Imagine making money, or even a living, from doing something you love. If you do a Google search on making money from writing, you’ll get a minefield of opinions. Just last night I read an article about how no one can make money from writing articles anymore, and that the real money is in self-publishing books. And yet other articles will tell you how it’s never been easier to make money from writing articles now.
The truth is, you can make money however you like. No, seriously. Look at the young millionaires who made their money on YouTube. I mean…what? How?
There are stories of people making thousands from working for content mills. People who quit their day jobs to earn tens of thousands writing white papers for businesses. No, I’ve come to the conclusion that you can make money however you wish. It’s finding the right method for you that’s the problem.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed already? Don’t worry. I’ve been there. So let’s start at the beginning. Here are just six ways you could earn money from your writing.
Thanks to Amazon and the slowly changing perception of the self-published, this is now much easier and more acceptable. Fifty Shades of Grey started off as self-published and now E L James is a millionaire. That’s a rare case though. Your best bet is to self-publish a number of books, to increase your odds of income.
These books can be fiction or non-fiction. They can be long or short. You can publish just the ebook, use print on demand or print hard copies of your book. You can make friends with your local book shops and libraries to stock them and do signings, or simply do lots of digital marketing so people will download them. The choices are endless and, with self-publishing, they’re all yours!
Just make sure each book is well written, brilliantly edited and properly proofread. Make it your mission to prove all those people who look down their nose at the self-published wrong. Also, bear in mind that to self-publish well, you need to spend some money. So make sure you take that into consideration and market the hell out of your books.
Last night I worked out that if I make £60 ($100) a month from ten self-published books, I’d make £600 a month. £1,200 if I had twenty books. Some people out there have around 100 books published…
Writing for online publications
There are loads of online outlets in need of stories, including blogs, general websites and e-zines. Most major publications also now have an online magazine which runs more stories than their print version.
Figure out what you want to write about (kids, parenting, pets, gardening, etc) and get involved in that online community. You’ll discover forums, personal blogs, big blogs, businesses and e-zines. You can use all of these to get story ideas and worm your way into the community by leaving comments, helping out on forums and sharing information.
To pitch ideas to the e-zines, use the same approach as for print magazines and always follow any guidelines provided. Payment is usually lower than print magazines, at between $30-$50 (£18-£30 roughly), but I have seen places that pay $100 (£60).
Writing articles for magazines
This is often the dream for many people and getting in is as easy as coming up with a great idea, doing your research, pitching to the editor (or whoever’s in charge) and getting really lucky. You may want to start with pitching lower budget or small circulation magazines to begin with, to get some credentials, but honestly there’s no reason why you can’t pitch both low and high end magazines at the same time (different stories though). You never know when you’ll get lucky.
Pitching takes work though. You need to word the pitch correctly and make sure it’s not too long but contains all the vital information to sell your idea. You’ll probably also need to conduct some short interviews to get your information and name the experts you plan on interviewing for the finished article. Yup, this route involves directly talking to people. Eep!
But the benefits can be great. Some established, high end freelancers claim to be earning hundreds for each article with $300 (£189) considered low. On the flip side, print magazines are struggling in this digital, recession age and editors now have limited budgets.
Selling short stories
Let’s get back to fiction, shall we. Deep breath and relax. Selling short stories is a slow but fulfilling way to earn some extra money. Check out your favourite magazines, writing magazines and this blog (every Wednesday) for opportunities and see who’s accepting submissions.
Competitions are also a great way of earning some money. In fact, my first published short story (as an adult) earned my £50 by coming second place in a competition. The only downside is that it usually costs money to enter, and this can be as high as £15.
Different magazines and competitions pay differently. The high end magazines will pay more, obviously. You may need to work your way up to these magazines, by trying to sell to the small mags first. But it’s often recommended that you actually start at the top. Give the best paying markets the chance to reject your work first, otherwise you’ll always wonder what could have been. And if you’re extra lucky, you might get some advice from those high end places on how to get in in the future.
This one depends on your personal opinion. I’ve found content mills difficult to get into because they often have their own grammar rules, which are nothing like actual grammar, and you need to pass this test to get in.
My advice, if you want to give content mills a try, is to do your research. Make sure you’re getting paid what you think the articles you write are worth (I’ve worked out a method of getting £20 an hour). And don’t have this as your only writing outlet. It will destroy you.
This is basically business writing, and can involve anything from writing press releases, white papers and reports to social media messages, blogs and website content, to advertisements and slogans.
To get into this you need to be able to write persuasive words, understand target audiences and about marketing. Writing letters of introduction to companies you’d like to work with can be a good way in. Suggest something that you could do for them, for example if they’ve let their blog go out of date, offer to see to all their blogging needs.
Payment will depend on the business’s budget and their opinion of marketing and freelancers. As I have found out in the last year. I have seven years of marketing experience and nine times out of ten have received the comment ‘I would do this but I don’t have the time’ from clients. Translated, this means ‘I could do this work but I don’t have the time, so I’ll pay you to do it. But I won’t pay you a lot.’
The other option is to go through agencies. Content marketing is big right now and agencies use freelancers to get the work done. Again, I haven’t had much luck with agencies but I didn’t try too hard.
Payment is whatever you deem fit to charge and how much your client will pay. But you should charge on an individual basis by project. Otherwise you’ll get stuck spending hours writing a complicated blog post for the same price as a straightforward, one-hour post.
But the possibilities are relatively endless. You can choose an industry or two and focus on them. Network locally or online, work with clients abroad or closer to home. Change your industry if you get bored, and learn lots of new, random information and new skills along the way.
Don’t just leave it at that. These are just six broad categories, there’s much more to be discovered in each one and, if you can think of something new to add to it, probably a lot more money to be made. Be inspired, be adventurous and be brave!