That headline sounds backwards — I realize that. Usually you spend years in your industry, soaking up its knowledge for a decade before you write your own “how to” manual.
You don’t start freelancing by writing a book.
But I did, and I’m a better freelancer because of it.
And I didn’t write just any old nonfiction “How to Run a Business” book – I wrote a fiction thriller novel. That’s probably as far removed from the subjects of entrepreneurship, copywriting, or freelancing as I could get.
Writing a fiction book makes you a better freelancer, and here’s why:
- You’ll be a much better writer. My blog posts, articles, and writing projects have all benefited from my fiction writing experience – that means I’m better at communicating with people and clients who bring me income.
- You’ll be much more organized. Writing a book of great length (110,000 words, to be precise) takes a certain level of patience and organizational stamina. I learned a lot about planning and staying on track from that book.
- You’ll be more focused. Writing about the same subject, even in fiction, was great for helping to hone my skills as a wordsmith. Now, I plan, write, and schedule my content much faster than I did before.
These three benefits aren’t exclusive to my experience, either. I’ve spoken with plenty of business owners, consultants, and freelancers who have written a book – any kind of book, actually – and have extolled the virtues of these huge writing projects.
If you’re interested in really taking your freelancing work to the next level, you should consider writing a book.
First, though, let me give you a clearer picture of what the experience required. Specifically, I had a pretty strong foundational level of knowledge in each of these areas:
- Reading. I believe that people who read a ton of books are better writers overall. So I increased my reading level from around 50-75 books a year to over 100 when I started writing. I read anything from business, marketing, and consulting-focused nonfiction to action-packed thrillers. If you don’t read regularly, you’ll have a much harder time putting words on paper.
- Structure. Since I’d been a voracious reader for most of my life, I had an inherent understanding of structure, whether in fiction novels or nonfiction material. I knew how to “connect the dots” better than someone who wasn’t a reader.
- Grammar. Grammar, punctuation, and style have all been “pet peeves” of mine long before I started writing my book. One of my favorite pastimes is driving around to the local businesses to find the “Now Hirring” and “Open Weekday’s” signs.
These skills aren’t crucial to write your book, but they’re definitely helpful – and the best way to improve in all three areas at once is to make more time for reading.
So, what can you expect to gain from writing a book?
For one, expertise.
There’s something funny about the word “expert.” I’m not trying to downplay the word, but I do feel like there’s a reason people are more apt to label someone as an “expert” when they’ve published a book or two.
I know that in this day and age, literally anyone can “publish” a book, but I want to focus not on what other people think of you for writing a book, but on what you have to gain from the experience.
Writing a book can lead to huge gains in:
- Planning and organization. When I started writing, I had a pretty good concept of the David Allen Getting Things Done approach to task management. But by the time I hit the second chapter, I realized that I needed a much more flexible yet usable system. My methods will differ from yours, but you can expect to develop a very helpful process of organization you can transfer to your business dealings.
- Scheduling. Part of the larger “planning” pie, I found huge improvements in my ability to purposefully block out sections of my time to write. You’ll need to do this, too – writing a book takes time and effort, and if you don’t make the time for it, you probably won’t do it at all! The scheduling lessons you’ll learn from writing diligently every day are lessons that carry over very easily into your working life.
- Motivation. I’m more motivated to produce and create than I ever have been in my life. Writing a book – and finishing it – leads to a morale boost that’s second-to-none, and it’ll last much longer than the novelty of having that bound stack of paper on your coffee table. (Plus, I don’t ever struggle with writer’s block anymore.)
The gains don’t stop there. You’ll discover many smaller benefits that you’ll come across; some I’ll list here, and some you’ll be surprised to find when you start your book! It’ll teach you:
- How to string words together in a more concise way. A recurring theme in just about any style of writing is “keep it concise.” You want to be direct; to-the-point. In fiction, conciseness keeps the story moving forward and breathes life into characters. In writing blog posts and articles, I’m not using as many parenthetical anecdotes or unnecessary adverbs.
- How to “chunk” tasks. Books can usually be broken into sections like chapters, acts, or parts. Mine was no different, and one of the “secrets” I found was to write in a “scene followed by sequel” way. It’s a fiction technique, but it transfers to nonfiction easily. Just focus on starting from a “bird’s eye” view—write your table of contents, major section introductions, and chapter headings, and then fill in the rest! Focus on biting off one small chunk at a time, until the book is finished.
- How to get a publishing deal. Usually, writing a book isn’t quite enough to get a publishing contract. Nonfiction and fiction authors need to submit queries, find an agent, and pitch their manuscripts. In the real world of business freelancing, you know that there are busy times and, well, not-so-busy times. During those slower periods, you can work on writing content for a blog, submitting articles to an industry/trade publication, or writing another book. It’s all part of building a platform… and for authors, it’s the secret to getting a publishing contract.
For freelancers, it’s the secret to long-term success.
If you’re not a writer or have never really tried your hand at penning a long writing project, don’t despair. Remember, some of the best writers weren’t people who had studied the craft for years or who took the most writing courses.
They were people who knew their topic well.
A successful freelancer like yourself obviously knows something. Consider writing it down – it may not be enough to publish, but it’ll get the juices flowing for more creative outlets. Maybe you’ll find enough motivation to start a blog, which leads to more customers, or maybe you’ll start preparing white papers for your particular niche market, which brings you more leads.
Either way, start looking at your work as a manuscript that’s being written very slowly. Every client, every new product, is a chapter. Tell your story, and tell it in a compelling enough way that people want to listen.
The best stories, whether fictional or not, aren’t those that are inherently intriguing. Not necessarily. They’re the stories that are written with passion and a deep knowledge about the subject matter.
And don’t forget:
Publishing a book is a great way to promote your product or service – or the book itself can generate income for you. If nothing else, having that shiny new hardcover on your coffee table is enough to make the in-laws jealous!
If you’re struggling with how to go about turning your business model into a viable book idea, leave a comment—I’ll read every one and respond where I’m able. Also, check this site for more information on writing, and my own site for information on how to build your professional platform!