Everybody loves a top 10 list.
From SportsCenter Top 10 Plays to a list of the 10 Best Travel Destinations with Infinity Pools, people love it because it’s not too short or too long. These lists are just right.
As we put a bow on 2016 and call it a year, I want to continue the tradition of writing a top 10 post. (If you’re interested, here’s my list from 2015.)
My goal is that both regular readers will appreciate this convenient, curated list. And this post becomes super helpful for any new readers that want to catch up on some of my best content.
So in order of when they were published, here is my subjective take on the Top 10 Take Your Success Blog Posts of 2016:
1. Life Lessons From Game Of Thrones
My housemates and I got hooked on GOT in college. The interweaving characters and plot line makes for an unbelievable series. And guess what? Thrones also showcases some valuable life lessons that will change your life if you put them into practice.
2. How To Use Intermittent Fasting To Lose Fat While Gaining Muscle
How does skipping breakfast help you lose fat and gain muscle at the same time? Do you know the difference between the fed and the fasted state? Why isn’t intermittent fasting more popular? All of these answers and more are in this post. If you don’t end up trying intermittent fasting, at least know what it can do for you.
3. Why You Must Travel While You’re Young
Some articles are all over the place about why you should travel. So this doesn’t have 50 weak reasons to travel. It lists three super solid arguments to travel while you’re young and get out of your comfort zone.
4. Is It Possible To Learn How To Connect With Anyone?
Ever wonder how someone can walk in the room and instantly connect with a stranger? Well, this blog post tells you exactly how. Read it and put the tactic to use in your personal and professional life. You’ll see how it works like magic.
5. How To Save Money Going Out On A College Budget
I couldn’t continue to waste hundreds of dollars a month at the bars in the college. So I came up with a system to save money when going out. If you give this method a try, I guarantee that you’ll save a ton of money and still have a good time with your friends. Your bank account will thank me later.
6. 28-Day Meditation Challenge To Appreciate More And Complain Less
Feeling stressed, anxious, or out of balance? Maybe meditation is in the cards for you to stop feeling negative and start appreciating life. To see why to be mindful, who practices this, and how to meditate, read this blog post challenge.
7. Perfect Answers To Behavioral Interview Questions
When you have an interview lined up at a company you’d love to work for, you must bring your A-game. There’s no other option. Mastering behavioral interview questions is the best thing you can spend your time on before an interview. If you do this the right way, you’ll be unstoppable in front of a hiring manager.
8. What Do Successful People Do?
You know their names, but do you know what successful people do behind the scenes? Think of your favorite athlete, musician, or actor, and I’ll bet you that they do the activities listed in this write up. Why don’t you join them to start achieving your own success?
9. How To Negotiate A Higher Salary After A Job Offer (Extra $1k-$10k)
If you’re interviewing or just received a job offer, I have the guide for you. In this post, you’ll find the exact strategies I used to negotiate a $10,000 salary increase after the first offer the company presented. This read can also be valuable for everyday negotiation with your family, friends, clients, landlord, and bankers.
10. My First $10K Income Month
Any entrepreneurial journey has its ups and downs. In December 2016, I had my biggest month to date: more than $10,000 in income. If you want to feel inspired and realize what’s possible, this post is for you!
11 Habits Of Successful Writers
What if JK Rowling only imagined the Harry Potter series in her head? Or even told a few close friends about it, but never got to writing it.
The entire world would have lost out on an epic story and my childhood generation wouldn’t have been the same.
Or if George R.R. Martin only had the idea but never finished his hit book series titled A Song of Ice and Fire?
Then I would have never experienced the dramatic books and always entertaining HBO series Game of Thrones. How could I go on without knowing that “A Lannister always pays his debts” and hearing “You know nothing Jon Snow.”
Anyway, my point is: It doesn’t matter if you have the perfect book or blog post idea, if you can’t focus and put in the work to type it out to completion. The execution is the critical step that transforms an idea into a written reality.
So you have your writing idea? That’s a good first step, but now it’s time to execute because the writers who execute get their message out and impact the world. Those who don’t finish, are left thinking to themselves, “What if?”
