3 Ways Content Creators Can Diversify their Way to a Bigger Paycheck

Image of Tannery Machine and Worker

You’re a content marketer. I get that.

But have you thought about leveraging your writing skills and topic expertise into other kinds of gigs that can bring in revenue?

Diversification is key. Even if you’re great at what you do, developing multiple streams of income is a great thing:

  • It helps keep your income steady. If one type of gig tanks, or just slows down for a while, you have others to rely on as backup.
  • It keeps you from getting burned out. No matter how much you love what you do, there will be times when you would rather stick hot pokers into your eyes than write another white paper, newsletter, or client blog.

So, what else is a 21st-century content creator qualified to do?

Here are three ideas to get you started, I’m sure you can come up with many more:

1. Write for magazines

Many of the same techniques you use in copywriting and blogging work for online and print publications — from trade magazines like In-plant Graphics to consumer markets like Family Circle.

Magnetic headlines, compelling copy, and compelling ideas will get you in the door.

Trade magazines typically pay up to 50 cents per word, and newsstand magazines from 50 cents to $2 per word and up.

Grab a copy of Writers Market or get the online version to find magazines that accept freelance pitches, and check out your local newsstand and good old Google.

Then you need to learn how to write a query letter, which is basically a sales letter about your idea and why you’re the best person to write it.

Right up your alley, yes?

Blog posts, books, and online courses about query writing abound, at all price points. A little education, combined with your already-stellar writing skills, can get you started on this divergent path.

2. Teach online courses

I’m all about the courses … I teach one of my own, and also co-teach a couple with Carol Tice for the Freelance Writers Den.

As of this writing in mid-August, I’ve earned more than $26,000 from the e-courses I’ve taught this year — mostly from the audit version, meaning I do no more work than send out the lessons — and I still have a few to go.

The takeaway: People are hungry for the expert knowledge you have!

My classes are about breaking into the writing business, but if you’re a subject matter expert — for example, you write for healthcare companies — you can teach classes for people (writers or otherwise) who want to connect with that market, or for healthcare companies that want to learn to better market themselves or create collateral that rocks.

I decided to upgrade my teaching skills in preparation for developing some new classes, and have been taking — and loving — the TeachNow course by The Teachers Path. And of course, Copyblogger offers their ultra-comprehensive Teaching Sells course, all around building your business on a foundation of teaching.

You can also start the way I did at first, which is to learn by trial and error. Offer your first class gratis or cheap to a group of beta testers in exchange for their feedback.

3. Become a mentor or coach

If you’ve been doing this (content marketing, remember?) for a while, you know things that other people would pay to know.

I charge $250 per 90-minute mentoring call (and pro-rate for shorter calls) and I’m booked for as many sessions as I want to do. Other coaches and mentors I know charge about the same. Can you say lucrative? Not to mention how wonderful it is to connect with others in what’s typically a solitary career, and help them reach their goals.

Mentor or coach? Mentors are like consultants who supply advice and answers, while coaching is a more gentle approach of helping the client discover the answers on her own. I like to have all the answers and boss people around, so I bill myself as a mentor.

What credentials do you need to become a coach or mentor? Just superb skills in what you do and the ability — the need — to teach it well to others. But if you’re looking for some letters after your name, you can certainly take certification courses.

How about you … how have you diversified your writing career, and what have the benefits been?

Let me know in the comments …

About the Author: Linda Formichelli has written for over 150 magazines (like Redbook and Health), 30 corporate clients (like Sprint and OnStar), and she typically earns $250 per hour. Over at her Renegade Writer blog, you can join the email list to receive two free e-books for freelance writers as well as get her insightful and advice-packed Monday Motivations for Writers emails.

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. I’m honored to be on Copyblogger today! I look forward to everyone’s comments and questions.

  2. Hi Linda,

    I’ve always enjoyed articles on content marketing, and this one is no exception.

    Would you say you are a better writer or a better marketer?

  3. Ouch Linda

    This post really really hit home. Especially “launching an On-line course and Coaching sessions.

    When I read your $26,000 this year for on-line courses, I thought ….

    SHUT UP ( geee whizz, by golly, no way, you got to be kidding me)

    I have been running the odd offline workshop and giving content marketing advice sessions for free for the last 3 years.

    WHY ?

    Our core business is branding and website design on WordPress (using Genesis of course) framework.

    So naturally when we are done, we give client’s a crash course on Content marketing strategy and blogging.

    I have buying up piles of books, read tons of Blogs since 2008. I have always thought of consulting and putting together a course. ( On the back burner).

    You convinced me to get my head on straight and start doing something about it.

    Thanks. :)

    • I’m glad this resonated with you, Geoffrey!

      Don’t get me wrong…there is a LOT of up-front work in developing a great course, but it can pay off in the end.

      • You are right, it a ton of work. Would love to know the formats you use and what works best.

        Video
        Audio
        Pdf
        Text

        I joined the authority program here at copyblogger. Is it similar to teacher sells ?

        • The most profitable classes I do are the ones with Carol Tice of the Freelance Writers Den, and those are a mix of webinar recordings, podcast recordings, written resources, and forum participation.

          My Write for Magazines e-course is only text on password-protected web pages plus twice-weekly motivational e-mails and two 45-minute group calls where I give a short talk about how to get the most out of the class and answer questions students post via Twitter.

          I set up the emails ahead of time so the only time I need to actually BE somewhere is for the two calls.

          I hope that helps!

          Linda

        • Teaching Sells is much more purely focused on building a teaching-based business.

    • …and I’m with Geoffrey too.

      OUCH and shut up.

