Don’t Quit Your Night Job

Editing is evaluating choices you’ve already made to move forward intentionally.

If Person A and Person B both work with equal passion and effort to move their businesses forward, but Person A has gained financial stability from a self-directed, creative career and Person B has not, what does Person B lack?

In this 28-minute episode, I discuss:

  • What the “art of writing” means
  • Why there is no definitive list post that will help you become a stronger writer
  • How to remember the difference between “complement” and “compliment”
  • Why knowing the difference between “complement” and “compliment” doesn’t make you an interesting writer or successful content marketer
  • The first time I wrote the title of today’s episode: Don’t Quit Your Night Job
  • The “What is good? What is bad?” methodology for conquering a business problem
  • A specific example of the “What is good? What is bad?” methodology in practice
  • How you can also apply the “What is good? What is bad?” methodology to your writing
  • The one time I received a compliment

The Show Notes

Don’t Quit Your Night Job

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Stefanie Flaxman: Hello there, Editor-in-Chiefs. I’m Stefanie Flaxman, and you are listening to Editor-in-Chief, the weekly audio broadcast that delivers the art of writing, updated for the digital age, to help you become a stronger media producer.

What the ‘Art of Writing’ Means

Stefanie Flaxman: I want to start off today’s episode by talking about that little phrase that I say at the beginning of each episode to manage expectations a little bit for what the show is about. If you go back and listen to the first two episodes, I explained my manifesto about what I’m trying to accomplish with the show, what my approach is to editing, and the things that we’re going to be discussing.

A quick recap of that is editing on micro and macro levels. The macro level is editing as a bigger picture strategy as you develop as an artist, as a content producer, as a creator, as a writer. Editing is about evaluating choices you’ve already made. I’m going to say that one more time so it’s a little clearer. I stumbled through a little bit.

Editing is about evaluating choices you’ve already made.

That’s the bigger picture issue of what I talk about and how you become a better writer by strengthening your editing skills. It really comes back to an awareness that you should maintain not to get down on yourself about not being the best you can be, but to be happy with where you are and then striving to get better by evaluating what is already going on by the choices that you’ve already made.

Then, in other episodes, I get into micro-level editing, which is the actual tips that you can put into practice. I know I haven’t done a lot of that so far. One episode I can direct you back to if you’re just dying this second to get a proofreading tip, my favorite proofreading tip is back in an episode called ‘Try It from a Different Angle’ and 2 Other Editing Lessons from a Shoddy Vacuum. I will put that link in the show notes for this episode over on EditorinChief.FM. That episode, just for example, was a micro lesson — something that you can actually implement.

I want to create this awareness because the art of writing — what I say at the beginning of the show — and your evolution as an artist and how you become a strong writer is a lot larger than writing mechanics. I think a lot of people might want to listen to this show, or listen to any show, because they think, “Oh okay, I’m going to learn this tip, and then I’m going to be a better writer.”

Why There Is No Definitive List Post That Will Help You Become a Stronger Writer

Stefanie Flaxman: The frame of mind you have to be in about how you approach your daily life and your creations are what makes you a stronger content producer. It’s what makes you a stronger artist, a stronger creator. That is many, many, many factors. It’s more than anyone could teach you on any podcast, and it’s different from person to person.

There are so many things that develop over time and so many different miscellaneous factors that you could never list out if you were going to list. There is no list post that is accurate in describing what it takes to constantly improve and become a better writer.

That’s not what I intend to do with each episode. I want to do a little housekeeping and manage expectations here to make sure that this is the right show for you. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, there’s another podcast called Grammar Girl. If you want to learn things like the difference between ‘complement’ with an ‘E’ and ‘compliment’ with an ‘I,’ you can go listen to that podcast because that’s what she talks about. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But learning the difference between ‘complement’ and ‘compliment’ won’t make you a better writer. You will learn something if you learn the difference between those two words if you remember it and then if you put into practice.

