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How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Key Strategies, Mindset Shifts, & Mistakes to Avoid on Your Journey

Table of Contents

Most people think of a writer as one of two people:

1. A starving artist, or

2. The captivating best-selling author

And, if we’re honest, we tend to think 99% of writers fit into category number one.

While there are plenty of penniless penmen out there, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Are you wondering… “How can I make money by writing?”

Well, the truth is, there are millions of ways to do it.

You may have a passion for writing. But, to succeed as a writer, you need to have the right mindset — which is to think like a business owner.

This is crucial even if you don’t plan on launching a multimillion-dollar business with hundreds of employees.

You still need to adopt a business mindset if you plan on building a writing career as a freelance writer or solopreneur.

In this article, you’ll learn how you can turn your passion for writing into a viable business that brings in recurring income. Whether you’re looking to…

  • Have more control over your income

  • Set your own hours, or

  • Work from wherever you want

…This guide will help you adopt a business mindset when it comes to your writing career. In it, we’ll cover key steps to build your writing career, common mistakes to avoid, and actionable strategies you can use to grow your writing business. 

Grab a coffee, take some notes, and read to the end so you don’t miss these crucial tactics. By taking action on these tips today, you can start building a life of freedom and flexibility that only comes by adopting the right business mindset as a writer.

The Importance of Thinking Like a Business for Writers

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

In 2019, when I made my first dollar from writing online, I was ecstatic.

I got paid $30 for 2 articles ($15 each) on Fiverr.com.

My client liked my work so much that he even gave me a $15 tip!

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Now, to most people, earning $45 is nothing to write home about.

It’s not even a liveable daily wage.

But, to me, that $45 was a seed of hope.

It proved to me that writing for a living could actually be possible.

And, while I spent months in the trenches — writing 1,000-2,000 word articles for $10-$20 a piece — the hard work all paid off eventually.

At the 6 month mark, I made my first $5,000.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

I finally reached the point where I could fully live off my writing income.

Fast-forward nearly 5 years later, and I’m grateful to be able to support myself, my wife, and two little girls… entirely from my writing business.

The key word here is business.

The reality is that it doesn’t matter whether you write, design, program, or busk on the streets for a living.

No matter what path you decide to take in your career, you need to look at your chosen skill or service through a business lens if you want to monetize it (and do so repeatedly).

Before I earned my first dollar from writing, I had to shift the way I thought about it.

I had to learn that it wasn’t enough to just be passionate about writing. In fact, I wasn’t even that passionate about writing. I had just tried a few things (programming, bookkeeping, sales) and happened to like it the most.

But, what I was passionate about was turning this thing that I had some interest in, into a full-time business. My sole aim for half a year was to be able to earn enough money from my writing so I never had to work for someone else again.

Everything I did in my writing revolved completely around that one goal.

In fact, it’s the reason my wife and I moved to Thailand for a year just to make it work. 

I knew if we lived in Thailand while I built my writing business, it would be significantly cheaper than back in Canada. Living there would give me more time to make it work. And that’s exactly what happened.

To ensure you’re successful as a writer, you have to think about the profitability of your writing as a business.

Always keep in mind this formula:

  • Increase revenue

  • Keep expenses low

And you’ll earn a profit.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

In Thailand, I lived frugally (kept expenses low) and continued to raise my earnings (increased revenue), which eventually led to surviving and thriving off my writing (earned a profit).

It was adopting a business mindset that set me on a trajectory to make my writing a success — and it panned out.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to move halfway across the world to become a full-time writer. It just means you have to look at your numbers and make strategic decisions (and sacrifices) to achieve your goal.

To Think Like a Business, You Need to Know What’s Possible

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they first start off on their journey to become a full-time writer is…

They give up too early.

Things get tough, they aren’t earning enough (or anything) for months, and they start to question whether it’s the right path or not.

The reason this happens? 

They lose hope and forget what’s possible.

When you can see how others have succeeded (and continue to do so), it’s easier to stay the course.

Between 2014 and 2022, the number of people freelancing in the U.S. rose 13% from 53 million to 60 million.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

The freelancing economy, gig economy, and creator economy — basically all the “economies” — combined with the rapid advancements in technologies have made it easier than ever to launch writing businesses, which is part of the reason so many are becoming freelancers.

Just think about that for a moment.

60 million.

That’s about 1 out of every 5 Americans.

While only a fraction of those freelancers are writers, it just goes to show you that people are after more control over their income.

