How to Build a Guaranteed Audience for Your Writing

Always have an audience for your writing.

Imagine always having a guaranteed audience for your writing. And not a small audience. Thousands of people who eagerly await your words, every single day.

I can tell you, it is a very gratifying thing. I know, because I experience it every day.

I’m writing this, because I want you to experience this too.

Sure, I have achieved success with my writing and my business. I run multiple successful websites, each earning a substantial income, and gaining wide attention.

But what about other people?

My wife, Caitlin, now has an audience of 109,871 people (and counting).

My business partner, Ian Chandler, regularly reaches 27,271 writers with his words.

Another writer I work with, James Montgomery, has an audience of 21,282 people. Every week, his writing is read by many, many people. Guaranteed.

Is this type of success so obvious and so possible that it is easy to overlook?

When I got started writing and publishing online, most people were very confused when I told them what I did. Sure, some people knew what a “blog” was, but many people just gave me blank stares. Others assumed I was doing something illicit or illegal.

Wow, has the world changed.

Now, everybody knows what a blog is. When I tell people I run a website they simply nod their heads.

Every day, billions of people browse the internet, reading a vast variety of content covering endless interests.

It’s such a massive amount of people that the scale is almost impossible to imagine.

Completely fill a thousand stadiums. You wouldn’t even make a dent in the number of people online, every day. It is truly mind boggling.

And that’s good news. Because writers like you and me don’t need billions of readers. Just a few million, or even a just few thousand, is all it takes to make a living with your words.

I am incredibly fortunate. I can write literally anything, and know that I have an audience waiting to read it. And not just a few people, but thousands of people, many of them eagerly waiting to read my next piece.

How many writers have a guaranteed audience for *all* of their writing?

Even highly successful writers, with fame and fortune, don’t always have a guaranteed audience.

I’m writing this, because, for some of the people reading this, I know I can offer the support and guidance needed to become a successful and profitable writer.

I have a confession to make….

I have another reason I’m writing this: I’m fed up with my current business. Maybe I’m just a flawed human being. I get bored easily. Restless. (My wife certainly knows this!)

I love building successful websites. I love building audiences for my writing, as well as for other people’s writing. I love marketing, publishing, social media, etc.

But, after a while, I’ve gotten bored.

I’ve decided, it’s time to shake things up.

I’ve decided to share my secrets. Have more fun.

And, for those of you who decide to join me, I’m hoping you’ll have some fun too.

Before You Build an Audience For Your Writing…

I got my start when I was still in college. I didn’t have any major advantage. No pre-existing audience, and not much experience in terms of marketing. But I had this idea in my head: I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to start a business.

I was a bit naive. I didn’t know what was possible, or what wasn’t possible.

So, I just jumped in — and started exploring.

I knew that there were endless opportunities on the internet, I just didn’t know what they were, or where to find them.

Fortunately, I was able to avoid one of the biggest mistakes people make when getting started building an audience for their writing.

Let me explain.

As the editor of Freedom With Writing, I often get submissions from writers who are very passionate about their writing. They want me to publish their writing — and they’re sending me articles on a wide variety of topics. Sometimes these article are deeply personal, evocative, wonderful pieces of writing on topics such as love, depression, family, etc.

But there’s a huge problem here. At Freedom With Writing, we simply don’t publish that kind of writing. They may as well be asking my 8 month old daughter to read those articles. It doesn’t make sense.

The mistake they’re making is quite easy to avoid. They’re blinded by their own writing. Instead of focusing on their audience, they’re simply blasting their writing into the world, hoping it makes an impact.

This leads to perhaps the most important point I can make: Before you build an audience for your writing, you have to start looking at the world differently.

You’ve got to start looking at the world in terms of communities of potential readers.

What groups of people might be interested in your writing?

What are their defining characteristics?

Where do these groups tend to congregate?

Let Your Audience Choose You

If you want to build a dedicated audience of loyal readers — people who are passionate about reading and sharing your work — then the most important thing you can do is put your readers first…

Which means giving up a lot of control.

I learned long ago that I don’t get to choose who is in my audience.

It’s not up to me whether or not someone reads what I have to write.

Building an audience is not about empowering myself — it is about empowering my audience.

Every time someone reads what I have to write, it is their choice to read (or not). It’s not up to me! It never will be.

Instead of forcing people to read what I have to write, it is much more powerful to focus on the value I can give to potential readers.

This is best done with humility — and a desire to understand and support the people who I am attempting to reach.

