The Ultimate Guide to Writing Online

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Online

Writing online is the fastest way to accelerate your career.

It’s the best way to learn faster, build your resume, and find peers and collaborators who can create job and business opportunities for you.

Content builds on itself. It multiplies and compounds.

Day and night, your content searches the world for people and opportunities. Projects, mentors, speaking gigs, job offers, pitches, investment opportunities, interview requests, podcast appearances, and invitations to special events. It all starts with sharing ideas online.

Good news: You already have the tools to write online. You know how to read and write. And you have access to the Internet, which means you can create and distribute your work to the whole world at a low cost.

In this essay, I’ll show you step-by-step how to accelerate your career by writing online. I’ve learned everything I’m about to tell you the hard way, through trial and error and firsthand experience.

I’ve interviewed more than 70 of the world’s most interesting people on my North Star Podcast, built a weekly email newsletter with almost 10,000 subscribers, and my most popular articles, such as What the Hell is Going On?, have been read more than 100,000 times. I’ve done all this in just a couple of years.

And now, I’m going to teach you everything I’ve learned.

The roadmap for accelerating your career by writing online has seven components:

  1. The Age of Leverage

  2. Make Your Serendipity Vehicle

  3. Create Your Online Home

  4. Set Up Your Distribution System

  5. Learn to Write Clearly and Persuasively

  6. Connect with Anyone

  7. Build Your Personal Monopoly

If you are ready to dive straight into the writing revolution, there’s no better way than my online course Write of Passage. It dives deeper into each of these topics with live instruction, a cohort of peers, a powerful 5-week accountability structure, and feedback on each stage of your writing journey.

Let’s begin.


The Age of Leverage

We live in the Age of Leverage.

The Internet and technology have given individuals more reach than the biggest media companies. That’s why 50-person startups can now serve 900 million people. Leverage is a force multiplier on everything you do and every decision you make, and once you gain it, you can achieve things that once looked impossible.

Archimedes famously said: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” But what we are talking about here is not physical leverage. It is the leverage of ideas.

When you create content, people can access your knowledge without taking your time. You no longer need to sell knowledge by the hour. Your ideas are the most valuable currency in a knowledge-driven economy. Just as an investment account allows your money to grow day and night without your involvement, content does the same with your ideas.

Invest in your future. Whether you want to become an author or an entrepreneur, you should start writing online. No matter what kind of book you want to write or what kind of company you want to start, it pays to have a smart and targeted audience. If you plan to write a book, writing online will help you develop a voice and land a publishing deal. And if you plan to start a company, writing will help you build credibility, meet investors, and find future co-founders. People under-estimate how much work is done before you start a company: that’s when you build your network, learn what you need to know, and discover what you’re good at. The seeds are planted years before the flowers bloom.

Until recently, the average person wasn’t able to publish and distribute their ideas at a reasonable cost. But on the Internet, anybody, in any corner of the world, in any time zone, can access your best thinking. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. 365 days a year.

When you publish ideas, you create your own “Serendipity Vehicle” – a magnet for ideas and people and opportunities from potentially every corner of the globe. If your ideas resonate with people, people will discover you and bring you unexpected opportunities. They’ll open doors you never knew existed.

The first step to creating a Serendipity Vehicle is to create your own online home.


Create an Online Home

Blogging isn’t dead. In fact, the opposite is true. We’re about to enter a golden age of personal blogs.

Make it easy for people to find you. Buy a domain name and use it to create your own website, even if it’s very simple at first. Your website is your resume, your business card, your store, your directory, and your personal magazine. It’s the one place online that you completely own and control – your Online Home.

If you’re worried about your reputation, publish pseudonymously. You’ll receive most of the benefits of writing online without risking your reputation. Plus, if you build an audience and change your mind, you can always come out from behind the curtain and start publishing under your real name.

When you first begin writing, before you publish anything, your website should have two things:

  1. A Start Here page

  2. A curated list of your favorite articles

I’ll explain each in turn.

