Have you ever wondered whether you should give online writing a try? Do you spend hours scrolling through blog posts and newsletters, secretly envious of whoever wrote those, wondering where they find the time, the courage, the ideas? If you have, I’m sure you have closed the computer more times than you can count, feeling deflated and thinking to yourself that it’s probably too late anyway. “There is so much great content out there already, plus what would I even write about?”
If that sounds like you, then I was in your shoes just a few months ago, and I can tell you — it’s not too late, it is worth it and now is the time to start.
A small piece of the pie
All major platforms are investing heavily in offering monetization features — resources and programs allowing creators to earn money by posting engaging content. For example, Facebook announced plans to invest $1 billion in creators by the end of 2022. Writing platforms are making big changes to their writers’ payment programs, offering bonuses and free writing workshops. Substack is launching free initiatives like Substack Grow, a series to help writers grow their readership and paid subscriptions. I wrote 1 post here and shortly after received a message inviting me to become a beta creator on a new knowledge-sharing platform.
There will be fierce competition between these platforms to keep creators on their turf — which is great news for people like us. It opens up opportunities for beginning creators to get a small piece of the pie.
Now, admittedly, chances are your piece of the pie will be more like crumbs, especially for the first few years. I made $300 this month after a couple of months on this platform. I’m ecstatic because this is the first money I’ve ever earned online, and I’ve had so much fun doing it — but let’s just say my hourly rate is paltry. Still, it’s a start, and if I can do this, so can you.
Now, it’s nice to earn some money, but it’s not my main driver.
What I am finding to be much more valuable are the skills that I’m learning as I’m exploring this online writing scene.
Foundational, future-proof skills and attitudes
For the past 10 years, we’ve been hearing that robots are coming to take our jobs. While I’m pretty sure that’s just fear-mongering, it is clear that high-level skills are becoming more and more important in a labor market that is increasingly automated, digital and dynamic. According to a report by McKinsey, Defining the skills citizens will need in the future world of work, all citizens will need a set of foundational skills that help them fulfil the following three criteria, no matter the sector in which they work or their occupation:
- Add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines.
- Operate in a digital environment.
- Continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations.
I can’t think of a better way than online writing to train yourself on all of the above. Creating anything online, really, but writing in particular because the barrier to entry is much lower than filming videos or recording podcasts.
As I was looking at the 56 distinct elements of talent (mix of skills and attitudes) identified in the report, I found that online writing relates to practically every single one of them.
Think about it. It’s not just the writing. It’s all the tasks that come before, during and after. Reading, researching, formatting, distribution, planning, connecting and collaborating with other writers, using a range of digital tools and platforms, tracking statistics, etc. It’s about learning to deal with uncertainty, self-motivation, embarrassment, writer's block, imposter syndrome, and persistence.
I’ve marked the elements that stand out most clearly to me based on my own experience so far, but really I feel like every single one of them applies.
A creative outlet for your thoughts and interests
Lastly, aside from money and gaining new skills — it’s just really fun. I started writing online the moment my curiosity of what I could achieve was stronger than my fear of failure and embarrassment. I never considered myself a ‘creative person’ — but I have found that there’s nothing more satisfying than working on something that’s YOURS and making an effort to become better at it.
Packy McCormick perfectly sums up all of the above in his popular essay The Great Online Game:
The fun part is, if you do it right, it really can feel like a game. Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to jump in. The vast majority of people reading this won’t want to quit their job and make a living entirely online; that doesn’t mean you can’t play. Play on the side, learn some things, build some new hobbies and relationships. Give yourself an insurance plan if things don’t work out in your job, and a supercharger if they do. You never know when it might come in handy, or what new path you might discover.
So, where do you start?
Opportunities, money, future-proof skills and attitudes, a creative outlet.
Did any of the above make you feel excited or curious? Is your only remaining worry what you’d write about or what people would think of you?
If so, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try. I think you’ll regret it if you don’t.
I know — there’s so much information out there, and it’s overwhelming to figure out where to even begin. In the beginning, I feel like it’s important to have some structure, so I’d recommend signing up for Ship30for30 (non-affiliate link, just sharing because that’s how I started). It’s a cohort-based course where you learn the fundamentals of writing online, challenging you to write and publish every day for 30 days.
In their own words: Stop overthinking. Start shipping.