My first article on Forbes went live two weeks ago. To clarify the arrangement I am a “contributor” not a staff writer. That means it’s not a job, and I don’t get paid. There is a contract, however, although it mainly covers ethics and general rules. There are no specifics about how often I will write nor about what topics I can cover, although it’s understood that they would like me to post at least once a week and I’m theoretically supposed to focus on topics related to entrepreneurship.
I’ve now published six articles and the seventh is ready to go for Friday morning. I’ve learned a few things in the process:
- I’m not as good of a writer, technically speaking, as I thought I was. From grammar to spelling and the use of hyphens it has been a bit of a chore to slog through things. I’m used to writing here on the blog where people are less discriminating about such trivialities, but writing for Forbes demands something more and it takes work to get there. This website has quickly become one of my best friends.
- I’m not as good of a writer as I thought I was in terms of crafting sentences. Each article I’ve written has been rewritten 3-4 times. I never do that here on the blog. I just write stuff and rarely, if ever, even read over it. But when I read over my work for Forbes I keep finding things that need to be fixed and clarified. Having more readers, and readers who leave comments, helps me find the weak points. I find myself reading comments and thinking “This person did not understand what I was trying to communicate,” but when I read what I wrote again I can see why.
- Writing is taking more time than I expected. I’ve spent anywhere from an hour to a few hours on each article due to the re-writing and editing. The typical process is I write a rough draft, my wife edits it and gives suggestions, I rewrite it, she reviews it again, I rewrite, I may have my dad review it (he’s always good at catching things no one else does), I rewrite again, and then it gets published. Then I’ll make some minor edits here and there after it’s published as feedback comes in that makes me realize where I could have communicated things better.
- Controversy gets more comments. If I want more people to comment I just have to say something controversial. Boom. It works.
- Some things are of more general interest than other things. My posts on entrepreneurship being hard connected with some people, but didn’t attract many readers. Barely 2,500 between the two of them. My post on why Apple should have a 0% tax rate, on the other hand, has gotten over 8,000 views. This is still far from the potential. So far none of my articles has made it onto the Forbes homepage, which can give a large boost to the number of views. This article on the coming health care rate increases under Obamacare has over 94,000 views in 24 hours. You can guess why that article has gotten as much traction as it has.
My goal isn’t to reach as many people as possible, but rather to make a lasting impression on as many people as possible. That may mean opting for depth rather than breadth and not going after the sheer number of views I otherwise could. To put it more simply, however, I’ll write about whatever I feel like writing about. That’s what my editor asked me to do, and why write about something I don’t care about that much?
One point to add–I’m loving it. I love the writing process, I love being stretched to do a better job than I’m used to doing, and I love the feedback, even when it’s someone telling me my article is useless, completely wrong, and not even fit for a personal post on my own Facebook wall.Liked it? Share it!