Most of you–well maybe not most of you, but I would assume at least some of you–know I work out of a small coffee shop in Malvern called The Buttery. (I have a terrible time staying on task at home, so when it comes to any kind of heavy assignment, it’s best if I remove myself from an environment where I can easily procrastinate, like my attic.) I have a certain number of friends there, at this coffee shop. Friends who tap me on the shoulder, from time to time, and want to talk with me. I give out a lot of inadvertent business advice.
There’s a few people at The Buttery, some of them employees, others merely wanderers, wayfarers, and so on, who want to be–you guessed it–artists. They want to create. And, in particular, they would prefer it if they were paid to do so.
But here’s the problem a lot of people run into: They have some big dream concocted in their head. They want to be the next great American novelist. Or they want to go from nothing to having their album topping the charts. And that’s hard to do. Now, I’m not saying it can’t be done. It has been done. But what I am saying is there’s a way you can more easily get paid to do what you love.
The key is to match what you’re good at to what people want. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but there was never a very big market for novels from a guy nobody has heard of. (Weird, I know.) So rather I took my talent and applied it in a direction that people were already interested in–fitness. I was good at two things: Writing and working out. So I combined them.
There’s people at The Buttery who are writers as well, assuming we can let them have the title despite never having been paid to do so. Anyway, at least two of them went to school to learn to write. And now they work in coffee while occasionally plodding away at a novel. (Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with working in coffee.)
But I’ll tell you what I’ve been telling them: Learn to match your talent to what people want. Keep working on your novel, yes, that’s important, but in the meantime, write about something people are already interested in. Find a market you know something or other about, and start there. Maybe it’s fitness. Maybe it’s writing (because people are always paying other people to learn how to write). Or maybe it’s makeup or jewelry or ancestry, or something like that.
This is a sound strategy. Really! And here’s why. Many writers begin like I do, by building a platform in a certain area of the market place. They accumulate a following, and then, later, use that following to market their creations to. Creations that, in many cases, may be wholly unrelated to their original area of writing. Fitness writers go on to write fantasy novels, and business writers go on to write romance, some of them.
I’m paid to write not so much because I’m good at it (though I don’t imagine I’m all that bad), but because I write about stuff people are willing to pay for. Namely fitness. But let me give you just one more example.
Most of you–well, maybe not most of you, but I would assume at least some of you–know I also play the guitar. I’ve been getting back into recording lately, having made a pact with my drummer to get an album out by the end of the summer. Now, knowing what I know, I would never expect anyone to just go out and buy this thing. Who in the heck is Pat Flynn, the guitar player? The answer is, he’s nobody. I mean, I can play the guitar, but I’ve never established a presence in the music industry.
So my plan is this. I’m going to match my talent to what people want. I know folks may not be all that interested (at least initially) in hearing whatever songs I write, but I do know people are interested in learning to play guitar. So I’ll start there. By giving a weekly guitar lesson, via Youtube, Facebook, or what have you. And I’m going to call it, The Guitar Workout of the Week.
Maybe people will dig it, maybe people won’t. You never know until you try, and that’s the thing. But this is my plan and I’m going to stick with it. And maybe I’ll get enough people following along that I’ll have some kind of base to market my album to, by the time we get there.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
PS – Make sure you join my dingy little writing/business club.
PPS – In case you missed it: Writing Is Not About Impressing Your Peers.