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How I Stopped Waiting to Become a Writer, Quit My Job & Launched My Dream

This is a guest contribution from Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

It took me six years to become a professional blogger. And four and a half of those years were spent waiting.

For years, I read blogs, bought books, and watched videos about ordinary, everyday people making the colossal shift from day job to living their dream. I seethed with envy and bitterness as I saw friends skyrocket to success, living out their passions.

What were they doing that I wasn’t?

All the while, I waited. Waited for someone to pick me. Waited for permission. Waited to be good enough to start.

And guess what? Permission never came. Until one day, when everything changed…

The Conversation That Turned Me into a Writer

A few years ago, a friend asked me an important question:

“What’s your dream?”

“Don’t have one,” I said.

“Sure you do. Everyone has a dream.”

“Ah, I dunno… I’m living it, I guess.”

“Really? Hrmph.” And then a long pause — “Because, well, I would’ve thought your dream was to be a writer.”

As soon as I heard those words, something in me stirred. Something that had been there all along.

“Well, uh, yeah…” I gulped, “I guess I’d like to be a writer… some day. But that’ll never happen.”

I sounded so sure, so certain that at 28 years old, I knew where the rest of my life was headed. Shaking his head, my friend smiled.

“Jeff… You don’t have to want to be a writer…”

And then he said nine words that changed me life:

“You are a writer; you just need to write.”

Turns out that was all I needed. It’s really all any of us need: to believe we already are what we want to be.

So that’s what I did. I started calling myself a writer. And I started practicing.

Practice Makes Better

After that conversation, I started blogging, guest posting (despite my fear of rejection), and sharing my work with the world. At first, nobody noticed or cared, and that was just fine with me. Because I was finally doing what I was born to do: writing.

It was good to blog in relative obscurity, good to practice without the whole world watching. This is a foreign concept in our world today. Everyone wants to be awesome now, but the road that leads to mastery is rarely a densely-populated one.

At the same time, I had a daily routine. I was, as Seth Godin says, practicing in public. Putting myself on the line. Forcing myself to be creative. Every day by 7:00 a.m., I had to post something. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. And this expectation I placed on myself was just what I needed. It made me better, helped me find my voice.

That one year of intense writing taught me more than the previous six years of writing when I felt like it. The lesson I learned was this: frequency, not quantity, is what counts in getting to excellence. Some days, I wrote for 30 minutes, while others I wrote for two hours. But the amount of time didn’t matter.

What mattered was that I showed up.

And that’s what turned a hobby into a discipline — and eventually a profession.

“This is the… secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight.” —Steven Pressfield

How I Built an Audience of 100,000 Readers in 18 Months

Initially, nobody knew me. So I interviewed influential people and A-list bloggers, people I wanted to learn from and associate with. And after awhile, I became friends with these folks, some of which invited me to write on their blogs.

Still, there were no overnight successes. It took me six months to get a mere 75 email subscribers. But something amazing happened around that six-month mark: The week I released a free, 900-word eBook for writers, I had over 1000 signups in seven days.

There was power, I learned, in giving more than taking, being generous instead of greedy.

Eight months in, I had amassed an audience of a few thousand followers (through guest posting and my free eBook), and a book publisher asked me to write a book. Within 18 months, those 1000 emails had turned in 20,000, and I was regularly receiving over 100,000 unique visitors to my blog each month.

I wasn’t making much money yet, but I believed that if I helped people, there would be a way to make a living.

From Side Project to Full-time Income

That next year, my wife and I were expecting our first child, and we weren’t sure how we were going to afford it. She wanted to stay home and raise our son, and on my salary it just wasn’t possible.

Someone told me that once you had over 10,000 subscribers, you had a six-figure business. So I decided to give that idea a try, throwing together an eBook in a few days. I sent an email to my subscribers, telling them I was offering the eBook at an early discounted rate. With that first eBook, I made about $1500 in a weekend. At the time, that was about half a month’s salary for me, an entire paycheck. In two days.

I couldn’t believe it. The next few months, I played around with affiliate products and started making a couple hundred bucks a month doing that. The side income was nice, but I knew I had to do another launch.

