I was on a client call the other day.
“You said you mostly write Linkedin and Medium. So, what is your current audience size?”
“Oh — I’m not sure; let me look it up.”
That was when I realized I had crossed 10K+ followers across platforms.
A bit of context about me — I’m a full-time data scientist and a part-time writer who shares his experiences, learnings, and mistakes in data science, hoping to help data enthusiasts break into the field.
I, too, like everyone, started tracking my stats when I started writing online. After I started receiving feedback from people I’ve never met on how it helped in their data science journey — the metrics didn’t matter anymore. I muted my stats notifications and kept writing.
Don’t get me wrong — I am pleased about the milestone.
But I understand it’s less about the milestone and a more significant purpose of helping people by sharing my journey.
I paused and assessed what worked for me on the journey. What follows are four lessons I’ve learned during my online writing journey.
It’ll be cool to look back someday — and help growing writers.
1. Don’t Just Celebrate Wins, Do This
When I first started posting on LinkedIn, I was just celebrating the wins.
You know these posts: I am excited to share that I have completed this certification, or I am elated to share that I have joined this team for this fantastic thing.
There’s nothing wrong with celebrating a win. We all should.
But then I thought — how does it help anyone? Why not go deeper and share how I achieved what I achieved?
When I complete a certification, instead of sharing I finished it, I will write about how I aced it.
I started sharing everything about how I did what I did. My best-performing articles are also based on my personal experiences.
That made the difference.
And then, people started engaging because they were benefiting, and I built an audience.
Now I’ve crossed 10K+ followers — instead of merely celebrating, I’m hoping to share some lessons I’ve learned along the way.
The lesson is: Be transparent and share how you’ve achieved what you’ve achieved.
2. Put Your Head Down, and Focus on The C-word
It’s cliche, but you have to write if you’re a writer.
Some writers are looking for tricks and tips for quick success before they even start writing. Yes, you need to understand the nuances of each platform, but you’ll learn them as you do your primary task: writing. There is little benefit if you keep looking for hacks to make it on any platform.
Sorry for being brutal here — if you want success, you must put your head down and do your thing. Again and again. After you’ve done all your basics, then you can look to improve using expert advice, tips, and tricks.
Niharika calls it the C-word nobody wants to use — and I can’t agree more. I have been consistent and then have taken breaks. But I’ve always gotten back on track.
The lesson is: You’ll reap the rewards of consistency. It’s inevitable.
3. Creating a System That Works for You
I have to be honest here; if you check my published articles, you’d see that I have published 8 articles a month and then not published any for the next month.
Because there were writer bonuses or challenges for that month and not for the rest, this is one of the common problems you face when you rely on inspiration and motivation to come to you.
It used to repeat itself often, and the problem was clear: I shouldn’t allow extrinsic motivation to drive my success anymore.
First, I started following a simple routine inspired by Faulkner: I sit down to write every day when the clock strikes 9 pm. Some days, I’d write only about 250 words, but I would write for multiple hours on most days.
Then I started creating an entire writing system through experimenting: collecting ideas in the morning, reading before sleeping, outlining an entire article before writing a word, editing the article the next day, being mindful of the tone of my writing, and so on.
Contrary to popular advice, I still don’t wake up at 5 am or write in the mornings or publish every day or be able to write on the go. I’ve tried but understood it doesn’t work for me. You do you, my friend.
It wouldn’t make it justice only to mention but not give you the system that worked for me, so here it is if it intrigued you.
The lesson: Relying on motivation won’t take you far; consciously start creating your own customized system.
4. Run Away from Viral Articles
I have a handful of articles that have done well but not to the extent of a “viral” article. And given a chance — I’d run away from them. Hear me out.
A viral article often gets you an unusually massive number of eyeballs into a single piece of your work. These eyeballs may or may not be your ideal reader. A fraction of them would follow or subscribe to you, and your follower count is set to explode.
Often writers get happy about this. The truth is that most eyeballs aren’t interested in the niche you’re writing to the extent of reading and benefiting from each of your articles. So the engagement metrics go down — and most platform penalizes you for it.
I’ve spoken to several writers who were excited about virality initially but understood the dark side of that.
If not for virality — what to aim for?
Steady growth. Yes, as you work harder and write more consistently — you need to grow. If you don’t see continued growth — you need to rethink the entire writing process, from the niche you’re writing to your target audience to your content.
I had written a few pieces on personal development but soon realized it’s not what the audience wants from me, nor my expertise. Don’t be afraid to pivot as far as you see steady growth.
The lesson: Steady growth triumphs virality.
As I started this article, an overarching feeling kept flowing throughout this article. It’s gratitude.
I’m thankful for all the readers who constantly support me in the writing journey and the mentors and colleagues who’ve helped me in the data science journey.
As Ayodeji often says — practice in public. The ideas or the drafts you have don’t count. For every single thing I’ve done well, I have experimented with 10 other things that didn’t work. I have:
- not just celebrated the win but also did my best to lay down how I did anything transparently
- trust in consistency and keep going; even when I take a break, I’m back at it eventually
- created a system that worked for me, not heeding popular advice
- never bothered to tailor a ‘viral’ article but be content with my steady growth
Sometimes I wonder if you enjoy writing as I do, I don’t need to tell you — you’ll hit the publish button anyway.
You got this.
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