These 11 habits of successful writers will help your writing output and quality.
Habits Of Successful Writers
1. They write at the best time for them.
Are you more efficient in the morning or at night? I recommend to get your writing done first thing in the morning, but there are some people who are truly more productive at night.
And don’t fall for the misleading thought that since this famous self published author writes at 1 am, you’re going to write at 1 am. Because that doesn’t mean it’s the best time for you. He or she could have a completely different biological clock than you. So write at your best time and your writing speed and content will improve.
2. They know where they do their best work.
It’s true that the environment where you work influences the quality of your writing. Top writers know this and know where they’re at their best.
For you, is your best writing place in your silent room? In a coffee shop to the tune of overheard voices? Or outside where you can hear the noises of the world around you? It’s for this reason that famous authors have little writing sheds and huts so they can completely focus.
3. They put in their dues.
In any career, you have to start at the bottom because you won’t immediately get a seven-figure book deal or position at The New York Times.
However, successful writers develop the habit of doing their best work even if they’re not writing about the perfect topic or at their dream job. Continue to improve your skills, and you’ll look at the journey as half the fun until you reach your dream destination.
4. They know exactly what their audience wants.
Writing for yourself is one thing, but where things can become extremely profitable is when you know what your audience wants (even if they don’t know it) and deliver it to them.
These writing skills will get your blog posts shared, books sold, and customers hungry for more from you. Then you have a following that you can make your career out of.
5. They write for more than the money.
Although you can make money in self publishing books and as a writer, there has to be something else in it for you or you’re going to burn out eventually.
If you don’t love writing, impacting people with your words, or some other ‘Why’ factor, then it’s going to be tough to compete against someone else who is internally motivated.
6. They dig in when it gets tough.
Feeling sick or having a bad day? That shouldn’t get in the way of your writing output.
A key quality of successful people is their ability to focus on a specific task, and drown out the other noises pulling for their attention. And successful authors are able to write no matter the circumstance. I’m writing this with the flu—it’s not fun.
7. They don’t edit mid-writing session, but after.
This is a classic killer of writing productivity. When you stop mid-sentence or even mid-paragraph to debate over something silly like a word choice or comma, you lose your train of thought. Then once you gain it back and begin writing, you interrupt yourself again to make another edit.
Instead, it’s much smarter to complete the entire piece and then come back to edit smaller details like word choice and grammar at another sitting. Don’t edit mid-writing session and you won’t have to learn how to get rid of writer’s block.
8. They plan ahead for future pieces.
Just as planners prosper, so do writers when they have a good idea of what they want to work on in the future.
For example, bloggers need to plan ahead for their future content. Authors need to determine if they’re writing a stand-alone book or something that will be a part of a series. Plus, it’s always fun when authors hide a little foreshadowing clue in their book that points to a future work.
9. They constantly read.
Reading other writer’s work will inspire you and your writing. You’ll pick up the way they describe things, their sentence structure, and their voice among other observations. And reading is so important that Stephen King mentions his reading list for aspiring writers at the end of his book On Writing.
Plus, there’s a productivity trick that recommends reading before sitting down to write yourself. I’ve done it, and I’m convinced it works regardless of the book genre you open. To help your career, start reading to become a better writer and check out the best book on writing.
10. They don’t let negative criticism or self-doubt get in their way.
Whenever you have an active voice with opinions, criticism and self-doubt will always follow. Writers with thin skin can get discouraged from writing if one of their articles or books gets rejected or receives negative comments. This negativity happens often when you tell people, “I’m writing a book.”
But, the top writers have a thick skin and recognize that they can’t control other people’s opinions. So they continue on their way with the same confidence as before. Haters are going to hate, especially in the writing business. Don’t let them win by getting all emotional with their comments.
11. They write every single day.
I believe this is the most important habit of successful writers. Whether they wake up inspired or want to curl up in bed all day, the best writers write every single day. They constantly train their writing muscle while getting better at their craft. If it’s a self-imposed deadline—like finishing a chapter for their book—or external deadline—like a freelance job for a business—they get it done based on their daily commitment to write.