Two Steps for Building a Massive Audience

There are two things that you must do, in order to successfully build your audience.

First, you have to find a group of people who you would like to reach.

Second, you have to present them with an opportunity to raise their hands and say “yes, I want to read more from you.”

The internet has made this more possible than ever before.

People are able to gather in groups on social media platforms such as Facebook, tumblr, LinkedIn, and Twitter — and as writers, we are able to reach them using these platforms.

As I wrote before, it is very important to start looking at the world in terms of communities of potential readers.

Facebook is incredibly powerful, because it has done so much to organize communities. Using their platform, you can find people interested in nearly any topics, whether it is romance novels, or urban forestry — there is an audience on Facebook.

With Facebook, as some of you know, I’ve managed to build massive audiences. Freedom With Writing has over 300,000 followers. Authors Publish has over 100,000.

Not only that, I’ve managed to turn those Facebook followers into email subscribers, so that I can reach them directly.

The Key to Using Facebook for Building an Audience

There’s a lot that goes into using Facebook to successfully build an audience for your writing.

Let me lay out a few basics.

First, success with Facebook marketing depends on focusing on your audience.

Many people, when they get started with Facebook, complain that their posts don’t reach anyone.

The reason is this: Facebook analyzes every single post, and “predicts” how likely people are going to interact with it. The more likely someone is to comment, “like”, or share a post, the more likely Facebook is to show it to more people.

Facebook is hyper-focused on putting engaging content in front of their audience.

This is actually good news for those of us who want to engage with readers. We can use Facebook to learn a lot about our potential readers.

When you post on Facebook, think of it as a test: Does this post connect with readers, and inspire them to take some sort of action?

This is wonderful because Facebook makes it very easy to learn about what your audience cares about.

And once you know what your audience cares about, you have a huge advantage. You can win them over by connecting with what matters to them.

Don’t get me wrong: There are many pros and cons to Facebook. I could spend hours talking about them, analyzing the advantages and the pitfalls of Facebook marketing.

But, despite the pitfalls, Facebook continues to be an incredibly powerful way to build a massive audience.

Second, once you’ve found your potential audience, ask them to commit to you.

This is where many people go wrong. They find a potential audience, learn what their audience cares about, and even publish meaningful writing for the audience, but they never take it to the next level.

You have to give people a chance to raise their hand and say “yes, I want to hear more from you!”

Perhaps the biggest reason for my success over the years has been my hyper-focus on asking potential readers for their email addresses.

Think about it this way: Imagine you meet someone, fall in love with them, and never even ask for their name. Or their email address. Or phone number.

That would be a tragedy.

This is very important: Getting a “fan” on Facebook, or a follower on Twitter is not enough. You absolutely have to focus on getting the ability to reach your audience directly.

Hence, the hyper-focus on getting their email address.

If you want to someone to give you their email address, there are a few things to keep in mind:

People, in general, are happy to give you their email address if you give them a good enough reason. If you’ve been focused on learning about your audience, you can use that knowledge to give them a powerful reason to give you their email address. At Freedom With Writing, we offer detailed listings of opportunities to get paid to write. That’s what our audience wants, and that is what we give them if they give us their email address.

You have to ask very directly. Many websites have an option tucked away somewhere not very intrusive; a small form on a sidebar, or an option at the end of an article. This doesn’t work very well. Imagine asking someone out on a date by mumbling something to them from across a crowded room. Maybe they’ll hear you; odds are, they’ll just ignore you! It’s much better to walk up to the person, and ask them directly. The same is true for asking for someone’s email address: There should be zero ambiguity about what you’re asking for. There should also be zero ambiguity in terms of what you’re offering.

Here’s the thing: Just like asking someone on a date, some people are going to say no. And that’s just fine. Remember, you want readers who are connecting with what you have to offer. On the internet, we don’t have the opportunity to get to know people very well before asking for their email addresses. However, There are a lot of things you can do to make sure you’re asking the right people, in the right way, but even then, many people will say no. That’s perfectly OK. It is just part of the learning process; as you get to know your potential audience better, more and more people will be willing to give you their email addresses.

How to Win Lifelong, Loyal Readers

OK — once you’ve managed to get someone’s email address, your job is not over. It’s merely the next step in a lifelong process.

Because if you want someone to read everything you write, you’ve got to build a profound relationship with them.

And that means winning over their hearts and their minds.

This is why clickbait never works in the long term!

When I started to get momentum with social media marketing, I quickly learned that I could get a lot of attention by posting over-the-top “click-baity” content.