Yes, you’ve learned something, and you’re using two words that sound very similar and are spelled very similar correctly. But that doesn’t make you a better writer. That doesn’t mean that you’re attracting the right audience because you found your writing voice and that you’re really building content that is going to eventually build your business.

There’s a big difference.

How to Remember the Difference Between ‘Complement’ and ‘Compliment’

Stefanie Flaxman: Now if I don’t explain the difference between ‘complement’ with an ‘E’ and ‘compliment’ with an ‘I,’ I feel like I’m leaving you hanging a little bit, like you want that tip, and that will make me feel bad. I’m going to go off into the tangent. I’ll explain my version really quickly about those two different words.

‘Complement’ with an ‘E’ is spelled C-O-M-P-L-E-M-E-N-T. These aren’t dictionary definitions. These are from-my-brain definitions of that word. That word ‘complement’ is when things go together well, when they’re paired together well, when they complete each other.

The root of that word, I believe, is ‘complete,’ or it’s similar to complete. I don’t want to get technical with roots. I really don’t like technical terms about things. ‘Complement’ spelled that way with an ‘E’ sounds like complete.

Think about food that is paired with the right wine. You would say that that wine complements that food well, or it’s a complementary pairing. Again, that’s complement, C-O-M-P-L-E-M-E-N-T.

The other version of ‘compliment’ is C-O-M-P-L-I-M-E-N-T. That version of the word, there are a couple of definitions. One could be when someone pays you a compliment, meaning that they say something nice about you. I don’t know anything about that. ‘Complimentary’ is mixed in there, which means free. You get free Wi-Fi at a hotel. You get ‘complimentary Wi-Fi.’

The way I remember that one, ‘compliment’ with an ‘I’ is I have this little phrase that I say in my head — “I win” — because you get a compliment if someone says something nice about you. “Oh, I win.” Or, you get free Wi-Fi at Starbucks or at a hotel, “Oh, I win.” That’s how I remember ‘compliment’ with an ‘I’ and then ‘complement’ like pairing wine with a good meal was ‘complement’ with an ‘E,’ which is more like complete. If you remember ‘complete’ and ‘I win,’ then you will use those words correctly.

The very roundabout point of my story is that I just explained something that is not going to make you a better writer. I told you the difference between two words, which is helpful, but I hope to do something bigger here to help you realize what it takes.

This constant improving and evaluation process that — if you are aware of that — is what is going to add up over time, and you’ll see an improvement in your content.

The First Time I Wrote the Title of Today’s Episode: Don’t Quit Your Night Job

Stefanie Flaxman: The title of today’s episode, Don’t Quit Your Night Job, is taken from a line that I wrote at the end of an article in 2010. It was actually the first guest post that I pitched to Copyblogger that was not accepted. I’m going to have an upcoming episode, or episodes, of Editor-in-Chief that’s going to be about rejection and how to proceed when you don’t get what you want.

It’ll be a follow-up episode or a series to a recent episode of mine called What’s Your Favorite Word. That could be another listening assignment. If you haven’t listened to What’s Your Favorite Word, you can go back on iTunes or over on EditorinChief.FM and listen to that. I will put the links in the show notes. That I will do for you.

‘Don’t quit your night job’ means that, if things aren’t working the way that you want them to in your freelance business — whether it’s a side project, or you’re trying to do it full-time and it’s just not working — here we go again with editing on a larger level because you have to accurately assess what is going on with your business before you move forward in the right way.

I will say the editing mission statement one more time: editing is about evaluating choices you’ve already made. The writing is the making of the choices, and the editing is evaluating those choices.

My Fascination With Varying Levels of Success Between Two Equally Hardworking People

Stefanie Flaxman: I have this fascination with what’s the difference between two people that are really working hard and one is moving forward and having breakthroughs and the other person isn’t. They’re equally ‘working hard,’ whatever that means. They are dedicated. They are into their thing. But one person is having breakthroughs, and one person is not.

