You’ve probably been told that you need a writers website from day one, right?
To be honest, I felt the same way for a long time. But now I’m not so sure.
More and more writers are getting started without a website and doing pretty well.
So I feel like it would be misleading to say all writers must have a website from the beginning.
The Pareto Principle for New Writers
It’s important for new writers to viciously implement the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule (or the Pareto Principle) says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.
That means you’re doing a lot of stuff that isn’t producing the results you want. So to maximize your outcome you must figure out what that 20% is and toss the other 80%.
For new writers, that often includes setting up a website.
Popular advice says you have to…
- Build a website
- Start blogging
- Engage folks on social media
- Drive them back your website
- Offer them something like a free ebook
- Get them on your email list
- Email them often to keep them engaged.
That’s a lot of work. And if you don’t even have an audience yet, it seems kinda pointless.
You know who says you have to do that? Writers with thousands of readers.
That advice isn’t wrong. It’s exactly what you need to do…when you have a large enough audience to support it.
Until you reach a level of popularity where you’re gaining dozens of new readers every day, all that work just isn’t worth it.
Building a website isn’t difficult, but it is an added item on your to-do list. Updating the blog, keeping email subscribers happy and engaged, writing a free ebook — those things take time, and a lot of it.
It’s true that an email list is the most valuable asset any writer can have. I’m not saying you shouldn’t build an email list. But you can’t build an email list without readers.
Building an Audience without a Website?
If you hope to earn money from your writing someday you need loyal readers.
How many readers follow your work now? Probably not many if you’re just getting started. Simply building a website won’t solve that problem for you. In fact, it can make it more difficult.
Readers don’t know about you yet. If you want to change that, you have to write and publish where potential readers can see it.
Think of a kid who wants to start a snow shoveling business.
Does he grab his shovel and go stand in his own driveway? No, of course not. He goes around the neighborhood knocking on doors and talking to folks.
Building up a website before you have an audience is similar to standing in your own driveway with a snow shovel, hoping someone sees you.
Sure, a few cars might pass by. One of them might even stop and ask what you’re doing. But it doesn’t make sense to just stand there. You’ve got to get out into the world and pound the pavement, shovel some snow and make new friends.
So how can beginning writers do that?
You Gotta Hit ‘em Where They Live
We all have a flood of information and entertainment at our fingertips.
Your potential readers are not searching for a new website or writer to follow. They probably see a thousand requests a day asking them to go check out a new website, blog post, or whatever.
To the reader, they’re all saying the same thing: “Hey! Stop what you’re doing and come check out what I’m doing.”
Selfish isn’t it. You will not gain new readers like that.
If your potential readers are on Facebook having a good time talking with family, checking out new cat videos, why try to force them to leave? That’s a lot of barriers to try to break through.
If you earn their attention — meaning they noticed you somehow — why make your job even harder by asking them to click away, when you can just publish your writing right there in Facebook?
Plenty of writers do it. James Altucher does this all the time, and he’s a genius at attracting new readers.
And you can do this on any platform, not just Facebook.
Social media is not just where people are. It’s where they want to be. You shouldn’t fight that when you’re a new writer, you should embrace it.
Medium.com is a place for readers to checkout tons of great stuff on lots of different topics. It’s sort of like a long-form Twitter.
Writers often post there after posting to their own blogs. This is a good strategy. It puts your work in front of others who may have never seen it otherwise.
Guest posting on other blogs is another way to gain new readers.
You need to think about where your readers might be spending their time, and then try to get them to read your stuff there.
The earliest part of your writing journey is about building buzz and finding your voice. There’s no rule that says you have to have a website for that.
Just remember to save everything you publish on social media and other platforms. If those sites go down or for some reason, your work gets deleted, you need to have a backup somewhere.
I have no doubt that I’m going to get slammed by at least a few people who will say all this is ludicrous. That’s okay, not too long ago I would’ve agreed with them.
But there are some important things you should keep in mind about everything you just read.
This is for beginner writers only
If you’ve been writing for a year, six months, maybe even less, then you need a website.
You need to build an email list
Lots of services like Aweber, Mailchimp and LeadPages will let you host a signup form without a website. So you should at least do that.
Good clients won’t take you seriously without a website
Freelance writers, or any writer that gets paid from clients directly, needs a website from day one
A domain name costs ten bucks
If you’re hoping for a specific URL, like “YourName.com” then you better buy it ASAP. If it isn’t gone already, it will be soon.
It’s easy to build a website — probably much easier than you think
You’re going to need one soon enough anyway. You might as well go ahead and get everything in place. Just don’t get bogged down by what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to start blogging, and designing a masterpiece. You can setup a simple one page website with a signup form. In fact, that’s the best solution for brand new writers. If you need help let me know.
I hope this answers the question.
Do you need a website in the beginning of your writing journey? No, you don’t need one.
Should you have something in place to help you collect emails and build an audience? Yes, absolutely.
Just don’t get overwhelmed trying to maintain a website that has no readers.
Are You Publishing without a Website?
Share a link to some of your work below and tell us a little about your strategy.