19 Ways to Get Paid for Your Writing

Good writers should get paid for their work. It’s as simple as that.

If this is what you want to do professionally, then you should be paid for it.

A dirty little secret of this business is that many writers that earn a full-time income by putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, aren’t any better than the writers who don’t make a dime.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Let me be clear, you’re not going to find any “get rich quick” ideas in this post. But those writers that earn do have a secret weapon …

They know where to go to get paid.

(A quick note before we start — all of these assume you’re actually good — that you’ve put the hours in to master your craft. Obvious, right? So now that that’s out of the way, let’s get rolling.)

Start with your network

Most writers hate the idea of picking up the phone and calling up the people who are closest to them.

They see it as a breach of social decorum — after all, these are your friends and family, not your marketing team!

The truth is that your close network is very first place that you should look. They like you, they trust you, and they want you to succeed.

If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want an opportunity to help out? Here’s how you can give them that opportunity:

  1. Ask. Yup, it’s that simple. Pick up the phone, call your nearest and dearest, and explain that you’re looking for writing work. Ask if they know anyone who might be looking for a writer. Be specific about the kinds of writing that you specialize in (email marketing, landing pages, etc.), and give them some hints about who might be looking for someone like you. You might be surprised at how many people your contacts know, and how eager they are to help you.
  2. Who knows an agency? Instead of asking your contacts if they know someone who needs a writer, you can ask them if they know someone who works at an ad agency (or a graphic designer, or a web developer, etc.) — these people always need writers, and all you need is a good introduction.
  3. Bad writing scouts. Maybe your contacts don’t know anyone who needs a writer today, but that doesn’t mean they won’t see someone who needs a writer pretty soon — you just have to teach them how to spot the right person. Ask your friends and family to keep their eyes open for bad writing — in menus, brochures, emails from companies, and so forth. All they need to do is forward the material to you, or take a picture. Then you can approach the company and say “This was so bad that a friend forwarded it to me — don’t you think you should get it fixed?”
  4. Dreams of writing a book. Another question to ask is whether they know anyone who’s always dreamed of writing a book, but who just isn’t much of a writer. Maybe they need a ghost writer, and maybe your contacts can make the introduction …
  5. Expand to other networks. Once you’ve gotten comfortable talking to people about what you’re doing and what you need, you should expand those efforts to formal networking organizations like chambers of commerce and BNI groups.

Once you’ve exhausted your networks, it’s time to start looking at “cold” opportunities …

Find companies to work with

Companies need writers every day, for a variety of tasks.

Sometimes they have in-house writers, and sometimes they have freelancers that they’ve worked with for years … but sometimes they have neither.

In those cases, they go looking for new talent …

  1. Use your writing skills to do some prospecting. One of the best ways for writers to score new clients is to send some well-crafted direct mail. If direct response copywriting isn’t your strong suit (yet), check out this post on how it’s done.
  2. Job postings for freelance writers. Keep an eye on the major job boards and Craigslist to see who’s looking for freelance writers. You can also look at the websites of specific companies that you’d like to write for to see if they’re looking, though this is a bit more of a long-shot.
  3. Job postings for staff writers. Don’t limit your searches to freelance writing positions. Often, companies are looking for full-time staff writers, but still need freelancers as well (especially if they’re having trouble filling the full-time position!). Reach out to these companies and offer to freelance for them, and they just might take you up on your offer.
  4. Agencies. Most companies need writers some of the time, but agencies need writers all the time. That means you don’t need to wait for them to publish a job posting — just make a list of all the agencies in your city, and tell them that you want to write for them.
  5. Start-ups. You can also get in touch with start-ups. Follow the news feeds of incubators and venture capitalists to see who they’ve just funded — these are companies that have some cash to spend. They’re often in the perfect position to outsource the writing work that they’ve been doing themselves until now.
  6. Editing and proofreading. A good way to get your foot in the door is by looking for freelance and permanent editing positions. If you do enough editing, they’ll likely wise up to the idea that they could have saved themselves some time and money by asking you to do the writing from the get-go. Just be sure to let them know that’s a service you can provide them.