My second eBook, which was just a rewritten version of the first one, made $16,000 in six weeks. After that, I knew there was something to this whole “make money blogging” thing. Buried in my blog was a business; I just had to find it. Later that year, I released an online course, starting at a low price and gradually raising it with each new class. Every time I launched it, I got more students than the last.

By the end of my second year of blogging, my wife was able to stay home to raise our son, and I was preparing to quit my job. When we did our taxes, we were amazed to see we had not only replaced our income, but tripled it.

What It Takes

Although I’d read all the success stories and heard all the tips, I didn’t realize how much work it would be to build a popular blog.

In my first year of blogging, I wrote over 300 posts for my blog plus 100 guest posts for other websites. To do this, I had to get up every morning at 5:00 a.m. and often stay up well past midnight. I quit most of my other hobbies and focused all my free time on writing.

It wasn’t easy, but I was committed to the dream. Having spent so many years in frustration, unwilling to do the work, I was ready to invest the time — even if it took years — to get the results I wanted.

People often ask me what one thing I did with that made all the difference with my blog. And of course, I can’t think of one. Because it’s a process, a whole hodge-podge of things I did that made it work.

No single strategy can help you to get to your dream. No solitary experience or choice will lead to your big break. Well, except for maybe one:

Don’t give up.

Don’t quit. Keep going. Never stop. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t let go of the dream. You can do this. You will do this — if only you don’t stop.

That’s what’s missing with most blogs and with most writers. Every great story about some legendary entrepreneur I’ve ever read was rife with failure until one hinge moment when it all changed.

What made the difference? Why did Steve Jobs succeeded while thousands others in Silicon Valley didn’t? Why did J.K. Rowling become a worldwide phenomenon while many of her peers never will? And what can ordinary folks like you and me do to live extraordinary lives?

Don’t give up.

If I had to boil it down to three steps, I would say here’s what you need to do:

  1. Own what you are (i.e. writer, blogger, entrepreneur, etc.).
  2. Commit to the process. Do uncomfortable things, make friends with influential people, and keep practicing until people notice.
  3. Keep going. When it’s hard and scary and nobody things you’re any good, don’t give up. Persevere. In the end, we will be telling stories about you, but only if you don’t quit.

So what do you say? Isn’t it time you started really pursuing your dream?

You bet it is.

Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville. You can follow him on Twitter @JeffGoins and check out his new book, The In-Between.

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Comments

  1. Great article. So many points really hit home with me. Thanks so much for writing this!

  2. Awesome post, Jeff! So many points you covered are what I always tell my friends or conversations I have with people on a daily basis.

    You have kept me motivated though, and always have to remember not to give up!

  3. Thanks for the post Jeff. I had the same problem as you. I spent two years researching blogs and internet marketing before I started my own blog this year. Ironically I learned more in my first month of blogging than the previous two years or research. Thanks again for the awesome post! :)

  4. James Melbin says:

    Nice post. Sometimes, its better to learn more before getting started. And sometimes its good to get started while you learn. But the best thing is to get started at the right time.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Interesting take on this, James. It’s always good to learn, but I think you tend to learn the most and study the hardest after you get started. Why? Because you have to.

  5. Achitika says:

    Great post! Very inspirational!!

  6. Matt @ YLB says:

    Great story. Two things here:

    1. The slight edge mentality at work of doing the small things each and every day that have a compound effect over time.

    2. Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do.

  7. Drew Tewell says:

    Great stuff, Jeff! Reading your story inspires me. Thanks for leading the way.

  8. kcm says:

    Thank you for post. This is just what I need at just the right time; I am truly appreciative.
    Your humble honesty along with your insight to “just write” is deeply inspiring.
    Thank you
    kcm
    typicalwishes.

  9. Alex says:

    Nice post. Thank you for sharing this with us, Darren Rowse.

  10. AJ says:

    Thanks Jeff, great post!

    I started my blog (in a pet care niche) in March this year. It was very slow going at first – I didn’t break 200 pageviews in a day until mid-May – but in late May and early June things started to pick up.

    Now, less than three months later, I’m averaging just over 1000 unique visitors and 3000 pageviews per day. Obviously, that works out to around 30,000 uniques and 90,000 pageviews per month – which I’m very pleased with!

