How to Side Hustle your Writing Career While Working Full-Time — #2: Define Your Audience

Part 2: 9 Steps to Identify Your Reader for Both Fiction and Non-Fiction Writing

Photo by  Ben Sweet  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

“You can write whatever you want, but if you do not invite your readers in, to let them pierce through your stories, then you should save yourself the trouble.” — Renate Dorrestein


When I decided to publish my first short story, I had no idea if anybody was willing to read it and, most importantly, who that person would be. Now, almost a year later, I have a better idea.


I’ve reviewed and mentioned this book a lot already, but ‘Perennial Seller’ by Ryan Holiday really helped me to better understand who I’m writing for. To define my work.


Since I write both (short) fiction and non-fiction, I’ll share tips for both types of writing. They might overlap to some degree, but I found the approaches to both types of writing differently. So, let’s move on to the tips.


Tips for Writing Fiction:


#1: Define your genre

This is probably the easiest step. In my case, I predominantly write science fiction or fantasy stories. Some could be described as fairy tales or fables. Which genre do you like to write about the most? Is it romance, drama, horror perhaps or action?


#2: What other works do you identify with?

People will inevitably compare your work with what else is out there. There’s a reason that Amazon shows ‘similar to’ products, like so many other companies do. Don’t bother denying it. We humans like to simplify things, form a logical story and put something in a box. 


I embraced it since it is also a way to ‘plug’ my work. The stories depicted in the TV-show Black Mirror comes very close to what I write about. When someone asks me what sort of stories I write, I always mention the show. 7 out of 10 times I see an expression of recognition. Boom, placed in a box.


I’m a huge fan of the show as well. The main differences would be that I use more magic and fantasy in my work and that the endings to my stories aren’t as bleak as in the TV-show.


#3: Write for you

Why do I write? Why do you write? For me, there is nothing else that makes me as happy as writing. So, it’s great if you like what you write too. Finishing a story you don’t like is agonizing. Hell, you probably won’t finish it anyway.


Write for you, please yourself with your writing. Make yourself wonder, laugh, cry and explore questions and themes you like. Chances are if you like your stories, there are others with similar taste who will too. 


#4: Write for one person

“Write to please just one person.” – Kurt Vonnegut


Kurt Vonnegut has it right! Many authors do this. Stephen King, for instance, writes for his wife Tabitha. Funnily enough, for me this depends on the story I’m writing. Sometimes I think of my mom, dad, or a particular friend.


It helps if you think of someone when writing. Somehow your writing gains a type of structure. You will have a specific sense of humor, tone of voice, setting, etc. And again, chances are if that particular person like your story, there are others with similar taste who will too.


#5: Pick themes


“The bigger and more painful the problem you solve, the better its cultural hook, and the more important and more lucrative your attempt to address it can be.” — Ryan Holiday


Write about themes you’re passionate about. Things that confuse you, make you feel happy, unnerved, sad or angry. Chances are you’ll hit a nerve with people who are passionate about those subjects too.


I’m still experimenting with this. I like to write about human vices and virtues, technological change, futurism, dystopian futures, climate change, basic income, identity, etc. 


I’ve noticed that a story I’ve written about greed and a Magical Money Tree has struck a nerve with people. My most read story is about putting your troubles in perspective. Basically, stories about our shared human experience (which happens to be the tagline to my stories).


Tips for Non-Fiction:


#1: What subject do you know much about?

When I write non-fiction pieces, it’s usually in the form of tips, steps or how to’s. I write about things I’ve learned and things that proved to work for me. 


This can, for instance, be things that worked (but also didn’t work) on my writing journey. 


I could share tips about how I deal with anxiety.


It could be an article about things I’ve learned from a failed business.


What subjects do you know much about, or have experience with? What have you learned that can help others?


Even better: what is it you’re an expert at?


#2: What can you teach or help people with?

Which brings me to the next tip. What lessons have you learned in a particular field that might help other grow, progress and improve?


What I think is important here is that you walk the talk. Are you fit, healthy, muscular and energetic? Great, share how you got there.


Are you good at putting products and services under the attention of customers? Do you know how to attract attention to something? Share your marketing wisdom.


#3: Try out different stuff

I’ve learned a lot about writing in the last year. It makes sense to share that. Plus, the feedback I get from those pieces is great.


I tried writing about business and mental health. The latter more successful than the former.


I know a lot about marketing, productivity, and planning. Maybe I’ll explore those subjects too in the future.


Try out writing about different subjects. See what you like writing about. See what performs well.


#4: What works? Measure

Then, measure. How many views do your articles get? How many people actually read the article. Do you get claps and responses?


Every time when I hit ‘publish’ I’m a bit anxious about what will happen. Sometimes a story I’m not too sure about has thousands of views. Sometimes a piece I’m really proud of doesn’t even make the 50 mark. 


You’ll see a pattern over time. If you like it, stick with what works.


Over the next weeks, I will share a series of about 10 posts to explain how I’m side hustling my writing “career” and to share the lessons learned and the mistakes I made. I hope you can successfully apply them to your side hustle. Whether it’s with writing or something else!