“How do you manage to write so much while having a challenging full-time job?”
I often laugh it off when I get asked the same question the 496789275th time. Do you want the answer?
You need to enjoy writing to become better at it slowly. You need to be willing to be patient when you don’t see results. You need to care about the reader. You need to practice in public. You need to be willing to dedicate time and effort to writing.
It’s a lie if I say everyone can do it. But most people can if they want to. It might be challenging when you’re starting, but quitting your job isn’t the solution.
Think about it.
You’re forced to make money out of your writing, and other side hustles when you quit your job. Focusing on money is the worst way to learn. You’re better off writing to learn in your free time while enjoying the stability of your full-time job.
Over time I’ve put together bits and pieces of techniques I use to write consistently without burning out. It has helped me earn 5 figure earnings on the side; I’m giving you a sneak peek of my routine, hoping it’ll inspire you to create your own.
1. The Creator’s Winning Routine
I have never woken up at 5. I’m comfortable starting my day around 7 am with a walk in the neighbourhood, listening to a podcast or book summaries. Contrary to popular advice — I consume creative information first thing in the morning.
I call this my “winning” routine because it sets the tone for the rest of the day.
The morning movements not only help me lead a healthier lifestyle but also enhances my creativity. I don’t know how to explain this, but my most awesome ideas have struck me when walking or cycling in the mornings.
2. Working Out My Idea Muscle 10 Times A Day
Back when I started writing ideas, I sucked at it. I’d write crappy ideas that I was sure nobody would ever like to read. I’d write variations of the same idea just to fulfil the ten count. That’s how it started.
Fast forward to now, my idea muscle is trained to come up with new ideas. My idea bank is overloaded with unique ideas. I admit I miss this on and off — but there’s always something from my idea bank when I sit down to write.
3. Rewriting Headlines at Least 5 Times
I’m a late-night after-dinner type of writer. I wanted to be a morning writer, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I produce my best work late in the night.
I pick an idea I feel like writing. I write at least 5 different headlines for the same idea to choose the best. For example, the 5 headlines I wrote for this piece you’re reading are:
- The Art of Consistent Writing Alongside Your 9–5 Job
- How I Write Regularly Even While Having a Full-time Job
- My Simple Yet Effective 5-Figure Writing Routine
- The 5-Figure Writing Routine: How I Write Consistently Even With a Full-time Job
- The 5-Figure Writing Routine: A Sneak-Peak into My Writing Life
Most beginners write a great article but leave them with weak headlines. If readers don’t get attracted to the headline — they don’t click on it, and nobody reads your piece anyway.
Headlines are the ONLY part everyone reads. Let that sink in. That’s why it’s essential to work on headlines every single time you write. Notice which articles do you click? Use those patterns to carve your perfect headline.
4. The Image and the Subtitle Sets The Tone
I browse through websites to pick the right image and write a subtitle that assists the headline. The Subtitle and the featured image give the article’s initial feel, not just to the reader but to me, the writer too.
I pay a lot of attention to how I want to sound for every article. Sometimes I want to lay down harsh truths; other times, I want to inspire and encourage the reader to learn something new. I often want to give positive vibes as soon as you finish my article.
I’ve received similar feedback from many of my readers, and Grammarly agrees too.
5. Mind-Mapping the Entire Article
Sometimes we know we have to write and even want to write, but somehow we can’t get ourselves to write. If you’ve faced this, you’re not alone, and this is called writers’ block.
Mind-mapping is a simple technique that helps you outline the entire article before writing your first draft. It’s essentially a guide for you to write without succumbing to writers’ block.
Here’s how I mind-map articles:
- Write down the main points of an article. For me, this could be anything above 3. Focus on adding value through these points.
- Write a few sub-points under each main point. Sub-points essential support the main point written.
- Write down 2–3 points for an introduction. The introduction should generally hook the reader and make them want to read the entire article.
- Write down 2–3 points for the conclusion. The conclusion generally should summarize the content and provoke the reader to take action.
Here’s the mind-map I made when I started writing the article you’re reading right now.
6. Fleshing Out the First Draft
I have read tons of writing tips, but there’s no real substitute for writing your first draft. There’s nothing more effective than just shutting down everything else and vomiting out your thoughts into a first draft.
And oh, please don’t forget to switch off every grammar checkers you use. I don’t care if there are errors in my writing at this point — I just want to get my idea out on the paper. I glance through the mind-map I made as I write to keep me in the flow.
