When you’re starting a business online, your success is largely dictated by one thing: your habits.
Lots of bad ones? You’ll struggle.
Good, healthy habits? You’ve got an immediate head start.
Personally, I’ve never felt like I’ve had all that many good habits.
Lots of good intentions, and stops and starts, but overall I’ve always had a difficult time with consistency and discipline.
Unfortunately, those are two of the most important traits of successful entrepreneurs.
However, there’s one thing that I have done that has made up for all of the other deficiencies in my work ethic:
Last year, I shared a video talking about how “writing more” was the closest thing I have to a magic bullet in business.
You see, just about every dollar I make comes from writing. (Want to learn how to build a freelance writing business? Check out this post).
This could be in the form of an affiliate review, a sales page, an email series – it all comes back to writing.
The more I write, the more people I help, the more successful I become.
But building a writing habit isn’t always the easiest thing to do – especially if you don’t consider yourself a writer.
Here’s the video version of this post:
How to Build a Writing Habit in 10 Steps
In today’s post, I’ll be showing you how to build a writing habit. In it hopefully, you begin to see why a writing habit is one of the best routines you can build for your business.
While I don’t necessarily stick to it every day, by writing more days than not, I’ve been able to build multiple successful lifestyle businesses that have kept me from a day job for the last 11 years.
Ready? Let’s do this.
1) Start by writing for yourself
One of the biggest reasons I see people fail to write is because they’re worried about having to post it.
“What will people say?”
“I don’t know what to write about?”
“It’s not very good!”
All of these excuses are based on a presumption that other people will read your writing. If you’re not used to sharing your thoughts and opinions – then don’t!
Start first by writing for yourself, and just get into the habit of writing something.
Get a journal or start a word doc, and write one sentence. If that’s all you have for today? Cool! Do it again tomorrow, and try and write two sentences.
When there’s no pressure to publicly publish something, it’s much easier to get started.
2) Have a goal or word count
As you get more comfortable writing something, it’s important to start setting small goals, so you get that little hit of dopamine every time you achieve one. That feeling becomes addicting, and eventually, you’ll crave getting it.
The easiest goal to set is to have a word count. Start with 200 words. Once you’ve hit that for a week, up it to 300. Then 400 and so on.
Different people will have different needs. Just trying to get better at writing for yourself and your personal goals? A small word count is fine.
Looking to ramp up your freelance writing business and want to learn how to write quickly? Then having a goal of 1,000 words or more will help.
The thing that’s cool about even small word counts is they really build up over time. Take a look at this post to see an example in action.
3) Use an App like Streaks to build the habit. 750 words is another one
Technology is a wonderful thing, and this holds true when it comes to helping you with your habits as well.
For instance, I’ve hit my “move” goal on my Apple Watch every day for the last 119 days.
Nothing is stopping me from that goal.
Yesterday, for instance, I drove back from a long weekend away, ended up spending 5 hours with my wife hanging out, and when I returned home at 8:30 pm, my watch was dead.
A 20 minute charge, followed by a 30 minute walk helped me close my rings.
If it weren’t for that streak, which has become a habit, I’d be relaxing on the couch with a beer.
The same can be true for your writing.
I’d recommend a tool like the Streaks App or 750 Words for helping with this.
Here are a bunch more writing tools that will help as well.
4) Give yourself a prompt each time you sit down to write
Another big thing that keeps people from building a writing habit is simply that you don’t know what to write about.
We’ve all been there. Staring at a blinking cursor on a white screen with nary an idea in sight, even a few of us here at LRHQ, ahem…
I cannot tell you how long I have been staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page. Help. pic.twitter.com/Y4XhV0Epdc
— Liz Froment (@LFroment) June 23, 2020
A good way around this is to start with a prompt. Even if it has nothing to do with anything business-related, often just writing about something can help you get in the zone and make it easier to then write about the thing you’d intended to write about.
I have a book sitting in my office called 642 Tiny Things to Write About.
When I need a little boost, I open it up to a random page and write a paragraph (sometimes more) on whatever the prompt is.
That helps kickstart my writing muscle and makes it easier to get into the routine.
Here’s a huge list of over 700 writing prompts. And here’s a list of ideas you can use for your blog or vlog that might get some creative juices flowing.
5) If writing a blog post or for a client, create an outline first
Similar to having a prompt, instead of focusing on writing just the introduction (which I’ve found is often the hardest part), create an outline.
Make bullets of all your main points, make notes about stories you want to tell. Having a detailed outline makes writing any post much easier.
For instance, this post started out as an outline of my ten strategies. Then when it came time to write it? It felt more like writing 10 mini-posts than one longer one – which seems more daunting.
You can learn how to write a blog post (don’t worry there’s a section on outlines) here.
6) Create a Writing Ritual
I recently did a video about my morning routine, and how essential it’s been for my productivity and to get my day started on the right track.
My morning routine feeds into my writing ritual.
For me, I have a few small tasks that tell my brain “ok, it’s time to write.”
For me, this is having a cup of coffee, a clear desk, and if I’m at home, I light a candle.
If you do the same ritual every day for a week, you’ll have started to engrain in your head that this means it’s “writing time.”
I’ve found it to be an excellent trigger to help me jump right in while wasting minimal time.
7) Make sure you have a clear and dedicated space to write.
We’ve all heard the old saying “a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.” It might be cliche, but I’ve found it to be very accurate.
Even having clutter on my desktop or having too many tabs open can have a negative effect on my mind and ability to clearly think and write.
This is part of why I like working in coffee shops so much. You sit down at an empty table, there isn’t time to clutter it all up like there is with the desk in my office.
If you can have a dedicated writing space in your house, that is always clear, that will go a long way towards making it easy to sit down and build the habit.
Here are a few more tips for being productive while working from home.
8) Find a partner to do it with
An accountability partner can make just about anything easier. Find someone who has the same goal as you, and hold each other accountable for writing every day.
Share your goals with them. This might be word count, pieces published, time spent writing – whatever works for you.
Then each week have rewards for when you each hit your goals all 5 or 7 days.
But knowing you’re accountable to someone else, will make you much more inclined to make your writing habit a priority rather than an afterthought.
You can do the same thing in a mastermind group too. Create one, get in touch every week or a few times a month, and hold yourself to your goals.
9) Declare it publicly
This piggy-backs off the last one.
When I started Location Rebel, the very first thing I published was my bucket list. I did this to hold myself accountable for all the things I wanted to do. I figured if I published it in a public forum, and people started following along, I’d have to stick to my goal of crossing something off every month.
And it worked really well.
Don’t worry about doing this until you’re more comfortable with some of the other tips in this post. Only do it once you’ve become a little more comfortable with the idea of being a writer, and talking about that publicly.
10) Have a tangible reason for WHY you want to build the habit
Finally, why do you want to build a writing habit?
When you sign up for my email list, one of the first things I’ll ask you to do is hit reply and tell me what your perfect day looks like.
Why do I do this?
Well for one, because if you want to build a business you have to have a very clear reason why. Most people haven’t consciously articulated that, so by describing that perfect day, it gives you a tangible reason to want to put in the work.
So why do you want a writing habit? For me, it’s easy. Like I said in the beginning, the more I write the more people I help, and the more successful I become personally.
Everything in my business comes back to writing.
Depending on your goals, you might have similar reasons. Yours may also be more personal.
Whatever it is, declare it, and refer back often. In fact, that’s your first assignment for day 1 of your new writing habit: go write about why you want to write every day.
That will give you even more of a reason to go out and do it tomorrow.
And the next day.
And the next.
Check out Atomic Habits if you want more detailed advice on building positive habits in your life.
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Sean OgleSean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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