Sunday, June 11, 2006

WIW: Making a Career from Writing

Here's the brief speech I gave yesterday at the Washington Independent Writers Conference. It was well received, and helped several people seeking to make a living from their primary dream job... being a writer.

As the speech had several positive quotes, it seemed like good content to start the week out. Further, the business lessons can probaably be applied to anything.


Making writing profitable is an attitude: It’s about prosperity.

“All prosperity begins in the mind and is dependent only on the full use of our creative imagination.”

Ruth Ross

The first major step to writing as a means of financial existence must be turning your skill into a service others need. Writing services that people want include: Ad copy, PR, news and magazines, technical writing, brochures, websites, white papers, speeches, etc. This also means creating an unshakable belief that your writing has value.

Great writers can morph their style to the project, and they can write on demand. So make it fun, accept the challenge, and let your creativity work to your advantage. Push yourself, and be proud of the final product. It can’t always be about creativity, but it can always be about creating something useful to someone.

“Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long.”

Leonard Bernstein

Identify buyers of writing services. Some that I have worked with include, news organizations, marketing organizations, PR agencies, associations, corporations, and politicians/celebrities. Target buyers and, to the best of your ability, services that best meet your skills.

Key pitfalls to watch out for:

1) Not wanting to write for others

2) Build it and they shall come mentality

3) Selling yourself: Rejection is not personal

Develop your value proposition. How can you help them? Change your title as necessary. In the business world, I am a marketing professional whose core skills are writing and marketing strategy.

Learning to sell remains critical. Finding customers is a must, but you have to learn how to do it. Dale Carnegie ( offers reasonably cost-effective sales training courses, OR if you don’t want to/can’t invest, read Jeffrey Gitomer’s Sales Bible and Little Red Book of Selling (

Once you have an approach, go out and network where you think your buyers are and develop relationships, not jobs. The work will come. Also, use your writing skills to market yourself: Web sites, blogs, and newsletters are a great means of pushing your skill out to the market. For example, my blog Diary of an Ad Man generated a very sizable potential deal worth more than $25K within five weeks of its existence.

If you don’t want to sell yourself, treat your skill like a product, and find someone who will. This means accepting an employee role. defines a job as “a regular activity performed in exchange for payment, especially as one's trade, occupation, or profession.”

In summation, if you take a positive attitude and apply it with 1) commitment, 2) humble approach to learning, and 3) approach targets with an attitude of service, you will succeed in marketing yourself.

“No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en;
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.”

-William Shakespeare, "The Taming of the Shrew", Act 1, scene 1.


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