  1. Start Here

Your website needs a “Start Here” page. Think of this page like the waiting room at a train station, where visitors go to find signage, kiosks, timetables, and other relevant information.

Your Start Here page should answer routine visitor questions. Most readers want guidance, so give it to them. They’ll trust and appreciate your recommendations. After repeated visits, once they’ve followed your advice, they may take some risks and explore your website on their own. That’s when they’ll pour through the archives and see what you do for work. By making it easy on visitors when they first visit your website, you’ll make it easy for them to stick around and read your body of work.

Remember, nobody is familiar with your work like you are. You’ve pored through every sentence on your site, but your readers have only skimmed them at most. In that way, you’re like a host at a party. You’ve planned the party, and it’s your job to make sure people aren’t confused when they arrive at your home. Once they’ve committed to staying, lead them around the place, and introduce them to things that will interest them. If you can do that, you’ve done your job.

  1. Curated list of articles or resources

Writing without an audience can make you feel invisible. You feel like you’re shouting into an empty room, where nobody is listening. Every creator, big or small, knows this feeling. It’s the part of the process that most writers want to escape as fast as possible.

New creators have a dilemma: they want a critical mass of work on their website, but don’t want to sacrifice the quality of their work to create one. They know that if visitors arrive on their site, and they don’t have a body of work, the visitors won’t stick around.

Building an audience is a chicken-and-egg problem: how do you create a substantial body of work that will attract visitors, before you have an audience to talk to? The prospect of publishing post after post and getting only crickets in response is daunting.

Luckily, there’s a way to “bootstrap” your way to an audience: curation.

When you’re just beginning, before you are recognized for your own ideas, curation works exceptionally well. It’s the fastest way to ignite a following and build a body of work.

I recommend two strategies:

  1. The Thought Leader Strategy: curate a summary of your favorite thought leader’s best work.

Examples:

2. The Idea Strategy: pick an idea you’re interested in and curate a list of the best resources on the topic.

Examples:

I’ve also curated a list of my favorite links on the Internet.

Curation is relatively easy and very valuable for people who don’t have the time to do the research themselves, which makes it an efficient way to kickstart the growth of your audience.

Don’t just hit publish. Share your work directly with people you think might benefit from it. If you curate your favorite thought leader’s work, send it to them. If it’s good and you include their work in the list, they’ll probably share it. And when they do, people will visit your website. If you choose the second option and curate a list of the best resources on a topic, send your list to practitioners in your field who are popular on social media.

No matter which option you choose, create the best guide you can, email it to people who have an audience, and drive people back to your website.

Your Online Home should have a Curated Links and a Start Here page

Your Online Home should have a Curated Links and a Start Here page

But David, what about Medium?

Don’t write on Medium.

Look, I get it. Writing on Medium is an easy way to pick up readers and increases your chances of going viral. But the costs exceed the benefits. Medium is terrible for SEO. You don’t own your content and the platform makes it difficult to turn one-time readers into loyal ones.

The more you can use platforms you own, the better. Rather than writing on Medium, do the work to build a personal blog. That way, you can have a central place to point people to.


The Problem with Online Writing Advice

Most online writing advice falls into two schools of thought.

One school encourages people to write anything and everything. It doesn’t matter what – they’ll tell you to put your head down, hit the keyboard, and ignore everything else. The other school sells hacks: always publish on Sunday at 6:08 pm, hire a freelancer to upvote your Reddit posts, and only write about what’s trending in the news.

Both strategies completely miss the point of writing. Focus only on publishing a lot of words, and you won’t build a distribution advantage; focus only on distribution and the quality of your work will suffer. In the next two sections, we’ll discuss distribution and writing.

First, we’ll talk about your Personal Microphone. Then, I’ll teach you the basics of writing clearly and persuasively.


Set Up Your Personal Microphone

Distribution is the secret of the most successful blogs. Writing well is the cost of entry, but distribution takes you to the top. Unfortunately, most writers overlook distribution. They assume that supply creates its own demand, meaning that if you have a great blog, it will inevitably reach readers. But nothing could be further from the truth.

