Investment Mindset: 4 Rules to Be a More Successful Writer

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 that the more you write, the better odds you have of getting your work noticed. High quantity also supposedly ups the likelihood you’ll sell enough to be able to afford more than a cold chicken sandwich at lunch. But it’s an investment mindset that truly makes the difference.

The world is different now, which means you have to write differently, too

It’s admittedly true that a lot of editors are going to pass on your work. It’s also true 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. Now, if you want to be rich, you can’t just keep working day after day. As Warren Buffett would tell you, you have to find ways to make your money work for you. It’s essential 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.

4 investment mindset rules to guide your writing

Rule #1: Continuing returns from quality within evergreen topics

Evergreen topics can be niche-oriented and, for that reason, have smaller audiences. But even with a smaller audience, the topics don’t die. You can repeatedly repost them on social media networks or use them as more formal editorial clips. They will continue to get hits on websites long after publication. Some of my more popular pieces on Inc still consistently bring in well over 5,000 views a month, even though I exited that publication years ago. Those types of hits can yield continuing returns for you through royalties or pay-per-view paychecks. If you have a lot of this type of content and keep producing, your income should only increase. You’ll have more and more residual payments that keep putting money in the bank.

Rule #2: Easy repurposing

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. Within that, you 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 because 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.

Rule #3: Transformation means more assets from less work

Think about how you can transform the content for different media. 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. It even can make your work more accessible to those with certain disabilities.

Think about submitting your work for syndication, too. Some outlets will accept pre-published pieces under these types of agreements. This can expand your audience and get you extra cash at the same time. Yet, all you had to do was query, not create entirely new content.

Rule #4: Templates create efficiency

Lastly, templates are very much your friend. A good query letter always is customized to the editor. But 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. Sometimes these templates help you provide more consistent quality, too. The template in one company I work for as a ghostwriter is to begin with some kind of anecdote or statistic, have three supporting ideas, and a conclusion that summarizes the piece with some kind of analogy or overall insight. This standard means clients come to know what to expect from writers and are more prepared to give the writers the foundational material necessary for a great piece.

Save your fingers and invest in your career

So ditch the idea that you have to write your fingers to the bone. That’s not necessarily true. You certainly can spend some time on trendy or newsy pieces if they really interest you. But your main priority should be to get into an investment mindset and find something to write about that 1) will retain its value and 2) is viewable in many different ways or channels. Ask yourself how many other angles there are, and create your content according to what can keep delivering for you.