The Secret to Making a Full-Time Living as a Creator
I earn six-figures as a writer. Here’s how I did it.
Millions of people have viewed my work in 2019 alone. I’m certain I will become a millionaire at some point in my life — sooner than later. That being said, I have a new favorite project that doesn’t make me a single cent. I spend hours on it. I lust after it to the point where I sacrifice writing time to work on it. What’s the new project? YouTube.
I started my channel five months ago. I have 1,600 followers on Youtube, compared to the 44,000 I have on Medium and the 16,000 people on my email list.
Why spend time focusing on some little pet project that makes no money. Shouldn’t I be doubling down on scaling up the writing business?
Shouldn’t I be laser-focused on squeezing out as much money as possible?
No, because if I were to do that, I wouldn’t be using the secret to making money as a creator.
This simple secret has been the key to my success. I used it when I had no followers as a writer.
I used it to propel myself from dead broke to financially free, building a massive audience along the way.
Are you ready for the secret?
Here it comes.
The secret to having a successful career as a creator is…to have fun. Novel idea, right? But I see so many aspiring creators so stuck in getting results that they don’t seem to understand the point of what they’re doing.
The point of writing isn’t to make money as a writer, the point of writing is to write.
So many people reach out to me saying they struggle with their writing. Why? Don’t you like it?
I get that writers feel self-doubt and are critical about their own work. I am too. But I can’t imagine being paralyzed in perfectionism. They’re just words, dude. Just write them. It’s fun. It should be, at least.
I credit my success to not making any money at all, to begin with. I wrote for fun. Yes, I did write to gain fans and I liked the attention. That was a huge part of it, too.
But the process of trying to get the followers was fun to me. Iterating and figuring out what needles to move, what knobs to turn, and what dials to increase was an adventure in and of itself.
Take the new YouTube channel I’m working on. I’m the smallest of small fish there. None of my writing success carries over. And I love it. It’s fun trying to figure out how to master a new platform. Challenge itself is supposed to be fun.
Trust me, if you went viral on your first post, video, or project, you’d go insane.
You’d try to replicate what made you go viral in the first place, but you wouldn’t know the answer. It would frustrate you to no end and you’d try to become something you’re not just to get that same outcome.
Organic, gradual, and iterative growth is the process that leads to money. As you focus on creating while being authentic to who you are, you set yourself up to become a big fish.
People like my stuff because I developed my own unique style. There are plenty of shortcuts I could’ve taken to grow my writing career.
I could’ve written a bunch of posts like “Follow These 7 Habits to Become a Millionaire.” But I didn’t. Not even necessarily because I was ethically averse to doing so. Writing that type of stuff just isn’t fun.
Enjoy the journey and have fun. I get that it takes some effort to overcome the inertia of just getting started and being a beginner, but after you settle in for a while, you should be able to ride your momentum, have fun, and enjoy the up and downs.
Growth is more fun than results.
The Truth About Success
I am going to sound super pretentious when I say this, but getting so many views as a writer is a little bit demotivating. At a certain point, they just become numbers on a screen. The same thing happens with money (I’ve heard. I’m not rich).
Success is, in many ways, harder to deal with than failure and struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to write, I’m still a writing machine, I’m still an absolute beast on this keyboard. Don’t get it twisted.
But I won’t lie, I have to will myself to write a little bit more than I used to because the needle is harder to move.
Woe is me, right?
The point I’m trying to make here is that you really don’t want the success itself. You want to climb and grow.
Hence the YouTube channel. My confidence level is high. I’m not saying I’ll become Casey Neistat or anything like that. but I know that over the next three to five years I will grow a YouTube channel that ain’t nothing to sneeze at.
Begin this process yourself, and you’ll have a blast doing it. Once you reach the goals you thought would cure you, but didn’t, you’ll look back fondly on the struggle.
Granted, it won’t always feel great while it’s happening, but you’ll develop an almost masochistic relationship with the pain of growth. And when you reach a certain pinnacle, you’ll yearn for it again.
Getting to this point makes me certain of what I’m going to tell you:
You don’t want to “arrive,” ever. You don’t want to reach a level of success that sates you. I know you think you do, but you don’t. You want to climb.
So wherever you’re at, just focus on the climb. And also, keep this timeframe in perspective while you do.
Use This Timeline for Success: Set it and Forget it
3–5 years is probably how long it’s going to take to get your creative career off the ground.
Some do it in shorter time frames. While doable, I wouldn’t make that your benchmark.
I’m not trying to limit you, but I actually want you to follow through. You have to be honest with yourself about your innate predilections. Are you built to make a full tie living as a creator in a year? Probably not, else you’d have done it by now.
3 to 5 years to build something that could help you quit your job, though, moves many more creatives into the Overton window of success.
I’ve seen the theme and pattern so many times. I remember watching a talk by Jim Rohn when I was first starting out. He said. “5 years you will arrive, but the question is where?” I said to myself, “Ok Jim. Five years. I’ll do it.”
My favorite writer, James Altucher, wrote a post talking about how to totally reinvent yourself. Five years was the timeline. “Ok James. I’ll do it.” I must have read that blog post a few dozen times to sustain me mentally.
Because yes, you’re having fun. But then it is also hard. It’s not so much the creative part that’s hard, but rather all the other stuff you have to do and learn — marketing, tech, outreach, little pockets of hours where you are having zero fun — the minutiae
But the minutiae separates the winners from the losers.
I don’t have any easy remedies for you. It is what it is. Commit to the timeline upfront, have fun while you’re doing it, remember that you’ll secretly enjoy the struggle later, and push through the bullshit.
The Love Affair You Must Develop With Work
Aside from having fun and creating for you, you have to develop a love for eating shit. Wait, what? Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the classic memoir Eat, Pray, Love, talks about the idea of finding your favorite flavor of “shit sandwich.”
Essentially, what do you love so much that you’re willing to go through massive piles of bullshit to do it? When she started writing, she waited tables and did other odd jobs. She chose not to have a super rigid and super demanding job like a corporate 9 to 5 gig.
Writing was her love.
And she was content to be working class for her entire life if that meant she got to write every day. She also never promised herself that it would work out. She didn’t attach the idea of making a full-time living with her writing to fulfillment. Simply being able to write was the endpoint for her. And because of that attitude, she got famous, wrote a classic, and got rich.
See the theme here, yet?
Take someone like J.K. Rowling. Do you really think she set out to become a billionaire and create arguably the most popular book ever written? No. But she surely wanted the book published, and yes sell many copies, because it was a story she had to tell. And she ate her shit sandwiches too — getting rejected by publishers over and over again while being on welfare.
Charles Bukowski once said, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” He wrote for decades while he lived the life of the prototypical nobody average Joe — working at the post office and boozing himself to sleep every night. Then, one day, he got an offer for a small publishing deal.
Per Bukowski again:
“I have one of two choices — stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”
The point here isn’t to intentionally struggle or adopt the misguided attitude of the tortured artist.
It’s to have some fucking soul in the game. You know the difference between a real creator and almost everyone else on the planet? We have a soul, we know where it is, and we’re willing to fight for it.
Are you willing to fight for your life and for your craft? Or will you get a little tummy ache and quit, like a chump?
Let’s call a spade a spade.
We live in a world full of chumps, people who aren’t willing to fight for anything, people who are running the clock out on their life until they fucking die.
Your reward for becoming a creator isn’t money.
It’s having a soul.
Go get it.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.