Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

Ad Astra Traffic: Content production/article writing service.

Ad Astra Traffic Team: For those who'd like to get writing gigs with Ad Astra.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Inside the $125K Challenge...How hard do you want to think about all of this?

A few posts back, I discussed my intention of making the $125K Challenge aspect of this blog a little more meaningful. If you aren't familiar with the $125K Challenge, you can read the posts listed on the right sidebar about it.

Having a tracker and offering occasional updates (the next update will be on Tuesday, by the way) is neat, but it really doesn't provide a great deal of insight to others who are interested in making a living writing online. I decided to shed a little extra light on what I am actually doing to meet my goal.

Honestly, I'm a little uncomfortable about doing that, though. It's not because I don't think my methods are sound. It's not because I'm worried about sharing some "secret formula," either. I'm sort of uneasy about sounding like a know-it-all or being perceived as having climbed atop a self-made pedestal. I don't want to position myself as The Online Writer's Guru. That isn't what the Challenge is all about.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I have decided to impart my perspective on how to make this career work. I might be right. I might be wrong. I guess we'll know as the totals accumulate in the tracker. I am hoping for "dead on right," of course.

I definitely invite readers to turn this into a dialog, as opposed to "Carson's idea of a lesson." I think we all benefit and grow from hearing competing perspectives, etc.

Now, onto the meat of this post...


I think an individual's answer to that question is going to be a good predictor of whether they can make this career path work.

If you don't want to think about the nature of online business, the kinds of things your clients want to accomplish, what makes online writing succeed and fail, what usability research means to a writer, how search engines work, why some copy converts and other repulses, trends in social networking and the shift to folksonomic information retrieval and organization, how to effectively market yourself, where to get information when you need it, and about 18,092,336 other things, you probably have a hard cap on your earnings.

Laura Spencer asked me what I thought an online content writer really needed to be successful. I said they needed to get their butt in the chair and to write. That was the most important thing. I stand by that assessment, but I realize that having a strong understanding of why you are writing, how to write for a particular project, and related considerations are a prerequisite to doing that well. I also believe that having a strong knowledge base is critical to getting jobs in the first place.

I read comments in various places from a variety of self-proclaimed online writing specialists who are asking some pretty rudimentary questions--things someone should know before ever courting a client.

Don't get me wrong, being new and learning the lay of the land is great. Obviously, I think it's essential. What makes me shake my head is that I sometimes seem these questions (or worse, comments that just aren't accurate) coming from people who have been working as an online writer for a year or more...

As it so happens, those commentators are also the same people who are often found wondering aloud about the seeming lack of work or lamenting about just how hard it is to keep a full schedule.

Being successful at this requires more than talent with the written word. Yes, that's necessary, but it's really just the beginning and it can only get you so far if you don't combine it with an understanding of the bigger picture.

So, what does this have to do with my $125K Challenge? Well, I stay "plugged in." I spend time every day reading about new developments, researching answers to my own long list of questions, finding out what experts think about relevant matters and trying to understand what my customer base is trying to accomplish and how.

I don't just want to have a vocabulary that allows me to translate customer requests, I want to be able to really wrap my mind around what they want, why they want it, and what else they might be able to use if I pitch it to them. I want to believe that can be part of what makes Content Done Better attractive to prospective clients.

I firmly believe that the learning and thinking I do helps me secure more business. It makes my pitches more attractive, inspires client confidence and allows me to produce end products that really do get the job done.

I don't know how much time other writers spend on that kind of background research, but I am willing to bet that those who make it a priority probably do better than those who don't. I have no hard data to support it, but I really think that one of the things that holds a lot of otherwise talented people back is a lack of intellectual curiosity in the discipline or a simple unwillingness to think that hard about the industry.

If I was trying to write a "lesson" today, it would be to advise anyone interested in developing a career in writing for online interests to block out a significant period of time every day to research, learn and think about what they are doing, why they are doing it, how they can do it better, etc.

So, how hard do you want to think about it? How hard are you willing to think about it? How much time do you spend researching and learning? I think it's critical, but I would love to know how others in the field feel about it...