Treating your writing as a business? You need a plan. A business plan.
If you’re not treating your writing as a business, good for you! Enjoy. Have fun with it. I can’t think of a better pastime. But if you’re hoping to turn your words into fame, fortune or both, you’re going to need a strategy.
Here are some scary words that will make most of you wanna-be-serious writers drop your latte and run out of your coffee shop:
- Editorial calendar
- Partnerships / Collaboration
- Beyond Words: Other Media
“Dude, chill! I just wanna write. What’s with the bullet list of drama?”
Oh, I’m sorry, dear writer friend, did I offend you? The difference between wanna-be-writer dude and me is that list. This is the point where I start taking this seriously. For 1,037 posts in a row, I’ve been having a blast. I’ve been living the writer’s dream: no editing, no guidelines and no deadlines (well, except that daily one). Just pure writing bliss.
But now I’m going to leave you in the dust.
You’ll be standing there on the side of the road, laptop and latte in hand as I blaze the trail into the sunrise (the sunset is too late). You might think I’m tired out, after those 1,000+ posts in a row. Nah, that’s where it gets even more interesting: I’m just getting warmed up. Those posts only reinforced who I am. By the way, I highly recommend doing a 30-day Write Every Day Challenge. If you can do that, come back here and let’s talk.
So Now What?
So how does this work? How does one go from casual writer to serious writer? From semi-pro to pro? From dust to clear open road? I have no idea.
But I have a few things in my toolbox:
If I drop my cloak of modesty, I might whisper that I’m a damn good writer, too. But let’s wait and see what the rest of the planet thinks about that. Speaking of the rest of the planet, here’s a trick: you don’t need to care about the rest of the planet. We care about those readers and fans who we’ll connect to. That’s our target. So how do we find them? Exactly. That’s the question. That’s what I’m about to find out.
1,000+ posts and John Muldoon is still my accountability partner
John Muldoon’s Monthly Experiments has an August 2015 experiment that’s a secret. Well, I guess not so much anymore. But has a select group of people each doing his or her own experiment for the month. For me, it’s guest posting. That is, writing for someone else. My rules are simple: every day in August I need to have at least one “action” towards getting my writing published on a site that is not mine.
A Writer’s Business Plan
Dear writer friend, I was harsh above. I was playing tough guy trying to get you to stop reading. Well, actually, not you specifically because if you’re still reading, you weren’t scared off. Those pansy-pants writers are back in their cafes happily scribbling out the next great American novel. Uh huh. If you’re still down here in this post and just raring for more, let’s have at it. But you’re not going to like it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take time, patience and hard work. Oh, add in buckets of inspiration, determination and let’s sprinkle a little luck and fun. No, not a sprinkle of fun. Let’s dump a wheelbarrow of fun. Open the rip cord and let flow the passion, love and joy while we’re at it. Because if we don’t have that in abundance, you might as well go do something not fun and get paid for that.
Disclaimer: I’m at Day Zero here. If you come back to me later and whine that you didn’t make a zillion dollars or your book didn’t turn into a Bollywood musical, I know nothing.
Disclaimer with a wink: I know I’m going to succeed. It’s not that I think I will or have it all planned out how each step will lead me to success, but I just know it. It’s not that I feel it in my bones or see it in the stars, I just know. I don’t know how or when it’s going to happen, only that it’s going to happen. If you’re up for a wild ride, grab hold and smile.
Let’s get down to it. I’m going to put some headings below and keep in mind that this is going to be a Work in Progress. A Moveable Business Plan. It’ll change and may be scrapped completely. But we have to start somewhere.
Timelines, Deadlines & Calendar
Both “someday” and “tomorrow” are not now. They don’t count. They’re like infinity in math, they don’t really exist. Our goals and measurements (see below) need a timeline, they need deadlines.
- Action: start off with something easy. Set some short-term goals. For me, my goal was to write this Business Plan today (August 1, 2015). I’ll be done soon. But I need to map out more of a concrete list of To Do items and their deadlines.
- Action: 1-month, 3-month, 6-month and 1-year plans. I know, it’s no fun, but just do it. Even tongue in cheek. Off the top of my head: Have 5 guest posts lined up by the end of August, finish editing The Secret of Markree Castle by September 30, edit and publish Home Exchange 101 by September 30.
By the way, did you notice that I’m writing this Writer’s Business Plan today? It’s the first day of the experiment. It’s clear (to me, anyway) that I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the deadline.
- Action: join a challenge, experiment, group or cult: whatever it takes to get you to do what you need (help) to do.
Goals & Measurements
I need goals. I’m actually terrible at this. It’s not going to happen in this paragraph, but one thing I need to change to convert me from playing to player is to have concrete goals that I can meet.
How do you know if you reached your goal if you’re not measuring anything? You wanted to build your mailing list by 50%. Great, but did you do it? When did it happen? Do you have any idea how it grew? Goals and measuring to get to those goals.
- Action: at the very least, I’m thinking a spreadsheet. Action item, time spent, money earned, traffic influence, other types of measurements? Would be great to add charts or graphs showing e.g. level of effort and then return. But could even be weighted for the factor of … fun or joy or pleasure. In other words, sometimes earning $300 is worth more than earning $1,000 if the fun factor is added in.
