If you're old enough, like Your Host, you might remember the early days of the web when people went online without a digital footprint the size of an asteroid crater.
If you wanted to post something online, you only had a handful of options.
You could post it to a forum. You could fire up a blog. You could use that eldest of the elder online media, the email list.
Today, in the age of the Creator Economy, what's new is old all over again.
Enter "the newsletter".
After everyone woke up one day and realized that trading their privacy for "likes" on a free surveillance platform wasn't the best of ideas, we're seeing a growing wave against the centralized Big Tech platforms.
Not to mention that the platforms themselves are more interested in thought-policing and laundering ideology than serving their users.
None of this was hard to see coming. I saw it coming 10 years ago when everyone raced on to these platforms without a care, posting up every intimate detail of their lives without a care.
If you're old enough, you remember when the advice was to never say anything online that you wouldn't want on the front page of the newspaper. The newspapers are gone now, but the moral of the tale is no less true.
Now the masses, clued in to this piece of wisdom from 2001, flee the lidless eye of Big Tech back to their semi-private curated communities.
Good. That's a development worth encouraging.
But there's another problem.
What are you writing for?
Maybe you think that getting into the habit of writing on the regular is a good thing in itself. No argument there. What you don't practice you don't improve.
Still, most people getting into this arena aren't there to say they showed up to practice. They want readers. They're dreaming of publishing contracts and millions of views each month.
They want to make a living with their writing.
If there's one thing you must understand as a creator, it's this:
You are in business.
Doesn't matter if you want to be, hate capitalism, don't want to sully your work by making it a commodity, or whatever excuse you cook up.
If you want to make a living, you have to make a living.
But few people have any idea of what they're saying, who they're saying it to, and why that matters to their audience.
There's no training for this. You sure won't learn it in English classes.
The strategy... no, let's not call it a strategy. The approach most people take is found in this five-step checklist:
- Write something
- Post it online
Most of these newsletters are going to fail. The same way that most blogs failed, most social media accounts never get any real traction, and most new businesses don't make it to five years.
This is an approach, but it doesn't even rise to the level of a strategy. Strategy involves thinking. You have to have a goal. You have to think about a process for getting there.
Show up and hope doesn't tick either box.
If you want to get paid with your writing, there's two ways you can look at it
Your writing is the offer. You're going to write stuff and people will pay you for access to that writing.
This is the Substack business model. This is what most folks jumping on the newsletters bandwagon expect. They're going to write things and grow an audience of thousands of readers, just like that.
Your writing promotes your real offers. You write stuff that people want to read, and then you pitch your wares to the captive audience.
This is the classic direct-response business model. Your writing captures attention and builds interest in your real business offers.
There's a lot of untapped space for writers in both business models.
But consider this.
If you're writing a free newsletter to "give value" (whatever that means) while hoping to maybe one day attract an audience...
While going up against cut-throat competition with deep pockets and an industrial-strength PR machine...
You're a guppy trying to swim in the tank labeled "hungry tiger sharks"
You might be able to compete on Substack, at least enough to make a decent living from your work...
IF you have a clear business model, a unique take, and have the will to promote yourself.
Does that describe you? Be honest.
Step back and think strategically. Do you understand your business model? Do you really understand your the business you're in?
Writers must create offers that are attractive to readers who are willing and able to pay. Even authors of fiction. Especially authors of fiction.
It's not enough to 'write to market'. Chasing trends leaves you eating dust.
It's great that you're showing up with work to share. Now how are you going to get paid for it?
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