May 25, 2019

Digital portfolio: take control and change your life

We’re so grateful to Steph Young, Self-Publicist, for allowing us to publish a blog submitted for the penultimate day of GSM Career’s Digital World Week.



Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a keen interest in spiritual and supernatural subjects. I couldn’t get enough of reading magazines and books in that field and came to believe that I could contribute articles/stories of my own. A year ago, a change in my circumstances afforded me the opportunity to change my life and work and here is how it all began.

Speculate to accumulate…

One day I took the plunge and approached one magazine with a proposal for an article. I sent them a ‘speculative letter’ outlining what I’d like to cover in the article and telling them that I had ‘written’ articles before. Stretching the truth slightly, but with a background as a commercial recruitment consultant, I had mastered the art of ‘cold-calling’ and knew how to use persuasion and confidence to bluff my way in. A speculative letter was the best option.

Surprise! Surprise! They agreed to let me write the article and, what was even better, they would pay me for it. I have a degree in business and a teaching certificate and so hoped I could put a sentence or two together and use my research skills to source the material for the article.

The article was accepted and I was asked to write more articles for them. I was now on a roll and used their ‘name’ to approach other magazines to ‘spec’ ideas for articles with them. Astonishingly, my proposals were accepted. However, despite getting paid for them, there really weren’t enough magazines in this field to earn a living from writing freelance articles for them, so recruitment remained my main source of income.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I was given a Kindle for Xmas. I didn’t want to use it. I liked actual books. However, I downloaded some book from Amazon on subjects of interest. I’ve always been keen to know as much as I can about an author’s background and I realised the books looked self-published as I couldn’t trace the publisher. That was when I discovered people could self-publish through Amazon! Immediately I began to research for a book on Near-Death Experiences. I was still working and I wanted to see if I could make any money from publishing.

Publish and be damned…

The process of publishing on Amazon is incredibly easy. When I had completed the research and created a workable manuscript, I was able to upload onto Amazon through their publishing platform.

As I wrote more books, I learnt there were websites where I could get the manuscript formatted for me to look more professional – I needed the table of contents linked and other minor things. It costs as little as $5 on a website called

Picture this…

I designed my own book covers, again incredibly simply by buying an image for approximately £20 on sites like Shutterstock or Photostock, and creating it on my laptop using Photoshop. The total cost to upload and publish a Kindle e-book is as little as £25! However, sites like Fiverr or Elance or Iwriter also have graphic designers, editors and proofreaders if necessary.

Know your strengths…

The point here is that if you believe you can write on a topic that you have a specialism in and a passion for, it is worth considering writing e-books. I had been reading books and specialist magazines for many years and I knew I could write in this area. I couldn’t just write on any topic. You need to have a strong interest in the area because in order for me to produce each book I will typically spend 12 hours a day, six days a week researching for at least four months. It’s not a quick way to get rich; however if it’s something you’re very interested in reading about, why not write about it too? Also, it’s possible to consider it as a supplementary or part-time source of income.

There is no guarantee of success with e-books. However, the financial outlay is minimal. If you have a laptop, you can do it. It is very simple and very easy on the technical side. It’s worth knowing that Amazon pays six weeks after the sale, so there is a time delay in receiving royalties.

Look to the future…

Now, a year on, my life has changed. My full-time writing and self-publishing means I’m earning double the salary of my last job. DOUBLE!

Go back just a few years and I could never have got my books published in mainstream publishing, and the royalties I earn are far higher than in the standard publishing houses.

I’ve been ‘headhunted’ to make a guest appearance on a US radio show to talk about one of my books; which could now open a lot of doors to me in terms of further appearances on radio and TV.

This was achieved through no marketing or publicity. Currently, I don’t have a website or blog as I am focussing on producing the books themselves, but the Show’s producers found my book on Amazon.

For those good at marketing or interested in it, again a website or blog is pretty much free to set up and run. Online marketing is more a case of networking and again there is no cost – just your time.

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