    But, while I’m pleased, I’m not satisfied with that. My traffic is rising all the time and I’m doing everything I can to continue that upward trend.

    I’ve added a forum, which I think is slowly gaining traction, and I hope to add a photo gallery soon to really build up a sense of community. As well as posting regularly of course.

    Basically, I’m viewing my blog as a content and community driven business where pageviews = cash, and doing everything I can to grow pageviews while not compromising the integrity of the blog and the user experience.

    As you say, you’ve just got to believe in what you’re doing, view your blog as a business and keep working!

    Thanks again.

    AJ

  11. You hit on some dead on points Jeff, thanks for sharing with us!!!

    Ryan

  12. James says:

    Thanks Jeff,
    I read your book a while a go and “life” got in the way! A timely reminder to get back on the horse!
    Thanks Darren for letting Jeff write here! You are both inspirational!
    James

  13. Lian says:

    Just wanted to say Thank you. this is an amazing honest and heartfelt article. I needed this today.

  14. Marcela says:

    Hey, Jeff!
    I’m a blogger from Brazil (also a journalist), and I have to say I was very inspired by your post. I’ve been really sad lately because I feel like my blog isn’t going anywhere as much as I try. I’ve had it for five years now and sometimes I realy just want to give it up all together. At first I only used it as a hobby, but as of last year, I really have been trying my best to make my life’s work. I’m really passionate about it, but sometimes not having as much response (such as likes and comments) can be really frustrating.
    Thank you for inspiring me to keep going!

  15. Lincoln says:

    Now that is sure tenacity and grit to be able to pull it out that way. The main thing I got from this was to provide value, more value and even more value. I can’t wait to see some of my Bloggig friends reach this level because all of them are just that good. They just have to follow your trail. Thanks Jeff.

  16. zolar says:

    great article.. I’ve been blogging about 6 years and still can’t quit job.. maybe i need to learn more

  17. marty says:

    I am at a point in my life where I am just learning about who I am and what I want out of life.And to honest it terrifying but this inspired me to just go for it and jump right in.Thanks

  18. Lisha says:

    Hey Jeff, great story! I think you are definitely inspiring a lot of people! I truly believe anyone can make it, it’s just about perseverance, consistency, and doing the right things. Glad that you’ve found your success — and that it’s growing. Congrats on the new book too :)

  19. Nikhil says:

    Superb post,
    thank you for sharing your helpful tips and guidance with us. its really useful………This give me encouragement.
    Thank you. …. :)

  20. Jeff, this is the type of article that not only inspires but puts a book mark on what to do. I appreciate your input, struggle and detailed plan of action. I love how you walked us through how you lived & survived. I am at your six year mark now. I too am at the focusing on blogging full time moment. I too am at that time of turning passion into a full time income. I thank you for being an example to someone like me on what can be.

    I wish you continued success.

    God Bless

  21. Johnw says:

    Quite an interesting story that you shared here. Well i am also suffering from same situation. Same thing i am also following to be an expert. Hope i could also get success.

  22. Zenelia says:

    hey Jeff…really nice article….
    Really when I just started reading it from the beginning and as I went further a little smile and a positive inspiration started flowing through me and I really felt very good after reading the complete post.
    That was a great piece of inspiration and identifying your dreams and Now I completely understand how you got I00,000 readers in just 18 months…:)…

    God Bless you…and keep writing with these courage and spirit
    Nice Post
    Thanks for sharing…

  23. Gjivan says:

    Very inspirational and true story. Really enjoyed reading!!

  24. Alexander says:

    Very nice and inspiring Post. Greetings from Germany

  25. Gaurav says:

    great story jeff, very inspirational and i am dam sure that almost every newbie face these kind of issues in their struggling period.

  26. Guy Hogan says:

    I have a blog about how to write flash fiction. It’s a blog for writers; and I’ve identified perseverance as the #1 trait that a writer must have if he or she is to succeed as a writer. Your post re-enforces my little tip for writers. Thanks.

