Sam Holstein

Whether You Write for Passion or Money, the Skills You Need are The Same

Whether You Write for Passion or Profit, the Skills You Need are The Same

When I talk to amateur writers about what their goals are for their artistic career, their answers generally fall into one of two categories:

  1. You want to pursue an artistic passion. You love writing. You love telling my stories. You love meeting other writers and being part of a beautiful storytelling community. You’re not interested in “making money.” (But if money comes your way, you won’t turn it down!)
  2. You want to start a side hustle. You love writing, of course, but you also want to get paid to write. You’re interested in learning not only writing skills but in learning blogging and business skills as well.

Writers spend a lot of time agonizing about the difference. I personally spent years agonizing about the difference. I resisted picking a niche or creating courses or making other business moves that would propel my writing career forward because I didn’t want to become a sellout. I wanted to “follow my passion,” and my “passion” was never creating online courses.

The funny thing about these two categories is it doesn’t matter which category you fall into. The path to writing success is the same.

Good Writing + Good Marketing = Success as a Writer

You have to combine art that comes from the heart with smart business decisions that move you forward in a crowded marketplace. 

If you have only good writing without good marketing, you waste months and years of your time either subsisting on a poverty-level income (like I did) or juggling other work to enable your creative career.

If you have only good marketing without good writing, you produce a soulless content library that may temporarily attract some readers but never reaches the level of financial success that professional bloggers dream of enjoying.

Good writing and good marketing feed each other. Good writing produces a product worth marketing. Good marketing enables you to make enough money to write more. Writing more brings more creative satisfaction. Writing more also means more practice, which means a better product, which means better marketing. 

Good writing and good marketing are not in conflict with each other. They are two sides of the same coin.

Good Writing and Good Marketing Work Together to Create Success

As long as you see good writing and good marketing as in conflict with each other, you will not get what you want from your writing career. You will not find the creative satisfaction you seek as a writer nor will you make enough money to fund your writing.

It can be hard to accept this. It was hard for me. I left a lucrative career in startup consulting precisely because I didn’t want to do icky, ethically questionable business stuff. For years, I searched for a way to build a successful writing career without having to muck about with that. 

Those years brought me nothing but hard times and pain.

I expected that capitulating to the business side of a writing career would feel like selling out, but interestingly, it doesn’t at all. Now that I’ve accepted they’re just two sides of the same coin, I take as much joy from learning about good business practices as I do from creating — because after all, good marketing means a good product, and a good product thrills readers, and readers who love the work bring an immense amount of creative satisfaction.

If you are one of those people who writes primarily for creative satisfaction, you need to accept that there are certain things you need to do to attract readers who find your art meaningful. If you don’t do these things, no one will find your art meaningful because no one will find it at all, and there’s very little creative satisfaction in that.

If you are one of those people who are hell-bent on creating a profitable side-hustle, you probably picked the wrong side hustle. It’s a lot easier to make six figures drop-shipping or affiliate marketing. You can make six figures as a blogger, but it takes love and dedication to the craft. If you don’t love the work, you’ll burn out before you even get close to your goal.

The Conflict Isn’t Business vs. Art, it’s Success vs. the Struggle

The true dichotomy isn’t between business writers and passionate writers. It’s between writers who are getting everything they want out of their writing career and those who aren’t.

We don’t just want creative satisfaction or money. Nobody dreams of being a starving creative or a sellout hack. We want it all. We want to write a bestseller, to move the hearts of readers who love our work, and to fill our retirement funds in the process.

So many writers waste years of their lives worrying about whether they’re “selling out” when the real question is whether or not they are moving in the direction of their dreams. What is the next best thing you could be doing to move your writing career forward?

Sometimes the next best move is a business decision. My next best move is to create a course about how to become a top Medium writer. Sometimes the next best move is to improve your craft skill. My favorite way to do this is to read great books about how to write. 

In the end, the only person who can decide your next best move is you.