Want to get started as a writer in 2021?
Here’s the only strategy you’ll need. Over the next 6 minutes, I’ll give you the entire roadmap from start to finish. Why listen to me, though?
Well, I’ve made over $225,000 from writing and selling courses over the last three years.
I average 120,000 monthly views on Medium, founded a publication that averages 500,000 monthly views, and have been writing online for the last four years.
I know my way around this game, and know how many others navigate the game, too. Let’s get into how you can start a successful writing side hustle in 2021.
1. Start With Your Skills
My Dad’s about to quit his job this year. He works at a hospital in Baltimore performing maintenance on all the appliances and basically keeps the damn place running.
He’s a handyman.
Name a job around the house, he knows how to do it.
I told my Dad these skills would be the perfect place to start if he ever wanted to start a Youtube channel. If you search “How to install an electrical socket” on Youtube, for instance, you’ll see a bunch of million-view videos in the results.
I told my Dad over the next year he could film 52 videos (one video per week) and upload them to Youtube with proper titles, thumbnails, and descriptions just to see what happens.
I only bring this up to prove a point: starting with your skills makes everything easier.
It provides value to the reader. It’s easy for you to write about (since it’s your skill). And there’s likely an audience for it.
I told my Dad he could create a Youtube channel, upload a bunch of videos, then create an online course for folks who want to learn how to do, say, 25 basic jobs around the house.
That’s a business model that could work, and it will only work because he started with his skill set first.
2. Write 100 Search-Optimized Posts
If you’re a beginner writer in 2021, the only traffic source you should focus on is Google. I said it. I love Medium and social media and all that great stuff, but Google will eventually spoon-feed you thousands of views every day without you having to lift a finger.
How? Search engine optimization.
If you write a bunch of blog posts related to popular Google searches, your posts may show up in the top 10 search results.
Wa-La. Traffic. Views. Exposure.
I use tools like Keywords Everywhere to find good phrases to target. My advice would be to target keywords with less than 200 monthly searches especially if you’re just starting out.
If you’re starting a Wordpress blog and want to know how to write a Search-Optimized post, just download the YOAST plugin. In every post you write, you can scroll all the way down to the YOAST section and see what you need to do to optimize your post for a given keyword (example picture below).
Good. Now write 100 of these posts. Does that sound like too much? If it does, then don’t even try to become a writer online.
100 search-optimized posts is actually the low end of the spectrum.
3. Write 15 Guest Posts
When you first create a website, Google has no idea whether to trust it or not. To help Google see you’re actually awesome, it helps to get backlinks from reputable websites.
In this case, a backlink is like a recommendation.
Imagine if Business Insider linked back to your website for a second. That would be like Bill Gates saying that you’re an amazing software engineer or something. Wouldn’t that recommendation land you a bunch of job interviews overnight?
It’s the same principle with Google.
A backlink from a reputable site is like a shiny recommendation from a well-respected person. To get backlinks at these sites, you’d typically go write what’s called a guest post for them.
A guest post is just a blog post that you let a site publish. They get free content, and you get a free backlink. It works out for everybody.
If you want to find good sites to guest post for, just type in your keyword + “guest post” or “submissions.” You should have a bunch of blogs pop up that allow you to guest post on their website.
When you’re first starting out, it doesn’t much matter where you get a backlink from. What matters is that you’re getting backlinks at all.
If you can get 15 guest posts written and published by the end of the year, you’re on a pretty good track.
4. Start An Email List
I’m giving you the absolute essentials here. Next up is starting an email list.
For every email subscriber you have, you should be making about $1 per month. I’ve found that for every 100 views your website gets, you should be getting about 1–2 email subscribers.
So if your website gets 10,000 views per month, you should be getting about 100–200 email subscribers. To be completely transparent, it will take you the better part of the year to get to 10,000 monthly views.
The good news is, once you get to 10,000 monthly views, Google starts dumping traffic onto your website in buckets.
Getting to 10,000 monthly views is harder than getting to 100,000 monthly views. You might look at me and say “Tom, if I’m only going to be making $100-$200 monthly at the end of a full year’s worth of work, why even do this in the first place?”
Because in just a few months time you’ll be at 50,000 monthly views and raking in 500–1,000 email subscribers monthly.
Then a few more months will go by and you’ll be up near 100,000 monthly views. When it rains it pours with organic traffic from Google.
So how do you start a successful email list? A course could be created about this, but just know you need to offer something of value in return for someone’s email address. A free course. A checklist. A free ebook. I like the free email course because you don’t need any graphic design skills to create it.
5. Create A Product To Sell
This is the final step: Create a product to sell.
A whole 20-minute blog post could be written about this — but just know I make most of my money with online courses. You can use a tool like Teachable to create one and get started.
The content of your blog posts should inspire your email freebie which should inspire your online course. It all gets back to point #1 in this post. Make sure you write about your skills, and make sure everything else lines up.
If I write about how to become a better blogger, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to create a course about how to become a better chef.
Everything needs to line up. I’m not really going to go into the details of creating a product because 90% of your work over the next year should be about writing a crap ton of content.
You shouldn’t even be thinking about courses until you get to 10,000 monthly views, in fact.
But just know this is the birds-eye-view strategy to start a writing side-hustle in 2021.