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with an aspiring content creator. We’ll call him Mike. He’s been creating content for three years, but has struggled to build an audience. When I asked him about his distribution strategy, he told me he’s re-purposing his content for all the major social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. The plethora of options has paralyzed him. He can’t commit to a single platform, and committing to all of them is too much work. He’s become discouraged at what feels like an impossible situation.

A lot of writing advice you find online says that you should focus on many distribution channels: Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Quora, Medium, LinkedIn, Tumblr. The more, the merrier. But you can’t “focus” on many things at once. That’s not how focus works.

Thousands of people, and maybe even you, are making the same mistake as Mike. Do less. Concentrate your efforts. Commit to one platform and own it. Even if you write the best blog post in the world, if you don’t have a way to reach people, it won’t be seen. There are different strategies for succeeding on any given platform, but if you can build just one strong distribution channel, that’s all it takes to become a successful online writer. Focus on one platform, and as you build an audience, redirect those visitors to your website so you can grow your email list.

Distribution is king.

To be sure, distribution isn’t a replacement for publishing quality content. But the truth still stands: poor distribution, not poor content, is the most common reason why blogs don’t succeed.

When you first begin writing, you can’t expect to hit publish and have the entire Internet show up at your door. It doesn’t work like that. You need an audience of people who want to read your writing, and the more directly you can connect with them, the better.

You can’t launch your random, no-name blog and expect people to magically find it.

Popular blogs don’t exist by themselves. Your blog is like an island, and you need to join an archipelago. Finding a community like Ribbonfarm or Less Wrong is one of the fastest ways to spin up an audience. And if you can’t find a community, write for a specific person with a big audience. Whether you write for a community or an individual, if you can attract the gaze of big accounts who promote your work, your audience will grow.

Ultimately, the easier it is for others to find your blog, the more readers you’ll attract. It’s as simple as that.

There are two kinds of distribution: discovery and stickiness. First, people need to discover your blog. The majority of people find my blog through Twitter. It’s a great place for people to discover your blog, but doesn’t encourage repeat visits. That’s where email comes in.

From Module 3 of  Write of Passage

From Module 3 of Write of Passage

Unlike social media, major corporations don't dominate email. Email reduces your dependency on volatile social media platforms, which makes it the best place to direct your efforts.

When it comes to reader stickiness, nothing beats email. Nothing. Email is a direct distribution channel, which makes it sticky and valuable. People keep predicting the death of email, when in reality, it just keeps getting stronger. It’s a direct line to your most loyal and dedicated followers. People who sign up for your email list care about your ideas, and by putting in their email, they give you explicit permission to email them. Trying to build an online audience without an email list is a rookie mistake.

Email expands the number of people you can keep in touch with by an order of magnitude. With less than an hour per week, you update the people who care most about what you’re doing, working on, and hoping to achieve. You can promote your work and receive direct feedback on it. As you do, you can test different approaches and ideas. My email list is my most underrated asset. Sending emails to my 10,000 subscribers is one of the highest-leverage actions I take on a weekly basis.

(Shameless plug: You should subscribe to Monday Musings, my email newsletter).

From Module 3 of  Write of Passage

From Module 3 of Write of Passage

Make it easy for people to sign up for your email list. Add a sign-up button on your website, but respect your guests and don’t ruin the usability of your site with annoying full-page pop-up banners.

Once your email acquisition system is set up, time becomes your friend. The email sign-up system is mostly automated, so you can sit back, enjoy the fruits of compounding returns, and boost your SEO ranking.

Search engines are responsible for more than half the traffic on the Internet.

When you meet somebody for the first time, what do you do?

You Google them. You browse their photos, scout their LinkedIn profile, and if they’ve been in the news, you read the article. That’s what other people do when they meet you too. When somebody Googles your name, you should own the top search results. The more you write, and the better your work, the more likely it is that you will appear when someone enters your name.

Do everything you can to control your Google search results, so that people can find you.

