I‘m trying to make a living writing. But it just doesn’t work

Author of Struggling Forward, also Tim Rettig is currently in the process of writing a book about the psychological journey of struggle, which all creatives have to go through, as they are working towards their dreams.

So, I am 26 years old. I have been blogging for about 5 years now. For the most part, I was blogging on my own website. Seven months ago, I have made the shift to Medium.

I’ve also never done this (completely) full-time. During all of those five years, I have been studying (and still am writing my MA thesis). Plus, I’ve worked on all kinds of other projects and jobs during that time.

But then, eight or nine months ago, something changed completely in my life.

My father passed away unexpectedly.

This led to a big creative shift in my life. Whereas previously, my goal had been to become the worlds best writer on intercultural communication I was now no longer willing to make the sacrifices necessary for that.

Why? Because that path has led me to move to three different foreign countries over the past seven years. All the while, I rarely met my family (including my father).

My father’s death essentially made me realise, that I am not willing to be far away from my family on a permanent basis.

But it also put me under enormous pressure.

Whereas previously, I had always been partially supported by my parents, I now had to figure out a way of making a complete living quickly.

At the time, I had also gone into a serious relationship. And considering that we wanted to move to Germany to be closer to my family (where she’d first have to finish her studies), I would now have to provide a complete income for two people. Not just for myself.

So, I made a decision, that is probably quite foolish.

I realized that from that point onward, my responsibilities would only keep growing. And if I ever wanted to make it as a writer, then I would have to go all in on the process right now.

And that’s what I did.

Over the past seven months, I have published around 250 articles on Medium alone. My estimation for the total number of words, which I have published (not written) during that time, is around 300,000.

I’ve also build my readership to levels, that I have never experienced before during my years of blogging. Now, my articles are averaging around 15,000 views and 5,000 reads per month.

But still, I have made $0 in the process.

And very little reason to think, that this will change anytime soon.

The main problem.

The main problem is actually a pretty obvious one. Blogging, in itself, doesn’t make you any money. Regardless of how many readers you attract through your words, you need a product to sell.

You might think: “why don’t you just work as a freelancer?”.

But you see, that is the whole point. During those five years, I have worked as a freelancer a lot. And I desperately want to get out of this cycle of being dependent on freelance money. Because it takes me away from doing the work, that I really want to produce.

Making enough money as a freelancer, requires you to put a lot of time and effort into the process. Often, so much time, that you hardly have any time left, to produce your own work.

So, I really want to make my income from my own products.

Problem is, I just barely managed to keep up my habit of writing more than one article per day. That in itself, was an incredibly difficult exercise.

Adding to that the difficulty of writing a book on the side, would’ve been completely impossible during that period of time.

Now, things are a bit different. I now feel confident that I can maintain my daily publishing habit. But at the same time, I am running more and more out of time. In a few months:

  • I will completely run out of money.
  • I will have to finish my MA thesis.
  • I will have to make the move back to Germany (which is going to be expensive and takes a lot of administrative work for my partner).
  • I will have to reach the point, where I can make enough money for the two of us.

So, there is all these things, which I have to juggle at the same time, making it incredibly difficult to get my book done, and thus starting to make money. Plus, I know that even if I get the book done, it is a completely unrealistic hope that it will make me enough money to live off that income alone.

What am I going to do about it?

I don’t know.

All I can do is to focus on getting my book done as quickly as possible, while at the same time continue building my readership. And to hope for the best, for whatever comes after that.

Time pressure.

“Literature is a wonderful profession, because haste has no part of it. Whether a really good book is finished a year earlier or a year later, makes no difference” — Stefan Zweig

This statement by Stefan Zweig, is really interesting.

I certainly agree with it, in that there is no haste for when to finish a book, when it comes to the impact of that particular book. The problem with that statement shows itself in the word ‘profession’.

Writing is a profession. Unless we have the capability to earn a living from our work, we simply can’t continue pursuing that profession on a full-time basis. This puts most writers under immense time pressure, to finish their work, so that it can generate an income for us.

Our work will be rushed.

And we won’t take the necessary time for it to evolve into its best possible version.

That’s why, I think, the writing profession is becoming less and less indistinguishable from the profession of online marketers, who only care about quick money.

It becomes less about quality, and more about sales. Less about providing value for our readers, and more about what kind of marketing techniques to use.

And I am worried, that I will succumb into this state, too.

I am worried, that I will make irreversible mistakes, and destroy the trust of my readers in the process.

A solution?

I was asking myself the question of how I can turn my disadvantage (lack of money), into an advantage. And there is something I have come up with, which might just work.

This is my plan:

I’ve got all of these blog posts. And I would like to compile them, edit them, bring more structure into them, and add additional work to it. After that, I would sell that as a book on Amazon.

So far, nothing special about that.

Many people are doing that.

But my main problem, is the lack of money to hire an editor. And that’s what I thought about, for a long time. After all, I don’t want to sell a low-quality book, and disappoint my readers.

So what if this is a book, that evolves for rest of my life?

Here’s how I imagine this:

At the end of the book, I would add a code. With that code, people can get access to a private e-mail list, only for people who have purchased the book. Then, I would continuously bring out new, updated versions of the book.

I would also use the first income, which the book generates, in order to hire an editor. In this way, I would continuously try and make this book the best work it possibly can.

When people purchase any version of the book, they get access to a download area, where they can also download all other versions.

This would give me all the time in the world, to make this book the best work, it possibly can be. I don’t need to rush into its completion. Because, as a matter of fact, the book is never going to be finished.

The book will evolve, as my thinking evolves.

Some final words:

I hope that this article didn’t come across as being nothing but me whining about my current life situation. It is true that I am a bit frustrated with where things are going, and concerned with my near-future (when it comes to my financial situation).

But isn’t this true for most of us?

After all, most writers (and other types of creatives) struggle with making a living from the thing, they love the most.

I just wanted to show, that you are clearly not alone in your struggles. Finding a good balance between making a living, and doing the kind of work we really want to be doing, is a problem that all of us are facing.

Sure, there are options available to all of us: whether it is coaching, holding webinars, or doing consulting work. But all of them are easier said than done. All of them require significant time investment, in order to become profitable.

Time, that we might not necessarily have.

So, I wanted to ask of you: what do you think about my proposed solution? Do you think my plan of continuously bringing out new versions of the book, and making them accessible to people, who’ve bought previous versions, will be acceptable to readers?

Would it be interesting for you, to follow the journey of a piece of work, that is going to evolve over many years?

And, would you be willing to excuse an imperfect first version, for the sake of enabling the work to develop further?

Let me know in the comments below!



source: https://writingcooperative.com