  27. Vinnie says:

    You are completely right. Sometimes what it takes to do something you’ve always wanted is a simple nudge in the right direction. People always want to be successful in the same instant they start doing something, they forget that hard work and perseverance couple with patience eventually lead to success. You are a prime example of that.

    Thank you for a good post and best of luck to you Jeff!

  28. Great post Jeff. I’ve got a saying when writers tell me they’re waiting for X or Y to happen to move forward — for that query letter to get a response, for the kids to grow up…whatever it is.

    Be a writer, not a waiter. There’ll never be a better time than now — you just THINK there will be. ;-)

    Looking forward to your book!

  29. York says:

    Great post, Jeff! Being a writer is not a bed of roses . You have to be passionate about it and only then you can hit home the results. Your story is so inspiring. Thanks for leading the way.

  30. Jeff Brown says:

    Although I’ve heard most of this story from Jeff before, I never get tired of hearing him tell it because I always walk away with something new. Thanks, Darren, for giving him the opportunity to share here.

  31. Jonathan Ashford says:

    I agree with so much of this. But I also think you omit the crucial role of luck. You ask why J.K. Rowling became a worldwide phenomenon — a complicated question but surely largely the result of factors outside her control. I am sure many have struggled with equal persistence to write books, perhaps of greater literary merit, only to see their efforts languish in obscurity.

    But she still had to make a daily choice to write, just as you did. I can get behind that choice – it is, after all, the only the thing within my control.

  32. Michele says:

    Very glad to see this today. It gave me the inspiration to keep going. I also think sometimes you have to get the creative writing energy out of you even if you don’t have readers yet. Just start moving and hopefully the positive energy you put out will attract something to you.

  33. Christie says:

    This was exactly what I needed to hear. Blogging for me has been a two month test of my level of commitment. Last week I blushed with excited over 11 page views. It occurred to me as well, that giving will get me further than taking. I want views and subscriptions, but what are people getting in exchange for their attention? Right now all they are getting is a peephole view into my life, which is neither impressive nor rewarding.

    After reading this I am vowing to figure out something I can give back, hopefully by the end of the week.

    Many thanks for the post,

    Christie

  34. Kimberly says:

    Thanks for a wonderful and inspiring article, Jeff. Patience is so, so important and yet infinitely difficult to practice sometimes. But in the last few weeks I’ve been coming across story after story about people who have slogged away for 18 months, or two years, or longer, before something big finally broke for them, and they were on their way.

    I’m reminded of Stephen King’s spike on his bedroom wall that held all of his rejection slips — just think if he had given up then. And speaking of Stephen King, I love how he says, simply, “writers write.” That’s what we do, whether we get paid for it or not, we write, because we can’t *not* write. You gotta do the work.

    I came across your blog a couple of years ago Jeff, and I’m thrilled that things are working out so well for you — keep up the awesome work! : )

  35. Pawel says:

    Thank you for such a great inspiration!
    I just start writing about productivity and simplicity at http://www.productiveblog.com and it was exactly what I was looking for!

  36. Great post Jeff. I didn’t know about some of the details in your story to where you are today. It’s fun watching you grow and become your own success. I particularly loved this quote:

    “Everyone wants to be awesome now, but the road that leads to mastery is rarely a densely-populated one.”

    I started blogging on my site again: http://kylechowning.com and gave myself a 31 day challenge. It’s not quite the 365 that you undertook, but given that I’ve probably blogged 31 times in the past three or four years, 31 posts in the same amount of days is a game changer.

    I look forward to our lunch next week!
    kyle

  37. And this is why I pay close attention to what you have to say. You’re an inspiration!

  38. I’m a firm believer that the universe speaks when we’re ready to listen and I was asking for a clear sign to either keep moving on my dream or move on, your article gave me the message I needed. I’ve shared it with my FB and Twitter people, awesome piece. Thank you for your courage :)

  39. Angel Cuala says:

    Great story, Jeff. Thanks for inspiring us.

    I have been full-time web content writer for various websites and blogs since August 2010, and I’m very happy that just like you, I pursued my dream. And it’s funny to think that I am a licensed engineer who have worked for different companies for 16 years.