Okay, enough about writing for companies. Let’s go back to the grand-daddy of writing venues, which is the print media …

Old school print media

Yes, times are tougher these days for print media, but magazines, newspapers, and book publication still make up a multi-billion dollar industry.

That’s more than enough money for you to take a small piece out of.

  1. Magazines. The original place for writers to get their “first break” was magazines, and there are still a lot of them that are alive, kicking, and looking for great content. The best part is that unlike most blogs, they almost always pay their contributors. So how do you find them? Pick up a copy of Writer’s Market, and start looking for subjects you write well about. Don’t neglect the trade magazines, which can be a source of both revenue today and new copywriting gigs tomorrow.
  2. Newspapers. Start with small, local papers, and buddy up to the people in the editorial desk to find out how you can get your foot in the door. Once you’re in, and your work starts getting traction, you can approach the bigger papers as well.
  3. Books. Publishing a book has long been the “holy grail” for many writers. The economics of book publishing have changed a lot, and authors have had to get creative in order to be successful, but there’s still success to be had in book publishing. Spoiler: stay tuned for my upcoming book Engagement from Scratch, featuring, among others, Copyblogger’s own Brian Clark!

But as we all know, print comes with a lot of limitations, especially today.

And so we turn to …

Writing work online

Yes, there’s also the internet — with lots of opportunity and lots of money to be made for good writers — after all, that’s one of the main subjects of this entire blog!

So let’s explore those opportunities, starting with …

  1. Using content marketing to attract copywriting clients. Many writers grow a blog with the express purpose of building a copywriting client base. It’s a common strategy because it works — so what’s your strategy for your blog? (Pro tip: remember to write mostly for your potential clients, not for other copywriters.)
  2. Paid guest posts. Did you know that you can get paid to write guest posts? You won’t turn into Jon Morrow overnight, but there’s still money to be made. Copyblogger doesn’t pay for guest posts (though there are lots of benefits to writing here), but there are sites that pay between $50 and $200 for posts, including Freelance Switch, Smashing Magazine, and many others.
  3. Smart affiliate marketing. If you can get enough traffic and a large enough list, you can run ads on your blog, but you can often do much better by getting creative with affiliate offers. More and more successful affiliate sites are being built on excellent writing, paired with creativity and a strong business strategy.
  4. Writing coaching. Likewise, once you’ve built an engaged audience that is blown away by your writing, some of them might want you to coach them on how they can do the same.
  5. Information products. No, I couldn’t finish a post about how writers can make money online without talking about information products … starting with simple ebooks and progressing to well-developed educational sites. They’re hands-down the best revenue opportunity for you, assuming you’ve got an audience who wants them. Oh, and Teaching Sells is re-opening soon. What a coincidence… ;) (Full disclosure: I’ve been a student in Teaching Sells since way back when, and it’s one of the best investments that I ever made in my online business education. Not a pitch, I’m just saying.)

So many choices … where to start?

Undoubtedly, there are a lot of options outlined in this post.

And even more undoubtedly, a lot of them involve lots and lots of work — again, there’s no “get rich quick” idea hidden in this post!

So … where should you start? What’s your best bet?

The truth is that I don’t know.

I can tell you what’s worked for me — but we’re different people, with different strengths, experiences, and circumstances.

What you really need is some hard data about what lots of people do, and what seems to be working well across the board.

I don’t have those numbers to give you. Not yet, anyway …

Complete the semi-local business survey

Everybody talks about making some money locally and some money online, but there’s no hard data about what results large numbers of people are seeing, and how long it’s taking them to get there.

Over at my company, Firepole Marketing, we wanted to change all that, so we created the Semi-Local Business Survey.

The survey will ask you how much of your income is generated locally, how much is generated remotely, and how you came to be where you are today.

