How I became a full-time writer.
This summer marks 7 years of self-employment I can hardly believe it. That’s seven years of relying on myself to make the income, pay others, do adult-like tasks (i.e. pay student loans, buy a car, pay rent), and live off of the rest.
I get plenty of emails from aspiring writers and decided to put this resource together to compile the most vital tips I’ve collected over the years when it comes to writing full-time in many different avenues.
001. I’M NOT A STARVING ARTIST
I want to be real with you: I used to live in a lot of fear that I would never be able to make enough money to support myself or live off on my own. Whenever I would talk to someone about writing, the term “starving artist” would come up. I thought that was all I could ever aspire to be: someone who starves and lives minimally but at least gets to make good art.
And then I wised up and decided: Hannah, you don’t need to speak that limiting belief over your life.
I’m not. I’m far from hungry and I no longer speak that idea over my life. There was definitely a slower season of building up my income but I had to ditch the scarcity mindset in my own brain and choose abundance for my life.
Instead of subscribing to warped ideas like:
There isn’t enough for me.
I’ll never make enough.
There are too many other writers out there.
I have had to tell myself different and better stories:
There is more than enough for me.
I have a seat at the table.
I make more than enough and I have plenty to bless others with.
I am an individual and my work matters.
If you don’t believe these things for yourself then how can anyone else believe them for you?
002. SET STRATEGIC + REALISTIC GOALS
I’m a big believer in setting goals. Without them, especially when you work for yourself, it’s nearly impossible to know how much improvement you’re making or what growth you’ve experienced.
I am someone who sets yearly goals, quarterly goals, and monthly goals. My yearly goals inform the goals I set for the quarter and my quarterly goals inform what I’m seeking to make happen on a monthly basis. These goals are always up for changes, additions or even subtractions as time goes on.
I felt the need to add in “realistic” to the header because it’s helpful to look at where you’ve come from to figure out where you might be reaching next. Be real and honest with yourself. Have fun with the process. And also make sure you don’t just set business goals. Personal goals are transformative as well.
Make sure to set some goals that allow you to grow personally and professionally. Do you want to take a course to further that skill set? Do you have an organizational goal that doesn’t have to do with your work but will make your work processes smarter and more efficient?
I set a goal for myself this year that I would create 3x more content in 2019 than in 2018. So far, I’ve loved this goal because it has put the one thing I care about most-- writing-- at the forefront and has pushed me outside of the lines to create new, innovative content for my different platforms and mediums.
003. IT’S NOT JUST WRITING BOOKS
I wouldn’t be honest if I said all of my income comes from book advances or royalties. There was a time when I thought all I wanted to do was write books but I’ve learned in the last few years that there a lot of different ways to be a writer:
Try freelance pieces. A lot of publications will pay you for article submissions and, even if they don’t, it’s a great way to get your name out there and get some bylines to beef up your street cred.
Copywriting is so dang fun. I bet you didn’t know I take on copywriting projects from to time or that I am a girl boss officially working on the GoLive team. I fell in love with helping others find just the right words for their brands and businesses. And it’s an awesome stream of income.
Ghostwriting. There are people out there who want to pay good money for someone to write things for them-- books, articles, etc. This is a craft you can hone and develop as a writer.
Pubic Relations. This is where I started out. I would write press releases and media reports for one of the world’s largest nonprofit and I LOVED the experience. I would have told you then, as the Communications Associate for my company, that I was a writer. If you show up to write (no matter what the medium is) then you’re a writer.
There are a variety of different ways to cultivate your career as a writer-- not just writing books. The reality is that writing books is a hard field to make it in. It doesn’t mean you cannot write books and make it, but that leads to the next point…
004. PRACTICE IS EVERYTHING + PRACTICE IS DAILY
We have to be really honest with this one: you cannot become a writer without writing. It won’t happen. If you want to be a writer then I would recommend writing as much as you can, as often as you can. Practice is everything.
I love that quote by Macklemore, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats are great because they paint… a lot.” The same goes for writing. You can become a dang good writer and you don’t need another thing to put that goal out there but it requires that you sit down, as often as you can, and you begin pounding out words and figuring out what you have to say.
We are living in this weird time where people want to talk but they don’t want to do the hard work. They have no idea the work would transform them or remake them or bring them into their own skin for the first time. They see the pain of it and they flinch and back away. Don’t be intimidated by the craft you love. Show up to it daily. Lean in. Say yes to the fire. The best things are made through fire. You must go through it to figure out what you’re truly made of.
005. CREATE A BLOG
I get so many emails from people who afraid to press publish on that first blog post and I want to show up at their house and press the button for them! If you’re wondering if you should start a blog, and you’re someone who wants a career as a writer, then the answer is YES. Start the blog.
If you want to be a podcast host then start a podcast but if your goal is to write then you need an avenue to write through, not a microphone to speak into.
A blog is a great practice for those who want to cultivate the discipline of writing. A blog is a way to develop your voice and figure out what makes your heart beat faster. A blog is a footprint on the Internet and a chance for people to read your words. A blog is a digital home, a hug for someone else at 2am when they can’t sleep and they need some words to calm them down.
I can honestly say my blog has led me into the many projects and blessings I have to day. My blog taught me consistency and it made me into a writer. For that reason, I’ll show up to this space until I cannot anymore.
006. SAY YES
Does it scare you? Say yes.
Does it freak you out a bit? Say yes.
Does it excite you? Say yes.
The only way you’ll gain experience, know-how, and figure out what you like and don’t like about writing is to say yes. Say yes to trying new things.
I say this because for a long time I said I would NEVER, EVER teach people to write. I had this stuffy perception in my brain and I didn’t want to be a teacher of any kind. But, when the opportunity arose, I said yes. I said yes because a) it was a one-time thing and b) it was a challenge.
I ended up falling in love with the experience. Now I teach writing classes several times a year (with another one coming) and I cannot imagine my life or my career without this avenue of expression. It wouldn’t have happened if I closed myself off to something new and unknown.
I believe there are some epic opportunities waiting for you… this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning. Let’s dig in and get one step closer to writing for the long haul.
INTERESTED IN TAKING MY NEXT WRITING CLASS?
I am in the process of recording new videos + creating new materials for the Spring Writing Intensive I’ll be releasing in the month ahead. A bunch of people are already on the waiting list to hear first when the class becomes available. Hop on here.