    Yes, you’re absolutely right – “No single strategy can help you to get to your dream.” This is very true. One should keep trying different ideas on how to reach his dream and should never give up his own happiness. Come to think of it, success is sweeter when we face a lot of trials.

    After failing on something, I always remind myself of Thomas Edison, who tried more than 2,000 experiments before he became successful in inventing the light bulb.

    Regards.

  40. Hi Jeff,

    This is very inspiring, Jeff. I also wanted to become a writer and started writing in a school paper when I was in Grade school. But I eventually stopped when I got into high school and college and chose a different profession instead. Just a year ago, I started applying for writing jobs online and realized that my passion for writing was never gone.

  41. Great post Jeff. It’s one thing I don’t do is write everyday which I need to set a better discipline for that.
    This has inspired me to think what my next moves are to take my blog to the next level. Thanks.

  42. Tisha says:

    I’ve been a fan of Jeff Goins for some time now, and have always liked this story. A couple of months ago, I decided to write and post something every day for a year, not so much because I want to make money at blogging, but to get better at writing.

    Thanks for sharing your story Jeff, and thanks to Darren for letting him share it here.

  43. Carlos says:

    Hi Jeff, great post!

    I just wanted to say, thanks for the inspiration!!! It gets hard… really hard… It kind of looks counterintuitive…since you give yourself 100 percent to your readers… and then you see the stats…and there is only 5. or less. I have made myself take the determination, that as long as I have just ONE… it is worth the while.. you are helping one person. With time, the blog will grow.

    Thanks.

  44. Varun chP says:

    Jeff, I always wonder wt’s the Purpose of Me on this planet earth? I don’t have any goals or aim’s, I’m not an ambitious person at all. Also, I used to hate reading books, always used to feel bored to read’em and the People around me are good readers. I used to be pity abt them. One day, when my cousin asked abt my dream, i’ve nothing to say.. She said, I need to figure it out n asked me to read any kind of book.. After reading a blog, i’ve realised that “writer’s can live a thousand lives yet a layman can live only his.” That day I wrote a small blog, send it to couple of frnd’s and got the applause. After reading ur experience, i’ve been motivated and most importantly, you’ve shared some tips for aspiring writers like us. Bravo Jeff, its pleasure reading ur blog:) Thank you for sharing:)

  45. Philip Cross says:

    I hate to repeat what has already been said, but I have to say this from the heart….

    This is one of the most inspirational stories/posts I have ever

    I have been inspired to keep at it until I break through.

    Thank you again Jeff for sharing both the struggles – as well as the break through.

    Once again, your point has been proven…

    You have shared with us and now we want to follow and share with you.

    I’ll see you soon on Twitter, Facebook, the blog, and wherever else I can find you!

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Wow. Thanks, Philip! That means a lot. I honestly wasn’t sure if this would resonate or not. Guess we never know how powerful our own story is until we share it, eh?

  46. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for posting this!!! It is exactly what I needed to read today!!!!!!!!

  47. wally says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful article! I think that more people should break away from the grind and what they truly love. This post is very inspirational to continue blogging and writing. Keep up the good work!

  48. Roman Likhtin says:

    Thank you Jeff for the great article!
    I run my blog for a long time, but these results could not achieve.
    Through this article, I realized my mistakes and try to correct them.

  49. amber says:

    Jeff, this was just what I needed to hear today. I spend my life on my computer, with my baby on my lap or by my side, WRITING, WRITING, WRITING or photographing crafty tutorials or cooking or sending out weekly newsletters. Sometimes I wonder is it all worth it? But I keep going, am compelled to keep going. This is truly my dream, to live my life as a writer/crafter/creative doing what I love to do, and being able to work from anywhere in the world. Income is starting to trickle in through paid reviews… and I have sold over 120 books already. I’m currently making more ebooks and raising funds to print 1000 copies of my Creative Parenting for Fun book so I can do a big media blitz and community talks etc. Now I just need to do some serious PR and marketing, and more guest posting… It is happening… slowly. But thank you for your big push and boost today. I really needed that!

  50. Bev says:

    Wow! This is so beautiful Jeff, it made me cry! :) This really hit home, really what i needed to hear. Thank you so much!!! :)