Your answers are completely anonymous, and will be added to the answers of many others, so that we can see what the real trends in the industry are.

There’s no offer here, and nothing for sale — we just want to gather the data and share it with the community.

So please, take a few minutes and complete the survey!

About the Author: Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the program that turns non-marketers into expert marketers. He wants to know where entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses are really making their money — help out by completing the Semi-Local Business Survey today!

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Google+ or Twitter to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. Hi Danny,

    Your ideas for smart entrepreneurs who are good at and enjoy writing are quite helpful. I am especially interested in the suggestions for writing guest posts. I will check out the two companies you mentioned, Freelance Switch and Smashing Magazine, to see what they require.

    Thanks!

    Pam

  2. Hey Danny

    Interesting post – lots of good stuff to chew on, but I want to focus in on Point 16 and Paid Guest Posts.

    Carol Tice was the first high profile blogger that I saw say she was going to start paying guest posters. She pays $50. I really loved the reasons why she decided she should take paid guest posts.

    Personally I think more sites should do it – for example it COULD be done here on Copyblogger, although perhaps that doesn’t fit the model that Brian has got going on. But I’d be interested to see Brian or Simone’s take on that….(and so you know, I’ve started publishing one guest post a month and paying 50 bucks like Carol for that guest post. First one should be live in a week or so…)

    Catch you around.

    paul

    • Not saying we would never do it, but up until now, we’ve found the best fit has come from regular guest writers who can wildly grow their business by getting in front of the larger audience.

      Jon Morrow (there’s a link to his stuff above) has a great story about how he made $5000 from one guest post. But it wasn’t because he was paid $5 grand for the post, it’s because he leveraged the exposure to create a business advantage for himself. Those are the writers we love to run here on CB.

      But never say never. :)

  3. Great points, all!

    However, I want to advise a bit of caution on #5 – expanding your network.

    Many people recommend Chambers of Commerce and business networking groups such as BNI, and for some people they work well. But with ANY networking, it’s absolutely essential to understand your audience first. Who are you trying to reach, and will they actually be at those locations? Chambers of Commerce networking groups are often comprised of very small businesses and individual practitioners who are frequently there on a single mission: to sell their own services. Although the Chamber itself may have many larger businesses as members, who you’ll actually meet at the networking meetings is a whole different proposition!

    Likewise, business referral networks can be a tad incestuous, if you know what I mean. For me, too, it’s very important that I know and respect the person whom I’m recommending. But referral networks like this usually require that you refer a certain amount of business within the group … not always something I’m comfortable with.

    I suggest that people expand their networks by finding professional and even social networking groups that are aligned with their businesses and with their values … and that they then get involved by volunteering with the group. This has been the most reliable way I’ve found long-term clients over the years, and I see it over and over again for colleagues and clients of mine as well.

    Not saying Chamber groups and business referral networks don’t work for some people; just saying, as with anything you do to promote your business, FIRST being very VERY clear about who you’re looking for, what your values are, and what results you expect … is essential.

    • I’m more a fan of those groups to look for partnerships and true networking, rather than prospecting for clients. I agree, they’re full of people who are prospecting for clients, not looking for service providers (writers or otherwise).

      I met my business coach at a f2f networking event, though, and that ended up being worth a ton to my business (and sanity), so you never know. If you go expecting to give and connect rather than endlessly prospecting, I find it works better. Also, freelance writing gets lonely, so sometimes it’s nice just to change out of the sweats and see fellow humans.

      For straight-up prospecting I think direct mail works a lot better, and hitting something like LinkedIn in a smart way will probably give more bang for the buck.

      • I absolutely agree – you aren’t likely to find a lot of clients in the room (though you might), but you’re very likely to find people with whom you can build relationships, and who will be in a position to refer you business down the line.

      • One billion percent agreed, Sonia: face-to-face can yield amazing connections, and they’re usually best looked to for referral partnerships.

