$10,000 a Month, Just By Writing?

Here’s the stuff most folks don’t want to hear about that dream.

By Shannon Ashley

Ihad it in my head for a long time that someday, I could make a great living by writing. And over the past 18 months, it’s turned out better than I ever could have dreamed.

And yet? I was certainly wrong about what I thought it would feel like to make really good money. I don’t think anybody who earns well as a writer really ever knows what they’re doing.

We mostly just write, cringe, and hope for the best.

That said, there are a few things I’ve learned over the course of this journey. Some things might surprise you, and others might just help you have some peace along your own path.

It takes time, and sometimes a whole lot of it.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. But I didn’t begin considering a real writing career until 2012.

By the end of 2014, I was too scared to bet on my own career. So, I accepted a job writing for other businesses instead.

For nearly four years, I blogged for hundreds of different clients. That’s how I made a living as a new (and single) mom.

I wrote thousands of blogs and earned a mere $10 for each one. I did that day in and day out until one day my manager hired his sister when she needed a new income fast.

My full-time position was ultimately given to somebody else, not because I was a terrible writer and they were so amazing. But because they were the manager’s sister and in a big bind.

And it likely didn’t help that I’d made myself a squeaky wheel by refusing to do tasks I wasn’t actually paid for.

Everybody pays their dues.

I’m not saying that writers must all subsist on pennies. But we do need to be realistic about what writing is.

You have do the work before you get paid.

Unless we’re talking about freelance client assignments, you’re also doing the work long before you know if there will even be a sale. In this way, writing is something of a crapshoot because you often don’t know if it’s going to pan out at all.

Every time I sit down to write a story, I still don’t know if my time and effort is going to be rewarded. And if I choose to write a book, I likewise won’t know until long after I’ve done the work whether or not the endeavor was profitable.

Successful writing takes plenty of failure, too.

I don’t know of any successful writer who hasn’t spectacularly failed at something. Most writers don’t sell their first books. Even among those who do, there are some major flops.

Sometimes, it’s a long-awaited sequel that flops.

Most writers have to be rejected many, many times before the YESes ever outweigh the NOs.

And even then the failure isn’t over.

You have to recognize that you’re never finished failing.

Well, here’s a piece of reality that really bites. None of us will ever reach a level of success where we are finally done with failure.

Or better yet, failure will never be done with us.

It would be pretty damn sad if it wasn’t so universal. Thank goodness that it is. It’s not just me or you.

This is also why some formerly successful folks grow so stagnant. They fear future failure, so they quit stepping out to take more risks.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t always very kind to writers who encounter failure after great success. But we should all keep in mind that nobody ever outgrows the possibility of failure. The closest they can get is to simply give up.

And I don’t want to give up. Do you?

Keep in mind that no one is going to hold your hand.

The biggest difference I see between successful writers and not so successful ones is in their willingness to do their own legwork.

Asking questions is good, but asking questions to replace your own efforts is lazy. One of the laziest ways I see new writers get started? They don’t Google or look up any answers for themselves.

Instead, they walk up to successful people and ask them for generic tips or “formulas.” They fail to regard that if every successful person sat down with every newbie to hand out generic tips, there would be no time to write successfully.

As much as others want to help you (and yes, we really do), we are human beings with limitations and family obligations. We often can’t handhold other writers, and we feel pain when other people seem to only want to use us.

It helps to show some initiative and do your research first. There are countless books and articles written to help you succeed.

Use them.

There are drawbacks to earning pretax dollars.

While it’s really awesome to earn $10K in any month, just for doing something you love, the reality is that you don’t actually get to keep all of that money. Right?

I think people get so caught up in the pretax numbers that they forget about taxes, the lack of paid benefits, and most other expenses.

It’s the weekend. I am working on a Saturday and as much as I love to write, sometimes I just want a break from it all. But? I really don’t dare slow down while I’m trying to hit certain goals to build a better life for me and my daughter.

The truth is that I don’t always earn $10K a month. But it’s a goal of mine. And there are many writers earning more than $10K. Some make twice or triple that amount for a fraction of the effort I invest in my career.

This is another potential drawback to being a contract worker. You can’t compare yourself to other writers and their incomes or it will drive you nuts. It will seem unfair.

You have to accept that you are on your own path.

It’s unlikely that you will ever really feel like you’ve arrived.

Michael Ian Black once replied positively to one of my Tweets about a story in which I quoted him. Alas, that story did not go viral. I did not get remotely famous.

