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by Nick Usborne
This article is about using your writing skills as a means to generate a balanced and growing income over time.
What I describe here is what I have done personally to balance and grow my own income. For you, the details will be different, but I believe you will find the model useful.
A little background. I have been a freelance copywriter for 30 years now. I have done well, but a few years ago I paused and realized that I was simply working one month at a time, without any longer-term plan.
I decided to take a closer look at my base skill – writing – and figure out some other ways to generate an income. I wanted something beyond “get a client, write the job, bill the client”.
Below you’ll see a diagram showing the four separate streams of income I have developed. These won’t be the same for you, but there are probably three or four ways in which you can generate separate streams of income from your writing.
First, let’s look at these four streams of income. (The figures on the left indicate levels of income, but don’t actually represent dollar amounts. The bottom axis simple shows the passage of time over a four-year period.)
This is what I have been doing for the last 30 years. It has been my core writing skill and still generates a certain amount of income. That said, I spend less time on this now than I did a few years ago.
With 30 years of copywriting and freelancing experience behind me, I realised I was pretty well qualified to help others who wanted to take a similar path. So I began coaching. It was a new stream of income for me, and it took me several months before I got my first client. But now it has become a significant source of income for me. In addition, I enjoy it a great deal.
Again, I am drawing on my own writing experience to write guides, courses and programs to help others. Some of these published materials sell for as little as $20, others are sold for close to $500. Of course, there is a lot of work involved in creating a program that sells for $500, but the returns are worth it.
4. Affiliate marketing.
This started out as a hobby. I thought I would use my online writing and marketing experience to create some hobby sites of my own. The idea was to create websites with a ton of content that would then earn me money through Google Adsense and affiliate commissions. Again there was a lot of upfront work involved and it took quite a while for me to see any significant returns on my investment of time. But now my income from these sites has become quite substantial.
There is a balance among these four separate streams.
I knew that I wanted to develop a variety of different streams of income, all of them based on my copywriting and freelance experience. I have settled on these four, but actually explored many others.
Some of the other potential sources I discounted simply because I didn’t think I would enjoy doing them. Others I ignored because they didn’t fit with the balance I was aiming for.
What do I mean by balance?
Let me take you through each stream, one at a time, and show you what I’m talking about.
First, freelance copywriting is a stream of income that depends on my regular attention. As always I have to find clients, do the work and then invoice for the work. If I am not working, then I’m not generating revenues. If I take two weeks off, this revenue stream stops dread in its tracks. But for as long as I work on it, the income is reliable and pretty good.
Coaching is the same in many ways. I have to get clients, work with clients and bill my clients. If I have time off, then I cease to make money.
Publishing is different. First I have to invest hundreds of hours writing the materials. This is a period when authoring and publishing is time-hungry and creates no income at all. I couldn’t do it unless I was also copywriting and coaching. I balance my work week so that copywriting and coaching pay the bills while I invest time in the publishing side.
The payoff comes if and when the published product sells well. Publishing can make you some money, or a ton of money, depending on how well each published piece sells.
And if you take your two-week vacation while your published item is selling well, you can relax in the knowledge that you’re still making money even when you are away from your desk.
There is a downside in that most books, guides and courses see a spike in sales followed by a decline. Very few remain “bestsellers” indefinitely. If you like that spike in income, you’ll need to go back to your keyboard and start on a new project.
The final element in my balanced “portfolio” stream is the writing of content-rich information sites.
If anything, it takes even longer to write a substantial website than it does to write a course or book. And it takes longer to get a good return on that investment of time.
But...once you start making a healthy four figures a month from these part-time information websites, that income continues indefinitely and, for as long as you keep working on the site, albeit part-time, the income level will rise.
Rather than make you scroll back up the page, here is that chart again.
Let’s now look at this from a balance and growth point of view.
As you can see, the income from copywriting and coaching is fairly level. Unless I significantly increase or decrease the time I spend on them, or the fees I charge, those lines will always be pretty much flat.
When you look at the publishing line, it is spiky. When a book, course or program is first published and marketed, you see a jump in income. But it rarely lasts. The money keeps coming in, but not at the same level.
The affiliate line starts at a very low level, and takes a long time to rise. But rise it does. This is a passive stream that requires patience, but ultimately delivers the greatest reward.
The balance here includes sources of steady income, spikes of extra income and a longer-term plan to generate a wholly passive income.
If you can write, I believe you can also think of at least three different streams of separate income. Try to find three or four that balance out the strengths and weaknesses of the others.
My plan and my balance are designed to address the particular needs I face at my age. I’m in my fifties and in ten years or so I don’t want to have to work every day to make a living. So my publishing and affiliate streams are there to give me the choice to work less on the copywriting and coaching, if and when I choose to.
If you are just starting out as a copywriter, your needs may be different, so your choices and chart will look a little different.
Regardless, don’t be satisfied with any one stream. Writing and copywriting are flexible skills. The creation of multiple streams will give you a new and secure level of growth and balance in your income.
1. For more on how to develop that final, passive stream of income, learn about my "How to Write Your Own Money-Making Websites Program" here...
2. If you are interested in making money as a freelance online copywriter, learn about my course, Nick Usborne's Million Dollar Secrets to Online Copywriting.
3. If you want personal, one-on-one help with growing or starting your freelance writing or copywriting business, check out my coaching service at AskNickUsborne.com.
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