To rank well on Google, you’ll need SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When you first launch your website, it will be almost invisible to Google and other search engines.. Google’s algorithm depends on trust, and building trust takes time. Links are the bedrock of SEO, and your SEO ranking will only rise once trusted websites start linking to it.

If you want to nail the basics of SEO, you only need to stick to three simple rules: (1) publish excellent articles, (2) coin new terms such as Naked Brands and The Never-Ending Now, and (3) avoid competition by using an uncommon name. For example, if you have a popular name like “Laura Allen” or “Mike Smith,” you should consider a pen name. Otherwise people won’t be able to find you. Some of my favorites are “The Gotham Gal” and “The Finance History Guy.”

Building an audience takes time. It’s a slow process, but don’t let that fact turn you off. That’s what makes having an audience so powerful. An audience is valuable because it takes time to build. If it happened quickly, it wouldn’t be a sustainable advantage.

Trust, credibility and authority can’t be purchased. They must be earned, and that’s why they’re so precious.


Learn to Write Clearly and Persuasively

Writing is the most fundamental method of communication.

It’s a pillar of any successful career and the foundation of every other form of media. It’s the best way to clarify your logic and thinking, and the benefits extend far beyond the page. Storing and distributing text online is cheap, which means your words can be read by almost anybody, anywhere in the world.

Most people have reservations or fears about publishing their writing. They don’t get started because they “don’t have a voice,” “haven’t found their niche,” or “don’t know what to say.” Trust me. I’ve heard every objection under the sun. But there’s only one way past this stage: Develop a bias toward action.

Create. Create. Create.

The easiest way to write more is to write about ideas that stimulate you. If you do, you’ll be able to produce on a more consistent basis.

Focus on quantity over quality at first. If you publish something every week for a year, you’ll gain tremendous insights into what you should be creating.

I’m reminded of a famous story about a ceramics class. On the first day, the teacher divided the class into two groups. The group on the left side would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, while the group on the right would be graded on quality:

“His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality," however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an "A.”

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

Consistency develops ability, so pick a schedule and stick with it.

Expect a small number of articles to outperform the rest. The vast majority of your traffic will come from a handful of articles. Your traffic will spike and stall. It’s normal. After I published my article, What the Hell is Going On?, traffic to my website skyrocketed. My website received almost 50,000 visitors in two days, and more than 100,000 visitors during the month of March. Since then, my website has returned to its usual cadence of 20,000 visitors per month.

Most people have an outdated idea of what it means to be a writer. I call this the “Thoreau Model.” They think that writers are loners. They escape society, wander into the forest, and live in a cabin for three years as they pore over their sacred tome. Well, guess what. Walden was published in 1854. Solitude worked well for Thoreau but it won’t work for people like you.

I use an active, social, and collaborative approach to writing. Most of what I “write” doesn’t even happen on the page. It happens while I’m away from the computer, when I’m in the line at the grocery store, waiting at the airport, or speaking with friends.


The Five Pillars of Writing

The best online writers are driven by five pillars: (1) evergreen content, (2) quality, (3) specificity, (4) listening to feedback, and (5) building a body of work.

I’ll take each in turn.

1. Write Evergreen Content

Writing about the right topics is as important as writing well.

Evergreen articles are the foundation of most successful blogs because they stay relevant and can generate traffic for years and years. If an idea won’t be valuable three years after you publish it, don’t write about it. Prioritizing evergreen articles is the single best constraint you can give yourself. By writing evergreen pieces, you’ll attract loyal and intelligent readers who can trust that your writing won’t lose value as their eyes scroll down the page.

Once you’ve committed to writing evergreen articles, you can explore other aspects of the ideation process. I like Devon Zuegel’s idea that writing falls into three buckets. She first told me about it when I interviewed her on The North Star Podcast:

"As Devon Zuegel said in my interview with her, writing falls into three buckets: (1) trivial things that everybody knows, (2) things that everybody knows, [but nobody around you knows], and you have a unique perspective on, and (3) stuff that nobody knows so you have to do tons of research. Direct your energy towards the second bucket.”