Sometimes, people call me “Medium famous,” and maybe that’s a thing.

But so far, my understanding is that even a little bit of “fame” on one single platform tends to ebb and flow. Some weeks, everything I write seems to enjoy a great reception.

Other weeks? Meh. I can write my heart out and it seems like nobody cares.

You can’t save your writing for only the days where more folks seem to care. You’ve got to keep putting yourself out there and it isn’t always fun. There aren’t warm fuzzies waiting for you at every turn.

In fact, you can love writing, yet find it absolutely painful at some intervals.

It’s like I often tell my 5 year old whenever life feels unfair: them’s the breaks, Miss Sophie.

Writing online to earn a living is completely unpredictable. One more good month is never guaranteed.

But you keep going anyway.

Join my email list to keep in touch and I’ll send you my 12 tips to crush it as a blogger.

Live Co-Working Call Tonight!


Don’t forget that Shaunta and Shannon will be live tonight at 8 p.m. EST on Zoom to hang out with you, answer questions, and workshop. Today’s focus is on building email lists. Hope to see you there.

Click here to register.

James Altucher Gave Me Some Life-Changing Advice

It took two years for me to implement it. Here's what happened.

By Shaunta Grimes

“But business is just a vehicle for transforming the ideas in your head into something real, something tangible, that actually improves the lives of others.”
 — James Altucher

It started with a text.

I found a blog post where James Altucherlisted his cell phone number. How weird, I thought. How edgy. What kind of famous person does something like that?

He did. And he said it was okay to text him. I had the idea that there was some way I could help him with something he’d written about wanting to do.

So I texted an offer. I didn’t expect much. In fact, I didn’t expect anything. There’s a big difference between offering your phone number publicly and actually responding to the people who use it.

But he texted back.

And for hot minute, we connected. I mean, maybe I felt the connection more strongly than he did. But that’s okay, it was thrilling. And at some point, I asked him for advice.

I wanted to take my business, Ninja Writers, to the next level. What did he think I should do?

He asked for my email address and sent me a thoughtful, idea-filled response. In a nutshell, he told me that I should quit selling courses and start a subscription newsletter, based around a theme.


There Are Things I Need to Tell you

Write a letter to yourself today, from you at one hundred years old.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

I am almost a hundred years old; waiting for the end, and thinking about the beginning. There are things I need to tell you, but would you listen if I told you how quickly time passes?
— Meg Rosoff

There’s another part to this quote: I know you are unable to imagine this. Nevertheless, I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel.

A hundred years seems like such a long time ago. I mean, so much of the world has changed since 1919. Almost everything.

Except, has it really? The surface stuff has. Cars instead of carriages. Computers instead of libraries. Smart phones instead of telegraphs.

The prison industrial complex instead of Jim Crow. (Did you know Jim Crow laws were enforced until 1965. 1–9–6–5.)

But maybe the bones are the same. Or more the same than it seems.

Time is a stretchy, weird thing. I wonder what your almost-100-year-old self would have to say to the you that you are right now.

Write a letter to yourself today, from you at one hundred years old.


My 10 Writing Rules

For writing a lot and getting paid well.

By Shannon Ashley

1. Turn off phone notifications for at least a few hours every day to write more clearly.

As a single mom with a 5-year-old, I frequently run into distractions. My daughter wants my attention all day, every day. My work around the house seems to never end.

Even with my mother moved out of my apartment, I have to perform certain tasks like grocery shopping or picking up her prescriptions. And when I run such errands, it takes time to get back into my writing groove.

There is only so much that I can do to minimize distractions at home, so I do everything I can to keep social media distractions at bay for a large chunk of time while I write. Yes, I’m typically still interrupted every few minutes over here. No, that’s not an exaggeration.

If I responded to messages and emails all day, I would never get any writing done. I can't spend all day in Facebook groups. And now you know why I often go MIA on messenger.

2. Commit to publishing a certain number of stories per week.

Every week I make a personal goal to keep publishing until I reach certain numbers for engagement. The number changes and sometimes I exceed my goals, but at the end of the day I know I’ve got a baseline to shoot for.

Having a baseline is a big deal for me because I am not a very structured person. All of the writing I accomplish is honestly the most “structured” aspect of my life.

3. Be honest about my fears, but don’t let those fears rule me.

I only began writing seriously (for myself as opposed to writing for other businesses) in the spring of 2018— so less than 2 years ago. What that means is I spent most of my life afraid to take a risk and pursue my dreams.

