5 Poverty Traps of Good Writers


So you’re a good writer. That’s great. Is that earning you any money? Being able to write well and earning money from it are two entirely different things. It would be nice if fortune followed the talent or hard work, but alas. Fortune follows the smarts and execution. You can be a so-so writer who has marketing smarts and you can make a very good living. Or you can be a hugely talented writer who never can quite close the sale. Unfortunately, it happens.

Make sure you’re not falling into these poverty traps and robbing yourself of the writer’s living you crave.

#1 You’ve Bought Into the Idea That Selling Is Dirty or Not Artistic

Many writers loathe selling. They feel it demeans their work or somehow makes them less creative or artistic if they actively engage in sales behavior. Do they want to sell their work? Of course, but not at the risk of “looking” too much like a salesperson. If this is you, you need to check that attitude. Selling is what you do every day, whether you know it or not. You’re selling someone on your talent, your ability, even your credibility. Every sentence you write, every word you utter is about selling something. Sometimes it’s about selling your truth — you are sincere in your speech and strive not to say anything false. In doing so, you are selling to the person listening that you are trustworthy. If you audition for a part or go to a meeting to land a new project or client, you are selling to the other person that you can fulfill the requirements set forth. If you date someone and hope it moves toward marriage, you are selling the idea that you are the right one. If you threaten your kids within an inch of their lives, you are selling that you mean business. You don’t have a problem selling then, do you? So why do you have a problem selling your work?

Selling doesn’t have to be dirty or icky. It just is. Don’t make it a bad word.

#2 You Believe Your Own Hype

If you’ve listened to one too many of your friends rave about your work — friends who haven’t actually bought anything, but are happy to give their opinions — it’s easy to think you are the best around. And maybe you are. But you’ll only know when people are actually paying for what you do. It’s not enough to get 100 compliments from people who have gotten your product for free or who haven’t paid a dime. People who get stuff for free are happy to offer their opinions, after all, it costs nothing. Put your work on the market and let the paying market tell you how great you are.

#3 You Kid Yourself That You Are Doing Something, But You’re Not

One of the biggest issues I see with aspiring writers is the huge tendency to procrastinate. They busy themselves with being busy. Now, this isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of grunt work that needs to be done in building a writing career. There is. A lot of work that isn’t glamorous or particularly fun, but it is necessary to building a good writing business. This work does need to get done. But if you constantly busy yourself with the details and never actually get around to producing anything, what of it? It doesn’t take five years of planning to get that first book out. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t take a year of tinkering to get that website up and going. So stop kidding yourself with all the stall tactics. Produce something. Put it for sale.

#4 You Let the Opinions of People Who Don’t Matter Keep You From Doing What Does

It’s none of your business what people who have nothing to do with your business say about you. So what if your old high school classmate — who didn’t really like you then — seems to always post snarky stuff about you on Facebook? Who cares if your cousin doesn’t quite get it that you run a business and always seems to say something stupid about your work? And what about the people who are quick to point out a typo in a 5,000-word story? If none of these people is a potential customer or client, in other words, someone who will buy from you, then what about it? If none of these people is there to support your business, goals, or aspirations anyway, why are you listening? You’ll always have detractors. Some simply won’t understand why you’ve traded in the corporate job for a life of creative freedom and unlimited income potential, even if fraught with uncertainty. Others just won’t get your style. Still others just can’t see beyond their own negativity, to see anything positive about what you are doing. So don’t let these energy-sucks drain your enthusiasm, aspirations, and dreams.

#5 You Are Waiting for Someone Else’s Permission

You don’t need anyone else’s approval to produce your best idea. Technology today is waiting for you to do your thing. You don’t need the permission of an agent or a publisher. You don’t need a network executive or a magazine editor. If you have an idea that is burning inside you, pursue it. Hammer it out. Execute. Tweak. Make it available to the masses, via your blog, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc. The opportunity is there for you to write, write, write and to share, share, share. And in the midst, make money doing it.

But only if you are brave enough to escape the poverty trap of so many other writers. Get your mindset right and be about action, not just talk. Talking a project to death won’t get it done, nor will playing coy with your aspirations. You don’t have to be a starving artist. You don’t have to be the best-kept secret or remain an unknown. Take your writing career into your own hands and be bold. Produce your best stuff. Put it out for the world to see. Sell it. Repeat. That’s the only way to make a fantastic living writing.

When I decided to leave my newspaper job to pursue my writing business full-time, I didn’t need to get a yes from anyone else. And the first time I moved from asking for four figures for my work to asking for five as a ghostwriter, I didn’t need anyone’s permission to say it was OK to do so. All I needed was the confidence to put myself out there and be willing to withstand rejection as I looked for one yes. That’s all it takes when you are running a writing business, one yes. Get one person to buy from you. Then another, then another. But it starts with just one yes. You can find one yes, right?

The world is full of aspiring writers. People who claim to be writers, but never actually produce or sell anything. They are afraid of all the nos, on the way to one yes. Their fear is keeping them poor and their uncertainty is cheating them out of the writer’s life they crave. You can break from that anonymous pack. Go in search of your one yes.

Avoid the poverty traps.


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Monica Carter Tagore

Monica Carter Tagore is an author and business strategist. She helps authors, freelancers, solopreneurs, and other small business owners brand and market what they do. A former journalist, she launched her writing business in 2002. Her writing business has grown into a training and education company for business growth and personal development.