If you’re looking for evergreen ideas that people will resonate with and are relatively easy to write about, focus on the second bucket.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Many of the best writers I know began by summarizing other people’s evergreen ideas, and since they were popular, they already know the ideas will be interesting or useful. If you have the best summary of a popular evergreen topic, you’ll build an audience.

Some examples:

  1. My post on Maximizing vs. Satisficing Brands

  2. Taylor Pearson on Antifragility

  3. Dan Wang on Zero to One

2. Publish Quality Ideas

Warning: Your 6th grade English teacher would never tell you what I’m about to tell you.

To succeed as a writer on the Internet, you will have to unlearn the pillars of your middle school education. Avoid SAT words. Use simple ones instead. There are no word limits, and you can write about whatever you want. Style is important, but substance matters more.  The better your ideas and the clearer you can express them, the better your writing will be. It’s that simple. Everything else is secondary.

Skip the usual writing books and learn copywriting.

Copywriters are masters of the written word. They write with clarity, energy, and simplicity, which is exactly what readers on the Internet are looking for. They write in specifics, not generalities. There’s no fluff. They get straight to the point. By writing in a persuasive, outcome-oriented (instead of academic) style, copywriters provoke responses and feedback. They rewrite and rewrite, and only hit publish once they’ve said what they wanted to say in the fewest possible words. In short, most people would improve their writing more by emulating copywriters instead of heeding the advice of famous novelists.

Great writing is like a dance, and words are the music that create the atmosphere.

The easiest way to add rhythm to your writing is to vary sentence length. Short sentences speed things up, and long sentences slooooooowwwwww things down. First, you should write a long sentence whenever you have a lot to say about a topic, and when you can put together a string of connected ideas that flow well together and collectively build up to the broader point you’re trying to make. Then, you stop. You shorten your sentences, so you can make your point.

Seriously.

It works.

3. Be Specific

People think that because the Internet is big, your article has to reach tons and tons of people.

Unfortunately, online metrics highlight page views over other, more meaningful measures. Resist the temptation to focus only on page views. If you write for page views, you’ll end up watering down your ideas for the masses, which will result in boring posts that intelligent people won’t want to read. Instead of trying to reach as many people as possible, try to tap into one narrow vein of interest that nobody else is addressing in quite the same way as you. The true magic of the Internet is its ability to attract like-minded people from far-flung places, who you’d never be able to meet otherwise.

By trying to appeal to everybody, you’ll end up appealing to nobody.

One friend who is a very successful online writer measures the success of a post by how many interesting emails he receives from it. I like his system because it works across two vectors: quality and reach. Interesting emails encourage him to maintain a quality standard, and reach encourages him to write articles that spread.

Zoom in.

Build a targeted audience. The more narrow and niche the topic, the better. Attracting the right people matters much more than the number of people who read your work. Intelligent readers want depth, nuance, and specificity. Speak their language, and ignore the temptation to write for the lowest common denominator.

4. Listen to Feedback

The fastest way to improve the quality of your work is to accelerate your feedback loops. More feedback is generally better. Online writers benefit from copious amounts of feedback. As a prolific online writer, I have a treasure trove of data about what people are interested in and what they ignore. With it, I can provide a better experience for my readers.

Don’t discount the feedback you receive from routine conversations. Test your ideas out on intelligent friends, and don’t be afraid to state the obvious. If an idea consistently surprises somebody, it’s probably good, but if people look bored or confused when you’re sharing an idea, you should either drop it or communicate the idea differently.

Many writers wait until they publish a blog post to share an idea with somebody. I do the opposite. I share my ideas as much as I can and run them through numerous filters. I move from conversations, to tweets, to emails, to blog posts. Each medium provides a different layer of feedback. By the time I’ve published a blog post, I’ve run the ideas through 3-5 filters, and each time I receive feedback, I keep more of what resonates and less of what doesn’t.