That’s a mistake I never want to make again. I know it’s only natural to have fears about my writing, my progress, and success. But I’m making a point to talk honestly about those fears in a way to tackle them head on… rather than cowering away in fear like a cat with her tail between her legs.

4. Write only about the topics that deeply matter to me.

Believe it or not, but when I write, I am not pandering to any audience. I decided 18 months ago to only write stories I genuinely believe in.Somebody once mentioned that they wished I wasn’t a feminist so they could read more of my work. Seriously.

You know, I’ve never said to anyone that I wish they weren’t a Christian (or anything else) so I could read more of their work. Likewise, I’ve never told anyone that I wish they had principles so they could understand what I write.

The reality is that I’m a single mom, feminist, exvangelical writer. A lot of people aren’t going to like me or my opinions, but my job is all about writing stories I believe in. Hopefully, plenty of readers will believe in my work too.

5. When in doubt, focus on the type of writer I want to be.

Sometimes, I have reservations about writing a certain story. Should I really discuss my earnings from writing? Do I want people to know that a literary agent turned her nose up at my book ideas?

When I run into questions about whether or not I should really share something in particular, I consider what kind of writer I want to be. I feel funny saying it outside of my own head, but I want to be a writer who is a force of nature. Unflappable.

That means my honesty is everything. And sometimes, I’m going to seem pretty naive to veteran writers. I’m sure I am naive. I’ve started my writing career determined to forge my own path even if that means going against the safe or normal.

Do I care if I get side eye or even “blacklisted” in the publishing world because I reveal too much? Not really. I’d rather be an honest writer with the freedom to talk about the things too many people keep inside. And that doesn’t mean other writers aren’t honest — it’s just that limiting my voice to avoid certain topics would be dishonest for me.

6. Write down every idea that excites me.

Even if an idea that excites me today doesn’t do anything for me tomorrow, that doesn’t mean it won’t be the right idea next month or next week. Every idea is worth noting simply because I never know how it might grow.

When you’re a writer, some ideas need to percolate before they can be worthy of a full story. There’s nothing wrong with letting some ideas steep.

Every once in a while, I’ll call on an idea that’s been sitting in my drafts folder for a long time. Maybe it doesn’t seem 100 percent ready, but I’m ready to let it move on. I’m not so picky that I demand perfection from myself. Or anyone.

7. Follow truth through “writer’s block.”

Okay, so I don’t actually believe in writer’s block. But there are definitely times when writing feels really tough. Maybe I feel uninspired or unmotivated to write.

Not too long ago, I read a quote about how asking yourself what would be “truer” to write helps crush writer’s block, and I do think that works. I like that advice so much that I’ve been regularly asking myself “what is true” to craft my best stories.

8. Check stats no more than 3 times a day.

Ugh. Checking stats is the worst. I’m much happier when I forget about my stats altogether. It’s not like refreshing the page is doing anything for me.

I’m convinced that checking my stats once a day is optimal. I can set some goals that way, but not feel so bound by the numbers.

9. Call out rude comments for what they are.

Clearly, I get a lot of wonderful comments. But I get a lot of shitty ones too. Comments which basically reinforce the need for feminism, exvangelicalism, or any other issue I cover.

I get a lot of men who like to mansplain my own experiences to me and I quit ignoring them because I feel pressure to hold my tongue. Now, when I feel like it, I call them out for their negativity and ridiculousness. Of course, sometimes I ignore those cruel comments too.

These days, I do what feels right. And sometimes, that means speaking out.

I just figure that if these guys want to use the excuse that a writer is subject to criticism for putting their thoughts online, they’re just as subject for posting their hatred online.

10. Lean into positivity. Lean in hard.

All that to say that this entire writing endeavor is running on hopes and the whole concept that "stranger things have happened." I have a choice to believe in the worst-case scenario, or give myself permission to hope for something good.

So far, all of my hopes and positive thoughts have led to a much better outcome than I ever imagined. My strenuous writing habit is changing me and my whole life.

It’s not that I never get down in the dumps — I do. But I also lean very hardinto positivity every time that happens. Look, I already know how bad this world can be. I’ve been in the thick of it. And looking for the silver lining in life has done a helluva lot more good than harm.

Leaning into positivity is what moved me past earning peanuts and finally over to earning a decent living. It's what gives me courage to take real action rather than simply dream without doing the work.

Join my email list to keep in touch and I’ll send you my 12 tips to crush it as a blogger. 

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