Out of the Box Marketing
I get inspired–but also tired–of interviews with success story people. Rags to riches, a million Twitter followers in 2 months, blah blah blah. How about an interview with someone who’s going to be a success? We can talk about what I’m going to do to get there. Hey, maybe their industry is helping to promote writers (or is a publisher or agent etc.) so they could also help me learn about what I should do to take it to that next level. Bonus: maybe I build some new partnerships along the way.
- Action: contact players who might be interested in a bit of an off-the-wall approach. Maybe start with someone I know? Or sort of know?
- Action: put together those emails. How do I play it? Why me?
- Action: I could even point players in the industry to this post. “Hey, this is my business plan to go pro. Thoughts? Tips? Huge mistakes?”
Networking / Connections / Who You Know
Being the former writer that I am, er, was, I know quite a few people in the writing industry. It’s time to connect again.
- Action: connect. But what am I asking them? How can I help them? What am I offering their followers?
- Action: comment, like, retweet, link, etc. Are you reading others in your field? Publishers? What are they doing? What are they writing about? How can you contribute … without blatantly promoting yourself.
- Action: talk about what you’re doing. You never know who you might connect to. Don’t overwhelm or bore them, but at least mention it, sneak it in, see what happens. If there’s a spark of interest, great. If not, just move on and talk about her shoes again.
Partnerships / Collaboration
Sure, you could go it alone (and you probably have been), but here’s my comment: it’s just plain stupid. I could say that in other ways, but I need to say that also to myself. If you’re going it alone, you’re doing more work than you should be. It’s the rowboat versus the sailboat. You can paddle away with all your might, but if you had a sail, you have “a greater power” helping you out. It’s the same with partnerships and collaboration: 1 + 1 = more than 2.
- Action: seek out partnerships. You have that ebook idea. Awesome. But might it be a stronger product if you did it together with someone else? Yes, that means editing and working together and, eek, compromise. But in the end, it could be more than 1 + 1. If not, go it alone if that makes more sense for this project. But keep an open mind.
Brand / Market
Who are you and why should I talk to you? What’s your deal? What’s your elevator pitch? What’s your stuck-in-the-elevator pitch?
Admittedly, I need help in this area. This is a typical case of the cobbler has no shoes. I’ve worked in marketing and branding and am a great asset when trying to figure out what you should do and how to market it. But yeah, when it comes to your very own self, it’s often hard.
- Action: if you’re unclear, ask someone who knows what you’re doing to help. Even just get their quick summary of what they think you’re all about.
Other Media / Social Media
Sure, you’re a writer. You write words. Excellent. But there are those out there who don’t necessarily read words as quickly as they might listen to audio or watch video. In the social media world, Facebook might be where you like to hang out, but maybe others would never see you there. In other words, be everywhere your fans might be.
- Action: you don’t need to start a weekly podcast, but how about at least try to be interviewed on a weekly podcast. So even if you’re not creating in that medium, you at least exist in that medium.
- Action: open that Pinterest account. Don’t know what Pinterest is (admittedly, I don’t terribly get it … yet)? Read a little about it and at least now own it under your brand and have a place to share.
Product / Sales / Call to Action
This one is often difficult for the true artist. But there is help out there for artists who don’t think they can make money. But you need to sell something. No, really, you do. You ideally need to have a few things for sale. At least a quick, low-cost sale and then a big sale. What’s the minimum that you would like someone to “do?” Whether it’s sign up for your mailing list, leave a comment on your post, write a review on Amazon, buy your e-book, hire you for a speaking gig or offer you a book contract, you need to have some things to “sell.” If you don’t want to call it “selling,” fine, call it whatever you want. But you need to basically convince someone else to “do” something that you would like them to do. Ideally, it benefits them even more than it benefits you. Yeah, I know, that’s the hard part to understand, but you’ll get there.
- Action: even if it’s a freebie, what “minimal viable product” do you have to offer? For sake of example, say you’re a baker. You’d like them to cater the wedding in 6 weeks, but what about right now? They might buy a baguette, but also, what are you going to offer them for free? Maybe a croissant? It may seem insignificant but this example actually comes from a baker in the south of France who gave my son a little pastry every single morning before we bought something. He was overjoyed, felt special and guess where he wanted to go every single day? Guess where we we went every single day.
Sacrifice / Limits
This one might not be in your average MBA Business Plan, but I’m adding it now as it’s relevant … to me, anyway. It’s getting late on a Saturday evening and I’ve been working on this post much of the day: talking about it, thinking about it, going over the bullet points, etc. But my kids are at the table wanting to play Ticket to Ride and I’m out here writing this.
For me, nothing is more important than family. Nothing. I don’t even need an adjective, like absolutely nothing or maybe totally nothing or nothing in the world. It’s just nothing is more important. So what are your limits? What will you sacrifice to succeed? I know what I will and what I won’t. Know your limits and know what you want and what you’ll give to get.
- Action: hit publish now. Go play Ticket to Ride with your kids. Tomorrow is Day 2.
I’ll stop for now, but I’ll keep adding and editing this document. Already just writing it down has expanded my own horizons and I was just digging in my own brain. You’ll never know what you find in there. 😉
- Possible: just write
- Impossible: plan your every word
- Repossible: make a business plan