I wrote my 1,000th answer on Quora today.
When I started using Quora in 2010, I was busy trying to quit being a freelance copywriter.
The turning point for me was reading a number of articles written by other freelancers about the poverty that they experienced. I saw myself in the reminiscences of empty refrigerators and un-laundered clothing shared by others. That proved to me that it wasn’t just me, and that my protestations that I could just be tougher, smarter, and better than my competitors in a shrinking industry were just self-puffery.
This was hard for me to do, because I had spent the previous decade telling myself that I was going to be a professional writer, no matter what, and that I would power through any obstacle to achieve that dream. The problem turned out to be that success at that goal was worse than failure. I would’ve been better off aspiring to become a mediocre accountant.
In Quora, I saw a better opportunity to write for an audience of reputable business people than blogging offered. When you know little about business, you’re easy prey for the scammers and hucksters that maraud around the lower social strata, hunting for dupes.
Instead of chasing after readers that might or might not actually help me climb the social ladder (which was my primary interest), Quora gave me a boost when I sorely wanted it and had already attempted dozens of other methods for personal advancement.
It would be proper to look down on my efforts as a dumb striver. I don’t care. I was sick of wearing worn-out sneakers for 12 months at a time. I was envious and bitter at seeing people who were no better or worse than me flopping into remunerative careers out of college. I wanted to do something about it.
Writing a lot on Quora did wind up working for me better than I anticipated. In roughly five months of usage, I accumulated multiple job leads, some new gigs, and ultimately a job offer at a startup in Silicon Valley that I took. That was more efficient than what I’d tried before.
Another goal that I kept in the back of my head was that I wanted to introduce more business people to Austrian Economics and to reasoning from first principles. I was bored of hanging out with people who already shared my opinions. It wasn’t sporting. I’ve now met mind-boggling numbers of people that say that they’ve appreciated my writing on those issues since I started.
I worked towards that because I remembered my experience, pre-2007, of learning about the Austrian perspective, and enjoying a bit of a window into the future to the financial crisis. I figured that I could reap new credibility much later, when interest rates rise again, for my explanations of economic events, and could spread sound reasoning where it was needed besides.
I’m much better off now than I was when I started using the service. If I’d never started using it, or if it had never existed, I would’ve likely stayed at roughly the same level with little improvement for years longer than I would’ve otherwise. I’ve a stronger base of business knowledge than before.
On balance, the time and effort that I’ve poured into the service has paid off. It’s helped me to build the beginnings of a reputation that I can build a life around, which I appreciate.
It’s also earned me some money. I had a hard time justifying to myself the time that I spent writing on Quora when I could be writing for money or pitching clients, but it turns out that I’ve indirectly made a good chunk of money per answer, better than the rates earned by a lot of magazine writers these days.