If this is foreign to you, start by writing 500 words a day. Do that for one week. Then improve your words per day to 750 and see how that goes. Push yourself to write at least 1,000 words a day and you’ll be thankful you did it.
I do an excessive amount of writing each day so there are many times where I’m slugging and I struggle to write. However, I push through in these moments by remembering and implementing these 11 habits of successful writers.
Give these tips a try and see how your writing productivity improves. I know it will!
Interested in reading more content for writers and bloggers? Click here.
5 Most Realistic Ways To Earn A Living Writing
Want to earn a living writing? Hate to burst your bubble, but it’s a tough field to enter. Though there are realistic ways to make money as a writer.
Turning a writing hobby into a career is a dream for many people from all walks of life, but it is also one of the most difficult ways to make money.
Want to know why? Millions of people would love to get paid if their only responsibility was to write.
The problem is that whole supply and demand concept. Since there is a great supply of writers looking for work it lowers the demand (how much they get paid).
Most writers aren’t going to become bestselling authors or a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, but that doesn’t mean that earning a living doing something we love isn’t possible.
Thanks to the Internet, in particular, it has never been more possible to write for a living.
You got that? There’s hope for you and your writing career. If you’re committed enough, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t make this dream become a reality.
Keep reading to see the blueprint on how to make this happen.
How To Separate Yourself From Other Writers
Hunger, drive, willpower (whatever you want to call it) is one of the most powerful traits human beings possess.
When harnessed in the right direction, I’d say it’s almost unstoppable. Believe that.
And assuming you want to become a professional writer as bad as you say you do, this means you already have a key ingredient of what it takes to make money writing.
Hunger isn’t the only key ingredient though. And these next two components are where the real deal writers separate themselves from the pack.
The dedicated individuals who are working hard to write every day (if even for only 15 minutes) and always keeping their head up for new opportunities while remaining hopeful in the midst of struggle go the farthest in this field.
Take this to heart: if you feel you were born to be a writer, then it shouldn’t matter how long it takes to make this your profession. It shouldn’t matter how many odd writing jobs you have to pick up to make progress.
You’d be living a lie if you stopped pursuing your writing craft or gave up your aspirations early. Live true to yourself by sticking with it through the thick and thin moments.
The writer and individual you become through this process will be the best gift you give yourself. I promise you.
And for inspiration, look at the less than glamorous positions of these now legendary writers while they were writing on the side trying to make it a career:
- Stephen King worked as a janitor
- Nicholas Sparks sold dental products as a telemarketer
- Harper Lee worked as a ticket agent
- John Green was a chaplain
These guys never gave up on their passion of creating sentences out of words and you shouldn’t either.
That means if you have to work a day job to support yourself before your writing does, then that’s an obvious decision to do it.
However, maybe even better, who says your day job can’t be writing?
Earn A Living Writing
Before your hard work and patience gets enough time to work its magic, in the beginning of your writing career you have to be realistic about the sort of work you’re likely to get.
Here are 5 of the most likely ways you could start working as a writer, right now.
Working as a freelance writer is maybe the easiest way to start out as a professional writer.
You simply sign up to freelance sites like peopleperhour.com and Upwork and start bidding for gigs you think you can handle. Once you’ve built up a reputation for producing quality work to deadline, you should see more offers of work coming in.
Perhaps, the best thing about this route into writing is that it’s highly flexible and can be carried out from any location with an internet connection.
For those impatient, here’s a warning that the freelancer route can be a difficult road until you build your portfolio and secure more profitable work.
I encourage you to stick it out when times get tough. If writing is truly your thing, you’ll be glad you did in only a year or two from now (not a long time in the grand scheme of things).
2) Content Writing
As businesses rely more and more on their websites and online marketing to draw the customers in, there are more and more opportunities for budding writers to find their first jobs as content writers.
The good thing about content writing gigs is that they are often employed positions. So you will get a regular wage for creating web copy, articles, and blog posts for your employer.
That’s not a bad gig at all—especially if you find yourself in a position where you get to write about topics you’re already interested in. Then life’s good.