I repeat: there’s no substitute to writing your first draft.
7. Sleeping on The Article
Writing and editing are two different tasks and thus needs different mindsets. So I just go to sleep that night and edit the article some other day. Never have I regretted not running the article the same day. I have seen the benefits twofold:
- I often miss things when I first write. I can add more colour to my writing when I sleepover and see it with fresh eyes later. This usually includes some catchy quotes or relevant examples from my life experiences.
- The feeling of not having to edit the same day puts lesser pressure on me and helps me write in a relaxed mood.
8. Reading a Book before Falling Asleep
I’d let Stephen King do justice to this:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Yes, I listen to many book summaries, but it’s not a substitute for actual reading. From the book summaries I listened to, I buy physical copies of books I loved. By the way, I’m a slow reader; on average, I read only one or two books for a month.
Most days, I nodded off while reading the book.
9. The 3-Step Editing System
Editing is the sole difference between an OKish article and an article that readers want to keep reading. Niklas Goeke boldly claims:
“Editing is the 80/20 of writing.”
There was a time I didn’t edit my article much — but hey, I learned my lesson. These days I spend more time editing my article than how long I spent writing it in the first place. Here’s how I edit in 3 steps:
- I switch on the Grammarly Premium version and run it for the grammar, spelling and tone checks. It helps me do an initial evaluation of my first draft and clean it for me to read again.
- I read out my articles and remove repeated sentences that don’t make a strong claim. I try to break sentences into smaller ones to improve readability. I always re-write some parts of the introduction and conclusion since I have a better view of the entire article. This second pass is where the heavy rewrite happens.
- Finally, I open my article on the mobile app and edit it for readability. A massive proportion of our readers use the mobile to read. I hate reading huge walls of text on the mobile — so might our readers. After doing all the changes, I run it through Grammarly again, you know, just in case.
I’ll be honest; I can improve my editing process further, and I’m actively working on it.
10. Leveraging Existing Audience through Publications
I publish the majority of my articles with publications. The reason is simple: publications have an existing audience that I can tap into.
Generally more prominent the publication, the bigger the eyeballs on your work. However, it is crucial to note if the article is relevant to the publication’s audience and if you’re following all their guidelines. It helps me reduce the rejection rate, but hey — rejections are inevitable.
If rejected, I’d rework and send it to another publication or publish it on my own. Either way, once I send it to the publication, I’m done. All my focus is on the next article.
11. Building an Audience Through LinkedIn
My early readers know that I was sharing experiences in LinkedIn even before I started writing blog post articles on this platform. As a rule, except for LinkedIn, I ignore the rest of typical social media.
Here’s how I build and connect with my audience on LinkedIn:
- Share nuggets of information as LinkedIn posts. These are generally smaller ideas that I’d like to test with my audience.
- Share friend links for every article on LinkedIn. Not everyone can afford to pay for a membership, and I’m more than happy to share free links. I don’t do it for views; I want to add value to my LinkedIn audience.
- Add a CTA to my email newsletter in the comments if they want to hear from me. I leave it comments because I don’t want to be overly promotional, and the LinkedIn algorithm rewards it.
- I respond to all meaningful queries on my LinkedIn DMs. Sometimes I even get into mentoring calls to help students and aspiring writers/data scientists out.
When you genuinely want to give the readers more, they care about you too. They share and support your work even when you’re sleeping.
12. Interact with Your Readers
Lastly, don’t write and ghost your readers.
I respond to every comment I get on my articles. The comments and highlights help me understand what works and what doesn’t. I get to understand the pain points of the readers, which I can address in future work. Occasionally I get harsh feedback, too but isn’t it part and parcel of writing anyway?
I haven’t spoken in detail about my routine before. I know I’ve overloaded you with a lot of information. But these are small parts of the whole system that lets me consistently write without succumbing to writers’ block or burning out.
Nobody said it’s going to be easy — but it’ll be fun and profitable, that’s my promise.
No free time? I have given the same excuse to myself for countless years. But eventually, I found time. Most can. I experimented with writing before work, before sleeping, on my phone while commuting and all of that. Experimenting with all your options is the winning secret.
The writer you see in me is the end-product of all these systems. Next time someone asks me the same question on managing jobs and side-hustles, this would be my answer. Hell, I’ll just send them here to read.
If you loved reading this or could relate to this, I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn to say Hi.