If 60 million Americans can freelance, what’s stopping you from making it work?

If you haven’t hit the full-time income mark yet, don’t lose hope.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average freelance writer earns $60,985 per year.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Think you have what it takes to be great?

Well, if you’re after a writing career, you don’t even need to be great to make it work.

Think about it. If your goal is to earn a full-time income as a writer, all you have to do is hit “average” and you’ll make it.

Cashing in on $5,000 per month for the average freelance writer doesn’t sound too bad. While the average writer isn’t stacking as many Benjamins as an engineer, doctor, or lawyer, it’s a decent enough wage to make a living almost anywhere in the world.

But, what makes writing such an exciting opportunity is the endless earning potential it offers.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

For instance, Saeed Ezzati launched a daily AI email newsletter on beehiiv in early 2023 and is on pace to make $150,000 by the end of his first year.

The crazy part is — that’s just one path a creator can take to cash in on their writing ability.

Another writer, Dakota Robertson, has created a few different income streams with his writing business. He first started out by social media ghostwriting for business owners on X (Twitter). Now, he teaches others to do the same.

He earns $250,000 per month by leveraging his newsletter on beehiiv to land students to go through his program.

Personally, I bring in an income through a combination of freelance writing and running my own blog.

No matter what path you take, you must adopt a mindset that thinks about your writing business as a long-term game — knowing if you just stick to it, you’ll reach your income goal.

You need to start looking at the time you put into it as an investment — even if you don’t earn much (or anything) yet.

Before I hit the full-time income mark, I was constantly reminding myself that others have walked this same path before me and are now earning a full-time income. I knew that if I stuck it out, it would pan out. And it did.

While staying focused on what’s possible is critical to succeeding as a writer, as we’ll see in the next section, there are a few mistakes people make in the process that can lead to failure.

Why Listen to Me? I currently run a niche website, Hockey Question, that gets over 50,000 visits per month. I’ve also managed two ecommerce email newsletters over the years including one with 100,000 subscribers and one with 30,000.

Writing Business: 4 Common Mistakes & How to Overcome Them

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Not everyone who sets out to launch a writing business reaches the finish line.

If you’re serious about starting or advancing in your career as a writer, then you need to ensure you do everything you can to avoid these four mistakes:

Mistake #1: Being Distracted by the Business Side of Things

Wait a minute. Aren’t we here to learn how to be more business-y?

We sure are. But, bear with me. Here’s the number one mistake people make when trying to start a writing business…

They get so focused on business tasks that they forget they need to start bringing in money.

I’m talking about things like:

  • Writing a business plan

  • Designing a logo

  • Launching a website

  • Creating business cards

  • Forming an LLC or Sole Proprietorship

  • And more

Now, I’m not saying these things are bad to do. They’re great! And they’re all important to help you establish and grow your business.

But, a ton of people spend way too much time on these kinds of activities at the start that they end up taking away from the most important thing: landing clients.

If you’re not earning a full-time income from your writing business yet, then you need to ensure you’re spending at least 90% of your time writing and finding clients.

Even when you do earn a full-time income, most of these tasks aren’t the thing that’s going to push your writing business forward. It’s going to be writing, improving your writing to add more value to your clients, and improving your relationships with your clients.

Mistake #2: Being Too Focused With Learning Rather Than Producing

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

The second business mindset mistake people make when launching and growing their writing business is getting too obsessed with learning.

I’m not saying don’t take the time to learn new things. This is a crucial component of growing a writing business. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and hours consuming courses, blogs, YouTube videos, and books to develop myself as a writer.

But, at some point in time, you need to stop being a consumer and shift towards becoming a producer.

You can read all the books in the world on content writing, copywriting, and building an online business. But, until you start putting your writing out there for the world to see, you’ll never get there.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

One of the most important parts of learning (and eventually mastering) something is to take what you learn and apply it practically.

It’s to take action on the thing you’ve read in a copywriting book by David Ogilvy, a blog post by Neville Medhora, a YouTube video by Jordan Makelle, a podcast by Brandon Gaille, or a course by beehiiv.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

The writing experts above have all helped me become the writer I am today. But, it’s not because I just consumed the knowledge they passed on to me. It’s because I took action on it.

Take the course, read the book, and subscribe to the newsletter. But, don’t forget to apply what you learned.

