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The power of a writing habit

Producing blog posts is one of the highest leverage activities you take can part in. Let’s start with an example. At work a colleague has a problem, they come to you with a question. You may not have the immediate answer to their question but you know where to look, while they don’t. You look it up to check your assumptions and reply with an answer. Maybe this is an easy one and it takes you a minute total, maybe it’s harder and takes an hour.

You’ve helped one person.

Upping the numbers

How many other people are going to run into the problem your colleague just ran into? Well, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program, in 2018 there were approximately 1,365,500 Software Developers in the U.S., an increase of almost 300,000 from the year before. Roughly speaking we can use this as a lower bound for the number of people who could run into the problem your colleague did. It’s a lower bound because it only includes the U.S., and these are only people with a Software Developer title (there are many more that program a bit and don’t have capital S Software titles).

It’s a bit harder to find numbers on language usage, so let’s say your colleague was using JavaScript, which is a pretty good bet considering how many platforms it runs on and what those platforms are. There are many numbers floating around for how widely used JS is, so let’s be conservative and say 50% of people with an official Software Developer title have used JS in some way. That means your post has the potential to help  650,000 people at the low end.

Fewer people means higher impact

Now even then, we can think about languages that most people haven’t used in production or niche languages few people have ever even used at all. Something like Haskell has it’s own watering holes on places like Reddit, so you can offset the difference between the widespread adoption of JS with the lack of usage of Haskell by finding those watering holes and hanging out there. If you’re producing useful writing, even for people who are just starting to learn the language, then you have a great place to put your writing to have it help the most people. The power of having a smaller group of people who are focused down to the niche you’re writing for is just as powerful as writing for a smaller portion of a larger niche. You still have the opportunity to help everyone that comes around after you wrote your piece.

Continuing to help

By taking what you learned (or already knew) and writing it down. You’re attracting people who want to read the information you’ve written about. This attraction starts to gather a group of like-minded people who form a community around your writing. This is the most powerful part. The people who you’ve attracted by writing about a specific topic have problems. You, as a person who has been writing about several related topics, are uniquely positioned to figure out what problems occur at the intersection of these topics. Once you listen to the people who are coming around, and hear their problems, you can build out more intensive educational material like courses, or even products in SaaS form. Now you’ve gone from a colleague asking a question to having a product that solves a problem for a group of people. People pay for having their problems solved if they’re painful enough, so by writing you’ve put yourself in a position to not only help people the entire way up, but to also focus completely on building products instead of trading your time for money at a day job.