I’m not a huge fan of tips, but following is a list of them. They’re from my notes on Write More, Sell More, a book by Bob Bly. (Please note: This is not the distinguished poet Robert Bly. I’m referring to Bob Bly, the copywriter from New Jersey.)
The following suggestions are directed at people like me whose income depends on writing every day and selling what we create. However, the following list has potential value for idea entrepreneurs and anyone who writes regularly.
- Focus on three basic ways to make more money as a writer: Write more, sell more, and charge more. All of the following are ways to implement these broad strategies.
- Write a lot. Produce a lot. Create a big body of work.
- Leverage your interests. Write about topics you know and enjoy.
- Leverage your assignments. Get multiple assignments from the same editors and clients on the same topics in the same formats. To stay profitable, devote 80 percent of your work day to what you already know. Devote about 20 percent to new formats and topics. Also plan to write articles and books in series. To avoid boredom, switch between multiple projects.
- Create a business plan. Determine how much money you want to make this year. Then determine how much you must make each day, week, and month to achieve that annual goal.
- Plan your day. Set a daily production goal. Break your work day into one-hour segments and schedule a task for each hour. Then reward yourself for completing those tasks. See if you can get up one hour earlier and start working. Break large projects into small tasks, and match tasks to your energy level throughout the day. For added efficiency, design your workspace so that the things you use most often are within easy reach.
- Keep it simple. Write simple prose with familiar words and simple sentence structures. Also write in your natural voice, which reduces the need for revision and preserves an authentic voice.
- Keep it short. Write shorter articles and books. Plan projects that you can finish quickly.
- Know when to stop. Write to the point that your piece is good enough. Don’t revise forever, and don’t aim for perfection. Likewise, don’t research forever.
- Design your behavior. Identify habits that reduce your productivity. Post visible reminders to stop those behaviors. Use this list to create new habits that promote productivity.
- Value people. Build ongoing relationships with editors and clients. Think beyond doing one project at a time. Ask current clients for referrals and repeat assignments.
- Keep track of how much you earn per hour. Measure productivity by dollars per hour—not dollars per word or project. Even if projects don’t pay much, you can sometimes make good money by doing many of them quickly. Also remember that not all your time is billable. Spend more time on billable tasks and delegate as many non-writing tasks as possible. In short: Do more projects that yield more dollars per hour.
- Build a personal content library. (I call this a commonplace book.) Keep notes and drafts for all your projects in central place — virtual, digital, or both. Mine this library for material that you can reuse. Include copyright-free materials from the US government. Review your library to keep it current, organized, and manageable in size.
- Start projects right away. As soon as you get a writing assignment, create a file for it in your notes app, writing app, or both.
- Write by filling in the blanks. To create a first draft, write a title for your piece and related subheadings. Then copy and paste your notes under the appropriate subheadings. Revise until the copy flows smoothly and the ideas are your own.
- Keep your butt on the chair and write without interruption. Stay in your office as much as possible. Avoid meetings. Do interviews by phone or email whenever possible. If you must leave your office, then call to confirm the meeting first. The key is to stay at work in an environment with minimal interruption. And if you get on a roll — in a flow state — then keep working until you get tired.
- Expect to get paid well. Negotiate higher fees. Don’t always accept the first offer from a client or editor. Be willing to walk if you don’t get what you want.
- Keep all this a professional secret. Don’t let others know how quickly and efficiently you write. They might think that you’re lazy, sloppy, or careless. This is just between you and me:)