How to Make Money Writing

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First off, it is indeed possible even without experience. It takes work, but it’s not ridiculously hard to start a career as a writer if you’re willing to put a lot of time into it. As a preface to the nuggets of advice I’ve included in this post, the amount you can make
really depends on how hard you’re willing to work. I am primarily focused on nurturing a creative career, so money I’ve made freelancing is side-income. But that’s because I’ve never spent more than ten hours a week on it. Full-time, you can make full-time income if you’re any good at writing. Assuming you are…

Start with sites like Upwork and Fiverr.

Upwork and Fiverr are essentially massive job boards where people looking to hire a freelancer can find one. There are jobs for all types of freelance workers, including many, many opportunities for writers. It’s very easy to make a profile and get working. It is extremely helpful to have some references and something of a portfolio, but you can also start with nothing…you’ll just have to take very low-paying jobs for the sole purpose of building a body of work. In general, these sites are best for those in the early stages of a writing career. While there are certainly higher pying and recurring jobs, the majority are not super lucrative. It’s just a good place to begin. You may want to invest in an online course on how to successfully navigate Upwork and / or Fiverr, because while these sites aren’t super complex, people who have a lot of experience with them may have advice to impart that could help you make a lot more money.

Connections are EVERYTHING.

This is how you build a portfolio before applying to jobs on freelance sites (or elsewhere). You may be surprised by how many people in your life either have work for you to do or someone they know who needs a freelance writer. My first paid writing job was as a ghostwriter for my aunt’s fashion and beauty website. I also did some nonprofit writing for friends of friends when I was getting started. Then I wrote for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which is a childhood cancer nonprofit that happens to have been founded by my cousin (and has been run by my aunt and uncle since her death—over twenty years, starting with a single lemonade stand, they’ve raised over $200 million dollars). This is the kind of connection that is absolutely ideal when you’re starting a career as a writer. Aside from the fact that the foundation is very important to me on a personal level, writing for a major charitable organization looks very good on a resume—especially since potential clients don’t know ALSF is run by my family. There’s no shame in taking jobs from people close to you. Ask around, even if you don’t think anything will turn up.

Craigslist.

In the absence of any personal connections that might help you land a freelance gig, Craigslist is full of writing opportunities that in many cases do not require a high level of expertise. Again, it’s all about the experience at this stage. Here’s a post I wrote a while back on how to make money on Craigslist in general.

Cold pitching can work if you go about it the right way.

Cold pitching is essentially the same as reaching out to people you know to see if any of them need a freelance writer…except with people you don’t know. I hate doing it. To be fully transparent, that’s not entirely true—I imagine I would hate doing it. I’ve never actually done it. I’m too anxious. But if you get used to offering your services to local businesses unprompted, I’ve heard from many other writers that the pay off can be huge, and you can land some major clients this way. Note that this is something that usually works better once you have something of a portfolio. There are a lot of things that can increase your chances of success with this—my expertise with cold pitching is very limited, but there are a huge number of online courses on the subject. Definitely worth checking out.

After you build up your resume a bit, check jobs sites like Indeed or Glassdoor.

This is where you’ll find regular jobs, even salaried jobs as a writer. Many are part-time, but even those ones can be a source of very significant income.

Guest post on blogs. Check out BloggingPro.

Many blogs will pay established writers to write a post for them, either on a specific topic or a subject of their choosing. If you have a few jobs under your belt, these gigs are usually pretty easy to secure.

Also consider getting into ghostwriting.

Ghostwriting is just writing, on any number of topics; but as a ghostwriter, you don’t get credit for your work. You just get paid, sometimes very well. The only drawback is that someone else’s name will be on what you’ve written. Personally, I don’t mind this at all when the work isn’t creative. I would even consider ghostwriting fiction in the future if I could keep it at a bit of a distance. Just know and accept going in that no matter how proud you are of your work, people will not know it’s yours.

Get paid to write essays, or tutor.

This is kind of half teaching, half writing. But you can make a lot of money doing it, and if you have a specific area of interest academically, you can focus your search for work there. I’ve gotten paid to write study guides on abnormal psychology and neuroscience, which I would do for free because I am a nerd. Sites like Chegg and E-Notes are good for this kind of work. Some sites will pay you quite handsomely to write essays for spoiled college students who are too lazy to do their own homework, but in spite of my dubious sense of morality, I don’t want to do this because I don’t want to help spoiled college students who are too lazy to do their own homework. But if you have at least a bachelors degree and can pass a writing test, this may be a good job for you.

Submittable is the single best thing I have discovered in my life.

Submittable is a free website that allows you to easily submit work and / or job applications to multiple publications / organizations very quickly. It’s very simple and intuitive, and it keeps track of the status of anything you submit for consideration. You can use it to submit creative writing to literary magazines (this is perhaps its most common use), but there are also jobs in publishing, editorial work, blogging jobs, and fellowship applications, among other opportunities. Many publications have a submission fee, but the site itself costs nothing.

Possibly start a blog. Definitely start a website.

Blogs can be full-time income if you put a lot into them over a long time, and start a blog on the right topic. There are a ton of great online courses on this, and I will write a much more detailed post on it at some point. For now I’ll just say that the most important step in starting a blog is doing a lot of research. While blogs can be a source of income, you usually have to have very high traffic to make good money off one. But even if you’re not ready to put a ton of time and effort into monetizing your blog, having a website is extremely important as a writer, just so you have somewhere to direct prospective clients. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate—just make sure your contact information is easy to find and whatever you choose to include on your site is relevant to your career. Sell yourself.

Creative writing is not a fast way to make money. At all. But it can be quite lucrative if you’re REALLY good at it.

You will not get rich quick doing this. It’s highly likely you will not get rich at all. Go into your writing career with an open mind and a lot of patience, and you won’t be disappointed. Unless you’re really bad at it.

Consider working in publishing or academia.

Many writers have another career, since creative writing in particular can take a very long time to really pan out even if you are good. Working in academia (as a teacher / professor or in more of a research capacity) or the literary world can be helpful to a writing career in addition to generally aligning with your interests. My sister is a writer too, and in addition to having worked in publishing and heading up a lit zine in the past, she’s now a communications professor at Northwestern. I’ve taken more of a starving artist approach and act like that makes me somehow superior because I’m not ~mainstream~ to compensate for my insecurities over…a whole lot of things, including my career. Anyway, choose your path.

Know that it’s a learning process.

You’ll be learning how to be a writer your whole career. Stay hungry for professional growth. And don’t get cocky. Self-loathing looks good on a writer anyway. 👊🏻