work. An environment that reminds you of the success you’re creating, not the failures you’ve endured. Everything in your environment affects your subconscious. If you’ve been hitting a wall, it’s time to transform your life by transforming your home. Eye-opening.
To remain efficient, I have often opted for fast and easy ways of creating content. Set up a couple of spaces for writing, podcasting, and making videos or going live, and share a timely message.
What I learned listening to copywriter Jim Edwards is the importance of keeping things fresh and interesting. There are so many ways to relay a message – rants, lists, reviews, critiques, how-to guides, and more. Not to mention, if you’re making video content, you can vary up your background (filming location), wardrobe, and more. With every piece of content you create, there are hundreds of variables you can control to drive up engagement.
It’s easy to sacrifice creativity and forethought for efficiency. But is it worth it? If you want to keep things interesting for your audience, you want to keep your content fresh.
I don’t know anyone who would literally eat an elephant, of course. But as a creative or creator, you’re sure to take on projects requiring significantly more work than a blog post – newsletters, eBooks, whitepapers, reports, books, and more.
I don’t know about you, but this is where I find most of the money is made. It’s all well and good to get nickeled and dimed by the Mediums and News Breaks of the world, but I would argue that your ticket to establishing a steady income as a writer is usually on the other side of ghostwriting, staff writing, creating products (like newsletters, books, and courses) – basically, something you can put a higher price tag on.
The challenging part, of course, is in gathering and organizing your research, writing, editing, and sustaining your attention and energy long enough to finish the project.
Setting deadlines can help, but at times, even the pressure of a looming completion date isn’t enough.
This is where prototyping content can help.
I’m not necessarily talking about anything revolutionary here. There are several practitioners who create infoproducts and books this way already, and I share several examples below.
But the idea is to use the time you typically spend writing blog posts, prototyping the content that will ultimately go into your eBook (or other product) in bite-size chunks.
You can still publish what you write, because that can create opportunities to double-, and even triple-dip into the same asset.
One of the most famous examples is Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, who wrote a blog series called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and turned it into an infoproduct.
Rowse was initially worried that the eBook might not sell, because all the content was available for free on his blog, but it turns out his audience appreciated having it all in one convenient place.
Content marketing authority Joe Pulizzi made it his goal to write a new book every two years, and he basically followed the same process Rowse did, breaking down the project into bite-size chunks, and writing the content that would ultimately go into the book week by week.
And by the way, Content Inc.(affiliate link) by Pulizzi is one of my all-time favorite books.
Of course, I added an introduction and conclusion, additional resources, and even edited the content a bit before publishing. But that book went onto become an Amazon best-seller.
I’ve also been prototyping membership content lately. This post and this post are great examples.
Some of the content I’ve prototyped never went anywhere. But that’s okay. That’s the great thing about prototyping – if it doesn’t live up to your expectations, you can scrap it, or just publish it as a blog post.
Am I Cheating My Audience if I Publish the Content I’m Planning to Sell to Them?
If there’s anything we can learn from Rowse and Pulizzi’s examples, it’s that no one felt cheated when they repurposed their content.
Even marketing god Seth Godin did this with his book, Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?(affiliate link), compiling the blog posts he wrote between 2006 and 2012.
Even if you don’t have a massive audience, there are probably people who wish they were able to hold your content in their hands. And that’s easy to do with platforms like Amazon KDP.
All I did was take the content, edit it, add a new section, compile a few blog posts, and voila! I had a new book.
I was concerned about response, but since I’ve released it, I’ve received nothing but praise.
So, there’s a good chance you could be leveraging your content in ways you haven’t already thought of, and not get any backlash for it.
And don’t forget – whatever you publish is just a prototype. You can further edit, improve, and refine the content before selling it.
Since I’ve started publishing daily, not prototyping content seems like utter lunacy.
When writing for sites like Medium and News Break, the article is the product. But that’s not much fun unless everyone and their dog is reading your stuff. There are other ways of creating an income writing, and they might prove easier besides.
I’ve never been accused of not knowing all my possible revenue streams, and I’m constantly thinking about how to leverage and make the most of everything I’ve got.
So, if you’ve ever wondered whether you can do more with the content you’ve created, now you know the answer is “yes.”
In the last week, I’ve had a couple of people ask me how they can get into ghostwriting.
I’ve shared a great deal about this in the past, but strategy and best practices have changed a little, so I figured it was high-time I offered a refreshed perspective on the work that has been a mainstay for me in the last seven years or so.
Here’s how to get into ghostwriting.
Publish on Medium
In the past, my advice would have been to start a blog. And while this is still sound advice, you’re bound to get more attention for your work on Medium.
You can get 30 views per day on your content on Medium almost instantaneously. If you erected a blog and published daily starting today, it could be months before you start to see 30 views per day, and it could even take over a year. The advantages of Medium, therefore, should be obvious.
Think of Medium as your portfolio. Publish your best work two to three times per week. Write on the topics you ultimately wish to be writing about.