(Fun fact: My new digital marketing company has signed content marketing deals with companies and we’re actively paying writers to publish content. This alone proves you can make solid money writing.)
3) Academic Writing
If you have an academic background or you’re a graduate, you could sign up to a research paper writing service, where you will be tasked with writing papers in your particular field of knowledge.
The work will likely be taxing, but it certainly meets the criteria of getting paid for putting fingers to keyboards.
Speaking for myself only, this seems like the least enjoyable writing work on this list but there are nerdier people than me who love academic writing. If that’s you, go for it!
Blogging for a living is by no means an easy way to make money, especially if you want to bring in a regular income.
But it is certainly one of the easiest ways to get started.
To start your own blog, all you need is an idea and a few dollars for a domain name and hosting package.
You can write about anything from your life as a mom to your passion for photography and make a living from it.
To begin with, you might only bring in a few dollars each week, if that, but if you stick at it, produce quality content and fill your site with quality affiliate links and ads, you can turn a hobby into a full-time gig.
Related: 11 Signs You’re A Newb Blogger
5) Become An Author
It can take years for your first novel to garner the interest of an agent, let alone for it to be published, if it ever is. That’s why this method is slightly outdated in the age of the Internet.
When you write and self publish your own book on Amazon, you can start selling it, and making money as soon as it goes up for sale. Talk about convenience people!
No agent or publishing company can stop you now.
Sure, it might not have the same cache of being published by a big company, but you’ll be earning a living as a writer if you’re good enough and market yourself well.
At the end of the day, for true die hard writers, that’s all that really matters.
Do you earn a living as a writer? What exactly do you do?
11 Signs You’re A Total Newb Blogger Who Can’t Sit At The Big Kids Table Yet
Blogging is competitive, like insanely competitive. To be a successful blogger, you need to act like a pro and stop making beginner blogger mistakes.
I get it. I used to be new to this space back in early 2015 and there’s a huge learning curve. But learn I did.
With over 500,000 views on Take Your Success in less than 3 years and leveraging my blog to profit $10,000 income months, there’s not a doubt in my mind now that I’m a professional blogger.
But if you’re going to join me as a professional blogger, you can’t mess around making silly mistakes.
Though you should still enjoy the topics you write, you need to raise your game if you’re going to make a push in a saturated market like blogging. Because readers (and top bloggers) are smart enough to know who is for real and who doesn’t have their act together.
If you want to climb the ranks, here are 11 mistakes that amateur bloggers need to give up to improve their blog.
Amateur Blogger Mistakes
1. Your domain name isn’t professional.
Professional domains don’t look like this: yoursite.wordpress.com.
If you don’t want to be a pro blogger then don’t heed this advice. But if you do…Stop being so cheap (it’s like $4 a month to have your own domain and hosting). Step into the big league’s. And buy a professional domain name and hosting that doesn’t have a company’s name in your site’s link.
If you start out self-hosting your blog through a company like Bluehost (who hosts my blog and I’m an affiliate for), then your blog will start out professional on Day 1. You can use their 1-click WordPress install and have your site set up in minutes.
Having your own domain name goes a long way in building your online brand.
2. Your blog’s topics are all over the place.
Beginner bloggers make the mistake of not knowing themselves and the message they want to communicate to the world. So they brain dump everything and anything that comes to their mind.
The problem is their audience gets confused. And it’s hard to build a successful blog when your audience doesn’t understand what topics to expect from you.
If one minute it looks like you’re going for a celebrity gossip blog and the next minute you’re striving to be a model, you have an issue. Get it straight. Do you want to be Perez Hilton or Paris Hilton?
Veteran bloggers know their sweet spot topic and stick to their niche for the most part. Occasionally they might dive into other topics, but their audience doesn’t think they’re bipolar.
Like don’t take this literal and think a personal finance blogger can only talk about money and they’re not allowed to talk politics, fitness, or social opinions (which money plays in a role in those other topics).
The point is 75% of your content should cover the main topic and every once in awhile cover a different topic that has some application to money. Use proper discernment here and don’t be an idiot.
3. Your writing voice has no personality.
The problem with most English classes from middle school to high school to college is their teaching focuses on spelling and grammar usage, but not your writing voice.