Let’s say person A and person B. That’s who we’re talking about. Person A is having these breakthroughs, but person B, who is working just as hard, is not. The philosophical question I love is ‘what is the difference?’ I always say something is philosophical and maybe it’s not, but I love examining what is the difference between these two structures.

The large factor, according to my theory, that will lead to profitable breakthroughs in your business is when you’re not moving forward just to move forward, but you’re moving forward intentionally. Then those actual results manifest later.

The ‘What Is Good? What Is Bad?’ Methodology for Conquering a Business Problem

Stefanie Flaxman: I have a system that I want to share with you today about how you can actually evaluate these choices you make every day in your online business. If you are freelancing or running your own online business, you are making tons of choices all the time, and you’re just really hoping that you’re making the rights ones. If you’re not, you can always adjust and regroup. Obviously, you want to increase your chances of getting it right the first time, or the first couple of times.

I’m going to give you what it is, and then I’m going to go over a very specific example that you could adapt to your own online business. I like to keep things really simple. I don’t like fancy terminology. I don’t like complicated processes for things. I just call this the ‘What Is Good? What Is Bad?’ evaluation process.

You want to look at what you’re doing in your business, and you want to identify what is good, what you like doing. This could be for your writing. Again, I don’t know what your individual situation is. Obviously, you know. I don’t know. Let’s just say you’re evaluating a choice to start with, and then, like I said, I’ll get into my specific example.

What is good? Come up with a statement of what you’re doing that is going well or what you like doing — something positive in your routine about your business. Then you want to identify what is bad. The problem that you need to overcome where, if you did overcome that, you would see the results that you would want to see.

You answer two questions about what’s going on in your situation. Then under ‘What Is Good?,’ you will write down three steps that you can take to do more of that or to continue doing that because you like it or it’s working out for you. Something to keep the goodness going.

Then under the ‘What Is Bad?’ category, you will write three steps that you can take to resolve that issue or to move you forward in a way — in a manageable way where you can overcome those obstacles – or, if you do those actions, it will increase your chances of getting the result you want. Not that it’s an overnight thing, but you know you’re doing something that is a specific action that has to, at some point, lead to … it could be a roundabout breakthrough, but it’ll be some breakthrough.

The reason why I like this methodology is because there is so much advice out there of what to do. I always got really overwhelmed — and I still do — if things aren’t manageable to me. If I’m doing nothing, I just get really frustrated because I feel like I’m doing nothing.

With this method, you put six things in motion that you know you’re either resolving a problem that you have or you’re helping continue what you liked doing and what is working for you. You make these steps manageable things that you can actually accomplish.

A Specific Example of the ‘What Is Good? What Is Bad?’ Methodology in Practice

Stefanie Flaxman: The example that I have for you – and, again, I hope you can adopt this to whatever your situation is with your online business, but I know about the freelance writing and editing world because that’s where I came from before I worked for Copyblogger.

My example of a situation when we could use the ‘What Is Good? What Is Bad?’ methodology is let’s say a freelance writer is trying to make that her full-time income, but she’s struggling. She needs to make 1,000 more dollars a month to feel financially stable and to feel good about her job as a freelance writer.

A lot of the joy of why you would become a freelance writer in the first place would be stripped from you, and you forget about why you would want to do it in the first place if you don’t have that stability that you had when you had a job — even if you didn’t like your job. That’s the problem that we have. A freelance writer and she needs to make 1,000 more dollars a month.

We’ll start with the ‘Good’ part of methodology, ‘What Is Good?’ The ‘Bad’ is pretty obvious. I’ll state the ‘Bad,’ too. Then we can go back through each part of the exercise. The ‘Bad’ is she needs to make 1,000 more dollars each month. That’s the obstacle.

Then the ‘What Is Good?’ is that she really does like writing, and she really wants to still make this her career on her own terms. That’s why she started her own freelance business in the first place. She wants to keep doing it because that is her. She wants to have this self-directed, creative career that I talk about a lot on Editor-in-Chief. She wants to be the Editor-in-Chief of her business and her life.

