7 Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Professional Writer

This is a guest post by Frank McKinley. He is a published author who helps writers to engage readers, sell their ideas, and build tribes. In this post, Frank shares from his experience as professional writer 7 tips to help you become a professional writer and blogger.

Welcome! You’re here because you want to be a professional writer.

You have something to share and you want to get it out to the world.

You’ve got a book you want to publish and sell.

You want to make money from your laptop at home, at the coffee shop, and while you sleep.

That’s a noble goal.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Why It’s Hard to Become a Professional Writer

There are lots of writers out there telling you that you can do this.

You can.

It doesn’t work out as neatly as they say in the books, the courses, and the seminars.

But it does work.

You can make it.

You will succeed – if you do the right things.

I’ll share 7 lessons I’ve learned as a professional writer. These lessons will show you what to expect, help you know when and how to persevere, and give you the confidence to pursue your dream of becoming a writer who makes his living from his art.

Ready to dive into the reality pool? The water’s fine!

Lesson #1 – You need to own your platform.

When you’re first starting out, the easy way to share your work is to start a free blog.

That can work for a while. And if you’re writing for fun, it’s enough.

When you want to go pro, you need to show people you’re serious. You do that with a self-hosted blog.

In case you don’t know what I mean by that, let me explain.

A self-hosted blog is one with an address like www.you.com. No extra stuff at the end like www.you.wordpress.com.

To self-host a blog you need a service like Bluehost, Hostgator, or GoDaddy. None of these is expensive. For just $3 – $5 a month, you can own your platform.

When you own your platform, you can do whatever you want with it. You won’t be subject to the whims of someone who’s giving you space for free. It’s the difference between owning a building and renting one.

If you want to go pro, own your platform.

Lesson #2 – Guest posting is the best way to get organic traffic to your blog.

There’s a lot of stuff that’s organic nowadays.

By today’s definition, organic means “pure.”

Organic food doesn’t have the poisonous additives that give people fits.

Organic food is worth more at the store because people see it as more valuable.

Organic traffic is the kind where people find you on Google and visit your site. This is accomplished through something called backlinks. You create those when you publish on someone else’s blog. Often it’s in the bio where it reads, “Frank McKinley’s website can be found at www.frankmckinleyauthor.com. ”

Guest posting does several things for writers:

  • It puts your message before a larger audience.
  • It establishes you as an expert.
  • It allows you to have conversations with potential friends, partners, and clients.

If you’ve never guest posted before, there is an excellent guide on this site. You can access it here:

Guest Posting 101: 7 Keys to Get Your Guest Post Published

Lesson #3 – Always write to someone in particular.

Part of my mission as a coach is to help people engage readers.

How do you do that?

Be clear, concise, and conversational.

People have a billion things to read online. You’ve got to give them compelling reasons to read yours without clicking away.

Be clear. If your reader is confused, she can’t ask you, “What did you mean by that?” Don’t count on someone to leave a question in the comments. Explain yourself as you would to a child, and you’ll rarely ever confuse anyone.

Be concise. Have you ever heard someone tell a never ending story? (No, I’m not talking about the popular 80’s movie.)

When someone drones on and on without getting to the point, you:

  • Start counting ceiling tiles and looking at the patterns on each one.
  • Think of 100 reasons to excuse yourself from the conversation.
  • Hope you’ll see someone you know that will rescue you from the boredom.

We don’t have all day. Get to the point quick. And if you want us to stay around, throw in some cliffhangers.

Be conversational. Nobody wants to hear a lecture. We want people to talk to us, not at us.

Lesson #4 – You need a network to succeed.

What’s a writer without fans?

Someone who keeps a diary online.

You’ve got to share your work. And not only that, you’ve got to share it with people who care about your message.

How do you find them?

  • Join groups of people in your niche online and start conversations.
  • Start a Facebook group based on your passion and invite people to join.
  • Write guest posts that link back to your blog and give people reasons to look around.

The key to growing a network is to provide value. You do that by providing solutions to common problems. You make yourself indispensable by doing your work a little better than your competition.