I run all my ideas through as many filters as possible. My best ideas don’t come from flashes of insight. Instead, they emerge from conversations, tweets, observations, feedback, and other forms of low cost, high-speed trial and error. I call this method of receiving and integrating feedback “The Content Triangle.”

content

While filming the videos for my online course, Write of Passage, the videography team was shocked by our rate of feedback. Whenever we were stuck and out of ideas, were turned to Twitter, a group of 30 beta-testers, or other trusted friends or followers. Had we relied only on our own insights, the product wouldn’t have turned out nearly as well it did. While creating the course, I felt like we had access to our own hive mind. With it, we had instant access to more wisdom, experience, perspective, and diversity, in one minute than we could have gained in a hundred lifetimes.

5. Re-package Your Existing Work

Most people don’t write because they don’t think they have enough time or original ideas. Turns out, time isn’t the obstacle you think it is.

You’re already processing a large volume of ideas through your everyday experience: with the social media updates you post, the books and articles you read, the emails you send, the conversations you have, and the meetings you attend. By consuming, digesting, and sharing these ideas with peers and colleagues, you’re already building expertise.

Steve Cheney said it best:

“You’ve already spent 10,000 hours working on the craft you know about. And you’ve already probably spent 100 concentrated hours consuming, reading, and listening to podcasts that you can recall in your short-term memory about the topic to even consider writing. The truth is the 10 hours it takes to write something is already dwarfed by this sunk cost. If you don’t write, you are effectively stopping at the easier ask. It’s important you emphasize to yourself that you don’t need to relive the experiences it took for you to become a subject expert in order to share them.”

If you want to build an audience, you need to refine your ideas and change how you distribute the ideas you’re already thinking about. Instead of creating new ideas, you should save and redirect the flow of your existing ones. Once you’ve developed a system for publishing at a consistent pace, you can turn your attention to building a body of work.

Your success won’t come from any one piece of work. It will come from your overall body of work. When people think about the return on investment of writing, they overestimate the short-term benefits but under-estimate the long-term ones. Consistency is the name of the game. Without a consistent writing habit, you won’t succeed as a writer. Start slowly, keep writing, and don’t stop.

Or if you want to join a group of the most committed beginning writers as they move through this journey together, join my online course Write of Passage.


Connect with Anyone

Writing is the beginning, not the end.

Networking events are overrated. The Internet makes the bar-and-conference style of networking obsolete. Writing on the Internet is the most effective way to meet peers and colleagues like yourself. Skip the networking events and devote that time to writing instead.

Unlike the time you spend at networking events, the benefits of writing online compound over time. Like any smart investment, it builds on itself. Write something once and you can share it for the rest of your life.

By writing online, you’ll lose the “outbound” perspective and adopt an “inbound” one. The paradigm flips once you have a following around your ideas. Once you attract a critical mass of like-minded individuals, you can attract opportunities instead of searching for them. It’s about the quality of readers you attract, and about the relationships you build with people around the world, based on the quality of your ideas.

Of all the writers I know, Nick Maggiulli’s story best illustrates the benefits of writing online. Two years ago, Nick was working at a litigation firm in Boston. He didn’t like the job, and his work didn’t engage him.

Hungry to accelerate his career and find a better job, Nick made a New Year’s resolution. He committed to publishing one data-backed article every week. No exceptions. Within that constraint, Nick had total freedom. At the time, he didn’t like writing. But he loved ideas and wanted to share them.

Unlike school, writing online has no strict requirements. Some of Nick’s articles were as simple as a story. Others were as complicated as data-supported observations about trends in the S&P 500. Nick was free to discuss anything, as long as the ideas connected back to data-driven investment principles.

At the beginning, Nick didn’t think his blog would succeed, so he kept his early posts anonymous under the name Of Dollars and Data. For the first four months, the blog was quiet. Nobody read it. The quality of his work exceeded the size of his audience. Nick felt like he was screaming into the wind.

Unphased, Nick kept publishing. To his surprise, his 16th post, Just Keep Buying, changed the game. It popped. Readers flocked to his website in droves, and all of a sudden, Nick had made it as a writer...