You should, as quickly as possible, build a few pieces on your portfolio that you can use when pitching clients. Before you land your first client, simply “hire yourself” and create a few articles, email newsletters, or landing pages you can use as proof that you know what you’re doing.

Once you start getting clients, you can then replace those starter portfolio pieces with samples from paying clients.

Mistake #3: Not Knowing How to Sell

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

If you want to succeed as a writer, you need to know how to sell.

Even if you’d rather be a content writer than a copywriter, understanding how to sell is critical to landing new clients and building up recurring revenue.

Are you wondering… “How do I sell myself as a writer?”

Well, the key to selling yourself to your clients is being confident in your work.

And, the only way to get more confident in your work is by repetition. You need to write often (ideally every day) and you need to publish often. 

The easiest way to start is by just writing something into a Google Doc every day. That’s what I did. I would open up my laptop every morning at 6 am and just start typing away. 

I’d often write about my goals or how I was feeling that morning. But, sometimes I had no idea what to write. So every now and then I would end up writing about cats, the universe, and my favorite foods. If I didn’t have any ideas, I would just write the same word or sentence over and over again until something new popped up.

This practice enabled me to build my writing “muscle” which helped connect the dots between my thoughts and the document I was writing in.

Build a daily habit of writing for yourself for a set period of time. 

Eventually, though, your goal should be to start publishing your content to the rest of the world.

The most obvious way to do this is by landing a paying client.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

But, it’s one of those endless loop situations: you need the confidence to land a client but need to land a client to gain confidence.

Don’t worry, you can still get the same results without having to land a client first. You can:

By putting your work out there to the public, you’ll start to gain confidence in yourself and your abilities as a writer. Plus, when you build in public, you’ll start to gain feedback on your work, which can help you improve as a writer.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Beyond gaining confidence, another key to improving your sales game is to know your target audience. What are they after? What are their goals? What are their pain points? This is something you can find out by simply asking them.

Then, you can adjust your pitch so it aligns with their needs.

For instance, if you apply to a writing job and the client is looking for someone who can help convert blog traffic into email subscribers, then you can show off blog posts you wrote where you ask the reader to sign up for the website’s email list.

If you don’t have a sample, create one on the spot before applying or hopping on an interview call.

Just remember, you’ll become better at selling the more you put yourself out there. Hop on a call with a potential client. Find out what they need and align yourself and your services to them. Your job is to make their life easier, whether it’s by saving them time, getting them more traffic, increasing their perceived authority, or increasing their revenue.

Mistake #4: Not Owning Your Own Audience

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

This is perhaps the biggest mistake a writer can make when it comes to thinking like a business.

I mentioned above the importance of publishing your work for the world to see. It helps you practice your craft, gain feedback early on, and it helps you build an audience.

It’s a great way to find potential clients and establish a following you can monetize one day.

The problem is most people choose social media over email, pick a social media platform, and spend thousands of hours writing and producing content before they (hopefully) realize someone else owned their audience.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

The scariest part is that most people don’t think about this until it’s too late. There are countless stories of writers who built followings in the hundreds of thousands and then had their accounts disabled for no reason with no way to reverse it.

Even more common is when a social platform decides to change its algorithm or shadow ban you and all your hard work to build and monetize an audience is gone.

But, it’s not just social media. It’s the big “G” as well: Google.

Core algorithm updates brought on by Google and other search engines throughout the year commonly leave website owners with drastic fluctuations in traffic.

If you’re relying on Google and SEO to bring in the majority of your traffic (which ultimately means the majority of your income), you could be crushed with a single update.

The final reason it’s a major mistake not to build your own audience as a writer is because it really doesn’t matter what platform or medium you choose to display your writing on.

What really matters is that you have an audience that sees your writing.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

By launching your own email newsletter, you get to bring your entire audience with you wherever you go. Whether you decide to double down on social media publishing or you build your own blog audience, you can bring those people with you by getting them on your email list.

While search engines and social media platforms own your audience (and they have control over how much or little you get to reach your audience), an email list is the best way to ride the waves and reach people long-term.

Even if you don’t want to build a massive audience with email, and you’d rather work as a full-time writer as an employee (or freelance), a newsletter is a brilliant way to attract potential employers and clients.

Think about it – sending out a weekly newsletter is the perfect way to show off your work to potential clients. You get to regularly remind your audience of your expertise without having to worry about whether social and search gatekeepers will lock the gate to them.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

5 Steps to Turn Your Writing Into a Business (& Get Recurring Income)

To succeed as a writer, you need to stop thinking like a writer.