And if you really want to grow, don’t look at others in your niche as competitors. Find a way you can partner together and help more people.

Your fans will thank you.

Lesson #5 – You need a central message to be effective.

Mike Loomis, author of Your Brand is Calling, says everyone has a brand.

What’s yours?

It starts by knowing who you are and what you offer.

Begin with a sentence that describes what you do in concise detail. Here’s mine:

I help writers who want to go pro engage readers, sell their ideas, and build their tribes.

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?

My objective is to help writers go pro.

I do that by helping them do 3 things:

  • Engage readers – if you aren’t engaging, then you’ll never go pro.
  • Sell their ideas – you’ve got to be persuasive to win people’s hearts and minds.
  • Build their tribes – this is the network that will follow you, buy from you, and sing your praises to all their friends.

I can’t do everything. I can’t be all things to all people.

You can’t either.

Focus on one thing you do well. Craft your one sentence mission statement, focus on it, and you’ll go pro faster than you ever imagined.

Lesson #6 – Other people’s schedules and priorities are different from yours.

You’ve the maxim,

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

When you go pro, you are an entrepreneur. Taking risks is one of your main activities. Dream big, make big asks, and hope for the best.

Just remember sometimes it won’t work out exactly like you planned.

  • You pitch an awesome idea to your favorite blog, and you never hear a word from the editor.
  • You ask someone influential for a favor, and you’re ignored.
  • You get an interview on a podcast that won’t run for 6 months.

Hurdles will come. They’re there to test you, not stop you. Will you jump over, walk around, or turn around?

The choice is yours.

Just don’t give up when you hear the word “No.” There are other podcasts. You can pitch another blog with your idea. Someone else may partner with you.

Go for it, and you’ll go pro.

Lesson #7 – Treat people the same way online as you would in person.

I’m a natural optimist.

When I meet someone, I give them my warmest smile, a hug, or a handshake. I do that because I know people want to feel special. They want to know they’re important.

It’s a surefire way to make – and keep – lots of friends.

Just don’t be fake about it.

What’s my secret?

I decide beforehand that my interactions will be pleasant, good, and profitable. Even if they’re not, I’m in a better frame of mind for the experience.

Make your contacts feel like they’re VIPs. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Show enthusiasm online. Yes, it’s okay to use exclamation points!
  • Compliment people whenever you can. You never know when you can lift someone out of a funk with a single sentence.
  • Always offer hope that the future will be brighter. You can find something good if you try hard enough.

Do these things and people will know you care – and they’ll care about you!

Now Go Pro

You’ve just learned 7 simple, powerful strategies to turn your writing dreams into reality.

Use them and you’ll be more confident, gain more influence, and sell more of what you have to offer.

I’d love to hear how this works for you. Share your stories in the comments!

And if you have any questions, I promise to give you the best answers I’ve got.

I wish you every success as you go pro!

Frank McKinley

Frank is a writing coach, published author, a blogger, an entrepreneur, and the founder of the Tribe Builder’s Network. He lives in Georgia with his wife, 2 kids, and a Labrador named Jake.
Your Bestseller Starts Here!  www.frankmckinleyauthor.com

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8 Responses to "7 Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Professional Writer"

  1. Hello Frank,

    Please let me first of all welcome to you Greg’s blog. This is my first time and of course this is one post which really caught my attention. I love to write but somehow I do see myself as the lazy writer with all sorts of excuses coming in anytime I intend to complete a sentence for my book.

    But this post of yours has really come in handy and I am very much grateful. Thanks.

      1. This totally applies to going pro in blogging too. If I could have read and interalized this as a beginner blogger just looking to make a blog, it would have saved me hours upon hours of failures. Thanks for another amazing addition to the Dear Blogger archives, Frank!

  2. Frank this is a great post for every writer seeking to go pro! All the steps you’ve outlined here are so important to becoming a professional writer! Point 4 about how we all need a network I’ve found to be so true! What a difference taking part in communities have made to my writing and blogging experience! 😀


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