I come from a world of physical products, a world of wholesale and retail, and people offering up their hard earned money in exchange for a physical product. It’s a very different world from this one. It’s different from a world where our ideas, our words and our time might be all that’s needed to make a living.
There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding the realities of making a living solely from online advertising and how it’s creating a race to the bottom. Gabe over at Macdrifter made an excellent counterpoint, talking about how it’s truly a race to the top. I agree with his take and if you’re looking to make a living online, I strongly suggest that you read it. There are a ton of websites that are going to contradict me, but let me be blunt: there are very few people who will be able to sustain making a living solely by sharing their opinions on the internet and putting them next to ads. It’s going to be difficult no matter how they seek to make that living, no matter how important they, or even their audience, think those opinions are.
It often seems large, but those who make a full-time living writing for the web are the tiniest visible tip of the iceberg that is people writing on the web. And those who sustain that living for a lifetime… well, let’s just say that we should probably start a hall-of-fame for achieving that feat. It’s also rare that web-based writing alone will generate enough income regardless of how you “monetize”1. There are speaking gigs, book deals, consulting jobs, book tours, side projects, paid products. It’s a lot like a musician’s life. Seemingly awesome, these jobs are actually ton of hard, occasionally soul-crushing work.
I probably have no business talking about this considering I’m not looking to make my living from these words. This is a passion project and a regular attempt to sharpen my own pencil (while occasionally, hopefully helping others). All you really get here are opinions, experiences and occasionally a little bit of fact. No matter how good I get at serving those up, it’s unlikely that this will ever feed my family (although it may help keep the lights on and might even put some beer in the fridge).
Unless you are that rare anomaly, you’re going to have to do more. If you want to make a living doing this, you’re going to have to go one step farther. You’re going to have to make more than words, you’re actually going to have to make something. Actually, scratch that, you’re probably going to have to make a lot of things. Things that we want. Things that make it easy for us to help support you living and that enable you to sustain it.
The reality is, if you’re looking to make a living by typing words and posting them on a website, you’re going to be cobbling that living together for a while… you know, just like every other early-stage business owner out there. Encourage your readers to help, give them a reason to help support you, but if you really want this to be your livelihood you’re going to have to make something more than just your words alone. No matter how valuable they actually might be.
Yes, I hate that word as much as the rest of you. ↩