Have you ever wondered who these people are who write the articles on websites like the Huffington Post, Forbes, and Inc.? Some of them are staff writers who write for the pubs as a full-time job, but you may have noticed some of the writers are authors, thought leaders, or even your competitors. These individuals are called “contributors,” and becoming one can change your business and your life. How do I know? Because that’s what happened to me.

Three years ago I wrote an article in Fast Company. That helped me land a role as a regular contributor to Forbes. Fast forward to today and I have published over 200 articles, mostly on Forbes.com, but also for Entrepreneur, Mashable, TechCrunch, Time, and 10 other publications. I’ve been paid two or three times for my work, but mostly I write for free. Don’t get me wrong—I am well compensated for the work I do, but it doesn’t come in the form of a check from the publications themselves. The benefits I’ve received from writing include getting paid speaking gigs, a book deal, and during the first 12 months I was writing for Forbes, my digital marketing agency’s monthly revenues grew by over 1,000%. Perhaps most importantly I’ve been able to connect with amazing people all over the world. I’ve benefitted tremendously from the friends I’ve made, and I’ve been able to assist others in maximizing their potential and the potential of their organizations, which gives me great satisfaction. How’s that for compensation?

You can do what I’ve done. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Here are three questions to ask yourself that will help you get started in the right direction.

1. Why Do I Want To Be A Contributor?

I know a lot of contributors and we all have different reasons for doing what we do. Here are some reasons you may want to become a contributor.

  • Money
  • Credibility
  • Sales
  • Speaking gigs
  • Travel
  • Entry to exclusive events
  • Networking
  • Influence
  • Fame
  • Opportunity to serve others

I’ve received all these things and more from being a contributor, and while I certainly enjoy the perks my primary motivation is to influence others in a way that serves them. What are your motivations for wanting to become a contributor?

2. What Is My Calling?

Find your calling by identifying your knowledge and abilities. To do this, create the following lists:

What you are really good at - You don’t have to be the best in the world, but better than most. For example, I’m a skateboarder. I’m terrible compared to any professional, but since I can do a kickflip that means that compared to most people who can’t even stand up on a skateboard, I’m pretty darn good. I could also say that I’m pretty good at art, reading, writing, speaking, and marketing. Again, there are a lot of people who are better than I am at any of these things, and that’s ok. Make your own list of at least five items you are really good at compared to the average person on the street.

What you know a lot about - I know a lot about startups, entrepreneurship, living in Hong Kong, and after hanging some shelves yesterday, I think I qualify as an expert on how to drill holes in concrete walls. You may not enjoy all the things you know a lot about, but for now, just list the things you know a lot about.

What you are passionate about - You may not be good at these things or know a lot about them, but that doesn’t matter. Make a list of things you love to do, or would love to do, regardless of your ability or how much you engage in this activity or study this area of knowledge. I love to travel and live in different places, and compared to some people I do a lot of it, but I know plenty of people who are much more well traveled than I am. I also love studying Austrian economics, but I’m far from being a leading expert on the topic.

Now, look for two things. First, where do items on these lists overlap? Is there something that shows up in all three areas? If you’re really good at being a lawyer, you know a lot about the law, and you’re passionate about it, that would seem to be an indication that being a contributor to a publication and writing about legal matters is your thing.

Second, look at where your knowledge and abilities intersect and make you unique. I may not be the best writer in the world, I may not know more about entrepreneurship than anyone else, and I certainly am not an authority on Austrian economics, but is there anyone out there who has as much experience as I do with entrepreneurship, who is passionate about Austrian economics, and is good at writing about it? From that perspective, I might have an edge. That could be my calling. What’s yours?

3. Who Am I Writing For?

I blogged for 10 years and wrote 900 or so posts before I got picked up by Forbes. During those years, not many people cared about what I wrote, and frankly I wasn’t writing for my readers--I was writing for me. I enjoyed it, and if anyone else enjoyed it that was great, but not my primary motivation. However, when I began writing for Forbes and other publications I started to focus more on my readers and ask them what they were interested in. I started to respond to questions people asked me. As I did that, I began to feel my writing was more than just therapy for myself--it could really help others, and I began to feel more fulfillment. I still write for myself, but I now have a larger vision of what’s possible and I make efforts to write for others.

But who are these other people? Do I want to reach entrepreneurs or executives? Seniors or millennials? Techies or Luddites? Men or women? Parents or singles? Now here’s a little secret--you’re going to try and go big. “I write for everyone who wants to maximize his or her potential!” That’s great, but you’ve got a lot of competition in that space, and you’re going to find it difficult to make deep connections with your readers. It can be done, but perhaps you’re making it harder than it needs to be.

Instead, get as focused as you can. “I write for single, millennial, techie, female, entrepreneurs who want to maximize their potential through mindfulness.” There’s not much competition in this space. It would be easy for you to become the expert in that niche and own it. You can always expand later to occupy a wider niche, and then you’ll have a core group of loyal followers to help you do it.

Answering these three questions won’t land you a position as a contributor, but it sets you up for success in getting that position and doing well in it. I wish I had gone through this exercise when I started writing for Forbes. It would have helped me connect with more people faster, without wasting time and effort on writing that didn’t support my motivations for being a contributor.

Next Steps

This is all great preparation, but what next? Write. You know what your motivation is, what your calling is, and who your audience is. So start writing. Where should you publish what you write? I recommend setting up a blog. But if that sounds like too much, then publish on Medium. If it’s the right audience, post on the LinkedIn Pulse network. You can publish to both of these for free, and it’s drop-dead easy. You could have a post up 15 minutes from now.

Publishing three or four posts on Medium probably won’t result in you getting a call next week from Forbes or Inc. But as you keep writing you’ll get more in touch with your audience. You’ll grow a following, and if you follow my steps above, it won’t take 10 years before you get invited to write for another publication, it may happen within weeks.

Josh Steimle is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur. He has written over 200 articles for publications like Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, and Time, and is the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work: How Top Marketers Build Customer Loyalty. He is the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing firm he founded in 1999 with offices in Hong Kong and the U.S. Steimle was recently recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as one of 50 Online Marketing Influencers To Watch in 2016. Follow him on Twitter @joshsteimle and Kreativa.