Yes, that kind of stuff can get a lot of attention, fast. But it also stands in the way of the long term goal of winning loyal readers.

Do you want someone to read something once, or to become a loyal reader for the rest of their lives?

For some of my websites, I have people who’ve been readers for over a decade.

How does that happen?

By consistently focusing on providing value to your audience.

Give them what they want. Pay attention to their feedback, and focus on the long term job of building your relationship with your readers.

Consistency, a focus on providing value, and the humility to listen will set you apart.

Don’t worry if you get it wrong at first.

Just like a real-world relationship with someone, it takes time to get to know them. It’s a process. And sometimes, part of that process means getting things wrong. The important distinction here is that you’re paying attention.

There are a few things you can do to make sure you’re providing value to your audience.

When you’re first starting out, get as much direct feedback as possible. That means, try to get people to reply to your emails. Listen to them. Send thoughtful replies.

Heck, even talk to them on the phone.

Loyalty comes from real relationships.

In the digital world, it often seems like real relationships are impossible.

However, that’s just not true.

Once you have some momentum, start paying attention to the numbers. You should be using email software that tracks how many people read each email, and click through to read your writing. Those numbers are extremely valuable. They are as important as eyesight. They tell you whether or not people are actually reading what you have to say.

Over time, you’ll learn which things people tend to read, and which things people tend to ignore. Use this feedback to hone your topics. Remember, these numbers are “shallow.” They won’t tell you how your writing made someone feel, but they will tell you whether someone actually got far enough to read your writing, and actually respond to it.

The Journey To Success

Remember, building an audience for your writing is a journey. It starts with searching for groups of people who may be interested in your writing. You then give those people an opportunity to raise their hand and say “yes, I’m interested.” Then you work hard to win them over, again and again.

I urge you to think long-term here.

If you can win over just one lifelong reader a day, you’ll have much more success than getting hundreds one-time readers a day.

Over time, you can gain a legion of loyal readers, who not only read your writing, but provide meaningful feedback to you.

This article has covered a lot of ground, but as you can probably tell, there is a lot more that goes into this.

What are you biggest questions so far? I’d love to answer them. Just post them in the comments below.

Sincerely,

Jacob Jans

Your Comments:

  1. Joan Raymond says:

    Jacob,
    Thank you for this valuable article. While I’ve had my website for some time, I’m just starting to build my email list. I appreciate the information about building long-time, as opposed to one-time readers.
    Best,
    Joan

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Joan, Thank you for the kind words! I’ve been thinking a lot about the long-term lately. Personally, I often get sidetracked by the latest shiny-new-thing, when I am best served by staying focused on the long term.

      Best of luck with building your list. Feel free to reach out with questions as you make progress.

  2. Julie Canfield says:

    Jacob,
    Great article, thank you. Two years ago, my first book was published. I had no idea what to do as far as marketing, building emails lists and platforms etc. My publisher wasn’t good at giving answers to my questions and people at writing conferences didn’t seem like they had the answers I needed either. Needless to say, my work got great reviews but few sales. In a few weeks, my nest work will be released and this time I feel better prepared but still not clued in as much as I would like. This article gave me some great advice but I do have sticking point as far as reaching people. I’m an extreme introvert and sharing myself on the web is not close to my comfort zone. I do have a website but I don’t post on it regularly as I paid for someone to build it and its way to complicated for me to update and add photos or videos too. I am not tech savvy. I have begun posting on Medium. Is this a good way to try to grow interest in me and my writing. I need to increase sales in my work but I also have to watch my money as I am single and unemployed. What advice can you give, please?
    Regards,
    Julie (J.L.Canfield)

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Julie,

      I think your comment shows a lot of personal insight; I suspect you know more than you think you know. In terms of one’s comfort zone, I’m a strong believer in stepping outside of it.

      When I did my first public reading, I was incredibly nervous. I was also incredibly quiet. People could barely hear me! They actually had to ask me to talk louder. However, I pushed on, kept at it, and it has gotten much easier. I’ve learned how to harness my nervous energy, so that I can be even more effective. I’m not that educated about Medium, but if it has a way to build an audience, then it certainly is an option. If you can get people to subscribe to something, then I would it could certainly be worth your time.