This doesn’t mean you won’t get connected to work and topics you don’t know much about, and it doesn’t mean you won’t take on such work either. A ghostwriter has to get paid.
But your love for the craft of writing, editing, and research should be obvious in your work. Because prospects need to be able to see that you can do something they cannot, or at the very least, that you love the practice of writing great content more than they do.
Remember that writing great content is the baseline requirement to be at the table. And if you’re just getting started, sorry to say, you’re not great. Which is why you need to cut your teeth on Medium. The readers are discerning, and the stats are harsh. It will take a long time to see any traction. Can you endure this? If not, you are not made for ghostwriting.
One more pro tip: Be sure to back up all your work to your hard drive. If Medium closes its doors one day, or if another more attractive platform comes along, you don’t want to lose any of your content and not be able to take it with you.
But rest assured you’re picking the right platform with Medium. Many top shelf writers agree – it’s the best opportunity available to bloggers right now.
I didn’t think much of it at the time. But I continued to see Dayne’s daily updates on LinkedIn.
In summer 2013, the startup I was working for put the brakes on our marketing efforts, as we were having some issues with software development. So, my role was effectively put on hold.
That’s when I reached out to Dayne. And I ended up working with Ghost Blog Writers for the next six years.
Now, there are a few things you should know:
Now that you know about Ghost Blog Writers, recognize that you’re probably not going to be the only one applying to work with them. Competition is a given.
Ghost Blog Writers may start you off on a couple of easy assignments that don’t pay much. If you give up too early, you won’t be trusted with more lucrative work.
If you don’t exercise the same determination I talked about with publishing on Medium, you will not succeed with Ghost Blog Writers or any other companies you choose to work with.
If nothing else, Dayne is a great guy and he can point you in the right direction, even if it’s just to one of the hundreds or thousands of blog posts he’s written.
Keep an Eye on the Pro Blogger Job Board
Darren Rowse of Pro Blogger was an early innovator in the world of blogging. He had – and still has – a lot of great ideas, and the Pro Blogger Job Board is one of them.
On the Job Board, you will find people looking for writers to work on their projects.
When you’re just getting started, you’re probably not going to be bum rushed with requests, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on job postings.
You may or may not find work this way, and I’m not suggesting you count on the Job Board to bring the bacon home. Because it may not.
That said, it’s still a good idea to make it a part of your daily rounds.
Offer Your Services on Upwork
Create an Upwork profile today. It can take a while to supply all the information requested and test your aptitudes, but the effort you put into this will ultimately pay off.
There is a near endless stream of work on Upwork. Not all of it is great. Not all of it pays a whole lot of money. But as a stop gap, it can come in incredibly handy.
Don’t wait around for someone to send work your way. Look at the types of jobs employers are posting and gather as much information as you can. You may be able to track down some missed or unfulfilled opportunities this way. You may be able to create your own!
Once you’re set up, as with the Pro Blogger Job Board, you can simply make Upwork a part of your daily rounds and pick and choose which work you’d like to take on.
Reach Out to Businesses That Don’t Have a Blog
This, in effect, is how I started blogging with the music industry startup mentioned earlier. I have told this story elsewhere, and there’s a little more to it than that (I also invested a sizable amount of money into the business), but suffice it to say, the right pitch will get you hired every time.
If a business does not have a blog, it’s usually for one of three reasons:
They don’t know what the benefits of blogging are. They don’t know that they can rank for keywords, drive more traffic to their website, generate more leads, and encourage more sales from the simple act of blogging.
They don’t have the time or money to blog.
They don’t care about blogging as other advertising and marketing channels are doing just fine for them.
All three types of businesses are potential customers. It mostly comes down to the pitch and how you frame the value of blogging to them.
If you’re dealing with customer #1, you simply elaborate on the benefits of keywords, SEO, content marketing (throw a few buzzwords around) and show them examples of companies that already have blogs and are publishing regularly.
With customer #2, you just need to show them why they can’t afford not to blog, and volunteer to take on the work for them. Do it on the cheap or pro bono (more on this in a moment).
And with customer #3, you need to show them how you can complement their existing marketing channels with blogging. Give them examples of how you can tie in content with their ads.
Now, as a complete beginner, see if you can negotiate a small fee or work pro bono for a company that doesn’t have a blog. You need to polish your skills anyway, and the added pressure of being “under the gun” can help you refine in a hurry.
Sure, some will tell you “no,” but rejection exists in every freelancing or entrepreneurial endeavor. It’s par for the course. If you don’t love writing, and don’t want to keep pursuing it, you will give up. It’s as simple as that.
Get established, work hard, keep your deadlines, read lots, and keep improving. Keep your working relationships private. If you do, making a couple grand a month at ghostwriting will prove relatively easy.
In due course, you may be able to earn five-figures per month. But it’s a rare writer who does.
As a ghostwriter, you will rarely get credit for any of your work, and that is a bit of a downside, but it’s not impossible to begin building your own following as you are serving your clients, just as I’ve done.
Are you a writer? What has your experience of ghostwriting been like?
Let me know in the comments.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.