Image from Flickr by Inha Leex Hale.
One of the big writing ambitions I hear about from a lot of people is:
I want to make money writing.
They – quite reasonably! – want to be rewarded for their talent and their work.
Yet many writers think that there’s something wrong with their dream.
Maybe they’re worried that making money will turn them into a hack, and that writing for pay is “not real writing”.
Maybe they think that while they might be able to make money “some day,” that day is many years away.
And very often they’re convinced that it’s going to be really hard, maybe impossible, to achieve that dream.
Here’s the truth.
It’s Far From Impossible
How hard is it to make money writing?
Not as hard as you probably think.
I make money writing, and I’ve been doing so for six years. While it’s not necessarily easy, it’s far from impossible, and if you’re even a moderately good writer, you can do it.
How do I know? Because…
Lots of Mediocre Writers Make Money
I’d rather this wasn’t the case, but it’s true: there are plenty of mediocre writers out there who make money from their words.
They probably aren’t getting rich … but they’re not necessarily doing terribly either.
Maybe they’re indie novelists with a flair for self-promotion, or agency copywriters specialising in website text, or public sector workers.
If they can make money writing, so can you.
And this is why…
There Are Plenty of Opportunities Out There
While print media and traditional publishing may be going through rocky times, that definitely doesn’t mean that writing is dead.
Far from it.
The web has opened up a huge number of new opportunities, with companies from tiny start-ups to huge brands running blogs, email newsletters and more.
Just take a look at Freelance Writing Jobs to see how many writing/editing gigs are around.
Having a Website Isn’t Essential
Would-be paid writers are sometimes put off starting because they think they need to present a really “professional” face to the world … complete with flashy website, slick business cards, an office phone number, and more.
The truth is, you can get started without any of this. Sure, a well-designed website will give you extra credibility – but what editors and clients really care about is how well you can write.
When I started out, I did have a website, but it was terribly designed (by yours truly ;-)) and I doubt most of my clients even glanced at it.
Here’s Your Three-Step Plan
If you want to make money from your writing, here’s what to do.
I’m assuming here that you plan to make money selling writing services to clients rather than by selling books to readers – though some of the advice will apply either way.
#1: Choose a Specialism
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s much easier to run a business where you specialise in a particular form of writing or editing – e.g. creating blog posts, editing fiction, or proofreading non-fiction books.
This doesn’t rule out branching out in the future – or offering extra services to your clients – but it does help you stand out.
(If you’re aiming to make money from fiction, the same goes: stick to one clear genre, at least initially.)
#2: Build up a (Small) Portfolio
You don’t need a huge folder of published pieces in order to get work as a writer … but you’ll struggle if you don’t have any previous experience.
So, initially, you may need to do some work for free. That could be:
- Writing articles for your local paper.
- Writing guest posts for blogs.
- Writing advertising copy for a charity.
- Editing a friend’s writing.
… or almost anything. It’s useful if at least some of your published pieces are available online, so you can easily point potential new clients toward them.
#3: Start Pro-Actively Looking for Work
In the early days, you’ll need to spend a fair amount of time looking for paid writing opportunities – don’t expect them to simply fall into your lap.
(A few months down the line, you may well find that you have plenty of work from existing clients plus referrals.)
Use multiple methods, like:
- Attending local networking events.
- Getting friends to spread the word on Facebook / to their offline networks.
- Applying for jobs that you’ve found listed online.
- Writing guest posts for major blogs or websites, with your email address (or a link to your website, if you have one) in the bio.
And that’s it!
There’s no hidden secret and no magic bullet. Making money from your writing might feel like a distant dream … but it’s probably a much more achievable goal than that.
Whether you’re currently getting paid to write, or whether you’re hoping to do so in the future, share your thoughts (and tips) in the comments.