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Creator's Corner #38 - hello Substack!
Today is about switching sides and combining skills.
Hey everyone 👋. I'm John. Welcome to Creators' Corner: a place where I share advice on writing, drawing and mindset to propel you on your creative journey. Here's the previous edition of the newsletter if you missed it.
Switching to Substack
Hello (Substack) world!
After months of threatening to do it, I finally migrated my newsletter from Ghost to Substack this week. It’s good to see everyone here.
When I wrote Build Your Own Website (with zero coding) back in May 2022, Ghost was the clear winner when it came to hosting and distributing your writing. Since then, Substack has really upped its game. In my circle of creator and writer friends, it feels like 80% of people have moved over to Substack.
I’ll keep my website up on Ghost. It’s good to have an online home for my essays and digital products.
But going forward, my newsletter will be sent via Substack.
Why I changed sides:
Writing is social: Substack is the social blogging platform. I got some replies to the emails I sent via Ghost, but it was usually a one-way conversation. Substack’s built-in comment & like features create way more interaction. It’s like Instagram, but for writing.
Design: All Substacks used to look identical and rather boring in the past. Now the platform offers 5 different fonts and you can pick your background and accent colours. This is a big improvement in look & feel and they’ve narrowed the gap on Ghost.
Discoverability: Substack has a strong recommendation engine that is responsible for 40% of new subscriptions. Ghost launched a similar discovery tool last year, but the growth effects are nowhere near those of Substack. If I’m going to put in the work to write a newsletter each week, I’d like my ideas to reach more people.
Migrating to Substack:
If you’re interested in migrating from your existing publication (Ghost, WordPress, SquareSpace etc.) to Substack, you have two options:
Use the built-in Substack import function.
If that fails (like it did for me), you’ll need to manually export all your old posts (yikes!). To make your life easier, follow this brilliant guide by my friend. He explains all the steps you need to migrate from Ghost to Substack. Most of the points are relevant to other publications too (e.g. exporting email lists and setting up your theme).
If you’re not completely convinced yet, I can highly recommend reading this deeper take by:
Excited for the journey on the ‘other’ side!
Good + good > excellent
Good news! I signed my second ghostwriting client last week 🙏.
It’s a very cool feeling.
After a year of writing online, more and more opportunities are presenting themselves.
I never considered writing for money. I wrote for the love of expressing my thoughts and ideas. But these two opportunities together with my consulting work, have allowed me to get out of a dead-end role in corporate.
If you’re into writing and you’d like to create a side hustle, ghostwriting might be a good fit for you.
Here's the basic, reverse-engineered process of how you can land a writing gig:
Get good at something niche/technical. In my case, studying actuarial science followed by working in insurance pricing & product development. Basically your current career or vocation.
Write about a bunch of stuff you're passionate about. It doesn't necessarily have to be about your niche initially (although that might help people find you faster). This illustrates writing ability and voice. I shared my creator journey and gave writing & drawing tips. These topics are nowhere near insurance or actuarial science (the field I ended up ghostwriting in).
Post your work and make noise. Very important! If you’re going to do good work, it’s a missed opportunity not to tell other people about it. Post your ideas on social media. Create a newsletter. Get the word out. This increases your luck surface area. I spent a lot of time doing interviews last year with zero success. My newsletter has been the generator of inbound opportunities. It’s been the back door into the club.
Lastly - stay consistent and be open to collaboration. The last step requires a leap of faith, but if you keep writing and posting your ideas for long enough, people will start noticing you. Better yet, some of them will start reaching out to you. Say yes to opportunities to collaborate.
This is basically how it came about for me.
Turns out some people enjoyed my style and there's a huge demand for the intersection between technical and communication skills.
As cartoonist and writer Scott Adams says:
“The Success Formula: Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds of Success.”
Or stated differently: Good + Good > Excellent. Adams says he has poor art skills, mediocre business skills, average writing talent, and a good but not great sense of humor. None of his skills were world-class, but when he applied them together, he was able to create one of the world’s most popular cartoons, Dilbert.
Either you can try to be the expert in your field, or you can combine two (or more) skills that you’re good at, and create a new niche for yourself. I combined online writing (my passion) and actuarial science (my work) to become a ghostwriter for insurance companies (a new niche).
💬 Quote. Connecting writing to living fully:
“To participate requires self-discipline and trust and courage, because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, as my friend Dale puts it, How alive am I willing to be?” - Anne Lamott
📚 Book. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert), who I mentioned above. He also wrote one of my favourite books — God's Debris (something completely different, an intriguing thought experiment). How to Fail at Almost Everything is a collection of Adams’s best advice on life and creativity. He argues for trying many things, failing at many things and learning from these failures. Thanks to Charlotte Grysolle for recommending this book in her 12 Months of Creative Experiments course.
💌 Newsletter. My writing friendsand teamed up with , founder of the Small Bets community, to create the . Read this free, weekly newsletter if you are curious about entrepreneurship and starting your own side hustle(s). I've known Louie and Chris for a long time through Write of Passage. They are pros at the newsletter game, with almost 100 publications each. They also created Newsletter Launchpad - a course that takes you from zero to hero on your newsletter journey.
📸 Photo of the week. Skiing weekend in Kitzbühel, Austria with friends. Photo courtesy of Darius Scheepers.
Until next time, happy creating! Keep compounding those skills.
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