I Build Personal Brands

The Brand Journalism Advantage Podcast Featuring Nicolas Cole

Self DevelopmentNicolas ColeComment

I am really big into podcasts. 

I have always found them immensely helpful in helping me understand what it is I am looking to vocalize and teach people. There's something different about saying it out loud versus writing it. And often times, I leave a podcast with even more clarity around what I "know" than when I had originally walked in.

Recently, I was invited by Phoebe Chongchua to stop by her podcast, The Brand Journalism Advantage, specifically to talk about Personal Branding.

I shared: 5 Top Tips How To Build A Personal Brand

  1. “What’s Your Why” - Know your Why so that people see you as a true thought leader.
  2. Choose Your Channels Carefully – Don’t waste time on “popular” social channels if that’s not where your core audience is.
  3. Consistency With Content – Come up with a content schedule for yourself and stick to it (and create today what is better than what you created yesterday).
  4. Collaborate More Than You Post – Collaboration with other thought leaders is how you grow your audience and establish your credibility in your space/market.
  5. Update Your Image – On the Internet, people DO judge books by their cover, so make sure all your materials and content reflect the professionalism of your personal brand.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

How To Write Viral Content Online

CreativityNicolas ColeComment

4 years ago, I was sitting in the last writing class of my college education. I was about to graduate with a degree in "creative writing," a degree many people assured me would guarantee a future of serving coffee at Starbucks for the rest of my life.

On the last day of class, my teacher, an author himself, said, "Writing as an art isn't dying. It's just going digital. And for the vast majority of writers, that's terrifying. They know how to write, they don't know how to market themselves. But the ones that can learn how to use these new tools will be the ones to succeed."

And with that, I grabbed my diploma and set out into the real world to find the answer to that very question.

I took a job as an entry-level copywriter at a digital agency downtown Chicago I will always consider to be a monumental part of my journey, called Idea Booth. I took that job because I saw that it would teach me what I didn't yet understand: the art of marketing. I had never taken a marketing or advertising class, had no idea what a "campaign" was or what acronyms like "ROI" meant. But I saw that in order for me to learn how to share my writing with the world, I first needed to understand what the world was willing to pay attention to.

This sparked an extreme interest in me to study all forms and variations of marketing, from the extravagant big brand performances all the way down to the forums online frequented by number-crunching digital marketers who obsessed over conversion rates and automated sales funnels. My entire life, you couldn't have paid me to take a math class seriously, and here I was up until two in the morning reading novel long PDF guides on ad spends and product conversion ratios.

At the same time, I continued to nurture my writing. Gone were my class assignments nudging me in different directions. Gone were my peers, ready to provide feedback. My support system as a writer had vanished, and in order to continue to master my craft I needed to find a new way to practice.

I started writing on a website called Quora. It was an intriguing platform, and one that I saw was dominated by really great writers, whether they called themselves that or not. Anyone could ask a Question, and anyone could provide an Answer. And the best Answers were written by thought leaders in their field, people who were speaking from experience. Except, what I realized very early on (studying people like Leonard Kim) was that the most popular writers on Quora had a way of doing two very opposite things at once: answering people's questions and providing real value, while at the same time telling their own unique story and making readers feel entertained.

"I have a lot of stories I could tell," I thought to myself.

So I started writing. 1 Answer per day.

3 months later, I had my first Answer pop on Quora. It was a summarized version of a lesson I had learned playing World of Warcraft at a national level, and held excerpts of my then-forthcoming memoir, Confessions of a Teenage Gamer. Over 100,000 people had read that Answer, and it ended up being published in Quora's 2014 Print Anthology.

"This is how I can market my book!" I realized. "I can answer gaming questions on Quora!"

Not a month after that, I had my first Answer go full-blown viral, landing on the front page of Reddit. That Answer has since accumulated over 1.1M views. It was a short Answer, barely two paragraphs, but was paired with a Before & After photo of me and my journey as a bodybuilder. Overnight, my inbox flooded with emails from people saying, "That picture on the left, that skinny kid is me. How can I end up like you there, on the right?"

This is what they were referring to:…/…/Nicolas-Cole-1

In one weekend, I built a website and wrote two eBooks, one about my workout routines, and another about my nutrition. I launched them that Sunday night, and by Monday morning had made $3,000.

"This is what product/market fit looks like!" I realized. Slowly but surely, what I was learning about digital marketing was starting to relate back to writing.

By the 5th month of my writing on Quora, I had my first Answer republished by a major publication: Inc. Magazine. I didn't even know that sort of thing was possible. A month later, I had another one of my Answers republished, this time in TIME.

I messaged back the person on Quora's team who had asked for my permission to republish the Answer.

"So, how does this work? Other publications can just take content from Quora and repost it?" I asked.

