“Compared to the cost of renting eyeballs, buying a platform is cheap.”
— Seth Godin
If you’re serious about writing, you need a platform to tell stories about yourself, to showcase your work and to find readers.
If you do this, you will start the get the real-world feedback you need to improve your writing, and this feedback will encourage you to keep on going when you want to stop.
Building your platform gives you more opportunities to communicate with your audience and find out what they want. I love Medium, but a blog that you own is still the perfect platform for anyone who wants to write and own their work.
There, you can experiment with various writing styles, explore your niche and build an audience.
It also gets you into the habit presenting your work to more than just your wife or husband, family member or best friend. It gets you into the habit of finishing.
If people dislike your writing, celebrate. They’re reading your work. And isn’t this the goal? You can still use this free feedback to develop a thicker skin (an essential trait for any writer) and improve your craft.
Even if no one reads your blog, it gets you into the habit of writing every day and, for most aspiring writers, that’s a great habit to cultivate.
Spending time on social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Medium isn’t a replacement for writing. You can use them to interact with the wider community, but don’t let these channels distract you from the blank page.
What I’ve Learned From Building a Platform
If you’re going to build a platform for your writing, here are some simple but effective tips that I learnt from several years of blogging:
Own Your Website and Domain Name (Even If You Use Medium)
When you’re creating a website for your writing, buy a website domain name and hosting package that you have complete control over.
Then, build and manage your site using a tool like WordPress. Don’t pay for any of those website builder offerings with a monthly subscription. They work out more expensive in the long run, and these service can change your domain name if you stop paying them.
Remember, if you don’t completely own your domain, you’re not in charge of your writing or your platform.
Control How Much Time You Spend on Social Media
To some people this is sacrilege, but unless social media is your business, it’s a side-attraction.
You can use social media to promote your work, to engage with readers and to research your market. However, if you’re doing this at the expense of writing and finishing what you are working on, then you are wasting valuable time.
Spend your time writing, and afterwards approach social media as a way of amplifying existing content and as a free market research tool.
Build Your Home Base
Social media is a good way of interacting with readers, but you should make a point of directing your followers from social media onto your website or mailing list.
Amazon, Facebook and Twitter (and yes Medium!) are outposts that you have less control over. When they change the rules (as they often do), there’s little you can do.
On your website, on the other hand, you’re in charge. It’s your home base, and it should be the number one place where readers and customers can find you. This is another reason why it’s so important that you have complete control over your domain and hosting.
Grow Your Email List
Your email list enables you to communicate directly with readers or customers. After you’ve set up a mailing list make a point to contact people on your list regularly, i.e. don’t let your list grow stale.
This kind of reader engagement makes marketing your writing easier, and you can even ask your loyal fans or readers for feedback and advice about your writing.
Plus, you will be less dependent on search engines and social media for traffic and readers.
Give Your Readers What They Want
This will turn them into loyal fans that are more likely to open their wallets when the time comes.
For example, I wrote an ebook about Twitter that I gave away on my website. Even though it took over thirty hours to research and write, I gave it away for free.
The sole purpose of this ebook is to win over people onto my email list. And this strategy works; new people join my mailing list every day.
My strategy is hardly an original strategy. Most high-profile blogs offer free valuable content. Even Amazon gives away free ebooks and provides readers with samples of books they want to buy.
If you’re a writer who wants to market your writing, your goal should be to get them in the door. You can earn money later on.
Don’t Obsess about Design or Search Engine Optimisation
Unless design and SEO are your areas of expertise, pay for and outsource whatever you can.
Your job is to write or to create high-value articles that your customers love. Everything else is secondary. Instead, buy a professional, premium theme for your WordPress powered website.
This way you won’t have to worry as much about design or SEO. If you’re looking for a list of tools that can help you build a more effective blog, please read this post I wrote about blogging tools and software that I recommend.
Spending time on the finer points of SEO and tweaking your design won’t help you finish whatever you’re writing or working on.
Your Website Isn’t For Hard Sales
Instead of filling your website with ads for third-party products and services, save this space for your writing and your products. If you force your books, writing or other offerings down your readers’ throats, this will give your readers a reason to leave.
Give them a reason to love you; make ’em feel something.
For example, the business writer Pat Flynn writes about how he earns money online at smartpassiveincome.com. Flynn makes a point to avoid selling directly to people on his mailing list.
He also avoids hard-sales on his website, and instead he prioritises providing valuable content for his readers. Flynn still makes a significant amount of money each month because his readers trust him, and they buy products that he uses or products that he created.
“You won’t get any hard sells from me, long sales pages or fluffed up stuff — just real life case studies and recommendations based on my own experience with online business and blogging,”
— Pat Flynn
Plan for Publishing Your Writing On Your Platform (And Stick to It)
If you’re going to blog, make a plan for publishing a new blog post every day, week or month.
It doesn’t matter how often so long as you stick to your publishing schedule, and don’t abandon your website altogether. This way, you will get into the habit of starting and finishing writing projects, and your readers will come to expect and even look forward to your writing.
Oh and you can always take those posts and rewrite them for Medium later on ;)
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I’ve also put together 101 proven writing prompts that will help you start writing articles for Medium and other sites today.