    • Catherine Kennedy says:

      Great info! I have only begun my freelance writing, with my first paid gigs being a regular contributing writer to two small, local magazines. It’s a start, though! I’ve written for business purposes (content, press releases, technical bulletins) as my former jobs required and am a bit of the opposite from some of those commenting. I am a marketer who wants to be a writer. As a marketer, your advice is right on point. While you didn’t come out and say it, your style exemplifies this additional point: Be yourself and be genuine. There is much being said about this in the marketing world, especially around building an audience, but it is not a fad. It is critical to building a committed audience and when we are genuine, the audience who stays is going to be the one we find easiest with which to engage, to respond to our questions, and to “like” us. When most of my clients first hear the advice you gave, they can’t even articulate the question, which is usually something like, “but I want to do this (fill in the blank with their service / business / etc).” I tell them they can do that, but communicating it to the people who would want it means they have to get to know who those people are, what matters to them, and their language. Anyway, my reply is for the introverts who’ve commented. Thank goodness for the internet! It makes it even easier for introverts to be able to engage with and build a following. There are many groups on facebook for introverts who are trying to market and sell and I’ve come to know some introverts who have developed podcasts and found great ways to connect (and who share this through their groups). I would encourage you to seek these groups out and join. They would not be a drain on your resources and could possibly provide some excellent tips to help you. I don’t know if I’m an introvert these days or if all of the years in sales and marketing just has me peopled-out, but I do understand. Thanks for the great info and best wishes to everyone getting started with this advice.

  3. Dale Hamlin says:

    Jacob,
    Thank you for your informative article. I greatly appreciate your {nuts and bolts approach} you take the smallest incremental idea and enlarge its critical importance.
    Dale

  4. Lora Horn says:

    Thank you, Jacob. This was really insightful, helpful, and caring. It’s why I love Freedom with Writing, but this is at another level

  5. Aye Brandon Kiven says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful guidance.

  6. Tiffany Taylor says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. Starting to re-brand and getting my email list together again for long term. Very valuable.

  7. Jim says:

    I read your article and found it encouraging. Apparently it is written for blog writers. After reading it, I was left with questions. Perhaps you can fill in the blanks by listing examples, or topics of interest.

    I understand the importance of writing to an audience and building on success once achieved. How does the writer determine what the audience likes in his or her first or second novels?

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Jim,

      I would figure out what an audience likes or doesn’t like *before* sitting down to write a complete novel. Start the relationship with your potential readers as soon as possible — the sooner you do this, the sooner you can get to know them.

      The author of The Martian, which eventually became a Hollywood movie, started by posting his stories to his website. The book was actually written serially, with updates regularly posted to the site. In a sense, the writing was collaborative; the audience was providing feedback between each chapter, giving Andy Weir (the author), a chance to continuously hone in on what his audience cares about.

  8. Jennifer Schoonover says:

    Thank you for sharing the wisdom you have gained through experience. I am just trying to wade through the deep waters of getting established as a writer. While it is a daunting task right now, I know that putting in the work will pay off.

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Jennifer,

      I wish I could say that hard work meant guaranteed success! But in a competitive field, such as writing, it takes more than just hard work. You’ve go to do the *right* hard work too. Hopefully this article helped point you in the right direction, at least a little bit.

  9. Lyn says:

    Thanks, Jacob. I do appreciate this and the lists you send into my mailbox.

  10. Kirsten Held says:

    Thank you, Jacob for sharing this information. I am trying hard to get my husband’s novel and short stories published and it’s easy to get discouraged. This has given me new motivation.

  11. Dianne Borowski says:

    Good information. I am an introvert and not tech savvy, as is Julie in a previous comment. I am also a senior citizen with limited income. I am a good writer but in tune with this generation. I just started writing monthly for our parish newsletter on a voluntary basis. I’d like to make some money writing but have a very tight budget. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Dianne Borowski says:

    I liked the article. It made sense to me. Kept waiting for the pitch to send money for classes, books, help setting blog. Well, I was wrong up to this point. I’d like to blog but don’t know the first thing about it but not at all tech savvy as I mentioned previously So you have me curious.That was good on your part. Again I have no extra writing to expand my writing skills. See, I really believe there is a g gimmick here. Took me 5 tries to spell gimmick correctly.

  13. dianne borowski says:

    I just did that!

  14. Anne Fox says:

    Excellent article and useful responses. For now, however, I wish to unsubscribe because of other pressing issues. Thanks for the information you’ve sent. Anne

  15. Janet Li says:

    Jacob,

    Thanks for your article. However, how can I get the email from the readers? You have not explained it in details.

