You love writing and dream about getting paid to write? But you have a story stuck in your head. A story that says you can’t make a living from your writing. Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise.
You see, earlier this year I contributed to a new book, Write and Grow Rich. In this book, I and 23 other author entrepreneurs, share how to create a six-figure business around your writing.
And today I want to let you in on the biggest secret of all. It’s incredibly simple and yet it’s something most authors get wrong. It’s this…
… successful writers create work for a specific audience. They know their readers better than their readers know themselves.
Adam Houge, one of my coauthors, is the international bestselling author of more than 100 Christian faith books. When asked the key to his success, he said this:
“knowing what my audience wants or needs and how they want to have it conveyed to them, as well as where to find and connect with them.”
Why You Must Know Your Audience
This is not new advice. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. But if you’re not finding success as an author then I challenge you to ask yourself this question:
Do you really know who you’re writing for?
Do you understand their secret hopes and deepest fears? Do you know what makes them weep for joy? Or what breaks their heart? Or what keeps them awake at night?
Because knowing your audience at the deepest level is the first step in getting paid to write. It’s how you do meaningful work and make a real difference in the world.
Marc Guberti publishes multiple blog posts every day and tweets every 15 minutes to more than 400,000 Twitter followers. This is what he said in Think and Grow Rich about writing for an audience:
“I write each book with the intention of serving my audience in a new way and providing them with something that will elevate them to the next level in their business and life.”
So, you understand that you must have a target audience. How do you go about defining one? In the next section, I share an exercise to help you figure out exactly who you’re writing for.
Know Your Audience Exercise
The following is a marketing exercise. I’ve been teaching this approach for over five years and have used it to help writers, freelancers, coaches, and other online business owners earn more money.
You are going to define something I call your WOW statement. There are five steps:
- Step One: Research your ideal reader
- Step Two: Define your Who
- Step Three: Define your Outcome
- Step Four: Define your Why
- Step Five: Capture your WOW Statement
Your WOW Statement goes much deeper than describing your target audience. It will influence everything you do from this point forward in your writing career. It will help you get paid to write. Let’s get started.
Step One: Research Your Ideal Reader
Start by thinking about one person you write for. It may be:
- Someone you enjoyed working with in the past.
- Someone you easily connect with and know you can help.
- A friend or someone you would like to serve in the future.
This is your ideal reader or your “who”.
In this step, you will spend time getting to know this person and what they want. You can do this in several ways:
- Online research: Read relevant forums, online groups, Q&A sites, reviews sites (Amazon, Udemy, Etc.). Also look at what questions your clients/followers/subscribers ask most often or review popular blog posts in your niche.
- Talk to your ideal readers: Meet them for coffee and ask them about their life and challenges. Or if this isn’t possible, chat with them online via email, Facebook messages, etc.
When talking with people, ask open ended questions. Your goal is to explore their urgent pains and secret dreams. Here are some questions you can ask:
- Can you tell me about the last time you experienced [the problem you solve]?
- How did it make you feel?
- What specifically about [the problem] keeps you awake at night?
- What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem?
- What do you like or dislike about the solutions you’ve tried?
Capture as much detail as possible. Make sure you write everything down – either in an online document or on paper. Including the specific language your target audience uses.
Step Two: Define Your Who
Now you know your ideal reader, write a paragraph describing them. This is your “who”.
Capture details about her personal life, marital status, how many kids she has, her hobbies, etc. Also, write down her inner thoughts and feelings (as they relate to your writing).
Here’s a version of my “who”:
Sarah is a stay-at-home mom. She once had a successful corporate career as a marketing executive. But after having kids she chose to stay home. She strives to be the best mom and wife she can be. She enjoys hanging out with her mom friends but somehow the conversation always revolves around kids and diapers. She wants more. She feels like something is missing in her life. Yet she feels guilty for thinking this way. She knows she’s fortunate to have two wonderful children, a nice home, and financial security. Nevertheless, she dreams about doing something more with her life. Earning an income from home and making a difference in the world. But she doubts she’ll ever have the courage to take the leap and give it a go. She longs for someone to tell her that it’s okay to feel the way she does. That she can do it. And to show her the way.
Step Three: Define Your Outcome
In this step you’re going to go deeper into what your ideal reader wants. Start by answering the following questions.
- What are your ideal reader’s urgent pains? (EX: “I hate looking in the mirror, I hate the way my body looks”).
- What are your ideal reader’s secret hopes and dreams? (EX: “I wish I looked the way I did when I first met my partner. I just want to look good in a swim suit again”).
- What’s your ideal reader’s dream solution that she’d pay almost anything for? (EX: “If only there was a way I could lose 10 pounds without giving up my favorite food or going to the gym for an hour every day”).
Next take your answers from these questions and describe the biggest result you can provide your ideal reader. Be sure to define the deep-rooted benefits your reader experiences. This is your “outcome”.
Step Four: Define Your Why
Okay – it’s time to find out what makes you special. When you bring your personality and unique experiences into your writing, you stand out in the crowd. You create work your target audience loves.
I recommend asking friends, family, and colleagues to answer these questions about you. I know this can be uncomfortable, but it’s worthwhile. Others see qualities in you that you may be blind to. They are things you do so naturally, you don’t realize they make you special.
- What three things make you memorable? For example, an unusual quirk, a unique experience, your background, a prior occupation, your hobbies, etc.
- What are your special talents? These are often things you’ve been good at since childhood.
- What do people always compliment you on? Or seek your advice about?
- What do other writers in your field do that you can do differently?
Now take your answers to these questions and describe why you’re unique within your niche. This is your “why”.
Step Five: Capture Your WOW Statement
After completing steps one to four, review your WOW Statement as a whole. Make sure you answer yes to the following:
- Does it clearly define a target audience?
- Does it use the language of my ideal reader?
- Does it differentiate me from other people in the same space?
- Is it credible and can I deliver on its promise?
- Does it leave room for growth?
When you’re happy with it, place your WOW Statement somewhere you can easily refer to it.
Get Paid To Write
Knowing your target audience is the first step in building a successful author business. Once you understand who you write for you can create amazing work and raving fans.
In Write and Grow Rich, Alexa Bigwarfe – mother, author, publisher, entrepreneur and podcaster – said this:
“I focus my efforts more on gaining visibility and building my audience and network. I’ve realized that a focused strategy is far more effective than a blanket approach. And I know that a solid email list and a big audience network (of your real fans, not fake fans) is the best way to sell books, programs, courses and more.”
You may be a writer, but without readers you aren’t using your gifts for the greatest good. You aren’t making the impact in the world you were designed to make. Now, go find your raving fans.
If you’d like to learn more secrets of successful authors, then check out Write and Grow Rich on Amazon. You will discover how 24 authors have used books to build lucrative, inspiring businesses and how you can too.