It wasn’t intentional and I certainly didn’t have a word or a concept for it at the time, but looking back over the last three or four years of my career, I see that what I’ve been doing is something I now call layering.
Here’s the thing: Most of you here reading this identify as writers. Not as journalists, not as novelists, not as nonfiction book authors, but as writers. You’re interested in writing all sorts of things. Many of you come here because of the journalism resources I offer and then write to me to say how delighted you are that I talk about more than just that. That I talk about creativity and mental health and novel writing and creating time in the day for soul work. That I talk about passion as much as I talk about prosperity.
Most of you reading this are exactly like me. You are interested in a number of things, you like writing in a variety of styles, and you’d like to diversify not only your income, but the work that you do and the way in which you do it.
I’m here to tell you that it’s possible. That actually, if you’re smart about this, if you practice layering in the way that I’m about to explain, you can build on your successes a lot faster.
Most of us, when we’re thinking of the various disjointed parts of our careers, think of them as separate areas of interest. I know, for instance, that when I started working on my novel, I had this very distinct thought in my head that here I was, a successful journalist, and instead of building upon that success, I just couldn’t help myself and had to start all over again at the bottom. When I discovered content marketing and understood that it was something I wanted to include in my writing career so that I could increase my income, I didn’t market myself in the way that I now teach my students to— using their journalism skills as a selling point. No, instead, I believed that I was starting all over again, at the bottom.
And of course, those of you who have been following my work for a while, at least for the last four years, have been witness to at least two business ventures that I’ve started and run to the ground. (If you’re new here— welcome! I talk about my failures and daily struggles as much as I do about my successes and wins.)
But I was wrong. I didn’t start content marketing from a blank slate. And the businesses I started, despite their failure, were not separate parts of my career that had no impact on the rest of it. And, even though it seems counterintuitive, while my novel is my first work of fiction, my place as an author in the business is not that of a newbie. I am not starting at the bottom.
As opposed to the various parts of your writing career being disjointed and distinct from one another, like M&M’s in a bag, your writing career is more like a layered cake. Everything you do doesn’t live separately within the same ecosystem, it actually falls on top of each other and builds up to something substantial.
When I started my freelancing career in 2002 and started writing about my freelancing and travel experiences on a hand-coded website (blogging hadn’t yet been invented), what I was laying down was a foundation for what my career is today. I spent a good ten years of my early years learning everything I could about pitching, about negotiating, about how magazines and newspapers are run, how the editors work, what each editor’s role is in a publication, where they hang out, who they hang out with, the role advertisers play (or don’t play) in different publications, how international appointments at major newspapers and magazines are made, how editors like to work with writers, how stories are commissioned, the life cycle of stories, etc.
This is valuable information, not only for when you want to sell freelance articles to these publications, but also for when you’re an author promoting a book. The contacts I’ve made as a journalist and the clips I’ve amassed have, no doubt, aided in the caliber of agent I’ve attracted and will be a point of negotiation during the sale of my book. If I know how to get my work in front of editors at top publications, am I not automatically going to get a bigger advance than an author who doesn’t know where to begin? But that knowledge came directly as a result of my freelancing career.
When my book is published, you can bet that I’ll be bringing those freelancing skills back into play and pitching publications around the world on topics related to my novel.
The years of blogging, since 2002? They’ve taught me how to build an audience around my work, how to build communities, how to get people interested in what I’m offering, whether that’s an e-course or a novel. I can go into a WordPress template and code it to make it look exactly like I want. I can create sharable images and graphics at the drop of a hat (or teach someone to do it for me) because I’ve spent years finding my way through the backend of websites. I have, over the course of fifteen years, learned about branding, about social media, about marketing and selling. Again, these are skills that layer on top of each other and help me, no matter whether I’m pitching an essay to The New Yorker, selling a novel to a publishing house, self-publishing my nonfiction books, or promoting an e-course to an audience of writers.
As Steve Jobs so eloquently said, “You can’t connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Nothing you have done or are doing right now is wasted. That article you’re writing for a local newspaper, that blog that you keep meaning to update, those hours spent on social media— they can all add up to something if you learn something from them.
Become a somewhat successful freelance journalist. Start a blog. Use that to double or triple your income by breaking into content marketing. Use your blogging and content marketing experience to start websites, self-publish books, create products. Further use that to start your author career and already be at a point where you’re taken seriously because not only do you know how to get into big publications, but you already have a substantial following of your own.
That’s just one example, one I know intimately because that’s how I did it. Your path will be different, but remember, the various parts of your life and career are not disjointed; they are building on each other.
Here’s the catch, however: Don’t try to do everything at once. Layer things on top of each other. Start something, do it well, finish it, become confident with it. And only then move on to the next thing. Don’t spread yourself so thin that you can’t see progress with anything.
Start something. Bring it to completion. Finish it. Then start something else.
Add more layers. And build them on top of each other.
The result? A writing career that is diverse, exciting, fulfilling, and profitable.
P.S. In my many years online working with writers, I have realised that the one thing most of us struggle with is finishing. There are tons of resources out there now (including my own) that will teach you HOW to do something, but nothing that will actually help keep you accountable as you’re doing it.
I believe in both LEARNING and DOING.
At The International Freelancer, I’ve been incredibly focused on making sure that you’ve had the resources you need to facilitate your learning through the many e-courses I’ve created over the last couple of years.
Now, I’m focusing on the doing.
I’ve launched something big. This is the community that I’ve always wanted to be a part of and that I’m confident you’re going to love as well. We’re going to hold each other accountable, get our projects done, and race each other to the finish.
I’m incredibly excited about this and I think this community is going to be a game-changer in the way that we support each other and move towards our goals.
I can’t wait to be a part of this with you.
Here are the details if you’re interested: http://www.theinternationalfreelancer.com/finishers
As a special launch offer, because I’m SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED, I’m offering an entire year’s subscription to The Finishers for $99. Offer ends Thursday, May 17, 11:59PM EST.
Use coupon code “LAUNCH99” when you sign up.
See you on the inside!