    Janet

    • John Kubicek says:

      Janet, it is about what you offer, in good content to read, a value to the readers, and then you just ask. That is what I got from Jacob’s article. I think it is excellent advice!

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Janet,

      That’s a huge topic that I could spend quite a bit of time talking about. Many people use services such as Mailchimp or Aweber to help with this.

  16. Cheryl Milmoe says:

    Jacob, Thank you for this informative article. Can you recommend any email software that would help w/tracking?
    Cheryl

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Cheryl,

      I actually use 4 different email service providers, well, five actually, and I’m not completely happy with any of them. It depends a lot on your goals, technical skillset, and other things.

      I use Aweber, Sendy, customer software, etc.

      Aweber is relatively easy to use, which is a big plus.

  17. kemboi says:

    Hi Jacob,
    I’m forever indebted to Freedom with Writing for kickstarting my writing career, though I’m only weeks into it. I didnt have an idea where to begin, then I stumbled upon your website – and with a variety to choose from, I never run out of ideas. What I might request is to teach me how to stick to a niche as I easily get carried away and lose focus. Thank you once more

    • Jacob Jans says:

      I’m not always the best at sticking to a niche myself!

      In my experience though, choosing a niche isn’t always a choice. Sometimes your niche finds you.

      If you’re relatively new to freelancing, I would recommend not worrying about your niche too much. You’ll figure it out. 🙂

  18. George says:

    Thank you Jacob, most interesting article, it helped clarify Facebook dust…Studying and writing on Mesoamerican cultures, i.e. Maya and others, should my blog aim only at that topic, or may I mix other stories, not necessarily related to my mainstream?
    georgefery.com and mayaworldimages.com

    • Jacob Jans says:

      George, good question. In general, I recommend basing your topics on what your audience is interested in (in addition to what you’re interested in as well!).

      It also depends on your long term goals with your writing, as well as the type of experience you want your audience to have.

      Why not talk to some of your readers and ask what they think?

  19. Jess Vaughn says:

    Invaluable to help me clarify some things I need to think about in my website presentation and what I’d like to add / simplify in order to hold my audience. I have had about 1300 visitors since creating it in 2017, but only started to get a focus last year on what its real purpose is. Now I have been given even more insight from this post. I’m working on getting a regular virtual job but if it falls through, or even if it doesn’t, I will keep cleaning up my site and narrow down how I want to engage with & grow my audience. For now, I must try to earn immediate income since my contract job ended last month, I’m in dire straits right now and must put out several fires before I can build up to dedicating myself full time to writing for a living.

  20. Karen Trappett says:

    Hi Jacob,

    Thank you for the article, it was very helpful. However, my question is, how does someone earn any income from this type of business? I am a complete novice, I write short stories and am currently almost finished a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Cultural Studies/Communication and I would like to increase my presence on the internet. My website is http://www.karentrappett.com and I am unsure where to go from here.

    Regards
    Karen

  21. Chinthaka Nanayakkara says:

    Thanks dear. I opening 🙂

  22. John Kubicek says:

    Jacob, that was an excellent article! Not because it was anything that I didn’t know, but because it was a good motivation for me, to do what I know that I need to do. For the Newbies in the field, it was good, too. I sometimes was jealous, when I saw others come into the field, and get a very large audience, very quickly. Well, many of those also fizzled very quickly! Why? They were not building the audience from the standpoint of any kind of loyalty, they weren’t showing a caring feeling about their audience. I think that you nailed it in this writing, for people to realize that good things do take time to develop, and to prove to your audience, like me, that you actually care!

    Thank you, my friend! I appreciate your work!

    Best regards,
    John

  23. Toya says:

    Great information; I have been a long-time subscriber and have learned a lot. If only I would put it into action…
    Anyway, Freedom in Writing and Authors Publish rocks.
    Thank you, Jacob!

  24. Modie selesho says:

    Thank you so much for An inspiring article indeed, it has given me a lot of insights I was not aware of in Making writing a success.
    I’ve been writing some pieces but the only problem is to move forward or even get my work published and reach out there but I believe after reading this amazing article there will be a way forward

  25. Keith Grinsted says:

    Hi Jacob
    A great piece thanks.
    I’ve 18 e-books written for BEP in NY and wrote an exam textbook for a publisher in UK and have had a load of one-off contracts, and I wrote the piece for you about LinkedIn recently.
    I now need to build that audience and this article is a great wake up call.
    Many thanks
    Keith

  26. Rhonda says:

    So, I’m trying to write my About Me page for my website. My current project is heavily focused on the audience. I read my emails this morning and clicked on yours to see what’s up. Well, I found encouragement in this article that, yes, I’m on the right track. But, I’ve had writer’s block for several days on writing my About me page. Uhg! I don’t want to talk about me.
    But, your article made me think, hey, in my About page, I need to be thinking this: what does my audience need to know about me to want to do business with me. Right?
    And, do you think putting out something juicy and clickable to fish for potential long term readers is OK on occasion, or do you find it risks losing current readers?