Instead, start to think like a business owner.

Because if you do, you’ll be able to turn your writing work into dollars.

And, there’s no limit on your income when you’re able to view your writing through a business lens.

Here are five tips you need to follow to transform your writing into a recurring revenue stream:

1. Believe

You’re probably rolling your eyes right now.

But hear me out.

The foundational mindset shift you need to have to think like a business as a writer is to have faith that you can do it.

We touched on this a little bit in an earlier section about knowing what’s possible.

But this is where you have to really dig in if you want to make your writing business a success.

You’ve likely heard of the “10,000 rule” before. It states that it takes about 10,000 hours to achieve mastery over anything.

You’re going to feel like a fraud for the first little bit of your writing career. You’ll think, “What am I even doing here?” Trust me, it happened to me a ton at the beginning of my journey. It still pops up every now and then — at least for me — especially as I’ve advanced to new levels in my writing journey.

The thing you have to remember is that it doesn’t matter if:

  • You don’t have a degree

  • You don’t have money

  • You’re not a natural writer

  • You’re a native English speaker

 If you stay the course, you will succeed as a writer. You need to believe that.

2. Set Clearly Defined Goals

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Once you believe you can do it, you need to master goal-setting.

This is critical to thinking like a business owner as a writer.

The most successful business owners in the world have extremely clear goals. 

Before you move on to the next step, stop.

A goal isn’t a wish.

It isn’t a desire.

It’s not something you want.

It’s all of those things, but with a plan to achieve it.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

People say things like, “I’d like to earn six figures from writing one day.”

That’s the dream, right?

Yes, that’s the dream. And dreams aren’t reality. 

But, you can turn your dreams into reality by reverse engineering your dream and taking action.

For example, if your goal is to make $100,000 per year with your writing business, then you need to make a plan to get there.

Obviously, there’s no single right answer. You could:

  • Work full-time as an employee in an office

  • Work full-time as a remote employee 

  • Launch an author business

  • Freelance with a handful of clients at once

  • Freelance with a single contract at a time

  • Run an email newsletter full-time

  • Start a writing agency with several writers under you

  • Join a marketing agency as a direct-response copywriter

  • And more

There are endless paths to achieve this type of goal. That’s why your goal has to be extremely specific. The more specific it is, the easier your path to achievement will be. It all comes back to what you really want. Ask yourself what kind of work day you want to show up to every week.

Do you want to be writing at a desk in an office five days a week? 

It isn’t always a bad thing, depending on your personality and your goals. While there’s more restriction on your time and location freedom, it provides an easy way to check-in and check-out of “work mode” every day. It also comes with workplace camaraderie and social aspects which are lacking in the world of remote work.

Do you want to work remotely as a freelancer?

It offers more flexibility and location freedom. But, it’s often a more challenging path. It requires more of a business mindset. It also means knowing how to weather the storms of income fluctuations. You have to be much more disciplined since you won’t have a boss keeping you accountable to work hard and produce good content.

3. Choose Your Niche

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Are the riches in niches?

They sure are! 

You’ll have more success as a niche writer than a generalist. This means writing about a topic that you’re passionate about or interested in— at least to some degree.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Travel

  • Finance

  • Pets

  • Marketing

  • Health

  • Tech

  • Fashion

  • Sports

  • News

There are endless niches. If you’re unsure where to start, look at your everyday life. What do you spend your time doing outside of work?

Do you have specific hobbies or interests? What do you like reading (books, blogs, social media accounts)?

What do you like talking about?

Oftentimes, the thing that you speak most passionately about is a great place to start.

What do others see you as an expert in or say you’re really good at?

Keep in mind that we often don’t know our niche at the beginning.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

For me, I started writing about travel, finance, and business.

Over time, the topic I kept coming back to was business.

Then as more time passed, I found myself diving more into marketing topics.

Even more time passed and my niche has morphed into writing about anything marketing-related, particularly around software as a service (SaaS).

So, my niche is SaaS/marketing.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

When you know your niche, you can market your writing to people who want writers who are experts in that topic.

Just think about it. If you owned a pet website and needed blog content about dogs, who would you rather hire:

  • Someone with experience writing about finance, travel, dogs, health, and Pokemon? Or

  • Someone with experience writing about dogs.

You would likely perceive the first person as having less expertise in your niche. While the second person is essentially calling themselves a dog writer.

