A couple of weeks ago, I shared a tally and breakdown of the average number of hours I spend each week on non-writing, marketing-related activities. Though my estimates were rough, the bottom like was that I typically spend between six and eleven hours each week on tasks that range from writing blog posts to posting on social media to meet-and-greets with potential clients.
That’s a lot of hours.
At least, it is in my world.
While I was writing that post (and suddenly realizing just how many hours I actually dedicate to these various pursuits), I began to question what – if anything – I was gaining as a return on the investment of my precious time. After all, time is the most valuable commodity for any writer. It is not something to be squandered. I have often lamented how little time I have to write, and yet here I discover that I have this cache of more than a full day’s worth of time hidden in plain sight, tucked away in a few minutes here and an hour or two there.
It was a sobering realization.
I couldn’t help wondering what I might accomplish if I spent those hours working on my writing. What if I took an entire day each week to focus 100% on my fiction projects?
The prospect made me take a closer look at the value of my marketing activities. Here (so far) is my assessment:
Reading and Retweeting Blogs: While I do not see a lot of interaction with my tweets, I do feel I get a lot of value out of reading the blogs. Though I may not put what I learn into action immediately, it’s important to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the publishing world. I also enjoy the aspect of discovery that is such a big part of reading blogs. I have unearthed new authors, books, resources, and other valuable references through my blog reading. I do, however, think that there is some dead weight in my blog reader.
Next Actions: I am going to give my Feedly lists a thorough once over and unsubscribe from any blogs that aren’t delivering stellar content. I’m also going to investigate automated ways of finding new content outside my usual stomping grounds by setting up search alerts and other tools that will bring the great content to me instead of me having to spend so much time filtering through everything to find the good bits.
Writing My Bi-Weekly Column: This isn’t a paid gig, but (as I said in my original post) it is a great creative exercise and a deadline that forces me to get the writing done. In addition, I have some fuzzy plans to eventually self-publish a collection of these essays in a calendar or day book format.
Next Actions: To get the most out of this activity, I’m going to get a bit more focused and intentional about my essay topics and formats. I’m going to think about each piece as part of an eventual whole so that I can make strides toward building a body of work that will make sense as a collection.
Blogging Here at Live to Write – Write to Live: Again, not a paid gig, BUT I get so much in return for the time I spend here. For one thing, the posts are yet another deadline that keep me writing on a regular basis. In addition, you guys (our readers!) are so supportive and provide so much inspiration. And, finally, I love publicly exploring my relationship with writing and the writing life.
Next Actions: While I love simply publishing posts to the blog, I am also looking to find other ways to connect with readers. Email is an often overlooked but powerful tool, so an email newsletter may be in the mix soon. (Stay posted!)
Commenting on Blog Posts: Last year, a number of top-name blogs removed comments from their blogs all together because it was becoming too much of a burden to respond and they weren’t seeing any benefits from that effort. I hope I never reach that point. Engaging readers in conversation is valuable to me not only in terms of strengthening relationships, but also in terms of inspiration. The comments you guys leave are full of great insights, ideas, and questions. Great stuff!
Next Actions: Not much to change here except that I hope to be able to respond to comments in a more timely manner.
Business Networking/Prospecting: Though these activities (including basic social media participation and networking, coffee dates, etc.) can take up a lot of time, when I looked hard at the source of my current revenue, I could trace almost every dollar back to an interaction that falls into this category. (No, I’m not kidding.) As a freelance writer, my network is an important asset to my business. Each person I meet, work with, and connect with on social media is a potential link to my next gig. Does it take time to create and nurture these relationships? Yes. Is it worth it? Hell, yes.
Next Actions: I do think there is some room for improvement in this category, namely I’d like to be more organized and intentional in my approach to networking. To do that, I need to gain some additional clarity about exactly what kind of work I hope to do more of, and then focus my efforts around the people and organizations who can help me achieve those goals.
Future “Vision” Planning: As I mentioned in that first post, I don’t do nearly enough of this, and it handicaps me in terms of gaining that all important clarity that I wrote about in last Saturday’s weekend edition.
Next Actions: I will be setting aside some time (maybe a half day each month) to do nothing but look at where I am, get clear about where I want to be, and work on a plan that will get me from Point A to Point B.
Writers are plagued by the constant guilt that assaults us whenever we’re not writing. Sometimes, all this marketing stuff can feel like nothing more than procrastination, one more thing to keep us away from our Real Work. But, it’s important to remember that in the same way developing our writing craft takes consistent practice over time, building our marketing muscles also requires a dedicated effort.
Ultimately, you need to find a viable balance between creating your work and marketing your work. The two activities may seem to exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, but in truth they are two sides of the same coin. (Apologies for the mixed metaphor.) When you finally have work that you want to share with the world, you will be much better positioned to do so if you have been engaging in at least some basic marketing activities along the way. Audiences and support networks are not built overnight. Ever.
The key to ensuring the highest level of productivity (and your sanity) is to focus your efforts, streamline your processes, and check in once in a while to make sure that the marketing activities you started doing a year ago (or last month, or yesterday) are still working for you today. It’s all about experimentation and being able to adapt as your situation and environment change.
What’s your experience with marketing yourself and your writing? Have you found certain things that work better than others? Have you ever gotten stuck in a rut? What do you discover when you think about your marketing and networking activities in terms of the value they deliver?
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.