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Sharing Insights From Building A Solo Consulting Business, Working 15 Hours A Week, And Generating An 86% Profit Margin.

SSK #40: Creating a Successful Online Writing Career: A Comprehensive Guide from Nicolas Cole


Read time: 3 minutes.

I recently watched a great interview with Nicolas Cole

I started listening to it at the gym and couldn't focus on my workout as I was taking so many notes 

Below is a summary of this 2+ hrs chat.

While the chat focuses mainly on content writing business, so many golden nuggets apply to other businesses online!

Based on key insights from an interview, this guide aims to provide practical steps for those looking to make a living online:

1. Tactics, Strategies, and Frameworks

  • Paid Newsletters: Focusing on a niche audience can lead to significant earnings, even with a relatively small following.
  • Self-publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Highlighted the profitability of self-publishing due to higher revenue shares and control over content and publishing.
  • Productizing Knowledge: Turning expertise into digital products (e.g., courses, ebooks) allows for scalability beyond one-to-one service provision.This approach worked VERY well for me and my clients. We moved from working 1-1 to working 1-many in group consulting + productizing through online courses
  • Delivering Free Value: Providing free, high-quality content or services can lead to paid opportunities through demonstrated expertise and value.Working for FREE isn't a good idea UNLESS it's a strategic move to do it. Deliver for free, build authority and goodwill, test your approach, get testimonials, get paying clients.
  • Understanding Audience Needs: Success in the digital space depends on solving problems for a specific audience, not just producing content.
  • Economic Mindset Shift: Transitioning from trading time for money to productizing and scaling services for exponential growth.

2. Golden Nuggets

  • You don’t need widespread fame to be successful financially; serving a niche audience well can be substantially rewarding.
  • Self-publishing offers greater monetary benefits and control over content, debunking myths around the necessity of traditional publishing deals for success.
  • Productizing your knowledge and skills can exponentially increase earnings by removing the time-for-money trade-off.
  • Offering free value as a strategy to attract paid opportunities emphasizes skill and value over upfront monetization.
  • Success metrics in business should focus on profitability and growth levers, not on vanity metrics like employee headcount.

3. Recommendations

  1. Start Small: Begin with a paid newsletter or a service that caters to a specific audience or niche. Deliver substantial value to build trust and a loyal following.
  2. Demonstrate Value Freely: Offer valuable insights and services for free to showcase your expertise and attract potential paying clients or subscribers.
  3. Shift to Productizing: Once you’ve established a track record, consider creating digital products (e.g., courses, ebooks) that encapsulate your knowledge for scalable income.
  4. Optimize for Self-Publishing: If writing a book, self-publish to retain more revenue and have direct control over the publishing process.
  5. Mindset Shift: Cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset, focusing on creating solutions for audiences and understanding the business value you offer.

4. Tips

1. Understanding Audience Demand

The first step is to identify high-demand topics. Use tools like Google Trends and monitor social media to gauge what subjects are trending or consistently sought after. Writing about these topics increases the likelihood of engaging a larger audience.

"For WHO, so that"

"Every time you sit down to write, ask yourself: who are you creating for? And, what do you want them to achieve with your content? Before writing a single word, think about 'for who' you are writing and 'so that' they can achieve a specific outcome. This approach is crucial, especially for beginners, as it helps in building an audience, accumulating views, and making your first dollar online. It's important to realize that this isn't a one-time decision. Your audience and their needs can evolve over time, and your writing should adapt accordingly

2. Regular Writing and Platform Utilization

Consistency is key. Establish a regular writing schedule and utilize platforms like Quora, personal blogs, and online magazines. These platforms not only help in building a writing habit but also provide visibility and direct interaction with readers.

3. Engaging with Readers

Engagement goes beyond writing. Respond to comments, interact through emails, and use social media to connect with your audience. This direct communication is invaluable for understanding their needs and preferences.

4. Diversifying Your Content

Don't restrict yourself to a single format or style. Experiment with different types of content, including articles, blog posts, and videos. This variety caters to different segments of your audience and keeps your content fresh and engaging.

5. Tracking and Analyzing Growth

Use analytics tools to track your progress. Metrics like page views, engagement rates, and revenue are crucial in understanding what works. This data-driven approach allows for more informed decisions in content creation.

6. Offering Services

Once you've established your credibility, consider monetizing your skills directly by offering services. Ghostwriting, content creation, and consulting are lucrative avenues.

7. Personal Storytelling

Infuse your writing with personal stories and experiences. This makes your content more engaging and helps in establishing a unique voice.

8. Staying Adaptable

The digital landscape is ever-evolving. Keep abreast of the latest trends and be willing to adapt your strategy to stay relevant.

9. Prioritizing the Audience

Your content should primarily serve your audience's needs. This audience-centric approach is fundamental for building a loyal readership and ensuring long-term profitability.

Be "so specific that it's universal to all the people who are like that person." This idea is rooted in the principle that while your content may be targeted towards a specific individual or persona, the characteristics and needs of that individual are often shared by a larger group. By focusing intensely on the needs, interests, and problems of this specific persona, your content naturally resonates with others who share similar traits or face similar issues.

The key takeaway is: when planning your content, don't think about addressing a massive, diverse audience. Instead, visualize one person who represents your ideal reader or client. Ask questions like, "What is their name? Where do they live? What problems do they face? What interests them?" By being detailed in your understanding of this one person, you inadvertently create content that appeals to many others like them. This approach helps in creating more targeted, relevant, and engaging content, which is more likely to attract and retain a broader audience that identifies with the persona you're addressing

10. Proactive Approach

Finally, take action and be willing to adjust your strategies based on feedback and results. The online writing world rewards those who are dynamic and responsive.

5. Best Quotes

  1. "You don't need to be Ed Sheeran levels of famous to make loads of money and have a really successful career."
  2. "You are not the main character of your story. The reader is the main character."
  3. "It seems like it's the longer road, but it is the shortcut because it's the forcing function for your skill."
  4. "Most courses, most books...You aren't really buying information. What you're buying is implementation, accountability, access."
  5. "The way [successful people] look at money is totally different. And I make decisions, not on, oh, how much does it cost? I make decisions around, well, how much time is that going to save me?"

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...and whenever you're ready, here are a few ways I can help you. If you're still trying to figure things out, I'd recommend starting with an affordable course:

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