Nicholas Cole’s Most Important Advice for New Online Writers

The first 6 months of writing online should be all about discovering yourself as opposed to being discovered.

Before getting into the advice, let’s get into who Nicolas Cole is:

  1. He is 100% independent digital-first writer across various social platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Medium, and Quora.
  2. In 2015, he became a Top Writer on Quora and was having a different Quora answer republished by a major publication every single week for almost 6 months straight in publications including: TIME, Forbes, Fortune, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Observer, Slate, Apple News, and more.
  3. He is the author of ‘The Art and Business of Online Writing: How to Beat the Game of Capturing and Keeping Attention’. I could not put this book down.

Now, on to the advice:

The first 6 months of writing online should be all about discovering yourself as opposed to being discovered.

If, like me, you are someone who wants to write online, you have probably read a ton on how to be successful at doing this. And one of the first pieces of advice that you have probably come across is finding a ‘niche’ and specializing in it.

At surface level, discovering yourself seems to be slightly at odds with this advice. Wouldn't just trying picking a niche at the start and investing a ton of time into producing very specific content be a better way to use our time?

Nicholas, himself, also advocates establishing a very specific category for your work. He even devoted an entire chapter of his book to explaining how to do it.

But there are three things that you must figure out before you establish a niche for yourself.

  1. Are you a writer? Or do you just like the idea of being one. Can you publish a quality article at least once a week for 6 months? Do you want to?
  2. What can you commercially write about? This is key. What content do you write about online that people actually engage with? You can pick a niche but maybe it's just not for you. The only way to know this is to (a) write stuff that falls into different categories and to (b) post it somewhere with traffic like Medium or Quora. Once you know which of your publications garner the most attention you can now use data to select a niche (or perhaps even multiple) that you can specialize in.
  3. What do you actually enjoy writing about? While publishing commercially viable content is important if you want to make money as a writer. Not everything needs to be about money. Even if you choose not to continue writing regularly past the 6 month mark (something that I will have to decide), at the very least you will know a little bit more about yourself — honestly, very valuable in its own right. If you find that what you like to write about is what people want to read: Great! If not, you can (a) do something else for money and write on the side or (b) produce some content for your livelihood and other stuff for your own pleasure.

I honestly adore Nicholas’ book so much that I am literally writing this post as I am reading it. The book also has a ton of suggestions on how to structure titles and introductions, pacing, marketing and much more . If nothing else, it is the most exciting and concise textbook you’ll ever read.

And I think, somewhat in contradiction to my own title and the title he choose for his book, that anyone who writes for any reason should read The Art and Business of Online Writing.