    • Halle says:

      Hi Rhonda,
      I was exactly like you about my personal information. I do not write about myself comfortably. Try reading what others have said about themselves and mimic the style of an ABOUT PAGE that appeals to you. This is not plagiarism. It is influence and inspiration. When you find a writing style that appeals to you, try to picture yourself writing about someone else as you write about yourself. It worked for me. The reality is, if I can’t do a good job with this particularly challenging page, I can’t reach the people who need what I offer. By changing my perspective and being inspired by others, I was able to create an ABOUT ME page. After a few weeks, and several edits, it feels authentic and I can focus on other things. Good luck. You can do this.

    • Catherine Kennedy says:

      Rhonda this is a very common problem! As Halle mentioned already, it can be difficult to write about yourself. However, in building an audience who will be loyal long-term, it’s critical they get to know what to expect from you and a bit of who you are. If you already have an audience on which you are focused, you could ask them what they want to know or consider some of the emails from them / interactions with them – what helped you establish trust? If they could interview you before determining to buy your book or completed project, what would they ask you? It doesn’t have to be terribly personal, but should be genuine to who you are and how you would speak with them. In regards to your question about the juicy clickables, if doing something fun or exciting from time to time is naturally something you would do for your audience (and I would consider the one you already have and the one you hope to gain), then it’s not clickbait, per say. If it is going to provide them with exactly what it promises, is true to who you are, and isn’t gimmicky (ah ha! Tricked you and now I have your email!) then it can help you gain long-term followers, just don’t do or say anything that isn’t honest, genuine, and good for them. At least that is what I’ve seen work for many others. Best wishes to you! This is great advice from Jacob and as a marketer, I promise you he is exactly right!

  27. FBKwrites says:

    Thank you for this article and yes, I found it helpful.
    I’m a writer.
    I earn income from my writing.
    It could be better.
    It’s been slow.
    The most intimidating thing that holds me back is a fear of the email list. I have small-ish email lists but they sit because the thought of building funnels and templates and drip campaigns causes overwhelmity.
    That word means to be 10xs more than overwhelmed.

    I want to circle back to something you wrote, what did you mean you are getting bored with your business? What does that mean for Freedom With Writing?

    Cheers,

    • Jacob Jans says:

      No worries — Freedom With Writing is going to continue! I’ve actually been adding people to the team, so that we can increase our offerings, while I can (at the same time), explore more opportunities, and write articles such as this one.

      In terms of overwhelmity, well, I can say that you’re not alone. I think *a lot* of people get overwhelmed by the *many* possibilities, in terms of marketing tools, technology, etc.

      I’m fortunate, because I’ve always been quite comfortable with technology; I’m even a self-taught computer programmer.

      What I can say, which may be reassuring, is that you don’t need to do much, in terms of building funnels, etc. It just takes *one* very simple system to have massive success. For example, Freedom With Writing is able to succeed because of a few simple marketing techniques, which are focused on clearly offering something in exchange for an email address.

      I’ve also noticed that there are people out there who are *not* intimidated by the many possibilities, then they go out and build endless funnels, squeeze pages, marketing templates, etc. But, guess what? That doesn’t usually work either. It’s much better to keep it simple — add one small thing at a time, get a sense of whether it is working or not (based on real numbers), and then move forward from there.

  28. Susanna says:

    I have made a living writing for a long time, from journalism to academics to grant writing. I even had a blog for a few years in the early 2000s. I want now to focus on creative writing, both fiction and nonfiction, and build up an audience online. I struggle with knowing how to focus my work. I write a lot on FB, and have had numerous people tell friends to follow me because of my writing. I feel the potential is there. But I don’t know what to name my venture, or how to effectively build a brand that encapsulates what I do. How do you develop a business plan for a writing business like this? How much do you spend up front building a website? Do you do something simple on WordPress or bite the bullet and pay a professional at the start to build your “storefront”? Guidance on packaging and focusing the product would be so helpful.