Under ‘Good,’ she could just write, “I like writing. I want to continue with this lifestyle. I want to continue forward, pressing on, trying to be a freelance writer who is financially stable.”

The three actionable steps that she could take would be one, increase her blogging schedule. She likes writing. Well, she should do more writing because the more content you produce — you know how the story goes — the better it is for your website, the better it is for search results, the better it is for your online portfolio as a writer.

So one step under the ‘What Is Good?’ category, she could increase her blogging schedule from once a week to twice a week and produce more valuable, specific, useful, actionable content for her audience to build her portfolio as a writer online and to attract the right audience. So she could build her audience online and then do lots of things once she has those people who really like what she’s doing.

She could teach an online course. She could create a membership site with that audience. But she likes writing so to continue doing that just because she likes it and that’s what she is dedicated to doing, increase the blogging schedule from once a week to twice a week.

The second thing she could do is add-on value to each client she does work with. Let’s just say she’s a freelance copywriter. She could do something extra for free for each client that she works with to show the value of working with her. She could do a little analysis of the choices that she made, so she’s teaching the client about what she does.

Obviously, she wants them to hire her and pay her to do the work, but some sort of extra add-on value, so they’ll be a repeat client and also refer you to other people because you’re really special because you do a great job. Then you explain how you do it or really break down what you’re doing for the client, so they understand how much work goes into it.

It’s not just proving yourself. It’s something to show the client — because, again, they’re hiring you because they want you to do it — where you’re coming from based on the choice that you made for the work for them. You do that for free. You add-on value to clients, and that’s something that you could do every time you do work for a client. That’s an actionable step that could help you do more of what you love, which is writing.

The third actionable step that you could take under the ‘What Is Good?’ category is take a class to learn more, or you could sign up for a community where you could learn from other writers and other freelance business people. It’s something that you like doing. You can always get better at it, and it keeps your mind fresh. Maybe if there are dips in your working schedule, you’re still keeping the wheels turning in your mind.

Those are three actionable steps that you can take because you like writing and you want to keep doing it. You’re taking action there. Then the ‘Bad’ part is that you need to make 1,000 more dollars a month. Otherwise things aren’t going well.

The first step that you could take is to find networking events that match who you are. I’m the last person who wants to go a networking event. Just the sound of the word ‘networking,’ I can’t even say it. I’m surprised that I just did right now. I’m not against connecting with people who understand where you’re coming from. I think it’s probably just a little mind-shift. It’s the same thing.

If you can find places where there are people like you to get ideas for how other people are making it work, if they have similar situations. You could also get possible partnerships that way.

One of your actionable steps under the ‘What Is Bad?’ category would be to expand your network of people and to learn from them. That could also blur the lines into taking a class. These don’t have to be specific, distinct steps, but that’s something you can do under the ‘Bad’ category.

Another step that you could take under the ‘Bad’ category is creating a marketing plan with a content strategy that directly focuses on the exact clients that you need, the fees you need to charge, and the circumstances that you need to get that 1,000 more dollars a month. Then you have to execute that strategy.

The step there, totally outline who exactly you need, and then take the steps to try to get those clients. Putting that plan in place should be the motivator to really help you execute on that and don’t just say that you want to do it.

Simultaneously, as the third step under ‘What Is Bad?,’ you can think about maybe taking up a part-time job. A part-time job could mean a lot of different things. You could get a steady job that would supplement that 1,000 a month. It could be something or a place, an environment where you could also learn from it. You could learn things that could help your business, and you can learn from the people. Maybe there are people there who are similar to you — again, getting around the right people.

Bryan and I talked about that in last week’s episode of Editor-in-Chief. Finding environments, it could be a job or something volunteering maybe. I don’t know if that would work for your situation time-wise, but an environment, again, where you’re around those people that you could learn from, have possible partnerships, things like that. Or you could just think about getting a part-time job to supplement that $1,000 a month that has nothing to do with your writing career.