        I was specifically picking on (!) Chambers and business referral networks, though, because my experience, and that of most people I know, is that those groups are … umm … let’s say very limited in their opportunities!

    • I’ve been learning this the hard way about networking. You can spend a LOT of time at lunches and events and start to see the same old people there. Seems there’s a dedicated group who really enjoy this type of thing. I’ve gotten a bit of business from networking, but mostly small jobs. People are really happy to meet a writer, because there aren’t many of us on the circuit, but I’m reassessing and looking at other opportunities to market.

  4. Wow! What great helpful information.

    Love that it was so tidily packaged in one post. I have written books, write online, have written for TV, and would love to write for print (yes, I know newspapers are dying dinosaurs) and magazines (magazines are struggling too).

  5. I don’t know . . . do you guys have a tracking bug on my laptop or something?

    For the past few weeks I’ve been pondering the idea . . . and voila! The one blog that I religiously go on as I drink my morning coffee, perfectly gives me 19 ideas of where I can focus my writing.

    Thank you CopyBlogger — much love.

    Paul

  6. Great list – you’ve got a lot of good ideas here. But I think the most important point you make comes towards the end – that while certain things have worked for you, they aren’t guaranteed to work for everyone, as we all have our own strengths and weaknesses.

    It’s nice to see someone encouraging others to analyze what they bring to the table and what kind of business they’d like to create instead of just providing a set plan that “works” for everyone.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. I understand that this is a general overview of what’s possible for a writer wanting to sell their words — and it’s a very good round up of most of the possibilities for paid writing. However, I would caution writers (especially new writers) that this article gives only an umbrella view of what’s possible for a freelance writer. I say this as a long-time freelance writer who once had to figure this all out on my own.

    But most importantly I want to comment on point number 7, where Danny writes the following: “You can also look at the websites of specific companies that you’d like to write for to see if they’re looking, though this is a bit more of a long-shot.”

    Actually, Danny, I have built my freelance writing career for 20 years on contacting the companies that I wanted to work for – not agencies, but the actual companies, including small, large, and start-ups. I didn’t wait for them to post ads for writers, freelance or otherwise. I just pro-actively cold called them. I have found this to be the most direct and efficient way to find the type of writing assignments that I enjoy and that pay the best. I’m always surprised by the number of writers who don’t take this step.

    • Hi Paige, thanks for sharing that! Actually, what I meant is that it’s a long shot for the website to actually say that they’re looking for a writer – I agree with you that it’s a great way of connecting with the companies that you want to work with, and I’ve done it on several occasions in the past. Thanks for pointing out the confusion, though – I hope this clears that up. :)

  8. Great list here. Another one to add to your list: blogging for corporations. Many pay for guest experts (and if they don’t, they should!). This has been a lucrative income stream for me.

  9. Such a timely post – I just blogged about copywriters that settle for too little pay.

    My hourly rate is $125 (though more often than not my fees are based on the project – which sometimes works out to more), but I hear all the time of writers that charge $30/hour or even less! It’s absurd. I’ve never had a client balk at my rate. I’m pretty aggressive about prospecting, and I suppose that I work in a somewhat lucrative niche market – but ultimately, I think it comes down to believing that I’m worth more. I deserve to be paid, and I deserve to be paid well. This is my job, after all….

  10. I read Copyblogger articles religiously. I thoroughly enjoyed comparing my efforts to what you suggest and am reassured that I’m on the right track in my pursuits. I would go out on a limb here and suggest a 20th avenue for paid writing…greeting card companies. Many pay rather nicely for just a few resonating words of wisdom and well-wishing.
    Have a great week and thanks for keeping me on track…

  11. This is really a good overview of all the avenues out there. However, I would add a caution. Just because you can write well doesn’t mean you can move easily from one format to another. I found that out the hard way when I transitioned from writing for magazines like Health and Mothering to health copywriting. It was a completely different beast.