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Susanna,

      I’ve thought a lot, over the years, about how to translate my knowledge of marketing and audience building to the field of creative writing. I can’t help but think the many business building techniques that exist have great potential, in terms of audience building for novelists and creative writers. I’m hoping that someday I’ll get the courage (or the time!?) to make the leap and figure this out.

      In terms of branding, and choosing a name for your venture, why not let it be your name?

      I would caution against spending a lot of money upfront on a website. My general strategy has been to iterate various low cost possibilities, in search of what works. I think it’s also hard to do big investments correctly when you’re still getting your footing.

  29. Susan Fox says:

    Jacob,

    Thanks for this insightful message. To support and confirm what you are saying is true about focusing on your audience and how to (basically empower them) in what matters to them most, I am very lucky in this respect. I have an audience that regularly buys my self-published books in the alternative health field. I am an alternative health copywriter and professional hypnotist. I have been a member of the world’s largest professional hypnosis organization for over 20 years. I am also a columnist for them. I’ve done public presenting at their annual conference. This has built me a following. As a result of this following, each year before the conference begins, I get a big book order for a lot of the books I’ve written. The topics all matter to professional hypnotists.

    I encourage any writer to do the same thing I’ve done. It is definitely possible. I am in the process of writing an ebook of how I did it so I can share it with others.

    Thanks again for your regular newsletter. I appreciate you!

    Susan Fox
    Alternative Health Freelance Copywriter
    Professional Hypnotist

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Susan,

      Thank you for the kind words and for sharing your story.

      I’m also a big fan of hypnotherapy, when I was younger I spent a few years studying it as a hobby.

      I’d be curious to learn more about your book!

  30. Matthew Birdzell says:

    This is pretty much an inspirational piece for me to not give up. I was at church talking with a lady that I’ve known for a while who recently started a blog…on inspirational writing haha. Your post reinforces my need to not think too much about my site and just keep trying. I recently graduated from Portland State with my Bachelors degree and in the last few months of my time living on campus, I built a Wix blog to see what blogging could do for my writing. A few posts later I took a break. Now I’m preparing the next salvo for after a friend of mine helps me redo and clean up what I’ve attempted to build.
    I’d like to become a known writer locally and where ever people may have interest, like any other writer, and to eventually join the game industry as a writer. IT all stars with small, baby steps, and this piece reminds me that I can find the way as long as I learn to know where I should put my writing, and through lots of dedication.

  31. Jacqueline says:

    Thank you for the fantastic insights Jacob. You are doing an awesome job with Freedom with Writing. In the time that I have been learning from you, I have appreciated the testimonials of other writers and the resources you generously share. My biggest takeaway today is to get of the way…it’s not about me but about the value I can give to others…it’s a hard and recurring lesson and with time even I will get it right.

  32. Renata J Maslowski says:

    Jacob, thank you for sharing your approach to building readers for your content. I’m just getting started with writing a blog for caregivers.

    Can you share a few writers whose blogs you personally follow for inspiration?

    Thanks again.

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Renata,

      Thinking about it, I’ve never really followed other blogs for inspiration, in terms of building my own blogs.

      However, I have gotten a lot of education and inspiration from studying old-school direct mail copywriting. The focus on speaking directly to your audience, combined with paying attention to the numbers, as well as getting a “direct response” has really been helpful. Books such as, Tested Advertising Methods, How to Write a Good Advertisement, and The Robert Collier Letterbook are a few that come to mind.

  33. Lois Maina says:

    Thanks for this informative article. I am just starting my blog and this is very helpful.

  34. Teresa says:

    Thank you for the great information! As an amateur blogger, I feel I need to sit down and plan out what I really want and what reader’s really want and start over.

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Teresa,

      Planning is good — but don’t plan too much. Think of it as a conversation; you don’t necessarily know where it will lead, but it is good to have some goals, as well as an idea of the direction you want to take things.

  35. Ruqayah Adeola says:

    This article is an eye-opener.i write poems.Although,i have a facebook page(BROKEN) where i post them but the followers of the page is so minimal to the number of poems and write-ups that are there.i just hope every step works and become a hit.

  36. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this article! I’ve been practicing my fiction writing by creating fanfiction for popular shows and have gained an audience of a few hundred that way. I’m curious where emails would come into play for this kind of reader/author relationship (or if it would). I have personal messaging with a number of readers on tumblr and Twitter. Thoughts on this?

