Russell Nohelty: How Creatives Can Earn Money Writing Fiction Online
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Have you ever considered building your own creative business? Maybe you would like to make money as an indie author or earn money writing fiction online. In today’s success story we speak with Russell Nohelty, who built a six-figure business helping authors and creatives build better businesses.
About Russell Nohelty
I’ve been creating various things since 2004. I started in movies, but most people know me as a graphic novelist.
I started having success with the launch of my first graphic novel, Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter. That success amplified with my second graphic novel, Katrina Hates the Dead, but I didn’t break through until the release of our first anthology, Monsters and Other Scary Shit and its follow-up, Cthulhu is Hard to Spell.
Along the way, I became a USA Today bestselling author, raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter (including three projects which raised over $25,000 each), wrote over 20 novels (18 of which release in 2019), and have exhibited at more than a hundred conventions around the country.
I’ve been doing a lot of things for a long time. I’ve been successful as an author, as a speaker, as a teacher, and as a publisher.
My biggest passion outside of my own work is helping creatives to build better businesses. I’ve grown my company into a six-figure business and now I teach other creatives how to do the same.
What is one thing you have learned from being successful?
No fighter likes getting punched in the mouth, but the successful ones know that the only way to win the title is to get punched, fall, and get up over and over again. The difference between success and failure is how often you are willing to get knocked down and stand back up.
My first three companies folded before I was 30. My fourth company folded after 2 months. I have been successful because every time I failed, I regrouped and came back stronger than before.
Is there a mistake you have made starting out that you wish you could change?
So many mistakes. I’ve had partnerships which burned away, and projects I wish never happened, but the biggest mistake I made was waiting so long to build an audience of creators and fans that supported me.
I made several movies at the beginning of my career, and even though I had a team, I thought everything fell on me. I didn’t do a good job fostering a communal spirit or getting people excited to work with me.
More importantly, I thought that my work was SO GOOD that people would flock to it. Of course, I later learned that was ridiculous.
I learned that lesson repeatedly when nobody was even willing to watch my movies for FREE. It’s very hard when somebody refuses to partake in something for free when you’ve worked so hard on it.
But that was because I didn’t get people on my side. I spent my time creating, but not building a community, so when I launched my movies there was nobody who cared about them.
It wasn’t until I built a community and a fanbase before I had a product to sell, and then launched my first graphic novel that I realized what had been missing for my entire career.
I’ve spent every day since then trying to find people who wanted to hear what I had to say and making sure that when they found me I said the right things so that the right people to hear my message stood up and took notice.
I now have a Facebook group called Authors and Creators Making Money selling books with over 2,000 like-minded writers in it, and another group with over 4,000 readers who like the same kind of books I make.
On top of that, I’ve built a 25,000-person mailing list and my last Kickstarter funded with over 1,000 backers.
All because I made sure to focus on making the best work of my life and then sharing it with the world.
Do you have a quote you find you often repeat?
The one that’s been going through my head recently is “Even the best fall down sometimes”. It’s a line from the song Collide by Howie Day.
It’s a song that I haven’t thought about in a long time, but my last launch didn’t go as well as expected. I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about my place in the world, as you do when something blows up in your face, and that line keeps running through my head.
It reminds me that failing does not mean you are a failure. Everybody fails. The thing that separates the best in the world from everybody else is that they stand back up.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Treat people like more than a $20 bill. It’s easy to forget that the people who buy your work are humans with rich, full lives. They don’t owe you anything. When they buy from you it is a gift, because they are busy people, and they are parting with their hard-earned dollars.
More importantly, it is not their job to buy from you. It’s your job to convince them they need your product and that it’s worth the cost. If they didn’t buy from you, it’s because you failed in your job.
If you remember that your customers are PEOPLE, it allows you to empathize with their plight, and better hone your products to fit their needs and desires.
People don’t buy from you because you’re your product. They buy because of what your product can do for them and how it makes them feel.
Professionally, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
Right now, I’m most proud of The Complete Creative, my training academy and daily blog. I’ve been building it for 18 months, and the fact that I change the lives of other creatives forever is incredible to me, and an honor I do not take lightly.
Overall, though, I am most proud that I am standing here today. I have been full time in my business for 4 years, and I’ve made more every year than the year before, even as the landscape has shifted and changed under me.
There is no single accomplishment that is more important than my ability to say that I’m still here and relevant after all these years.
Not only am I here, but every month this year has been the best month financially of my career. I am more respected now that I’ve ever been, and I’ve done it without compromising my values or my morals. So often we must compromise in business, and while I’ve bent slightly over the years, I never broke, even when I was broke.
Is there something you learned from the industry that you found surprising?
Creating things is hard, often demeaning work. The creative people I know work harder than anybody I’ve ever met in any industry. They work nights, weekends, and holidays. They work with pain, and they care so much.
It’s comparatively easy to sell informational products or products that serve a need. If you need to hammer a nail, then you buy a hammer. However, creative products do not serve a need. They enrich the soul, and that is a very different value proposition.
It’s a whole different way to sell things, and it’s much harder.
Nobody would say you don’t need a hammer, but people demean creative work all the time. They say it’s not necessary, and yet, creative humans keep making things despite all of that, because we know it’s important, and I find that magical.
Are there any upcoming projects you are working on?
Right now, I have two big projects. The first is the release and expansion of my teaching academy, The Complete Creative.
The other is that I’m releasing 18 books in 2019. They are all fantasy and science fiction, and lots of adventure. I’ve been known as a graphic novelist for most of my life, and this is the year that all changes…I hope.