… or so he thought.

The next four months were the hardest period. Traffic fell back to nothing. The rush of visitors disappeared and the struggle resumed. Nick worried that he was a one-hit wonder.

But Nick kept writing. He didn’t know it at the time, but Nick’s best work and best opportunities were still ahead of him. Thirsty for knowledge, he took the train from Boston and attended an investment conference in New York City. There, he met his favorite writer, Michael Batnick. Nick told Michael that he wasn’t passionate about his current job and wanted to work with Michael’s firm, Ritholtz Wealth Management. Michael and Nick went back and forth and found a role perfect for his skill set.

Then, in January 2018, Ritholtz called Nick and asked him to fly down to New York for an interview. He met with the partners, and two weeks later, he received a job offer. On June 1st, 2018 — 18 months after starting Of Dollars and Data — Nick began his dream job.

Nick’s story illustrates the upside of writing online. For more than a year, Nick wrote with head-down consistency. He trusted the process. Week after week, he wrote something worth reading. Some articles popped. Most didn’t. But Nick stuck to the plan and with each post, he built his reputation as a data-savvy investing expert. His curiosity turned into expertise; his expertise turned into credibility; and his credibility landed him a job in the financial capital of the world.

In short, you can build an online reputation in three steps:

  1. Pick a high value, emerging industry.

  2. Learn as much as you can.

  3. Share what you learn on your personal website.


Building a Personal Monopoly

The ultimate goal of building a personal brand is to have a “Personal Monopoly.”

You want to be known as the best thinker in a skill or a topic. A Personal Monopoly is the unique intersection of your knowledge, personality, and skills that nobody else can compete with. Personal Monopolies aren’t found. They’re created.

While the concept of a Personal Monopoly is not new, the Internet magnifies the benefits of having one. There is a large pay gap between people who have a Personal Monopoly and people who don’t. On the Internet, ideas are infinitely scalable. In many industries, competition is global. Global markets increase the upside of having a Personal Monopoly, but also make it harder to create one. The effects of widespread competition are simultaneously empowering and challenging, and the more your career is fueled by the transformative effects of the Internet, the more successful you’ll be.

There isn't a fixed number of perspectives. There are countless overlaps of people, places, and interests, each of which is a market and an audience you can reach with your writing. There is a vast, open frontier for you to conquer, and when you settle and build upon these lands, you create a Personal Monopoly.

Once you’ve found your niche, write about every aspect of it. The history. The people. The key concepts. Explore every nook and cranny, and write about the best things you discover.

Don’t be a trend chaser.

Pick a small, but ever-growing market and learn everything you can about it. Build expertise before the other settlers arrive. Then, share everything you learn. If you can create a body of work before the wave of popularity arrives, you’ll be well positioned to capitalize on it when other people are looking for an authority.

Where should you look?

It’s much easier to build a Personal Monopoly where there’s no competition. The best opportunities are at the frontier. They’re found in emerging industries and technologies.

Like plots of land, some Personal Monopolies are more valuable than others. Historically, early settlers in San Francisco or New York City have done better than settlers in small towns in the middle of nowhere. Likewise, some skill overlaps are more powerful than others. Following your passion doesn’t guarantee success. That’s a bitter pill to swallow. I know. All else being equal, the more you can build specific, high-value skills that are hard to replicate, the better you career prospects will be.

Personal Monopolies let you turn ideas into wealth. As James Dale Davidson wrote in The Sovereign Individual:

“Merit, wherever it arises, will be rewarded as never before. In an environment where the greatest source of wealth will be the ideas you have in your head rather than physical capital alone, anyone who thinks clearly will be potentially rich. The Information Age will be the age of upward mobility. It will afford far more equal opportunity for the billions of human in parts of the world that never shared fully in the prosperity of industrial society. The brightest, most successful and ambitious of these will emerge as truly Sovereign Individuals.”

