The Professional Writer Puzzle: 7 Pieces You Need To Be Successful

I’ve been a professional writer for more than a decade, and a couple weeks ago I celebrated my three year “Quitiversary” (the day I quit my day job to take my business full-time). So lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting back and thinking about the steps I took to get where I am today.

Since I know you dream of being a published author and having a writing career, I thought it would be useful for you to see what it takes.

So here are the 7 things I did to become the published author and writing coach that I am today:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Can’t stress this one enough. You have to write. All the time. As much as you can. Over and over again, write.

Write. Toss it. Start again.

The more you write, the better you’ll get at writing. And practicing helps you find your voice as a writer.

2. Never Stop Learning

There’s always more to learn when it comes to writing a novel. There’s always a way you can dig deeper into a topic and discover things you didn’t know (or clarify things you’ve heard before).

As a professional writer, you have to be committed to growth. And growth comes from learning and practicing.

3. Get Support

If you want to reach your writing goals, you have to get support. Whether that’s a writing buddy, an accountability partner, a writing group or a coach, do yourself a favor and get support.

Having support is invaluable for when you have a deadline to hit, are feeling low and need a pep talk, or just want someone to celebrate with.

As writers, we spend a lot of time alone. But we can’t do it alone. The writing yes, but the rest of the journey requires you to have support.

Especially if you want to do this professionally.

4. Invest In Yourself

Speaking of getting support, you also have to be willing to invest in yourself. Not just monetarily, but also your time, energy and focus.

If your writing is important, you have to make it a priority. Period. There is no other way.

And you have to step outside of your comfort zone and be willing to invest in your writing education. Whether you buy books to read, participate in writing programs or hire a coach to help you get results faster, is up to you.

Like I said in a previous email, I’ve invested upwards of $150,000 on my writing education–that includes a journalism degree, several writing (and business) training programs, hundreds of books, and hiring a team of people to support me on my journey (a writing coach, editor, book marketer, designer).

5. Build Your Author Platform

Sure, you can write and publish a book, but unless you build an author platform you’ll never have the readership you need to do this professionally.

Building a platform means having a:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • ​Social media presence
  • Email list

Having an author platform allows you to spread the word about your books, share your stories and ideas, and connect with your readers.

I’ve gone through several shifts in my online presence (my blog used to be called Procrastinating Writers, and InkyBites, back in the day). But today I’m out in the world as me.

6. Grow Your Readership

Once you’ve got your platform built, then you have to grow your readership. This includes doing things, like guest posting, getting media coverage and offering a free opt-in on your website to get people on your email list.

Every time I guest post on a popular blog, I get tons of new readers. In fact, I launched my current email list about four months ago and it already has almost 700 people on it!

7. Improve Your Mindset

Last, but most definitely not least, you have to work on your mindset. Being a professional writer requires you to have a much different mindset than being a writer by hobby does.

When you’re a hobby writer, you can write only when you’re inspired. But when you’re a professional writer, you have to write even when you’re uninspired. Because sometimes that’s what it takes.

When you’re a hobby writer, you can allow negative thoughts to distract you from your work. But you’ll never become a professional if you can’t push past those negative thoughts, beliefs and fears that stop you from writing.

You have to cultivate the mindset of a professional. You do this by asking: “If I was a published author, making money from my writing, how would I act/think/feel?”

Make a list of how you would act, the things you would think and how you would feel. And then you have to embody everything on that list.

For example, a published author making money from her writing would be dedicated to writing daily. She would make it a priority, above a lot of other things.

A published author making money from her writing would think positive things about herself and her work. She would get support. She would hire someone to help her make her books the best they can be.

Of course many of the steps on this list come AFTER you’ve written something that’s worthy of publishing. If you haven’t done that yet, let me ask you this:

What’s stopping you? What’s holding you back from having a novel you can publish?

Whatever stops you, I invite you to step up and join me for a free Butt-In-Chair session. Let’s kick that shit to the curb right now and get you on track to write (or finish) your novel.

>> Claim your free Butt-In-Chair session

Image courtesy of Nana B. Agyei 

2 Replies to “The Professional Writer Puzzle: 7 Pieces You Need To Be Successful”

  1. I have to agree on the point about getting support. I didn’t have any, not a friend, relative, professor, mature writer, and it made breaking into the business and developing my skills that much harder and time consuming. Meanwhile, I watched others with mentors–usually a professor or some other contact from college or family friend–leap into their career, ready or not.

    This is why I offer this to the writers I work with. It’s like a coach, but really I make myself available to them on an on-call basis so they can reach out when they need me, even if it’s for moral support after a tough rejection or stuck with a bit of dialogue or description. Basically, it’s nice to have someone in your corner.


    1. @James Same here. I didn’t have any support at the beginning of my journey. When I hired a writing coach, that’s when I finally made my novel dream a reality. That’s why I’m a writing coach–I help serious emerging novelists write and revise their stories.

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