    Fortunately there are plenty of good resources out there (like Copyblogger) to help you develop the finer points.

    I’ve documented how I made the choice here:

    http://www.healthymarketingideas.com/How-do-I-become-a-freelance-writer-Part-1-The-Right-Way-To-Start-A-Home-Based-Business-Writing.html.

    The other reason this post is so useful is that it’s always good to not put all your eggs in one basket. In other words – as a writer, expand your business so you’re not always dependent on clients – or one kind of client. Teaching Sells is such a great resource for gaining more control over how you can use your writing skills to bring in income and diversify your income.

    • That’s a really good point, Sarah – writing about an industry and writing good copy for use within that industry are completely different things. But if someone is a good writer, that’s a learning speedbump that they can get past – as long as they’re willing to work at it. :)

      And yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more about Teaching Sells – it’s an excellent program, and I can’t recommend it enough.

  12. great tips – and i have also found approaching local businesses and publications has been a great source of (paying) writing gigs.

  13. I’m making my way through The Artist’s Way course, and just this week read the chapter that outlined the idea that as you continue taking action and being present in your writing practice, serendipitous things will come your way. Finding this article in my Facebook feed is the second thing in less than 12 hours that has happened to me that shows I am on the right path in expanding my writing pursuits. Thank you for the list- there’s a lot of meat here to consider.

  14. Awesome guide here, will bookmark for sure! Thanks.

  15. Hey Danny, great tips here! And timely as well. With more and more businesses recognizing the benefits of content marketing – do you think there will be an explosion in demand for writers/content producers in the near future?

    • That’s a great question, Daniel, and the answer is yes, absolutely! As more and more marketing goes in the direction of content marketing (because it works), more and more companies are just going to need more writing work done. Which means demand will increase. And unless there’s a sudden explosion in writing talent, that probably means writers are going to be able to charge a lot more. Happy days are a comin’… ;)

  16. Danny – you continue to amaze me with your guest posts on prestigious sites. You are the model for how to get exposure for your company, which leads to business. I would say you have the discipline to follow the very steps you’re recommending to the readers of this post. And it does take discipline to explore every avenue for writing assighnments. Thanks for the great list.

    • Thanks, Jeannette, and you’re very welcome! I think it’s important to remember, though, that nobody can do all of the things on the list at once – it’s a matter of finding the actions that best fit the individual, and focusing on those. :)

  17. I’m not sure if it qualifies, but one of the streams are working on for my writing (in partnership with someone) is a continuity site. It’s pretty small now and we have a lot of work to do, but so far this is one of the avenues that’s paying as well as being a staff blogger for a pretty cool e-commerce site.

  18. I am new to all this, and still trying to wrap my head around the various ways people make money online. I feel like I am in the right place. Thanks.

  19. I made my first sales to magazines using “over the transom” on spec articles. After the first one it gets easier. An editor finally told me I should send a “query letter” to find out if he liked the ideas before writing the whole article. He published the article I had sent, but that was my last work “on spec.” You have to love writing and love the subject matter. Editors will work with you if you have those qualities.

    • Nice! And yeah, you’re right, the first one is always the hardest, and once you get the hang of the whole querying process (much easier and faster now that there’s email), you can save yourself a lot of time, and make a whole lot more money. :D

  20. Thanks for sharing Danny, unlike most “get paid” posts, this isn’t just listing off 19 different ideas, but it’s also inspirational for those of us looking to make money online and enjoy doing it.

  21. Thanks, Jamie, I’m glad you think so! :)

  22. Writing has definitely been an area which has improved for me, after starting my own blog. Yet I strive to better myself. I will definitely try to improve it either by taking classes or courses.

    Yet most of my writing comes from inspiration rather than work. I doubt seeing myself earning much from my writing alone.

