Getting Paid for Your Writing: Three Types of Writing Job to Consider
If you love writing, then you might well be looking for ways to make writing pay. After all, there’s a limit to how much time you can realistically spend writing if you need to earn money separately.
When you think about “writing jobs”, what comes to mind? A lot of would-be paid writers think about being a novelist or journalist – but both of these are tough areas to break into, if you want to be making a living from your writing.
There are loads of options out there that you might not have though of, including both full-time and freelance roles.
Most writing jobs can easily be done from home, which is a huge advantage as I write this during the Covid-19 pandemic. In many cases, you can also work flexible hours around other demands: when my kids were very small, I kept up my freelance writing for just a couple of hours most days, while we had childcare.
There are three different broad ways in which you can be paid as a writer:
- As an employee
- As a freelancer
- As an author
For each, we’ll take a look at some pros and cons, and I’ll share links to some extra information about them.
Three Different Ways to Be Paid as a Writer
There are three distinct ways in which you might be paid as a writer. I’ve experienced all three – and they all have different pros and cons!
There are plenty of full-time writing jobs out there where you’ll be employed as a writer, by a single company. You might be thinking of newspapers or magazines here, but in fact, there are many more opportunities in new media. Large websites and blogs will often have a staff of full-time writers and editors.
The stability of full-time (or even part-time) employment can be hugely helpful. As an employee, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting paid and when! You won’t have to invoice and potentially chase up payments (like freelancers) and you won’t have to guess at how much you’ll get in royalties (like authors).
You may well enjoy working with colleagues, whether they’re other writers or have different roles in your company.
In most cases, you won’t need to be as self-motivated as a freelancer or author. You’ll have a manager assigning you tasks, and you’ll have targets to reach.
You’ll be able to focus, most of the time, on writing. Someone else in the company will be handling things like accounting and sales – tasks that you’d have to take on yourself as a freelancer, as you’re essentially running your own company.
You may not have much flexibility over hours – for instance, you might be expected to work a 9 – 5 week every week, or you might be able to work flexitime but with the expectation that you’ll work a certain number of hours every week.
You’re unlikely to have as much control over projects as you would when freelancing. You certainly won’t have the control you’d have as an author.
If you want time off, you’ll need to agree that with your manager – you can’t just take a day off whenever you feel like it (which is the case for most freelancers and authors).
Pros And Cons Of Full-Time Writing Jobs Vs. Freelance Writing, Kayla Lee, Medium
Struggling to decide whether a full-time or freelance role will suit you best? This is a good, realistic look at the pros and cons of each.
How To Break Into Journalism With No Prior Experience, Bram Berkowitz, Medium
This in-depth article details one writer’s experience of getting into journalism. It’s packed with practical tips and advice on getting samples, and also gives you some useful insights into the realities of life as a journalist.
Lots of writing roles are freelance. This can mean writing for magazines, for websites, writing advertising copy, or almost anything else that someone might want to hire a writer for! Many smaller companies won’t want a full-time writer on staff but will instead work with a freelancer (or a group of freelancers) for specific projects.
With freelancing, you can set your own hours. You could freelance for 10 hours a week or 40 hours a week – it’s up to you.
You can take time off whenever you want, so long as you still meet your clients’ deadlines. This gives you a lot of flexibility (though it can also be a bit of a mixed blessing, as you won’t get paid when you’re not working).
In most cases, you’ll have a lot of control over the types of projects you take on. You can deliberately choose to only work with clients who offer the sort of work you enjoy most – or find easiest!
If you’re getting plenty of work, you can easily put up your rates. Also, if you charge by the project, you’ll begin to make more money in less time as you become more experienced and efficient.
You’ll need to be self-motivated and organised. If you’re not, you’ll either struggle to meet deadlines at all, or you’ll end up doing rushed last-minute work.
As a freelancer, you’re essentially running a small business. That means you’re responsible for things like marketing yourself, sending invoices, doing your taxes, and more.
Your income is likely to be unpredictable, and your workload may vary a lot from month to month, with some months where you have more work than you want and others where you’re struggling to find enough work.
In most cases, you only get paid for the hours or the project you complete. You won’t get ongoing royalties – someone else will be making the long-term profit from your writing.
Where to Find Freelance Writing Jobs (and Where NOT to Look), Ali Luke, Aliventures
There are plenty of freelancing gigs out there for writers … but some are far better paid than others. In this article, I run through the best places to look, and steer you firmly away from some places to avoid.
Obey These 7 Natural Laws of Freelancing to Make Money Writing, Carol Tice, Make a Living Writing
Carol Tice is a hugely experienced and successful freelance writer. In this post, she shares lots of great tips for making money, or more money, from your freelancing. Worth a read whether you’re brand new or you’ve been freelancing for years.
As an author, you’ll be writing something that you create once and sell over and over again to a target audience. Each person will only pay a small amount, but you might sell hundreds of copies of your work.
Many authors will work with a publisher, receiving royalties for their work. Normally, they’ll get an advance on royalties while producing the book. Many others will self-publish their work – this means receiving all the profits, but it also means a lot more upfront work and expense. If you go down this route, you’ll likely be paying for things like editing and cover design.
As an author, you can write a book once and make money from it for years to come. Once you’ve got several books out there, you could make a nice living from these – freeing you up to try out new projects and ideas.
You’ll have a huge amount of control over your project. You can choose what you want to write about and how you’re going to write it. Of course, if you want to work with a publisher, you may need to change things to suit them – but you can always decide to self-publish if you want full control.
For many writers, producing a book is a lifelong dream. Having a book out there with your name on it can be really rewarding.
You can immerse yourself in a big writing project. Instead of having to dash off lots of quick pieces, like you might as a freelancer or employee, you can go deep into what you’re writing over a period of months or even years.
Writing a book takes a long time – potentially years. You’ll need a source of income during that time, which is why the vast majority of authors have either a paying day job or some kind of freelance work.
You won’t necessarily see much (or any!) money for your efforts. You might not finish your book, or you might not find a publisher, or you might self-publish but struggle to market successfully.
A single book isn’t going to make you rich. Authors who make a living from their books normally write a lot – often a book a year or even more – in order to build up a steady stream of income.
Joanna Penn from The Creative Penn has two great pages of resources if you want to write a book – there are a lot of links on each, so these are well worth bookmarking. The articles she links to are packed with great advice:
I can’t tell you which route will be the right one for you.
All are worth serious consideration, and you might find that different ways of making money writing suit you at different stages of your life.
Right now, I’m doing a bit of all three: most of my time is spent as a full-time writer for one company, I do a small amount of freelance work for a different company, and I’m working on a novel plus some short non-fiction guides (the Supercharge Your Writing series, which started with Supercharge Your Writing Session).
You might find that a blend of all three options suits you too, or you might want to pick one area to focus on.
One of the great things about being a writer is that you can very easily try something new – it’s not like being a filmmaker or a sculptor, where you need lots of other people or expensive materials.
Whichever one (or combination) of these you go for, I hope you have fun exploring it and digging in.
Get Writing Ebook & Special Coupon Code (30% Off!)
If you want a bit of help getting going, check out my practical ebook Get Writing.
It’s an introduction to four key areas of writing – freelancing, blogging, short stories, and novels – with lots of guidance on how to decide which one might be for you, and how to get started with it.
Get Writing Coupon Code:
Use the special coupon code whichjob to get a $3 discount, making it just $7 instead of the usual $10.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?
The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
Thanks Ali – I found that useful
A really good perspective on freelance versus full time work.
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