5 Lessons That Writers Can Learn from Richard Branson
Virgin Group’s founder Sir Richard Branson is one of the few people in the world who can honestly say that he’s done it all – he’s a savvy businessman who’s been through ups and downs (mostly ups, as evidenced by his $4.2 billion net worth). He’s a philanthropist, an adventurer, and even a best-selling author. The lessons that he has learned through all of his different ventures can be applied to a wide range of principles, and if you’re a writer, there are 5 lessons that you can learn from Richard Branson, such as:
1. Be Visible
Branson states that he has never worked in an office, choosing instead to work at home and to travel a lot. In his travels, Branson keeps a notebook in his back pocket in order to jot down concerns, observations, and good ideas.
Branson’s philosophy is to encourage going out and meeting people, shaking hands and striking conversations with your future customers (readers in your case), and gather as much experience as you can. Regardless of the genre you write for, the enriching experience of going out and living life to the fullest will expand your trove of ideas and help you craft realistic worlds, scenarios, and characters.
Branson first started in the record industry, but also ventured into transportation via Virgin Atlantic Airways. He has since expanded his business ventures into other areas, including movies, cosmetics, mobile phones, and even beverages.
As a writer, you also need to diversify and avoid pigeonholing yourself into a single genre, platform, or medium. The purpose of diversification is twofold; first, having several options will keep things interesting, but it also provides safety from the ebbs and flows of any given genre or platform. Branson would have suffered financially due to the decline of the recording industry if he didn’t diversify. As a writer, you can protect yourself from the waning of certain industries if you venture outside of your normal boundaries.
3. Opportunity is Constant
Throughout his life, Branson has experienced many failures – from industries that have declined, to businesses that are simply not taking off – but he has never been discouraged. Instead, he sought other opportunities that are open.
As a writer, you should never let any setback discourage you from your craft. Whether it’s a rejection or a negative review of your work, you should just use it as a way to improve. Do not dwell on past failures when there are still opportunities coming your way.
4. Be a Pioneer
Don’t spend the rest of your writing career following other people’s beat. Learn new things, innovate, and try to beat everyone into releasing the first of something. Branson shows this by trying to come up with new business ventures – even risky ones like the first space tourism company, Virgin Galactic. The main benefit of being a pioneer is that you can easily beat competitors because you were the first. You own the arena and you can set the rules.
5. Finally, Enjoy What Your Are Doing
When Branson first started Virgin from his basement flat in West London, he didn’t create it for the purpose of making a ton of profits. He just wanted to create something that he enjoyed but would also pay the bills.
In terms of writing, don’t just write things for the purpose of selling or making a profit. Write something that you enjoy writing, while also making a little bit of effort to ensure that it’s going to be marketable. This mindset will help you weather the ups and downs that are normally part of any endeavor. If you’re just writing for the money, you’ll probably be discouraged when it doesn’t make any. With Branson’s mindset, you won’t feel the sting much since you at least had fun during the process.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in December 2014.