If you’re like most writers, you’ve probably heard that, if you really want to be successful, then you have to write a ton of content. The story is, the more you write, the better odds you have of getting your work noticed, and the higher the likelihood you’ll sell enough to be able to afford more than a chicken at lunch.
Evergreen quality, not one-shot quantity
It’s admittedly true that a lot of editors are going to pass on your work and that a fat portfolio can set you up to take more opportunities. But this idea of quantity content is pretty similar to another idea from finance–if you just work hard and put enough money away, you’ll be set to live out your golden years worry free.
That money advice might have served your parents or grandparents just fine. But today, the world is vastly different, and the reality is that, if you want to be rich, you can’t just keep working day after day and end up with enough money. As Warren Buffett would tell you, you have to find ways to make your money work for you, and to invest in opportunities that will continue to bring you income even after you stop putting funds, time or other resources forward.
As a writer, you need to develop this same investment mindset. You should focus not on cranking out content like a mill, but rather on creating more pieces that will continue to give you returns after you’re finished. On a very basic level, this means honing in on more evergreen topics, even if they’re more niche oriented. These are the kinds of pieces that you can repost on social media networks, and that will continue to get hits on websites long after publication, yielding royalties or pay-per-view paychecks.
An investment approach to writing also means that you choose topics that are easy to repurpose or expand. For instance, suppose you select the evergreen topic of female reproductive health and choose to get specific with toxic shock syndrome. With the same information, you could get several articles that redesign your information for different audiences:
- What Really Causes Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Your Organic Cotton Tampon Could Make You Sick. Here’s How
- Cup, Tampon or Pad: Which Really Is Best for Your Health?
You can make each of these pieces have a specific feel or slant with anecdotes or interviews. But looking at how many ways you can present a topic saves a ton of time in the long run, since you only have to do your basic research once. You simply have to make sure that each presentation is unique enough to stand independent of the others, and that you’re adjusting for the tone each publication is after.
Within this, think about how you can transform the content for different media. For example, could you summarize an article as a video presentation? What about turning it into a podcast or audio article? Doing this might allow you to reach people in more demographics based on specific preferences and even can make your work more accessible to those with certain disabilities.
Think about submitting your work for syndication, too. Some outlets will accept prepublished pieces under these types of agreements. This can expand your audience and get you extra cash at the same time, and all you had to do was query, not create entirely new content.
Lastly, templates are very much your friend. For instance, even though a good query letter always is customized to the editor, 85 percent of the letter can be a default that offers your hook/summary, bio and contact information. In the same way, you can design article templates that allow you to quickly fill in information when clients want a lot of content with a similar structure or format.
So ditch the idea that you have to write your fingers to the bone. That’s not necessarily true. Although you certainly can spend some time on trendy or newsy pieces if they really interest you, your main priority should be to find something to write about that will retain its value and that’s viewable in many different ways or channels. So ask yourself how many other angles there are, and create your content according to what can keep delivering for you.