13 Aug

Three Hundred Sixty Five

The last year has been a crazy journey for me. If you’ve been following along you’ve watched me learn how to build, launch, and market products ranging from my books to ConvertKit.

Did you know that using multiple packages could triple revenue? Or that products will flop without the proper launch sequence? Or that writing books can be lucrative?

Those are just a few of the valuable lessons from the last year.

But you can’t have multiple packages or a launch strategy for a book that was never written. If you don’t share anything you can’t build an audience. If you don’t create anything you can’t have a product.

This brings me to the most important business/life lesson I’ve learned in the last year: slow, consistent progress is the only way to make big things happen.


Big things

The “big thing” I wanted to accomplish was to build an audience. I saw writing a book as the first step to doing that. The problem was that I’d tried to write a book several times before, each time not making it past an outline and the first few pages. Any time progress is directly tied to your current motivation level, it will fail.

I was really excited at first, but that fizzled out over time. Once my initial motivation was gone so was all progress.

At Chris Guillebeau’s recommendation I started writing 1,000 words every day. At first it was really hard, but I was determined to actually finish this book. Over time writing became easier.

By the time The App Design Handbook launched I had about 80 days in a row of writing 1,000 words. With a streak like that there was no way I would break it. So the logical step was to start writing another book the day after launching my first. Ninety days later Designing Web Applications launched to double the audience and sales.

That streak has continued now to 365 days in a row (tracked with Commit).


In that time I’ve documented the design and build process for ConvertKit and written another book. “Days in a row” is a powerful idea and the best way I know to make big things happen.

A few people have asked questions about the last year, so here are the answers:


Every day?

Not quite. I didn’t actually write 1,000 words every single day. My system was a bit more relaxed.

First, the content didn’t always have to be words. Recording a screencast or video tutorial counted as well. I didn’t have an exact system for converting recording time to word count, but if I put in at least an hour of effort, that was about equal to 1,000 words of written content.

Second, life is busy, so I didn’t write 1,000 words on each day. Instead I wrote 1,000 words—or the equivalent in other media—for each day. Meaning if I was taking a week-long trip I would write extra to get ahead by a few days, then do maybe one day’s writing while traveling, then catch up once I got home.

So long as the words got written for each day, I didn’t worry about missing a particular day.

Where did the words go?

I was more concerned with writing each day than tracking the total. Because of that these are really rough numbers, but it should give you an idea. Also, these counts will differ from what is published since I often cut out a lot of content.

  • The App Design Handbook: 29,053
  • Designing Web Applications: 35,684
  • Authority: 43,535
  • My blog: 68,181 words (71 posts)
  • Guest posts: 35,154
  • The Productivity Manifesto: 3,429
  • Email courses: 28,900
  • Chapter for Smashing Magazine’s Mobile Book: 11,004
  • Unpublished content: 11,504

Rough total: 266,444

That’s what I could track down without too much effort. Combine that with over 70 videos and you get pretty close to content equal to 365,000 words.


The money

Looking at my business revenue from the last 365 days, I decided to filter it down to just revenue I could trace back in some way to my writing habit (which is almost all of it): $249,602 (before expenses). That’s insane.

Most of that is from book sales, and the rest is from two small contract writing projects I did. Divide that number by 365,000 words and you get $0.68 per word written or $683 per day. That’s an incredible return on investment.


Where to start?

Start by thinking big. What have you been wanting to accomplish? The goal is not to get you to write 1,000 words a day. But I do want you to start doing something every day. That could be learning a new skill (programming, guitar, design, drawing, etc.), or making progress on that side project that would otherwise never be finished.

If you don’t have something specific to commit to, you can say, “I will create something every day.” That is a small step, but it could be exactly what you need to start shifting from spending all your time consuming content to getting into the habit of making things.

Creating can mean anything from writing a blog post to designing a product, doing a household project to cooking dinner instead of getting takeout. Change your habits, change your life. Just always remember that habits are enough to build a quarter million dollar business in a single year.

If you’ll excuse me, I have 135 words left to write today.

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32 Responses to “Three Hundred Sixty Five”

  1. Congrats, looking forward to your next 365 days, keep up the great work!

  2. Amazing, just amazing! I follow your blogs and work for some time via your newsletter, but this time I had to comment.

    I’ve been wanting to travel around the world with my wife, and after some planning and blog reading we came to the base cost of US$ 45k/yearly/person. I work at home and I can work anywhere, but sometimes I don’t even earn US$ 45k/yearly. I really need a way to generate US$ 90k/anually passively, or at least half passively and the rest freelancing remotely (as I already do).

    So that’s where you come in with all this inspiration and numbers post. If you made $249k mostly with eBooks, I think I can also come with something (I already have a software I sell with PayPal: http://levelbuilder.karnakgames.com – but sales died last year, it was good for the first 4 months after launch in 2011 – I made around US$ 40k. I also know my blog and sales page aren’t the best, so I have to re-think all my strategies and position better my products. I think I’ll get your ConvertKit).

    Thanks Nathan! I’ll think about additional programming products following all your guidelines and advices.