The faster you know your niche, the easier it will be to land clients. The fastest way to know what niche you like is by writing about a bunch of different things. So, get writing!

4. Become an Expert in a Content Type

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

While it’s crucial to pick a niche, there’s another component to succeeding as a writing business:

A type of content.

Here’s what I mean:

You can be a travel expert, let’s say.

But, when you look at job listings for travel writers, you’re going to notice something.

People hiring travel writers aren’t just saying, “Start writing about travel however you want and I’ll give you money.”

They’re asking for specific deliverables like:

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Oftentimes, they’re even more specific than this:

  • “I need a LinkedIn writer to post 10 times a month about B2B lead generation”

  • “I need a travel writer to create 4-6 blog posts per month within WordPress.”

  • “I need a direct-response copywriter to create Facebook & Instagram ad copy”

  • “I need an email newsletter writer to create a daily newsletter on AI using beehiiv.”

So, what’s the key here?

You need to become an expert in both a niche and a type of content.

For me, I started off my writing journey as an email copywriter in the quilting niche. Super random, I know! It was at my brother’s startup back in 2018 and he threw me into the position. It was one of the greatest gifts!

Not that I wanted to write to 60+ year-old-ladies to hype them up on quilting fabric… But, I found out that I loved writing, email marketing, and email newsletters.

Through this experience, I learned I didn’t like writing about quilting (niche) but I liked email newsletters (content type).

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Later on, when I moved on and started freelance writing, I continued to develop myself as an email newsletter writer while also building up my skills as a blog writer. 

If you want to land clients (or an employer) easier, then you need to find out what type of writing you like to do.

The key to all of this is the more specialized you are as a writer, the more valuable you’ll be to the right group of people… which brings me to the next point.

One of the best paths to build a writing business long-term is an email newsletter. By using a platform like beehiiv, you get access to thousands of premium advertisers you can leverage to monetize your writing:

5. Identify the Right Target Market

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

You need to know who you’re after. 

Who do you want to serve?

The previous two sections play a major role in this. If you know exactly what you want to write about, and the format you want to write it in, then it’s easier to figure out who you should reach.

For example, if you love writing about anything to do with pets and email newsletters are your choice of content type, then you know you’re going to be narrowed down to pet businesses that have an email marketing strategy.

But, there’s one crucial aspect of choosing your audience: the income potential.

For instance, you may love writing about blacksmithing (I know, random). 

But, it’s going to be tough to find business owners (since it’s such a tiny niche) – and especially those who have enough money to pay someone else to write content for their business.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

Another example is origami. Sure, it’s not impossible, but it’s going to be an uphill battle to find a large client pool that has enough money to pay a writer.

How can you figure out what niches will be more challenging? Just think of the business as a whole. This is coming back to the whole idea of having a business mindset as a writer. What kind of market or industry is it? What kind of money are people spending in the niche?

For example, why does quilting work but origami will be a tougher path?

They’re both passionate niches. But, quilting fabric costs a lot of money, and paper doesn’t.

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

This means the quilting market is larger and more profitable. There’s a larger pool of money available which means more demand for resources (like writers) to access that money through business initiatives.

Another consideration is location. Where is your target audience located?

For example, if you live in the west – let’s say the U.S. and you want to write about Myanmar news or culture, it might be a challenge. The reason? Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in the world (in terms of GDP), so there isn’t a large number of people with plenty of money available to spend. 

You need a western salary to survive in the west. This means your best bet to make your writing business a success is to target a western audience. 

Now, if you’re not from a western country, but you live in a cheaper cost-of-living area, then you can certainly target non-western audiences. These are the types of things that writers with a business mindset think about which can greatly impact the trajectory of their business.

How beehiiv Can Help Your Writing Business

How to Think Like a Business as a Writer (Go From Passion to Profit)

If you want to transition from writing as a hobby to writing as a business, you need to find new ways to connect with an audience.

Whether you want to build your own audience you can monetize or you simply want to attract the right client or employer, then building an email newsletter is the best long-term solution.

With beehiiv, it’s never been easier to launch, grow, and monetize a newsletter.

If you’re looking for a simple path to create your own writing business, or you simply want a playground you can use to evolve as a writer, then a beehiiv newsletter is the best option.

Created by the same team that built and scaled Morning Brew to millions of subscribers, our intuitive platform will help you launch and grow a successful writing business in no time.

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