Friends, Money and Freedom Through Writing.

When I first wrote a novel in 1991, I remember walking down the road and seeing a pretty girl and thinking, “She might like me now.”

I know that a lot of what I write seems to involve whether or not women like me.

But that’s what I think about. I want people to like me. And when I was younger, it was more important that women liked me than men.

I also wanted money. I didn’t want to work for a boss. That scary feeling of being called into the boss’s office after you know you did something that was “wrong.”

“Don’t you have any pride in your work?”

“Clean out your desk today.”

“Did you steal all of the paper?”

“Why did the office cleaning lady find 20 moldy sandwiches in your drawer?”

“Why didn’t you test the software before it went to the client?”

Whatever. It’s because I was busy and no, I didn’t have pride in my work.

I was 22 years old and looking at women and trying to publish a novel on the side so I didn’t have to work anymore. And I have no comment about the sandwiches.

 

It took many years before I made any money as a writer. And what worked then is different now.

The rules change every three or four years and they will change again. Just like they change with everything in life.

By the way, that first novel, and the four that came after it, and the 50 short stories that came after it, never got published.

I used to think I needed to publish something before I could feel good about myself, before I could call myself a “writer,” before I could have a girlfriend, before I could get a real job, before I could move to NYC.

What a pathetic weight on my shoulder to think I needed something controlled by just a handful of people. Those weights stayed on my back for years.

Here’s the truth. If you want to be a professional writer, nothing is stopping you. So go out and be one.

Here’s what you need to know to get started:

A) Read…A Ton 

I try to read chapters in at least three to four books a day. I read from at least one non-fiction, one or two quality fiction, and one inspirational.  
I try to read at the level I want to write. If you don’t like reading, you won’t like writing.

 

B) Get Rid of Old Perceptions

Agents, publishers, editors at the traditional companies are mostly bullshit.

They have no clue what they are doing. For the most part, they pick sucky writers whose books flash for a week or so and then disappear forever.

If you think you need a mainstream publisher for reasons of ego or prejudice, then you are guaranteed to publish a worst-seller instead of a bestseller.
The second you start to think something, anything, is IMPORTANT, then your ego will suffer and so will your work.

 

C) Self-Publishing Does Not Mean E-Book

If you self-publish, you can make an e-book. You can also make a print-on-demand book through Createspace, you can make an audiobook through Audible, you can make a hardcover, you can even make a t-shirt with your book on it.
 
Do what you want. Self-publishing simply means you write a book and you figure out how to get it into the hands of other people. It might just be that you sell it on your email list. Congrats! You’re a published author.


D) Bookstores Are Evil

My kids are sad that Borders is dead and that Barnes & Noble is next. Keep your mouths shut, kids!
 
I get it. I love bookstores also. It’s like a work of art to see all of those covers, to thumb through the pages, to grab a pile of books and a coffee and start seeing what books you want to buy.
 
But don’t forget just 20 years ago, everyone said Barnes & Noble was evil because it was killing the independent bookstore.
 
I have news for you: the indies were evil also. One guy picking out 500 of his favorite books and no others.
 
Now a B&N might have 10,000 books, but Amazon has 20 million books. Why would you ever give someone the choice to limit you? I hope all bookstores die and that Amazon is the only one left standing. Because then every author has a chance and not just the ones the B&N gatekeeper decides on.


E) Blog

Blogging is good because it makes you write every day. And it is also fun to build friendships and community around your blog.
 
But if you want to blog, don’t just register a domain name and start blogging. You won’t get any traffic.
 
I encourage people to find online communities that they like and feel like participating in and start blogging or guest-posting there.
 
If you are unsure of how to start blogging, start by practicing on a site like Quora.
 
Practice answering questions there. See what gets upvoted and what doesn’t. Improve your skills. See if you enjoy it. Then start taking some of your answers and making them into a blog. Then start guest-posting on other sites.
 
You’re not trying to build an audience for your blog. You’re trying to build an audience for YOU, PERIOD. There’s no money in ads, blah.


F) Write Every Day

I have a friend who has been working for 30 years on one novel. She keeps hating it and rewriting it. She can’t get a publisher interested. She only writes when she’s inspired. She needs writing groups to push her along.
 
I get it. I get writer’s block also. But writing is a muscle. If you don’t write every day, your muscle will atrophy.
 
You won’t know what your potential skill level is. You will be producing sub-par work. And in a world with millions of new books and blogs every year, you will have little chance to shine.
 
Do the math: if you just write 1,000 publishable words a day, then you have a book every two months. A thousand words a day is not easy. But it’s not hard either.
 
This post is 1,800 words so far and I started 20 minutes ago. I’ll spend many more hours rewriting it than I did writing it, but once you start exercising the writing muscle (start with 200 words a day, then 300, etc.) you will get up to 1,000.

 

G) Rewrite Every Day

See above. I feel better about the words I take out than the words I write.
 
First you have a block of stone, then you make a sculpture, then you chisel and fine-tune until you have a work of art. Art is born from the rewrite.
 
With “Choose Yourself!” I kept rewriting obsessively.
 
One time, the book was all finished and sent to editors, designers, etc. Then I did the audio version. KABLAMO!
 
Any paragraph that made me feel like, “Ugh, I’m too bored to read this out loud,” I noted. Then I went back home and rewrote the whole book again. I liked the final result much better. Read your work out loud and cut out anything that makes you lag.


H) You Can’t Make Money Writing Articles

Just a few years ago. In 2005, I made a good living writing about three to four articles a day for different publications while I was running my fund.

But those days are over. People just don’t pay for content. And there are too many writers. It’s a supply-and-demand thing.
 