"Yup! They need great content, and we have amazing writers here on Quora writing really great material so it's a perfect fit. If you ever write something you think would be a good match for a certain publication, let me know and I'll pitch it," she said.

I saw this as my open door.

For months, I studied what content was appearing on the front pages of these major publications: Forbes, Fortune, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, etc. And then every time I sat down to write a Quora answer, I would carefully craft my answer to be in the form of an article one of these big pubs would want to republish.

I cracked the code, to say the least.

For over 6 months straight, I had a different Quora answer republished in a major publication every single week. Inc, TIME, Forbes, Fortune, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Observer, Fox News, The Chicago Tribune, Apple News, Popsugar, the list went on and on.

In less than a year, I had racked up more writing accolades than most professional writers.

At the end of 2014, nine months after I had started writing on Quora, I was named one of their Top Writers. I had accumulated over 8,000,000 views on all my articles.

At the end of 2015, I was named Top Writer again, now with over 12,000,000 total views.

In 2016, Inc Magazine was republishing so much of my content from Quora that they gave me my own column.

And at the end of 2016, I leveraged my audience on Quora to self-publish Confessions of a Teenage Gamer, reaching #2 in 2 different categories on Amazon the first day, and #1 on Product Hunt. I was named Top Writer for the 3rd time, now with over 16,000,000 total views.

I am now a full-time writer. One-half artist, one-half entrepreneur. Except what I have learned along the way extends far outside just the realm of writing.

If you want to be a thought leader in your industry, if you want people to come to you, if you want to have an audience, if you want to have a voice, then here's how you can refine that voice and get yourself out there.

I want to teach you how you can do what I've done, for yourself.

Click here to take the course:

Chicago v.s California & LVLUP Dojo House | #CoffeeWithCole Episode 3

#CoffeeWithColeNicolas ColeComment

Last week, I went back (back) to Cali (Cali) to visit the LVLUP Dojo guys in Hollywood Hills, along with scheduling a quick trip to Irvine to chat with Winnie Sun (contributor to Forbes) on her business show. She asked me some awesome questions, and I streamed our filming together live on Facebook

I'll post the professional video as soon as I have it.

Something that was really apparent to me while I was out in the hills was how different I feel in California versus Chicago. It's not really that one is "better" than the other, but they definitely bring out different aspects of my creativity. 

What I'm Currently Reading


I just started reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky's famed The Gambler

So, fun fact (which I just read in the introduction) is that Dostoyevsky actually really did have a gambling problem. And when he was working on The Gambler, he was also simultaneously working on Crime & Punishment, arguably his most famous work. However, he got a little behind on some of his payments (oh the woes of gambling) and struck a deal with a publisher for an advance on his next novel under the condition that he would have a publishable manuscript ready in 30 days.

Apparently that was the motivation the Russian linguist needed. He wrote The Gambler in less than a month, particularly through the use of a stenographer—a student who helped transcribe the work.

I really like alternating between genres when I read, and particularly enjoy making time to read dense fiction because it is such a great workout for the brain. Balancing plot and character development and description and language all at the same time is a totally different beast than reading a book on entrepreneurship. There is a time and place for both.

What's Next?

I'm back in Chicago for two weeks, and then I am headed to Arizona, Atlanta, and then Europe. We're going to Budapest, Amsterdam, and Paris, specifically to film some scenes for the next big course called, Laptop Lifestyle: How To Live Your Dream From Anywhere In The World.

Big things coming! And yes, plan on there being a whole lot of #CoffeeWithCole episodes in Europe.

Stay tuned...

WGN Radio Feature: How To Write Content That Goes "Viral" (And Builds Your Personal Brand)

Self DevelopmentNicolas ColeComment

All growing up, my dad would always tell me to listen to WGN radio. "They have such great people on that show," he would say. So sitting in the studio talking about my journey was a very cool moment for me. 

I stopped by to chat with Scott Kitun, CEO of Technori and WGN Radio host. It's especially great to be part of these bigger conversations around entrepreneurship in Chicago. 

On the show, we covered the following:

1. What it really means to write "great content" and how to go "viral."

2. The value of becoming a thought leader in your industry.

3. How I used Quora to get published in major publications like TIME, Forbes, Fortune, Business Insider, Inc Magazine, etc.

4. My new writing course coming out soon: How I Went From 0 to 20,000,000 Readers Online.

Click below to watch the show!

Writing Isn't Dying, It's Going Digital | #CoffeeWithCole Episode 2

#CoffeeWithColeNicolas ColeComment

I knew this year was going to be busy, but it's always a different ball game when you step into the journey itself.

