When you are starting out as a new writer, whether you plan to write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, articles or a blog, you want people to read your work and be amazed at your talent. You want everything you write to set the world on fire and turn heads all over the globe, amass a legion of fans and supporters for your work and quit your day job to concentrate on writing full time. Unfortunately that is probably not going to happen straight away – but the reality is that it is actually for the best if hardly anyone notices your very early work.
This doesn’t necessarily apply to Freelance writers, who need to get their name and work out there as quickly as possible to be able to make a living, yet often don’t even take credit for much of their work. A lot of work you can get as a freelancer is released anonymously or under the name of the site or publication rather than the specific writer, but that’s just part of the territory (you’re being paid to write it for someone else) and you often get reviews or recommendations from the work you get published. It’s safe to say that the work I have done as a freelancer, or that has been published without my name attached to it, has been far more widely read than anything I have published on my own platforms so far.
However, if you are looking to turn a hobby into a career through a blog, or you are looking to build a readerbase as a writer through an online portfolio of content (whether it be articles, fiction, artwork, or literally anything you want to start writing about) then the beginning stages of building your platform can be infuriating, because it can be a long and slow process unless you invest in advertising yourself. It’s important to recognise that in these early stages, when you don’t have a massive social media following and you’re not bringing in readers by the hundreds, it can also be quite liberating.
A lot of writers and bloggers tend to become disheartened when they have been plugging away for a while on building up a site or getting pieces published on various platforms, but are still struggling to get followers or build a readerbase. There can be many reasons that a website or social media account doesn’t necessarily get the traffic or follows you might expect, but it’s not necessarily an indication that what you’re doing is bad. It is important to remember that it can take a really long time for most sites or blogs to gain any traction. This is especially true if you are trying to do it organically – or, without spending any money. Some of the most famous or successful bloggers were working hard on building their brand and online presence for around a decade before anything really took off for them. Obviously there could be problems which hold you back, such as not being consistent enough with your output (an often unavoidable pitfall of not being a full-time writer), not having an attractive or professional-looking website, not offering enough value with your content or maybe even something you won’t figure out until later. It helps to try to fix any obvious problems as early as possible, but unless you have something to sell on your site, then pulling in readers and followers is not as important as attracting the right kind of readers and followers. It does not help you or any of the people who follow you if they are just doing it out of obligation, like your family and friends. The readers and followers you ultimately want are the ones who are genuinely interested in your work. In the meantime, flying under the radar can actually turn out to be a great opportunity for a new writer. Not financially speaking, perhaps, but in some significant ways which will all pay off as you mature and progress on your writing journey.
Starting out in a new venture or pursuing a new career is always going to come with new challenges and learning curves. The last thing you would want is for everyone to be there at the beginning to see your stumbles and fumbles as you get to grips with building a body of work and making all of the mistakes which are commonplace for new writers. You might make some crappy memes to accompany your work, share work before you’ve thoroughly edited it or put together a gaudy or hectic website for yourself. It’s okay to do any of that in the early stages because hardly anyone will see it. It’s a free pass to make all of the mistakes that you can, to get them out of your system and maybe get a bit of honest, constructive feedback from the few who do read it. A lot of the mistakes you will make are things you will only ever do once (thankfully), but they happen to pretty much everyone at some point. You definitely don’t want a huge audience for something you will be embarrassed by later, plus you can always go back and edit or delete things as you learn. That way, by the time people do start to take notice, you’ll have a back catalogue of excellent work and you’ll be experienced and competent enough to know all the pitfalls to avoid in future.
Grow As A Writer
No matter how good you think you are when starting out as a writer, the more you write, the more your skills and style will inevitably improve. You will develop your own distinct ‘voice’, (which is not limited to writers of fiction and bloggers, but applies to writers of all kinds), your style will sharpen and your strengths will only get stronger as any weaknesses get ironed out. For some, this is a slow process, while others might see rapid improvements as they produce more and more work. Either way, it is best to get all of the crappy stuff out of the way before you have too many eyes on your work. This is similar to the point about making mistakes, but more than that, this relates specifically to improving your craft and honing your technique so that you become the absolute best writer that you can be.
In terms of both technique and creativity, you will inevitably make substantial improvements as you evolve. Maybe you’re writing fiction and you keep head-hopping, or falling back too heavily on clichéd tropes and slipping into imitating the style of your favourite writer. For bloggers and freelance journalists, maybe you’re still trying out different styles and formats for your articles or struggling to generate ideas or catchy headlines. Whatever the problems are, you will soon work out the issues you need to improve upon and the skills you need to hone. They will all naturally get better and easier over time, because writing, like any skill, can only be improved through practice.
Experiment In Other Genres/Media/Niches
Again, this one does not really apply to freelancers, because although you need to be able to write on a wide range of topics, a freelancer gets the best results if they are incredibly specific about the type of content they are best at creating. Being an expert in one area can be very helpful in attracting clients as a freelance writer, because companies and sites tend to favor specialists when searching for their various content creators.
However, if you are building an author platform or a site for your creative output, or blogging etc, then the biggest perk for new writers having small followings is that you can use your time to branch out and try new things. Similar to the old expression ‘dance like nobody’s watching’, you are free to write and express yourself like nobody’s watching (because they’re not). By diversifying your output early on, you will stand a better chance of finding things that you are really passionate about and can enjoy working on.
For example, you might start a blog on one very narrow and specific topic, which will hopefully start to build a fanbase and reputation etc, but that will be limited to people who are passionate about that specific topic and largely share the same views on it that you do. If you try to diversify your portfolio of output, you might find that the thing you wanted to blog about at first becomes boring to you when you’ve gotten a couple of things off your chest, but then you have other avenues to pursue and other topics to write about. You could find that you start writing crime stories and branch out into poetry, or maybe start a sports blog and end up preferring to write lifestyle or travel articles. The good thing about having hardly any followers and readers in the beginning is that you can branch out as much as you want, because you’re not pigeonholed into being a specific type of writer. It also works in your favour as you produce more and more content, because you will naturally start to attract a broader audience of readers. Even if you have a very specific goal for the type of writer you want to be, you may end up learning new skills or getting some valuable feedback from trying something new.
So, if you are a new writer and your author website or social media accounts and pages are still flying a bit under the radar, don’t despair. You can use this time wisely and treat it as the opportunity it is, rather than see it as a negative. Don’t be discouraged by low numbers and, if possible, use it as motivation to diversify and improve. Many readers are hesitant to follow pages or even share content if they come across a site with barely anything on it, because they can’t be sure if they would want to revisit unless there is content to consume. The answer is to keep creating more content, so that your site will eventually feel more substantial and better showcase your abilities. Then, when more people start to discover your work at a later date, they will have even more of your work to explore and enjoy. The benefit of making your first impression on more people later on, is that it will be better than the one you would make right now.
Most importantly, just keep writing.