    • Well, that all depends on why you write, Jack. A lot of people write for fun, and don’t ever hope to make money from it (just like a lot of people play basketball for fun, without hoping to make money from it). But if you do it professionally, and want to get paid for the work, these are some avenues that you can pursue. :)

  23. Danny, this post is awesome, and a lot of this advice is very practical.

    I also filled out your survey today. Let me know when the results are out. I’m a fan of surveys like this. Have you had a good response so far?

    • Hi Joseph, thanks for your kind words, and thanks for filling out the survey! Yes, response has been great so far – we’ve already got over 100 respondents, so we’re confident that the data will be meaningful. And yes, definitely, we’ll share the results – stay tuned! :D

  24. Wow, there’s definitely a lot of good things I’ve been doing after reading this. There are also a TON of things that I can be doing better. While freelance writing does have it’s benefits, it’s hard to juggle finding work, completing projects, meeting goals, and keeping a social life. This post is definitely going to help me out; so much so, that I’m printing it right now!

    • Thank you, Vin – I’m really glad to hear that the post was helpful, and I’m flattered that you’d print it out. :)

      Yeah, there’s a real challenge in the boom and bust cycles of freelancing, and having a stable system of actions can really be a great way of making it a lot easier. ;)

  25. Danny, thanks for highlighting these useful ways to make money out of writing. I’d just like to add one thing on top of the context here. It does take a lot of discipline and streamlined efforts to make money from writing. It is (most of the times) easy to get loads of writing gigs; but too many clients on hand will just make it hard on the writer. If they’re not having a strict work schedule and if they’re not well organized, they can end up getting committed with too many gigs and either deliver to fail or compromise at quality.

    Sorry to take it a bit off topic, but just thought I should mention this!

    • Jane, that’s a really great point, and it’s very important for people to be aware of. You’re right – keeping a steady freelance business going isn’t easy, and it requires juggling a lot of commitments without missing any deliverables or compromising on quality. Any tips on how people can do all of that?

  26. Hi there,
    This is superb. For me its like wish granted, I was wondering how can I make money from my passion to write. I was looking for like just 3 or 4 options and here you have spoilt me with about nineteen of them. But I would like to ask , How to get business in a non english speaking nation, where mostly businesses work in a different language. There is a Huge potential as the need for English writers might be up there. So I was wondering as I try to tap the market here, would I also be able to approach any International magazines and news papers for whom I can write. I am just 23 and want to be a full time writer as I feel, in this era of endless opportunities on the Internet , A writer can be the next big thing. There are not much of people who write, I dont know any in my circuit.
    Sorry for the long post. just got too excited with these 19 options.
    Can anyone help me out.

    Best regards,
    Mudassir :)

    • Hi Mudassir, thank you for your comment – I’m glad you found the post helpful!

      Yes, there is definitely potential for you to make money as a writer, regardless of your age, as long as you write well, and there is demand in the market.

      You said that you think there is demand – can you explore further where that demand would come from? Who would need those services?

  27. It is very hard to find any good writing on internet. People are just trying to copy paste here and there. I hardly get to find any new words when I read out any article & sometimes a few sentences does not bring in any meaning to the theme of the topic.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Henry, and quality is a must. Thanks for stopping by! :)

      • One last question Danny. How do you think a fresh writer can start his career? I agree there are alot of opportunities for writers but then these are only for the ones who are already in sync with the publishers, blogs or the corporations. How can a fresh writer get known among the ones who are hiring and truly impress them in order to take a piece of work pie. U r doing a great job. I dont really know anyone else, who actually help budding and aspiring writers as u r doing. I congratulate u on yr efforts.

        Best Regards,
        Mudassir

        • There’s no easy answer to that question. You have to just get out there and start working – even if the work is free at first (offer to do copywriting work on a volunteer basis) – at least that will get you started, and you can start creating a portfolio for people to look at. But really, you have to jump in with both feet, and just get started.

  28. The one thing I didn’t see on here was advertise. Did I miss it by reading too fast? I post ads on Craig’s List and have gotten plenty of work through them for editing, book ghost writing, and blogging for businesses.