So many newbie bloggers think they need to write all professional and formal to sound smart. This couldn’t be a worse approach!
Your writing voice is your personal style that makes you unique. Ideally, your voice is so present that the reader can not see your name at the top of the article but know it’s you writing it based on the way you put words together. People will be drawn to a unique voice.
Professionals know themselves, their voice, and think about their readers. They ask themselves questions like what’s an entertaining way to right this? Or how would I tell this story if I was at a cocktail party? That’s why it sticks with the reader.
It’s far better to write like you talk. Because a mix of information and entertainment always beats just information alone.
Aim to always include some personality in your writing if you want to resonate with people.
4. Your permalink structure is not optimized for SEO.
A permalink is a link to a specific page or post on your site. For example, the permalink of this individual blog post is:
My permalink structure is correct, you better believe it.
But beginners will have permalinks looking like this:
To fix your permalinks, go to the WordPress admin page of your site and follow these instructions:
- Hover over “Settings”
- Click “Permalinks”
- Select “Post name”
- Click “Save Changes”
Recently I’ve seen WordPress get smart and make the default permalink the correct one. But if you have an older WordPress or different website provider, check your permalink structure to ensure that it shows the post title (or you can edit it for keywords).
When your permalinks don’t look foolish, you’ll get more organic traffic this way and keep them coming back.
5. Your layout is disorganized.
I get it because those new to the blogging world often don’t have a ton of cash in their bank account to spend on a nice blog design.
But blogs are more like magazines than ever before. Like magazines, blogs need to be regimented and visually appealing. Every piece of land on your site needs to have a specific purpose, with nothing on there just for the heck of it.
You need to have specific sections without overwhelming the eyes of anyone who opens up your home page, a navigation menu page, or an individual article page.
Humans like order; we don’t like feeling we have to dig through a layout and a thousand and one ads just to view the post we want to see.
Your pageviews will soar when you make it easier for your audience to navigate to different links.
Keep it simple and functional for best results.
6. Your article formatting is horrible.
Newbie bloggers will write their entire post in normal text and have 5 to 7 sentences in each paragraph like they’re writing a high school research paper.
This is not cool for blogging because your readers are busy people. Sometimes they don’t have time to read the entire article so they want to skim past 60% of it.
Readers prefer easy to digest content (and the longer they stay on your site the better your SEO gets).
The big kid bloggers get this and format their articles differently.
Here’s the way to properly format a blog post for both your readers and SEO purposes:
- Use Heading 1 (H1) only once on the page for the page title
- Use H2 to break your page down into a summarized outline
- Use H3 for the subheadings in the H2, most often used for lists or use normal text in bold font to make lists
- Ignore using a H4, H5, or H6
- Write 1 to 2 sentence paragraphs then hit enter and space down to the next paragraph
- Include links to internal posts and external sites, pictures, charts, and sometimes videos if applicable
Ironically, outlining your blog posts in a nice format will help you write a better post. I’m telling you it pays to do things right!
7. You haven’t written an About page.
Surprising to many, the most frequently visited page on a lot of sites is not the Home page or the Blog page. It’s the About page.
Who for sure knows why, but I have an idea. People are inherently interested in other people. They want to know the name, face, and life story of the person behind the site. So give it to them!
If you’re not comfortable putting your individual self in the mix of your blog posts, you need to do that for your About page.
But it’s too common for beginners to have no About page or an awful one that doesn’t do their readers or them any justice.
Top bloggers use the About page to communicate how they will help their reader, what the reader has to gain from sticking around this site, and who they are as individuals. Check out this Copyblogger article to learn how to get the most out of your About page.
8. Your images are poor quality or you don’t have any.
Blogging may have begun as a solely text-based hobby, but we’ve come a long way from those days. You’d for sure admit that only the most old-fashioned of bloggers ignore the fact they need images to help break up text and make their blog look prettier.
And we can’t forget the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Some blog post concepts are hard to explain without an image, graph, or chart to aid the reader’s understanding.
However it’s not just about having images and calling it a day. The quality of those images is extremely important and you can’t sleep on that.
