Free Advice Friday: Writer Advice that Could be Hurting You

What’s on the iPod: More Than a Feeling by Boston

It’s been quite the week. I didn’t have a ton of work, but I had a lot of busy stuff. So far, I’ve had two evening events/outings, and there’s another tomorrow. It’s not even Thanksgiving and parties are starting.

It’s Friday, and time for another edition of Free Advice Friday. Actually, every day is a free-advice day. Today is no different, except in the title.

Since this post series was a direct result of something that got under my skin a bit, I wanted to return to that theme. I’d seen a few writers, who were newbies themselves not so long ago, offering to “help” their colleagues by charging them for advice. I get it, and yes, we all deserve to make money. If someone is willing to pay, who am I to say?

But this was different. This was a continual deluding of the audience into believing that these “experts” had all the answers (and the only answers, as a few of them framed it), and that their advice would be solid, actionable advice that would improve a writer’s career. And in one or two cases, it was the continuation of that theme to ridiculous levels. 
Again, if you’re willing to put down your hard-earned bucks, your choice. But where I take exception is in some of the methods that are being taught to some pretty green writers who wouldn’t know just how bad that advice is.

You’ve seen what I’ve seen, I’d bet: promises of response rates, conversion rates, and “This will work for you, too!” pronouncements. Or my personal peeve, the overstated bullshit that under-delivers every time: “Try this one method that GUARANTEES your freelance success!” or “I changed one thing and it doubled my income!” Then you find out it’s something ridiculously mundane like “I sat down and wrote!”
Are we really that gullible? I say no. We are smart writers who can sift through the schlock statements and over-promises.
Before you buy in to the idea of a one-size-fits-all solution or a quick fix for your career, remember these things:
Duplicating other people’s efforts is impossible. There is no way Jane, who’s a type A personality and a people person by nature, can change Ralph, who is a bit melancholic and would rather chew off his arm than call a prospective client, into a cold calling genius. Maybe Ralph will get over some of his trepidation and yes, pick up some new clients, but his nature isn’t going to change, nor will he ever duplicate the response rates and conversion rates of another writer who has a completely different business model and approach. There’s only so much you can mirror before you have to create your own approach.

The problem with nearly every failed attempt can be traced back to consistency. Sure, Jane can get Ralph to pick up a phone and maybe even be good at it, but if Ralph doesn’t do that on a regular basis, he’s just wasted his money. The same goes for your method, her method, his method, and my method. Regular attempts net better results. Think of it in sports terms — the more times you attempt to score, the more times you actually will.

Not every answer is found in the writing profession. While many writers have built and maintain successful businesses, there are few (if any) who have all the answers. Mix up where you get your information. Try reading books or blogs by people who have careers based on what you want to know about — marketers, sales pros, entrepreneurs, insurance brokers, accountants, you name it. Look outside writing for benchmarks: you’re looking for concepts you can apply to your business.

If everyone is running left, it’s time to run right. Sure, those long sales pages may work for the three people you know, or maybe surgical instrument manufacturing is the hottest specialty out there. But for how long? And if you aren’t all that enamored with it, why bother? Diversify because you want to, not because you’re trying to chase the tail everyone else is clinging to. Instead, create your own way and own it.

Your business isn’t like any other business. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you must have your business achieving the same growth rate as another writer’s business. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to grow a business — it matters what you’re growing (and how). Your specialty may require more time, or less time, than your colleague’s specialty. Every business is different — let yours be what it is and stop trying to shoehorn it into some overpaid guru’s notion of what it should look like.
Writers, what hurtful advice or actions have you seen?
What advice would you have for writers who aren’t sure what advice to take?

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