Advertising your unique skill set is the best way to attract high-value opportunities. You don’t get paid for what you think you’re worth; you get paid for what other people think you’re worth. It’s how markets work. It’s hard to command a price premium for your work when your skills are easy to learn or overlap with millions of other people.

If you can advertise your valuable skills in an entertaining way, you’ll attract more opportunities than you can possibly entertain. You can’t expect others to think you’re unique if you don’t show them that you are, so build a Personal Monopoly.

The Seven Modules of  Write of Passage

The Seven Modules of Write of Passage


Why Should You Start Writing Now?

Writing has always been a valuable skill. No doubt about it. For decades, the best authors and copywriters have commanded a fortune for their work.

Attention is a valuable resource, and writing is how you get attention. As Nathan Barry wrote in Good Things Come to Those Who Write:

“Major companies spend billions of dollars on advertising each year in order to interrupt people for a chance at getting attention for their products. Writers get that for free. They have tens of thousands of people raising their hands to say, “Sign me up. I want to read everything you write. You have my attention.”

By lowering the cost of creating and distributing ideas, the Internet increases the returns to writing.

It’s easier than ever to find obscure ideas that match your interests. Since discovery has improved so much, one outstanding article can help you meet people you’d never be able to meet otherwise. When you engage smart and curious people, they will reach out to you. Like you, they’re searching for people who improve the quality of their thinking, and once you build a relationship with them, they’ll return the favor and teach you what they know.

The job market is changing along with the Internet.

Top-of-the-market employees in industries touched by technology are switching jobs at a faster rate than they used to. Freelancing and remote work are accelerating these trends. Google, for example, has as many contractors (70,000) as it does employees. Nobody interviews at a company thinking they’ll work there for life. Instead of committing to a corporation for decades and depending on the corporation to determine their value, workers are letting the market decide their worth. Since they switch jobs frequently, they’re valued and judged by the market more consistently than their elders were. When they do, the quality of their brand determines their pay. If you write well and find an audience for your ideas, you’ll attract better, higher-paying job opportunities.

Writing isn’t just a way to advertise your high-value skills. It’s a way to discover which new ones you should pursue as well.

Compared to print, you receive much more feedback when you write online. That feedback becomes a sixth sense. It gives you unique insight into the world of under-rated and under-explored ideas. Viral posts, for example, signal that the idea you’re writing about has been insufficiently solved by the world-at-large. Here’s the kicker: when you write a viral post, people email you with responses and provide opportunities that help you learn even more about the topic.

Informed by feedback, writing helps you steer your career in a more productive direction. Like a map, the feedback you receive can guide you towards your Personal Monopoly.

For example, the genesis of my own writing course came from Twitter. I tweeted that my goal for 2019 was to help 1,000 people start writing. To my surprise, the tweet struck a chord. People responded with roaring enthusiasm. Within 48 hours, I received hundreds and hundreds of messages from every corner of the globe from people like yourself who wanted to write online.

Inspired, I called my friend Tiago Forte and told him we should create an online course together. He said yes. We spent five months putting everything we knew about writing online into an intensive online program, and now, it’s live.


The Purpose of Writing

Writing on the internet is a career fast-track.

Each article is a sales pitch for your knowledge on that topic. It’s an always-on broadcast of who you are, and an open invitation for other people to create personal and career opportunities for you. It’s a Serendipity Vehicle that can grow automatically, independently of your efforts.

Attracting an intelligent audience in your area of interest is a guaranteed way to accelerate your learning, cultivate tacit skills, and build actionable knowledge that can’t be taught. So much important knowledge cannot be transferred online. It’s learned through experience and communicated through conversation.

Whether you’re raising money for your startup, switching jobs, or building a business, writing online is the fastest way to accelerate your career. There is no “secret” about how to successfully write online. You already know what you need to do: write and publish consistently.

Execution is everything.

Write of Passage will give you the structure and accountability to put that knowledge into action, alongside a cohort of like-minded peers and guided by an experienced writer who makes his living with online content.

There’s never been a better time to start writing. Are you ready to take the leap?