Again, if you have this bigger picture development of yourself as a writer and a creator, you could probably learn from that environment, too — even if has nothing to do with copywriting or writing. Your mind doesn’t turn off when you’re a writer.

You could think about incorporating into your schedule how many hours could you work at some other job, make that $1,000, and have it be space away from your freelance writing work. If you are an Editor-in-Chief — if you are the Editor-in-Chief of your business and your life — things are going to be falling into place when you’re doing that other activity.

I just listed six specific things that would push you forward intentionally. That is a really big difference when you are struggling with making it work, whatever your freelance business is, as you are forming your digital media business.

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How You Can Also Apply the ‘What Is Good? What Is Bad?’ Methodology to Your Writing

Stefanie Flaxman: Of course, getting back to the ‘What Is Bad?’ methodology, you can also apply exactly what I just said for a business dilemma — your night job dilemma, let’s say — to a specific piece of writing, to text, because you need to leave the time to go through each sentence and each paragraph and rearrange parts of your writing to make it flow better for the reader, to better communicate your concepts, and remove what distracts the reader from your main goal.

You can go through your writing and say, “‘What Is Good?’ I need to do more of that and list three things,” and “‘What Is Bad?’ I need to avoid that in the future.” It’s different for everyone, but as an example — and I’m not going to get into complete steps again for this — but I want you to think about how you can apply this to your writing as well.

I have found that my writing is stronger when I write the beginning and the end first. Then I fill in the middle with the details of what I’m writing. Other people work completely different ways, but because that goes under my ‘What Is Good?’ category, I know that if I write a very strong ending and a really strong beginning to start off my writing process, that the middle will take care of itself and flow naturally when I work on that afterwards. You would find your version of that and put that under a step in the ‘What Is Good?’ category.

Then under the ‘What Is Bad?’ category, I might write — a lot of writers have this problem, too, and I definitely have it where I write something that makes complete sense to me. I’m like, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to say.” Then someone else reads it, and it doesn’t communicate well.

The One Time I Received a Compliment

Stefanie Flaxman: I can give you a quick example of what I mean by that. That’s why there are editors because writers need that other look. I wrote something on the first episode of Editor-in-Chief. I said, “I’m an editor, and I’m not terribly liked.” I used that episode, I re-purposed it, in a blog post that I wrote on Copyblogger. When you actually see that in text — “I’m an editor, and I’m not terribly liked” — it doesn’t translate as well in writing.

Pamela Wilson was reviewing it, the post, and she changed it. She said, “I don’t want people to think that people don’t like you because you’re very lovely.” I was like, “Really? Thank you.” There’s a compliment folks. ‘Compliment’ with an ‘I,’ which is spelled C-O-M-P-L-I-M-E-N-T — bringing it full circle.

We reworked it to write something that worked better in text because it was a lazy way to write. In audio, I can say, “I’m an editor, and I’m not terribly liked. Ha, ha, ha.” In the context of what I was talking about, it made sense. You got the levity in my voice. In writing, we need to be a little bit more careful and realize that those things don’t always come across as well.

That is the show for today. If you’re still with me, I know it’s a long one. It’s a lot of Stefanie. You got a lot of Stefanie today. If you liked today’s episode, please go over to iTunes and leave me a rating or a review over there. That would be cool.

I hope you join me next week as well. Of course, my episodes feed off each other, so we’ll have a little bit of a follow-up about online business evaluations, and problems, and struggles. That’s something that is personal to me because I spent so much time working on my own over the years.

I like to dive into these issues of what you can specifically do to edit those choices. Hopefully, you’ll get some writing mechanics or grammar lessons in there, too. That was an impromptu one today.

I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you so much for joining me each week and listening. I really appreciate it. I’m Stefanie Flaxman. You are listening to Editor-in-Chief. Now, go become one.