So you claim you only write for the joy of it. Money is the farthest thing from your mind when you create. (Sorry, this is me snickering into my cup of tea.) Obviously, I want you to do you, and I truly understand writing for joy. I do it once in a while. But if we’re honest with ourselves, even when we write something we don’t plan to put a price tag on, there’s a tiny voice in the back of our brains asking “What if…”
Even the most introverted among us crave acknowledgment that our words, and thus our thoughts, are worthy. Payment is the method through which we can satisfy those cravings.
And for those of us aiming to make a living at stringing words together, always having a place to sell those words is a critical element for financial success. Let’s look at some of the options.
Client work is not for everyone. It usually takes at least a smidge of salesmanship, plus the whole idea of writing to spec can be a turnoff if you’re used to doing your own thing. In most cases, client work involves SEO and marketing knowledge as well as strong research skills.
Your options are to track down and pitch businesses on your own or get work through sites like Contently or Upwork. I’ve had a Contently profile for years and rarely get contacted with job offers, but that’s probably because most of my profile stuff is not client work, it’s freelance writing for publications. I’ve read of others who have marketed their skills and been quite successful using Contently.
Skyword is similar to Contently in that you create a portfolio in the hope of attracting the attention of their editors who can connect you with potential clients. I’ve had a profile there since 2015 with very few responses.
I recently spent a half hour creating an Upwork profile and was intrigued by the job opportunities for writers. They ranged from editing legal blogs to helping a mother of a soon-to-be bride with her speech for the reception. Upwork shows you job postings appropriate for your skills. The pay offered on the jobs I looked at ranged from paltry to appropriate.
The primary goal of client work is to build a stable of clients you enjoy working with. Short of that, it’s always nice to know you have options for writing to pay the bills. Keep in mind that competition for talented writers on these sites can be stiff which can drive down the pay.
As with freelancing for clients, freelancing for publications is not for everyone. In my thirty-plus years of doing this, the majority of the work I’ve produced has been fulfilling assigned work, as opposed to writing what I pitched. Here’s how that happens:
I pitch ideas to editors that I think will fit their publication.Mostly I am ignored.Once in a while, an editor takes a look at my portfolio of work and responds with a counter-offer asking me to write something they already have in mind. (This actually happened with my first guidebook.)Even rarer are the times when an editor loved my pitch and commissioned a paid story.When either of the above two things happens, as long as you produce what they want, those responses can turn into long-term paying gigs. Sometimes you’ll still have to pitch ideas; sometimes you’ll be assigned a steady stream of work based on what the publication needs.
All of that requires the ability to keep pitching. The best resource I have for that is Pitchwiz. It’s a free resource for writers of all kinds. The best part of signing up is the weekly email with a list of paid writing jobs.
A blog, newsletter, or platform where you can post affiliate links
There are three components of this type of writing. Your time and tolerance for working on building your own platform, be it a blog, newsletter, or video channel is the first issue, but your ability to write convincing marketing stories about products and your SEO talent to drive consumers to the post are the real keys to the affiliate kingdom.
You don’t have to have a huge built-in audience, though that helps. Your options for affiliate programs are sometimes limited by your audience, but not in every case. Start as an Amazon Associate or an eBay Partner then work your way up to businesses that want to see your audience numbers before accepting you. Often the best way to find lucrative affiliate programs is to check the page footer of the websites for the favorite stuff you buy or use, or Google the brand with the word “affiliates” after it.
There are a number of affiliate consolidator sites to look at, including Impact, CJ Affiliate, and Max Bounty. It would be wonderful if affiliate marketing programs involved set-and-forget payouts, but my experience has been that while there is money to be made, most of them require considerable attention to the programs you choose to participate in.
I know bloggers who earn adequate amounts from their affiliate links, but most of them have large audiences, are very good at tailoring their links to that audience, and incorporating links in multiple places (like newsletters or social media posts.) The good news is that if you already have a blog there’s no harm in adding a few links now and then. Consider any payout you get as bonus money.
I recently watched a video about scuba diving in Bonaire that was practically nothing but a vehicle for Amazon affiliate links. The cool thing was that the creator also included links to the equipment used to produce the video. Even if you’re camera shy, videos like this can be produced with nothing but photos and graphics.
The most important part of using affiliate links is full disclosure. Your reader must be notified that you will make money from clicks on those links.
Any platform that shares advertising revenue
Don’t limit your thinking to blogs on this one. There are newsletters like Swapstack and podcasts like Anchor.fm. The granddaddy of all ad revenue-sharing sites is YouTube. If you meet the stringent requirements or want to work toward them, converting your written content into video is an option to consider. If you don’t meet the requirements, you can still earn from videos by including affiliate links in your video description as previously stated.
Pay-for-reads platforms or outlets
Right now the top places to post writing and hope to get paid for page views or reads are Medium, Vocal, and News Break. There are success stories on all three, but bonuses, awards, and sign-on base pay aside, few writers can earn a living wage indefinitely this way.
Having said that, these are opportunities not to be dismissed, particularly if you are between gigs or are a fast enough writer to crank out something for one or more of these in conjunction with your higher-paying writing jobs.
Substack and Patreon are the standouts in this sphere. It’s a simple concept — you write, then promote yourself and your work in the hope that readers will pay you directly for the privilege of reading what you created. Like with the pay-for-reads platforms and outlets, there are big winners on both of these subscription-based sites, but without a dedicated audience in place already, you have to be prepared to do a lot of self-promotion.
Probably the best ideas I’ve seen for either Substack or Patreon involve using them as a backup to your other writing ventures that allow you to essentially give backstage passes to those willing to pay extra.
Example: I follow a Facebook page called Geoffry the Conqueror. The subject is a shaggy miniature horse in New Zealand and his adventures with the other animals at his home. The page’s (and the horse’s) owner is an amazing video creator, so she recently started a Patreon where she offers longer videos and a behind-the-scenes peek at the horses, a miniature donkey, and the dogs she owns.
Whatever it is that you write, putting it out there in the form of an electronic book is currently all the rage. Whether you write your manifesto or put together a collection of previously published works, eBooks can be an ideal method for adding a steady trickle of money to your bank account.
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is the most obvious option for publishing eBooks, but there are other alternatives, including simply creating the eBook yourself and offering it directly on your own website or wherever you publish. Another choice to look at is Kobo, hailed for its ability to market your books internationally.
I recently had a life event that caused me to step away from writing for a few weeks. It happens to all of us eventually. But guess what? The fact that I had multiple revenue streams already in place, some of which are passive in that they don’t require a direct exchange of work for pay, meant that my time off was paid time off.
I don’t know about you, but that’s always been my ultimate goal — having the ability to work when I want and take time off when I choose or when it’s necessary.
To Grow Your Writing Career, You Need More Ways to Write for Money was originally published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Read more: writingcooperative.com