So you want to be a successful writer? Congrats! Welcome to the most exciting, exhausting, fulfilling, frustrating, creative career in the world.
Apparently there are 281,300 of us.
Here’s the thing: There’s a big difference between a writer and a successful writer. Successful writers make enough money to thrive–not just survive, love what they do and find fulfillment in it, and create content that’s effective–that clients can’t get enough of.
Want to be one of those writers? Keep reading for 6 habits successful writers have.
Read. A lot.
Great writers know there’s almost nothing more valuable than reading good content–every single day. What should you be reading?
Marketing blogs like HubSpot and Moz. My suggestion? Subscribe to their newsletters and read them every morning. They’re jam-packed with useful information, actionable tips, and articles that will help you turn your passion (writing) into cash.
The news. My favorite way to consume news that matters to me is by receiving theSkimm and The Morning Brew every morning directly to my inbox. There’s also a super neat tool called Feedly that lets you form different “feeds” and filter out the junk you don’t want to see. Of course, there’s the classic news sites like the BBC and Wall Street Journal–don’t forget those.
Books about writing, topics you enjoy, and everything in between. There are a few copywriting books I find extremely useful for all writers:
Aside from those–just pick up a book and read it every day. I don’t care if it’s about ninja warriors or a lost dog who finds his way home after being stuck in the Amazon Rainforest for 3 years–just read.
Read blogs and the news to stay informed. Read books and other content to learn from the best.
Write. More than you read.
Writing is like sports–you need to practice if you want to be the best. Which means you need to spend time (a lot of time) every day simply writing. What should you write?
- Journal: Take notes throughout the day or at the end of the night. Write down content ideas that popped into your head, eye-catching headlines and ledes you’ve thought of, tips and tricks you’ve learned, and anything else rummaging through your mind.
- Blogs, Web Copy, Social Copy: Whatever type of content is your thing, you should be writing it daily. Blogs are my thing–so I blog as often as I can. If web copy is your thing, re-write the copy for some of your favorite websites and find ways to make it better. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it makes you a whole lot better.
Put pen to paper as often as you can and you’ll soon notice a difference.
Make connections and find a mentor (or 2…)
The world of copywriting, freelance writing, content marketing, or whatever you want to call it can be an extremely lonely planet. Writing isn’t exactly the most social career. But it can be–if you’re willing to put in the work.
You know the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know.”? Turns out it totally applies to making money as a writer. So it’s time to get to know some people. Here’s how:
- Make use of social media. Reach out to other writers on LinkedIn or Facebook–don’t be nervous, it’s not weird–I promise. Introduce yourself, tell them you’re looking to meet other writers to bounce ideas off of and learn from, and see where it goes.
- Reach out to your circle. Sometimes great connections are closer than we think. Did you have a fabulous professor you know has some knowledge to spare? Plan a coffee meet-up with them or simply send them an e-mail. Do you have friends who are taking the leap to be full-time creators too? Get together! See how they’re making it work. Take a look at your circle and see who might know something you don’t.
- Always ask for a name. My favorite way to make new connections is by ending each conversation/meeting with, “Is there anyone you know that you think I should connect with?” If they say “yes,” reach out to that person and watch your network grow.
Once you’ve made these connections, you need to listen, ask questions, take notes, and add value. Don’t just take their knowledge and leave–offer some form of value back.
One more thing: Look for a mentor. This is someone that’s much further along in their career than you are. They’ve learned some things, made some mistakes, and come out on top. Find them and soak up every drop of knowledge they’re willing to share.
Good writing begins with great research. There’s always more to know. Make it your mission to find out everything about your topic and client. Pretend you’re an investigator (because you basically are) and start digging.
Begin with the who, what, when, where, and how then move on to the details. For example, if you’re writing copy for a client in the travel space, find out the following:
- Who is your target audience? What do they do for fun, where do they live, how much money do they typically make, are they young/old/married/single/male/female? What types of travel are they taking?
- What’s the point of this copy? To inform, entertain, generate leads, convert leads to sales, something else completely?
- What style guide do you adhere to? Chicago, MLA, APA, none?
- What tone/voice works best with your clients?
These are just a few questions to find the answers to, but don’t stop there. Keep digging. The more you know, the better your content.
Work in chunked times.
Writing full-time is a beautiful thing–you’re your own boss–your workday can look however you want it to. Which is a double-edged sword. You need to remember that this is your job, and just like any job it needs time, respect, and energy.
Figure out the following:
- When you’re the most efficient and creative: morning/mid-day/night
- Where you work the best: your home, a coffee shop, an office
Mix the two together and you’ve found your working hours and work space.
Most successful writers don’t work from the comfort of their living room couch. Why? Because it’s difficult to get into the groove when your chill space is also your desk. If you don’t have a dedicated office or can’t afford to rent one, consider checking out a co-working space or heading to the local library or coffee shop.
As for the perfect time to work, that’s up to you. Most people find that early mornings are best because 1) no one is awake to bother them and 2) their creative juices are flowing.
Whatever you decide, dedicate a specific time to your craft and stick to it. Form a routine that works for you and set boundaries for your loved ones that during that time and in that space you are working and not to be disturbed. Oh, and shut your phone off!!!!
Ahhh… this one might be the most important habit of all and one I’m still slowly learning.
Writing full-time is exhausting. You take on all positions of a business:
- Relationship manager/sales
That’s a lot to handle!
You’re not a super-human and your brain deserves some downtime. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that it’s okay (and completely necessary) to take breaks.
Close your computer. Go for a walk. Grab drinks with friends. Run mindless errands. Open a book.
Do whatever helps your mind unwind. And do it regularly.
If you can integrate these 6 habits into your daily life and make them stick, you’re bound to find success in your writing career.
One last tip: Always be willing to learn. Consider yourself a lifelong student.