If you’re serious about making a profession out of blogging, then stock image sites can boost the professionalism of your website. (In case it helps you, my favorite site in that list is Pixabay.)
9. You don’t have a mailing list.
If you have a blog, then you should have a mailing list. It’s that black and white! No excuses.
A mailing list offers these benefits for your blogging career and much more:
- Build a personal relationship with your audience
- Your site will gain more traffic when you email a new blog post
- Grow a list of fans and ready buyers who are opting in to receive more from you
- You own the customer contact information (not the case with social media followers)
Just like investing in the stock market, the earlier you start your mailing list the better the return. Sign up for Mailchimp (it’s free), add a form to your site, and start collecting sign ups.
Also, make asks at the end of your articles for readers to join your email list. Give a guide away for free in exchange for an email address. And don’t be afraid to promote your site on social media to gain more email subscribers.
Then email this list once a week to send them new articles, ask them what content they want to see, offer to help people who respond with a question, and pitch your products or services when you offer them.
Like the saying goes, “You only get what you ask for,” and this applies to growing an email list.
The A-list bloggers are always pushing email signups, why not you?
10. Your articles have several spelling and grammatical errors.
If you misspell a word once every few blog posts, no one with a life is going to care. After all, Harry Potter books have had plenty of mistakes in them and that didn’t stop them from generating millions of dollars. (You think JK Rowling tosses and turns at night because her fans caught errors? Not a chance bro.)
But if every article you publish is drowning with errors then people will leave your blog and not come back. That’s when it’s a problem.
Write with sound grammar that’s easy to understand. Know the differences in those words like their, there, and they’re. And be a professional by spending the extra 10 minutes to reread your post before you click publish.
Whether you believe it or not, spelling and grammar makes a difference in your audience’s experience. I’m not asking for perfection here, just really solid quality.
11. Your website has no favicon.
It’s the little details that matter. The first thing I look at when visiting a new site is their favicon (or lack thereof).
If you’re not familiar with this term, the favicon is the 16×16 pixel icon that shows up to the left of the site name in a bookmark list or on your browser’s address bar.
Check out the image below to see what the TYS and ESPN favicon look like.
Professional bloggers have their site’s logo, an image, or text that represents their site’s brand. Beginner bloggers don’t have a favicon so the browser will show the hosting provider’s logo or a default gray, blank piece of paper as the icon. (Lame!)
Adding a favicon is an easy fix to put a nice touch on the presentation of your blog. Go to this site and either upload an image for them to resize it down or make your own favicon with the on-screen tools.
Then add a plugin like Favicon by Real Favicon Generator or name your favicon file favicon.ico and add it into your website’s root folder or your public_htmlfolder (on WordPress). Refresh your site and you’ll see it immediately if you did it right.
Look Like A Pro Blogger
Your blog could have 6 views a day, 3 email subscribers, and have generated $0 thus far, but that shouldn’t stop you from presenting yourself as a professional blogger.
Why wait a year to start putting in the work the expert bloggers put in on a consistent basis?
I encourage you to do the opposite of the 11 common beginner blogger mistakes above. This way you will more quickly provide value and grow a fan base around your work.
Here’s what professional bloggers do and how you can mimic them to improve:
- Their domain name is smooth.
- Their blog covers a specific topic with a clear ideal audience.
- Their writing voice is unique, fun, and interesting to read.
- Their site’s permalink structure contains SEO keywords.
- Their blog’s layout is clean and easy for the visitor to navigate.
- Their article formatting makes reading more convenient.
- Their About page tells the reader the purpose of the blog, who they are, and their story.
- Their images are high-quality to improve the user experience.
- Their mailing list is present and a key feature of their site.
- Their articles have minimal spelling and grammatical errors.
- Their favicon is slick.
The earlier you say goodbye to the amateur blogger ways and pick up skills from the pros, the quicker you’ll get paid for the value you provide.
And what’s getting paid for your blog mean? You officially get promoted to professional blogger status.
But to get there you have to first fake it until you make it, or you might never make it in the ultra-competitive world of blogging.
Related: How To Make Money From Blogging