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How to Make Money Writing, Teaching, Editing, and Doing What You Love, Part I

Book writing coach lisa tener
Your Book Writing Coach

As I prepare for the San Francisco Writers Conference, I find myself getting more and more excited about a new workshop I’m creating especially for the conference:  The 6-Figure Writer: 21 Principles to Make Money Writing, Teaching, Editing, and Doing What You Love .

You see, in all my years working with authors and other writers, I’ve become  passionate not just about helping them write and publish their books, but about helping them make money writing–and doing the work they love.

There’s a belief system among artists and creative types that we have to choose between being creative, being true to ourselves and making money. If we choose money, our work becomes commercial and we give away our soul.

In my experience, this is not true at all. In fact, the entrepreneurial and marketing aspects of business help you tap into creativity and even intuition in powerful and FUN ways. And I absolutely LOVE helping other writers GET this part of their work–particularly if they are freelancer writers, editors or teachers because all three of those paths are ENTREPRENEURIAL and being an entrepreneur is liberating.

Here are three myths on writing and money–DISPELLED.

1. It’s a tough economy, so it’s hard to make money. I hear this a great deal. People often use the economy as a reason to lower their prices.  The thing is, think how vast the market is. Are there people with lots of money who can afford to pay well for what you do? YES. Many. More than you could ever find time to work with. So, why not work with them and offer occasional price breaks if and when you feel so moved to help someone who is affected more deeply by the economy. Make that the exception, not the rule.

2. If I bring money into the equation, I’ll sell my soul and end up doing work I don’t enjoy. I can’t have both money and creativity. This is a belief system. I’m sure you get that, so I won’t belabor it. It is a belief system that’s ingrained in our collective psyche as a culture. So even if you kinda  know it’s inaccurate, some part of you may still buy into it. We can all find ourselves falling into that trap at times.  I like to do a few exercises with writers to open this up a bit. Here are two things you can try.

* Explore what you feel passionate about  and the possibilities for how that might translate into making money–or more money. Find a creative friend, colleague or mentor to brainstorm ideas about how those skills might translate into the marketplace. Who needs those skills? Who wants what you have? Are there creative ways you can translate these?

* Write down a list of your skills, areas of expertise, traits; make a list of attributes you’d want to find in an ideal project. Now listen to my meet your muse audio (It’s free) and ask your muse to help you come up with ways you can earn more money using those skills.

3. There are so many writers and editors out there. It’s a competitive market so you can’t charge what your work is worth. You have to compete with low priced competitors. Right? Wrong-o. The truth is, if you offer services of value, you can find people who are not terribly price sensitive. They are looking for the BEST ghostwriter for their book. Or the BEST match as an editor. Or maybe their criteria include someone who “gets” them, or is fun to work with, or has similar values. Money is one factor. Why make it the most important factor? If you do, I can promise you that you will attract people for whom money–and cheap pricing–is the main factor.

As soon as you focus your services more on your unique gifts, skills and even quirky personality traits, you’ll find yourself attracting clients who are much more focused on that than looking for the cheapest services out there. And the best part? The more a client pays, the more they have on the line to make the project successful, the more they tend to put into the work, the more they keep their commitments, the more success they achieve with your help.

Here are three ways to make sure you can charge based on value:

1. Identify your ideal clients and their attributes. Maybe your skills/services are worth a lot of money to them, they have that money and they pay on time. What else? Perhaps they’re fun to work with, they love chocolate as much as you do and they love/hate Facebook. Perhaps they’re PhD’s or, no, college drop outs. Go crazy here. List everything you would like to see in an ideal client–the more specific the better. Once you know who these people are, it’s easier to find them–or help them find you.

2. Make sure you have the skills that make your services of the highest value to those people you have identified as your ideal clients. If you don’t have the skills, get them. For some people this might mean going back to school for an MFA or MBA, but it might instead be as short term as taking a single class on a specific writing or editing skill,  joining a two month online marketing class or apprenticing to a master at _____. When I’ve needed to add a skill to my repertoire, I’ve often hired a coach or editor with very specific expertise.

3. Get the outer recognition and credentials that make you stand out. When I saw that so many authors were creating book writing programs (and almost all cheaper than my high end, hold-your-hand and walk-you-through Bring Your Book to Life(R) Program) I realized I needed to have a reputable organization acknowledge that my program offered a deeper and more valuable experience for those who wanted to write a book–a book that is unique, marketable and authentic–one that truly answered their heart’s calling and at the same time would resonate for the audience they wanted to impact.

silver stevie awardSo I applied for an American Business Award and my Bring Your Book to Life Program won a Stevie Award for Best New Service of the Year in Media.  I don’t have to worry now that people are comparing my program to cheaper programs. I know that the people who are looking for the high quality I offer–and yes some of my quirky/fun/creative personality traits–are my ideal clients and I’m glad someone is serving those other aspiring authors.

What awards can you go for? What awards have your clients won for work you helped them with? What awards can they apply for? I recently advised an editor and writing coach to ask her client to update his testimonial so that it reflected a prestigious award his book won and the fact that his book had been mentioned (and he’d been interviewed) in Oprah’s magazine. A simple change but imagine what that does when people come to her website and see that!

Publicity is another great way to be seen as the expert you are in front of the people who are your ideal clients. Figure out where those ideal clients go for their media. Is it or Wikipedia or The Dr. Pat Show? BTW, click that last link and it will take you to my recent interview last week on the Dr. Pat Show (wink). See, I’m doing what I suggest you do–let folks know about your achievements and give them opportunities to get to know you as well. Don’t just do the publicity but use it in your everyday communications with prospective clients.

Okay, I think I’ve given you enough to work on today! Use these three ways of making sure you get paid by value and not like a commodity. For now, brainstorm on these three ideas and identify one step you’ll take today to move towards your goal (and by the way, feel free to set a goal that inspires you, that feels like a stretch but feels like you can do it).

san franisco writers conferenceIf you want to learn all 21 principles I’ll be sharing at the San Francisco Writers Conference, you’ll want to REGISTER for the writing conference today. This workshop is just the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll receive from brilliant writers, editors, literary agents, book publicists and acquisitions editors from publishing houses.

And here’s part 2 of   how to make money writing… where you’ll learn how to make peace with marketing–which really is all about service.

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Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. James says

    This is a powerful read. I can feel the energy in every word. Congratulations on your Stevie award and good luck with success to SFWC.

  2. Laura says

    Great info here Lisa. You’ve been an inspiration to me for going on 3 years now. I am projecting that this is the year I make it all happen. Your advice is always so relevant and fun.

    • Lisa Tener says

      I’m so excited to hear that Laura–your book is needed. What’s your next step to move towards that goal? And, Jennifer and James, thanks for chiming in!

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