    Second question: You mentioned in another comment that the author of The Martian originally posted his work online in serials. This is similar to what I do with my fanfiction and I like this format, but I was under the impression publishers don’t like it if a work has been posted online before. Any advice/insights?

    Thanks again for your article!

    • Jacob Jans says:

      Sarah,

      I’m a big fan of email because it lets you have a direct relationship with people outside of any other platform, such as Tumblr, Twitter, Fan fiction sites, etc. This means you get to be in control of your communications — and can reach people directly. Email remains a very, very powerful form of communication.

      On the topic of fiction and fan fiction, I am very close with someone who also writes fan fiction, and have been thinking about this question in those terms.

      How do you build a relationship with readers of fiction?

      I don’t have any direct experience with this, in terms of building an audience for reading fiction, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot. I don’t see why the marketing techniques that work very well in other fields wouldn’t work equally well in the field of fiction writing.

      There are many possibilities, in terms of using email as a tool for fiction audiences. You could simply let them know when you’ve posted a story, or invite them to a special “beta reader” group, or give them special stories available only via email, etc. This type of thing takes experimentation with any kind of audience; even within the same general niche.

      In terms of The Martian, I think this example shows that if you can prove you have a book with big potential, publishers will be interested. His self published Kindle edition sold 35,000 copies in three months!

      If you have your own large audience and the proven ability to sell books, the tables are turned, so-to-speak, in negotiations with publishers.

  37. Shobana Gomes says:

    Hi Jacob

    First, thank you for all your emails with links to freelancing opportunities and webinars. I have submitted some of my articles and poetry through them.

    Though I started writing nearly 10 years ago, I have only just started looking out for paid freelancing work and lately book reviewing.

    When I first started, my blog was just an avenue for readers to read my work/comment on my entry. I have put my websites out there on my social media accounts but I notice that though there are readers who read my work, they leave without any interaction. I am mostly disappointed by this because I really would like to know what the readers or writers have to say about my writing:) I feel feedback is very important and gets one to improve and it is very encouraging.

    However, I do realize the vast talent and resources out there for writers and I do feel that I am at a disadvantage when it comes to getting freelancing work or having my books reviewed and the like because clients would always require experience as a pre-requisite.

    Thank you for this article as I now have a clearer picture as to how to work with and create opportunities in the course of my writing career.

    Regards
    Shobana

  38. Sarah says:

    Thank you for your response to my fan fiction questions. I’m sure you get questions from fiction writers from time to time, and I think it’s worth mentioning it as a suggestion for building an audience. It’s an easy way to gain or boost a following–you have a built in audience and demand right there! Also, in terms of technical practice, the joy of fan fiction is that it’s a sandbox to play in. You have characters ready made and can modify anything else, even the genre. People love to read their favorite assassins running a coffee shop or have their baristas become assassins. You really can’t ask for a better way to practice and to do so with immediate reader feedback.

    I don’t know if you’re free to ask them this, but I’d love it if your fan fiction friend would contact me so I could ask them questions.

    And thank you for your comments on The Martian! That makes a great deal of sense–an “untried” writer posting a serial story online might have trouble getting the story published, but one with a proven following would definitely have an advantage.

    Thank you again!

    –Sarah

  39. Mary Bast says:

    Hi Jacob!! Thank you so much for your writing. I’m finally giving myself the chance to live out my dream and I’m so excited to be reading resources like yours to help me along the way. I love the info you provide and look forward to utilizing it as best as possible.

    I just wanted to give you a word of encouragement–don’t get discouraged about being burnt out with things. It probably just means something more exciting is around the corner for you. 🙂

    Mary

  40. Hanifa says:

    Great piece:) motivational!! your work is inspiration for others and your experience helps us to become successful writer. Thanks for sharing:)

  41. Hetty Heywa says:

    Thank you Jacob for sharing your experience and expertise with us-hetty

Leave a Reply

Add your insights, criticisms, thoughts, opinions, or responses to the article.

 

We send you writing jobs.

Sign up and we'll send you 3 companies hiring writers now. Plus, we'll send more companies as we find and review them. All in our free email magazine.

We're the magazine for freelance writers.

We send you companies hiring writers.

Subscribe and we'll send you 3 companies hiring right now.

We'll also send you a guide that gets you started.

We're completely free.

Subscribe now. (It's free.)



>

About Us

We're dedicated to helping freelance writers succeed. We send you reviews of freelance writing companies, assignments, and articles to help build your writing career. You can view our privacy policy here, and our disclaimer. To get started, simply enter your email address in the form on this page.