  3. This is why it feels like you are everywhere, and I am not. ;) /narcissism

    Seriously, bravo.

    To readers, I’d like to point something out:

    Nathan says (paraphrase) “Don’t leave your project at the whims of feeling motivated.” This is very smart. Letting yourself get jerked around by your own feelings is maybe the world’s biggest mistake.

    To that I’d add, notice that he doesn’t fetishize the routine, either. He doesn’t go into wild overdoing it/denial to achieve his 1000 words. If it’s not words, he’s okay with that. If he’s on vacation, he writes more to prep.

    Nathan focuses on the *goal*, not the *process*, and that’s why he is successful with it.

    • Great comments, Amy and I’d also add to that it’s about taking regular consistent action. But as you say don’t get too hung up on the process and don’t beat yourself up if you do something similar which moves you towards your goals.

  4. What a fantastic example, Nathan, of progressive action each day towards achieving your goals. I’d be interested also to hear how you feel your own writing style has changed in this year. Thanks for an inspirational post to bloggers and aspiring writers alike.

  5. Nathan,
    Candid post as always. I have been following your blog since App challenge and loved it.

  6. Congratulations Nathan! Inspirational and achievable, just what I needed to read today!

  7. Shola says:

    Good stuff. Have a look at a friend’s results also leveraging the power of a daily consistent habit. In 2012 Ruck probably produced about 1.5 million words of content which he turned into leads that closed over 2,000 monthly users of their mobile analytics platforms and premium members – paying $99-$129/mo. Leveraging online media buying WITH content marketing is a powerful combination. This is what happens when you understand how to create good content AND online direct response.

  8. Hey Nathan,

    A seriously inspiring post.

    Out of curiosity, I can’t see any share buttons on your blog – is that deliberate?

  9. Yeah Nathan Barry!

    Congratulations on the success.

    Did you count formatting the books and publishing them as part of the word count?

  10. Hi Nathan,

    Thank you for the great article.
    I am applying your 1000 word per day routine. It works fine.
    But how do you deal with in case of not reaching goal?
    any tips?

  11. Sadaf Chohan says:

    Dear Nathan

    i always come to read you to seek motivation and no doubt you are doing brilliant job by not only providing your services but also motivating people by frankly telling them you own experiences including your financial stats that’s amazing but wot u do the day when you don’t feel like doing anything i personally sometimes feel like nothing to do couldn’t make myself kick start the things

  12. Awesome post.
    Sometimes I’m not sure what I want the end result to be with my business (ok, a lot of times) but I see that this shouldn’t stop me from taking consistent effort of creating content as I go.
    That while creating the content, the actual model or direction for my business may actually show itself clearly!

  13. This is a really motivating article Nathan, making content every day is my new first rule of 2014.. thanks to share!

  14. […] “Slow, consistent progress is the only way to make big things happen.” – Nathan Barry […]

  15. […] I’ve been following Eric Davis for a long time — ever since I started hacking on Redmine in 2009.  As it’s maintainer, he was extremely helpful to a newbie like me.  Recently I’ve started reading his blog and newsletter about freelancing.  A recent post of his,  “Write Every Day” struck a nerve.   And a comment from Nathan Barry that he linked to hurt even worse “slow, consistent progress is the only way to make big things happen.” […]

  16. […] Barry is a far greater authority on this topic than I am, so I’ll let his post extoll the benefits of writing […]

  17. […] day I write 1,000 words, no matter where I am. Software designer and author Nathan Barry followed this practice for an entire year and ended up with two new books and a huge increase in […]

  18. […] yourself up to be creative by including creative time in your routine. For inspiration, check our Nathan Barry’s blog recounting his quest to write a thousand words a day for a year. Many artists develop a creative […]

  19. Was referred here by Brennan Dunn’s email. Wow! Your success is really inspiring. Both my wife and I loved the article, thanks for undertaking this experiment on yourself.

    • Nathan Barry says:

      Thanks! It’s been quite the journey.

      • Hi Nathan, Julian’s wife, Michelle here…Almost a year later and I’m really to take the plunge. Starting tomorrow, 1000 words per day for 1 year, including the flexibility of getting a few days ahead when needed as well as counting equivalent effort of screencast, video tutorials, etc. I’m serious. Thanks for the inspiration. Here we go.

  20. Hi Nathan,

    One hell of a blog post, really inspiring, 1000 words a day, I will go and try that :-)

  21. […] and I am also making it a resolution for the new year to write more. In fact, I recently read an article from Nathan Barry about committing to write 1,000 words for 365 days in a row. When I read the […]

  22. […] problem writing 1,000 words a day as demonstrated years ago by Chris Guillebeau and more recently Nathan Barry has taken on this approach to great success. In fact it is Nathan’s excellent Authority blueprint that I am following. I […]

  23. […] I admire Nathan Barry. He’s an entrepreneur but also a shining example of what you can accomplish when you discipline yourself to write everyday. […]

  24. […] how about Nathan Barry? In the past twelve months he’s published three books, started a software business, and […]

  25. […] July I celebrated 365 days in a row of writing 1,000 words a day. That included three books, nearly 100 blog posts, and […]

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