If you expect to make a living from articles or blogs, then figure out how to do one of three things:
    • Blog for free, but then lead people to a subscription information product. Like a newsletter about stock picks or dating or whatever you think you’re an expert at and nobody else is.
    • Get speaking gigs. This is hard.
    • Do consulting or coaching. This is possible.
 
I’ve never been that great at any of the three above. Well, maybe #3 but only recently.
 
So this leaves us with only one thing to make money as a writer. ONE THING works.


I) Copywriting

A lot of people are going to tell you that you need experience as a copywriter to get work as a copywriter. This is how it is with all jobs; it’s the great catch-22 of the working world.

It’s also a myth.

Which is good, because the average copywriter probably makes more money than any other writer.

But first, let me back up.

For those of you who don’t know, copywriting is basically when you write content to sell something.

Think about everything you’ve ever read, or scripted words you’ve listened to, that have tried to sell you something.

Someone wrote that…

  • Brochures…
  • Ads…
  • Commercial scripts…
  • Marketing pages…
  • Emails…
  • Sales pages…
  • You name it, someone wrote it.

There are a few types of copywriters (agency, corporate, freelance) but you’re reading this because you want the freedom of being a writer, not to go work for some guy who’s going to yell at you for hoarding moldy sandwiches, so for the purposes of this post, I’m going to talk about freelance.

When you’re a freelance copywriter, you get to make up your own schedule, and depending on how well you establish yourself (mostly driven by the results you get for your client), you could make big bucks.

Unfortunately, getting started can be tricky without previous experience or a large network.

But it’s not impossible.

Like starting any other business, it takes perseverance.

A lot of copywriters spend multiple years building up the skills and experience to get big clients and make names for themselves. That can take forever if you don’t have a good starting place.

So if you want to be a copywriter, here’s what you should do to get started:

aa) Read

One of the best ways to learn about anything is to read about it (see above). Books, articles. Even just marketing pages. Find out what the pros are doing.Find out what’s working for them. And then…


bb) Experiment

Write an e-book. Make a newsletter. Create something. And then market it. Try new things with your marketing copy. Find what works for your product and fine-tune it until you start to see your sales go up. If something doesn’t work, that’s OK. Keep trying. It’s OK to experiment and move on if it doesn’t work


cc) Educate Yourself

There are online courses for everything these days, and copywriting is no exception. But there are also a lot of scams out there.

Here’s the truth: the best copywriting courses (like this one) are going to run you a least several hundred bucks. You get the quality you pay for, and that quality then pays you back.



That’s a good starting point.

But I wanted to know how someone could become a copywriter as quickly as possible…

So I reached out to my good friend, Mark Ford, the man who has mentored more six & seven figure copywriters than probably anyone else on the planet.

 

He knows everything about becoming a copywriter.

Not only has he trained more copywriters than anyone else. He’s also probably hired as many copywriters as anyone else too.

Because he has started over 100 businesses – many of which ran on strong sales copy — Mark has had to hire constantly copywriters for his businesses.

So he knows exactly what to say and do if you want to build a six or seven figure income as a copywriter.

Mark has become a self-made multi-millionaire in the process.

He’s also founded a company teaching people to choose themselves with copywriting.

As he says, “copywriting is fun. It provides a great lifestyle. And it can make you a ton of money.

Copywriting is one of the most portable skills you can develop. For example, one of the copywriters Mark trained would do work for a U.S. company from his home in Paris, France.

How do you find out if you have what it takes to be a copywriter?

Mark suggests you go here and see if you can write a letter like this one…

The most important thing for me: writing without fear.

Writing without judgment. Writing without anger. Making writing fun. Writing right now.

Writing is about freedom and not money.

I want to write something that you’ll find fun and useful. And I want you to read it.

  • Sonia Garces

    I like to write to express my self to make fun of my situation to make somebody cry n laugh

  • Derrick Yazwa

    Timely message James. I’m on Day 25 of an incredible copywriting course called CopyHour. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting a system to learn copywriting from the ground up and start writing copy that converts quickly.

  • Johnny

    James another great article, but I disagree with you about writing blog posts and articles for money. People can (and do!!!!) make a living writing freelance articles.
    There are many sites out there who will try to needle down a contract to pennies a word if a writer let’s them, but if the writer holds true to self and produces great writing he will be paid for it handsomely I think this is for two reasons,1. Great writing is needed to keep great blogs great! The people who started great blogs are writers so they pay it forward (?) 2. Great writing converts readers into customers, builds rapport with readers, and is just plain great to read, so once again it will be paid for by someone who understands the purpose of her reader community.

    Maybe you sort of contradict yourself but it;s okay I do it all the time. I think most writing for the web is a form of copywriting. If there is a CALL to ACTION it is copy. I think Blog posts and articles are real soft-adcopy??? But the purpose they serve in the funnel is to build rapport and trust among readers, for the inevitable call to action. Enough said about this point. Maybe we can talk more about this point.

    Still so many other great points, I have been rewriting a book(memoir of sorts) that does get better each time .I remove words. Strange when I wrote it it was so much better. It was almost like stream of consciousness writing but it was so conversational. Then my academic student self heard all my professors of years ago telling me no, no, no! So the third re-write had it sounding like a journal entry for struggling heroin addicts who study at Harvard. BORING!!!! Now I am getting back to that conversational tone and it rocks, Well I read it puts a smile on my face and I know it will help one person make it so therefore it will be success.

    Why did I write that? Hmm, to say thank you James for all your great words. You have made a believer in me out of me. In two words you have opened my eyes and made me, “choose myself!”