Last week I was in Atlanta with the behind-the-scenes star on the team here, Drew Reggie (he makes a cameo appearance in this episode). Drew and I have been friends since Freshman year of college (so... 9 years) and we create just about everything together. He's the one who takes all the pictures you see on Instagram, who shoots all the videos, and honestly is one of the very few people I think through my ideas with (a process I keep very hidden from most people). As time goes on, you'll get to know him and his work more and more, and the things we put out, just remember, are the result of our creative tag-team. 

I spent the week in my second-home (ATL) working with Drew to shoot an online course around something I have been getting asked constantly about: How I Went From 0 to 20,000,000 Readers Online. 


But before we launch the course, I want to give you some backstory as to how I even started down this path to begin with.

I tell the story in the video, but this knowledge of how to build yourself into a thought leader, specifically a writer, by using digital tools is something I have spent years and years studying and figuring out. There is a huge disconnect between the older generations (especially in the world of formal journalism and writing) who are talented wordsmiths but have no idea how to use the Internet to their advantage, and the younger writers who have many more years of honing their craft to go, but are more digitally savvy. 

And this isn't just valuable to people who want to become professional writers. The vast majority of content online is text. If you want to be a food blogger, or a travel blogger, or write for an online publication as a thought leader in digital marketing, or even if you just want to share your thoughts and your story with the world, then you need to understand a few things about the ecosystem as a whole—specifically how and why content gets shared and viewed.

Nobody in a million years thought that four years out of college I would be traveling the world as a full-time writer (booked tickets to Europe last night for February, and am headed to LA next week record a podcast with a columnist from Forbes). I am still extremely young. And yet, I have figured out how to write content, and where to write it, in a way that attracts an audience.

Course will be launched in the next week or two. I will keep you posted.

As always, if you have a question and would like your question answered, Tweet meInstagram me, or ask the question on Quora by using #CoffeeWithCole, and I will answer your question! 

Now, here's all the content you missed:

Inc Magazine

1. 12 Negative Habits You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful

2. Why Millennials Would Rather Make Less Money Working A Job They Love

3. The Ultimate Poker Showdown: Professionals Versus Artificial Intelligence

4. The 1 Thing Today's Aspiring Thought Leaders Aren't Learning From Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, and More

5. 3 Unconventional Lessons Every Entrepreneur Needs To Hear (To Succeed For The Right Reasons)

6. 5 Signs Someone Has True Emotional Intelligence

7. 7 Ways To Not Fall Back Into Bad Habits In February 2017

8. The 1 Word That Gets Every Single Millennial In Trouble (VIRAL HIT)

9. Your 2017 Instagram Strategy: Let Influencers Tell Your Brand Story

10. 2017 Is The Year Social Media Platforms Become Social Marketplaces (Here's What That Means)

11. 3 Critical Reasons Employees Become Unmotivated In The Workplace

12. What Do You Do Once You've Hit $100M In Sales? This CEO Is Building His Personal Brand

13. 5 Investment Rules Millennials Should Follow (To Build Long-Term Wealth)


1. Do I have to get my book professionally edited?

2. I'm 17 and I'd like to write a book on a serious subject with a long plot. Is this too ambitious?

3. How long will it take for me to get my unique writing style?

4. I have a great concept for a biz book but need some help writing. What's the best way to get a good inexpensive ghost writer?

5. What made you into such a great writer?

6. What life advice would you give to a 17 year old?

7. I think I’m lost. I really don't know how to live the rest of my life. I feel hopeless and depressed, with no goals or dreams. What should I do?


1. The Golden Question Every Great Leader Should Welcome From A Millennial

The Huffington Post

1. 4 Things You Need To Stop Putting Off

2. Are Your Twenties Really The Best Years Of Your Life?

What I'm Currently Reading


Right now, I am reading Why We Write About Ourselves.

It took me a really long time to write my first memoir, Confessions of a Teenage Gamer. Not necessarily because the story was difficult to construct (although I did rewrite the thing in a million different forms) but because writing about yourself, your life, the people in it, and taking time to really understand the emotions behind the story is no easy task. 

This book was a gift to me after I put out my first book. Before I dive into Book II (for those that read COATG and were left hanging off a cliff), I feel like it's important that I take some time to ruminate on the experience and look for what I can improve for the next one.

What's Next?

1. Flying to LA on Wednesday, January 25th to see the guys from LVLUP Dojo. 

2. Recording a podcast with Forbes contributor Winnie Sun in LA on Friday, talking about how I have been able to climb the ladder and write for some of the biggest publications on the Internet.

3. Friday night heading to San Francisco for the weekend (explore the city a bit, maybe say hey to Quora Legend and friend Dushka Zapata).

4. Back in Chicago on Monday.

5. Launching the video course somewhere amidst all that: How I Went From 0 to 20,000,000+ Readers Online.

Stay tuned...