If you could recommend a book to help people be more successful, what would it be and why?
Well, I really like my own non-fiction book, Sell Your Soul: How to Build Your Creative Career. It’s what I learned through building my own career, including making great content, building an audience from scratch, launching products, and more.
Besides my own book, I have always loved Siddhartha, which helped mellow me out when I was an angry young man and turned me on to Eastern religions. Last year my two favorite new fiction books were The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza and Neanderthal Opens the Door to The Universe.
Currently, I’m reading and loving The Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony.
If you want a great non-fiction book, my wife read The Four-Hour Workweek, turned to me after she finished and said, “Tim Ferris just wrote a book about you”. I read it afterwards and agreed with her. Lots of what Tim said resonated with how I run my own business.
Do have any apps, books or tips that you use to be more productive?
I use Sendinblue and Mailblast for my email list, Microsoft Office for everything productivity related, and Adobe for my editing work. I use Audacity for audio recording. I use Quickbooks for accounting.
I also use Facebook. I run most of my business through Facebook, which gets a very bad rap. I could not survive without Facebook.
How do you manage time?
I have a strict routine during the week.
From 6-9 am I handle administrative work, from 9 am-2 pm I write or do other product creation tasks, from 2-5 pm I eat lunch and take a walk, from 5-7 pm I finish up any pressing admin work, from 7-9 pm I hang out with my wife, and then I go to sleep around 9:30 pm.
6-9 am used to be a dead zone creatively for me, so now that time gives me the ability to do anything non-writing or recording courses that helps move my business forward. That might be interviews, or emails, or marketing. It’s different every day, but I need to be in the zone by 9 am.
I have five good hours of good creative energy in a day, and my job is to maximize that time to the best of my ability.
Sometimes, I have something pressing that comes up throughout the day, and I have to rearrange my schedule, but I hate doing that unless it’s a last resort.
On the weekends I still do some work, but it’s mostly all admin work. I don’t keep a schedule during the weekends for my tasks.
Has fitness factored into your success?
No. I’m chronically ill with multiple ailments that keep me from regular exercise. I usually can’t do much besides walk, which I do enjoy. Most of my best ideas happen when I’m on a walk. I try to take one every day to clear my head.
If fitness isn’t your choice motivator, what activities and routines you choose to keep up healthy and motivated?
I take a walk every day, and I read a lot. I read 100-200 books every year.
Has Social Media factored into your success? If so: what does your social media strategy look like, do you have any tips?
Social media allows me to connect with fans and collaborators all around the world. I don’t believe you need to be on every social platform, but I do think you need to dominate the ones you choose.
I have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but I spend 90% of my time on Facebook. I use Facebook messenger to talk with customers, clients, and collaborators. I talk with other authors and fans in Facebook groups, and I use my pages for notifications.
I also use Facebook ads extensively.
I’m not saying you should use Facebook, but you should use at least one platform and figure out every trick you can to maximize its impact.
Any mistakes you see people routinely make with social media?
They try to be everywhere at once. You can’t be everywhere. I don’t care what Gary Vee says about trying every platform. He’s wrong. It is an impossible goal and responsible for more social media burn out than anything else. When you try to be everywhere, you fail at being anywhere, because your attention is limited.
More importantly, social media shouldn’t take up your whole day. Your day should be spent making new things and engaging with fans, not trying to figure out some new social media platform.
Social media is a tool, not the end goal. The end goal is making things that people want to buy and connecting with those people. Task switching between social media accounts takes you away from that goal.
Yes, there are some people you can find who only use other social media platforms, and one day you might reach a cap on the social media platforms you have.
If that happens, then you should expand, but at the beginning, you have nothing but room for growth on every platform, so pick one and stick with it for the long haul. Pay an inordinate amount of attention on how to monetize that platform and squeeze the life out of it.
I know people who kill it on Twitter and dominate on Instagram, but I can’t really figure them out very well. I’m okay on those platforms, but I’m not great like I am on Facebook, because that’s where I spend all my time.
People also try to promote themselves all the time, instead of just trying to connect with people. Customers like buying from people they like, and they don’t like marketing bots, they like genuine interactions.
Also, social media is a secondary tool.
Your first tool should be your mailing list, where you own the information, and nobody can take that away from you. If you can build your mailing list, then you can move people from platform to platform when YOU want to switch, not when the market dictates you switch.
If you have a good mailing list, you can run your promotions through there, and keep social media for interactions…and a little promo.
Where can people connect with you online?
I also run a daily blog at The Complete Creative.
Do you have anything you would like to promote or tell us about?
If you want to grow your own creative business, then my course Build a Rabid Fanbase can get you there quickly. I will show you exactly how to find your perfect customer, make products they will love, find new prospects and turn them into fans who love your work.
At the end of the day, business is about the relationship between customer and product, so if you can understand and nourish that relationship, then you will be able to do amazing things.
I have a free intro webinar about audience building that will give you all the basics of what we teach in the course, and you can get that at www.thecompletecreative.com/audience.
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew?
It is completely possible to build a creative career that will be both fulfilling and lucrative, but you can’t get there overnight. I’ve done it, and not a special snowflake, but it took years of hard work to get where I am today.
The longer I am in business the more I realize that every company is just an amalgamation of customers who want to buy from them and products they make to satisfy those customers. There are crazy companies that make the most bizarre things, but they cater to their customers very well, so they succeed.
If you don’t understand the relationship between customer and product then you don’t have a business or at least one that will succeed over the long run.
Thank you for interviewing with Your Money Geek!