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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?”
- 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 …
- 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 …
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 …
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!