Can I Make a Living Online as a Writer? Three Year Anniversary Update

December 25, 2008 was a watershed moment for me. This was the day I signed up for Associated Content (now the Yahoo Contributor Network). Little did I know the changes that would result in my life from this single decision.

When I first started writing professionally I had nothing to base my success upon; there were the superstars like Lyn Lomasi and Amy Brantley, the kick-ass contributors like my personal mentor Donald Pennington and a number of writers both good and bad all earning an income online.

I wanted to provide a realistic success measurement and answer the question: Can a writer really make a living here on Associated Content (now Y!CN)? I wanted to show facts and figures and give my real-life experience to compensate for the stellar success stories, smashing failures and mountains of BS being flung around on the Internet. That was why, on my first year anniversary as a writer I sat down with a beer to celebrate and published Did I Make A Living At Associated Content?

I received a lot of positive feedback over the next year after writing that article so to celebrate my second anniversary I did it again.

I must confess that I had forgotten about my annual tradition when a kind email from a reader reminded me that the time was close and that yes, there was a need to continue providing updates about my progress as a writer.

2011 has brought about numerous changes for this beloved website. We were bought by Yahoo and now, instead of working for Associated Content, we are now writers for the Yahoo Contributor Network. While I may not be thrilled with all of the changes that resulted from the sale I must admit I enjoy the expressions I receive when I announce that I’m a writer for Yahoo now.

The old Featured Contributor program is now gone and has been replaced with a new program. I considered applying for another techie writing post in this new program but decided against it. While I still write here (and plan to as long as we’re both around) my path as a writer has changed focus somewhat and for a time I did not write here as regularly as I have in the past.

Actually, after resolving some personal issues I took some time off from living in front of a computer screen to take a part-time job at Wal-Mart. I wanted to be able to take a break from writing without feeling guilty because I was not working and earning money. In other words, I caught myself becoming a workaholic writer and needed some serious breathing room.

I took the position in May of this year (2011) and continued to write and work on my ebooks when I had the time. Despite the fact that I took the job so that I could work easier I actually ended up working even harder. I would wake up at 6am with my daughter and start writing after she left for school. I would write and work on my website until it was time to leave for the day job. Once there I wrote on almost every single break, mainly focusing on my ebooks. When I arrived home I would work until well after midnight only to wake up and repeat the cycle again.

I published 2 more ebooks while I was working at that silly job and trying to be a mother for my kid. Between writing, blogging, caring for my daughter and other obligations I quickly grew tired and grumpy. The kid started complaining because Mom wasn’t home all of the time and I was frustrated because I was unable to write as much as I craved.

It was in one of these moods that I ran some numbers and received a huge shock: the ebook royalties I received from Smashwords alone was enough to live on even if I DIDN’T work at all!

After the shock wore off I initially decided to save the next royalty payment (I’d been blowing it) and continue working for Wal Mart, at least for a time. However, the closer I got to that check the more amazing my accomplishment revealed itself to be. Every day was like a drumbeat in my head; a chant for me to tell my boss to take that job and shove it.

Each day it got harder to go to work. I was tired and frustrated already but the knowledge that I didn’t HAVE to work a public job caused my thoughts to go into overdrive as I agonized over my choices.

I felt like I had won the lottery. To know that, for the very first time in my life, I could live and not HAVE to work every single day was a huge shock to my system. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. To know that I had accomplished this by writing and living frugally just astounded me.

When I came down with a stomach ailment shortly before my Smashwords royalty payment was due I decided that I didn’t need to struggle and work even though I was sick. I said farewell to Wal Mart and hello to life as a financially independent author.

I have now published 11 books and have another in progress. I am convinced that writing ebooks that help readers answer questions and solve problems is the true path to success as a writer. Few things are sweeter than watching something you wrote once sell over and over again.

Thanks to ebooks I am now able to write when I want, how I want and what I want. Thanks to ebooks I do not have to stress when I don’t publish something every day. Thanks to ebooks I no longer have to write for content farms like Demand Media unless I want to.

Thanks to ebooks, for the first time in my whole entire life, I am free. I can be a real mother to my youngest little girl. I can hang out with her, play with her and talk to her without fear that I’m taking money out of our wallets by wasting time. Our bills are paid, there’s money left over and life is really good right now.

It has taken almost three whole years to get to the point where I no longer have to write constantly in order to pay the bills; I would still be spinning my wheels if it were not for learning how to write ebooks.

In this past year I have not made much progress here on the new Yahoo Contributor Network: I am still on clout 8, have 298 articles published and I have a total of 117,080 page views as of November 10, 2011. I receive about 150 pageviews a day now and my highest performance payment to date was in February of this year (2011) when I received $19.50. My last performance payment was $7.04 but I haven’t written much lately to keep my pageviews up. However, in this same year I have sold close to 10,000 ebooks on Smashwords alone and THAT is a number I find really exciting.

If you seriously want to make a living as a writer I am here as living proof that it is not an impossible goal. I am here with the numbers that represent my personal experience; to explain the path that I have taken and the results I have received.

To become a self-supporting writer is not an impossible goal but to do it quickly you must pare your expenses to the bone and free up as much time as you can in order to practice your chosen craft; you will never become a serious writer if you sit on your butt playing Xbox all day.

You will only become a writer if you write, publish, write some more and repeat. You have to be open to change and ready to try new things. You have to be willing to let your neighbors think you’re nuts as you tap away at the keyboard all day.

You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to release the words into the Universe.

Tonight, after three years of work, I sit here before you as an accomplished writer. My house is warm, my bills are paid and it is ALL due to my writing income. I have achieved a dream that I must confess I never seriously believed I would obtain. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine being able to live off of the passive income generated from my writing but I have accomplished just that.

Where do I go from here? I think I shall choose that second star to the right and head straight on ’till morning; there are no limits for a determined writer.

Will I see you there?

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