Technically, when I worked as a professional journalist for a small-town paper, I was paid to write. In reality, I was working for free.
Most books about making money as a writer advise looking at the endeavor as a business. Businesses have to take into account expenses and losses and because I only made enough money at the paper to barely cover my living expenses, I was making no profit and working for free.
My goal is to make a big profit as a writer, so I quit the paper and set out to find a way. I’ve followed advice about using social media to expand my brand and audience. Did it work? Sort of, but not economically.
Over a three-year stretch, social media created a larger audience for my blog, but not the kind of audience willing to pay to read. For the record, I experimented with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google Plus. Facebook was the only platform that generated more readers. I discovered that trying to sell anything to your Facebook friends is a bad idea.
Facebook friends were typically people I knew in real life, people who saw me as a sports writer, just a regular guy with a job. So, when I presented them with an opportunity to pay me to read my blog via use of a paywall or an e-book via Amazon, the only ones willing paid more out of guilt than a sense of economic value. I won’t get into how I knew, but I knew they only paid because they felt guilty for taking advantage of reading the free blog of a professional sports writer for about two years prior.
While I knew the blog would never be a great source of profit, it was a perfect way to experiment on a small group of readers. I found that cost is not the top concern for a reader; convenience is. Paywalls are a pain in the butt, therefore most won’t bother setting up a password and account just to pay you 50 cents to read a post. Yet people will pay $9.99 at the click of a button to purchase an e-book they want to read. If they really want to read that book, raising the price to $12.99 won’t stop them. Making it inconvenient to give you the $12.99 will stop them.
Getting back to social media, I started asking myself what my reaction was to any of my friends who tried to sell me something. Many of them had, many through use of completely legitimate business. Every time I saw a friend post an ad of some sort for their product, I glossed over it quickly and even rolled my eyes a little in disbelief. The nerve they had in trying to use Facebook to sell stuff seemed desperate and made me less interested in buying.
I would go on and on, but I’m out of time. I am still searching for that magical, ethical way to make big profit as a writer. When I find it, I’ll let you know.