How To Build A 99% Margin Digital Writing Business In 3 Simple Steps

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into the biggest problems all writers face stopping them from writing on the internet, building an audience, and monetizing their writing.

(And, of course, if you want to defeat these problems and master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to explain the 3 steps to build a 99% margin digital business just by writing online.

There has never been a better time in history to be a writer.

The internet has made it easier than ever before to build an audience and make a living as a writer. Now, anyone with a smartphone can create an X or LinkedIn account and start writing about their ideas online. And from this simple act of writing online, you can grow a multi-million dollar business operating at a 99% margin.

Yup, that’s right—just by writing online.

You see it everywhere with “big” creators. But if you’re looking at creators like Justin Welsh, Codie Sanchez, or Dan Koe and thinking, “Whoa, they must have something special to have built such lucrative digital businesses…”

Then we’re here to tell you it isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s actually amazingly straightforward. They just use very simple (but profitable) business model.

And you don’t need millions and millions of followers to make this work.

Smaller writers and creators can still make a living with this business model. After all, you only need 1,000 people (or “true fans”) to pay you $100 and you’ve made $100,000.

Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Attention

The first step in creating a $1 million digital business is writing on social platforms for free.

Why for free?

Because if you can’t get anyone to read your free stuff, you’ll never get them to read your paid stuff.

Think of social media as your idea laboratory. It’s where you get to test your ideas with your audience. You get near-instant feedback on the quality of your writing. Then you can use your analytics to double down on what’s working:

  • Which topics resonate most with readers?
  • Which topics do they want more of?
  • What other questions do they have about a topic?

As you start to see which ideas are working and which ones aren’t, you can start to refine the niche of your digital writing business. Unfortunately, too many writers get stuck here because they try to stay broad, writing for “everyone”. But building a niche audience is how you create an engaged and loyal audience (who are willing to spend money with you). If you want more ideas on how to niche down, check out this deep dive on the 7 ways to niche down.

Before you can start testing ideas you need to choose a writing platform.

In the beginning, we recommend choosing one platform. Why? Because spreading yourself too thin is a guaranteed way to burn yourself out and give up on building a digital business. So focus on mastering one platform before moving on to the next one.

The two best platforms for distributing text-based content are X (formerly known as Twitter) and LinkedIn.

So now you’re generating attention, you’ve clarified your niche, and you’re building an audience. It’s time for the next step: Retention.

Step 2: Retention

It’s all well and good having a large social audience but that audience is “rented”, not owned.

Social platforms own your audience. Any sudden changes to the algorithm can jeopardize the number of eyeballs seeing your content. And while we all have to adapt to the changing nature of these platforms, it’s important for you to create a way of retaining the audience you are building on social media.

Enter: email.

Your email list is a way of taking your rented social audience over to a platform where you own it. No one can take your email list away from you. And email helps you get directly in front of your audience—you write an email and it lands straight in your audience’s inbox.

But how do you get people onto your email list?

By asking them to sign up to your email list.

This is very simple:

  1. Publish short form content on X or LinkedIn
  2. Comment on this short form content with a link to your newsletter (with a CTA of “hey if you like content like this, you’d love my newsletter”)

You don’t need ads to grow your email list. You don’t need affiliates to share it for you. All you need is attention and a landing page to get people signing up for your list.

But what do you write about in your newsletter?

99% of the time, your email newsletter is proven short form content expanded into long form.

Look at your social analytics. What topics are resonating with your audience? Chances are, they will want more content like that.

And how do you create more content like that?

By expanding your ideas using the 10 magical ways:

For example, let’s say we’re writing a newsletter based on this proven short form:

Using the 10 Magical Ways, here are some newsletter ideas:

  • 5 Tips To Help You Build A Daily 90-Minute Writing Habit
  • 5 Mistakes I Made When Building A Daily 90-Minute Writing Habit
  • 5 Questions To Answer If You Want To Build A Daily 90-Minute Writing Habit
  • 5 Benefits To Building A Daily Writing Habit

Etc, etc, etc.

Your newsletter is another way for you to prove to your audience you can help them FOR FREE.

And once you’ve built that trust, you can move onto the final (money) step: Ascension.

Step 3: Ascension

This is the part where you ascend your most engaged readers into paying customers.

Also known as: Conversion.

So far you have proved you can help your audience for free both on social media and in your newsletter. Now it’s time to offer even more help to your audience—but this time, you are charging them for it.

Every now and again you will want to pitch your product to your list. You can do this as much and as little as you like. It could be once a week, twice a month, or once a quarter. It’s entirely up to you.

“But Dickie and Cole, what on earth do I sell to my list?”

Great question.

We don’t recommend selling any idea you haven’t tested, i.e. something that’s brand “new” to your audience. After all, you’ve built an audience around proven content (from your writing on social to your expanded content in your newsletter). So ask yourself:

  • What’s performing well on social and in my newsletter?
  • What problems are people having?
  • What questions are they asking about my content?

Then, in your paid product, give them more.

  • More in-depth
  • More templates
  • More examples
  • More frameworks

Etc, etc.

And to prove this works, this is how we built Ship 30 for 30:

  • We write content on social media about Digital Writing
  • We plug our newsletter in reply to this content
  • Using this data, we created a product to help people start writing on the internet
  • And every quarter we pitch our list on buying the product (which has tons of more examples, templates, frameworks, lessons, community, accountability, etc) on how to start writing online.

And it works for other creators like:

  • Dan Koe (who sells Digital Economics)
  • Justin Welsh (who sells Content OS)
  • Codie Sanchez (who sells the Small Biz Buying Course)

It’s that simple.

The Numbers Behind The 99% Digital Business Model

The best part of this very simple model is that it’s cheap.

You don’t need ads. You don’t need an affiliate army promoting your product. You can easily have a business with a 99% margin using this model.


By using these software tools which are extremely cheap to run:

  • Stripe for accepting payments (for free)
  • Carrd for websites ($19 per year)
  • Slack for community ($10 per month)
  • ConvertKit for your email list ($100 per month)

So you can get all the software you need to run a million-dollar creator business for $200 per month.

All you need to do is follow this blueprint, invest the time, and build your writing skills…

And you, too, can build a 99% margin digital writing business.

Want to see Cole break down this business model? Then click here to watch his latest video on 99% margin digital businesses.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

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