      I too wonder why I am hanging around waiting for the online stuff to start itself up. Ever morning I wake up at o’dark early with my usual enthusiastic optimism only to not have met my unplanned goals.

      Geez, light the fire Linda. thank you.
      My heart is already immersed at full speed. But it’s not matching my crooked head and unbuckled chin strap.

      thanks for the clarity and motivation;)

      Lisa

      • Lisa, can you afford a life/business coach? They’re not cheap but have always been WELL worth the cost for me. It was my life coach who convinced me to start my class, and the Yoga of Writing coach in NM who helped me start my mentoring. A marketing coach recently gave me advice on how to increase subscriptions to my email list.

        Coaches can really help you get off your butt. If you like, I can recommend one of my coaches for you. Email me at lindaformichelli@gmail.com.

  4. Hi Linda,

    Becoming a professional mentor or coach seems to be the most lucrative way to implement another income stream without having to learn too much more (i.e. you’ve already got the knowledge it’s just a case of sharing it).

    Do you remember how you became a mentor in the early days? Was it something that took off naturally as people sought more and more advice from you? Would love to hear what made you decide to go for it back when you first started out!

    • Thanks for writing, Kristy!

      Yes…people had been asking me for mentoring, but I kept declining because I’m kind of nervous on the phone and I couldn’t imagine thinking on the fly like that. Even my life/business coach was trying to talk me into doing it.

      Then I went to the Yoga of Writing retreat in NM and the instructor there finally convinced me to go for it.

      I’ve been playing with price forever, and am always learning new techniques to engage and help my mentees. For example, I learned a lot by taking a wellness coaching course from Wellcoaches (when I thought I wanted to become a wellness coach too), and had sessions with my life coach and a writing coach to learn even more.

      I hope that helps!

      • It does – thanks Linda. Interesting to know that the fears you had back then are the same fears that shoot through my mind when I consider something like this ;)

        Thanks again!

  5. $26.000 for online teaching? That’s impressive and I assume it’s not the only activity you are involved in. We do teaching ourselves too (actually just started off) but it seems like the demand for online social media training is far not as big as we assumed. The beta testing group is a very good idea to start with btw. We should give it a try. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    • Hi, Stefan! No, teaching is not the only thing I do, but right now it’s close to it.

      Remember I talked about diversifying to beat burnout? Well, I got MAJORLY burned out on writing for clients after doing it full-time for 16 years, so in March I started turning down all writing assignments except for one client — Writer’s Digest magazine — to focus on teaching.

      So I have some money that came in from my writing work through March, and I’m also the Other Den Mother at the Freelance Writers Den.

      I also receive a small portion of my income through book royalties…I’ve written and co-authored maybe 10 books since 2003, and some of them, like my Idiot’s Guides and my e-books, bring in royalties.

      Then there are affiliate commissions for a couple of things I sell.

      It looks like I’ll be taking a hit in income if I do ONLY classes this year, but truthfully I don’t care. My husband is also a freelancer and we take care to live below our means so we can be flexible.

      TMI, right?

      • hi Linda

        That’s very interesting…

        I’d like to know more about book royalties… how does this model works, and how can we assure we don’t get cheated out of our royalties… what else should book authors know about this aspect?

  6. Loved your article. I have just started offering social media training via a screen-sharing platform. It has worked out very well. You got me thinking about offering content marketing classes, though. I am a former English teacher and do write 2 blogs and 2 e-newsletters so I generate lots of content. Who would ever think that I would combine my teaching, writing, and marketing skills in a business? It certainly is true that life takes us on a journey, isn’t it?

  7. Thanks for the article. Timely topic for me. I’ve spent the last few months diversifying the types of writing I do, as well as the scope of topics. It’s been great, and allowed me to go out on my own, instead of relying on sources that provide lower-paying jobs. Nerve wracking, too!
    I think what stops most folks from branching out on their own, and into more diversified streams of income, is confidence. I know for myself, when I think about offering a course or coaching, I am not confident that I can provide expert advice. I guess that’s why CopyBlogger writes about that topic often.

    • Yes, confidence is a biggie. I live by what my personal trainer told me when I was a fledgling and nervous trainer a few years ago: “You don’t have to know everything…you just have to be one step ahead of your client.”

  8. Linda this is fantastic advice and really inspiring as well! I’ve been writing content since 2007 and freelancing for about 12 years but just recently started to pull it all together into a viable business. I have a great group of women writers that I belong to and have been chatting with some of them about ways to expand my business model. Teaching an online course was floating around my mind and now that I see it can be done, as long as the work is put in to make it top notch, I’m strongly considering giving it a shot! Thanks for a terrific post!

  9. Diversifying your work is a great idea! It may be a lot of work in the beginning, but it will pay off in the end.

    I’ve been working with a business coach for several months and she recommended that I create a presentation based on a book I co-authored. I completed the first draft, and I am working on the second draft. I’ll present the material to local chambers of commerce (I’m a member of our local chamber of commerce) and grow from there. I’m thinking about creating a course and/or workshop on the material too, but I want to wait and see how my in-person presentation goes. This way I can make changes where necessary.

    Personal development is huge for me personally and professionally, and I want to create a presentation and/or workshop based on one or more of the books I wrote.

    I’m taking it one step at a time. :)

    • Great idea. And yes, it is a lot of work in the beginning. I mean, it looks like I do a lot, but I’ve been diversifying for 16 YEARS. I added books in 2003, started my class in 2005, and started doing mentoring in maybe 2008. You can definitely accelerate that, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of diversifying too much at once and becoming overwhelmed.

  10. Linda, thanks for all the great information! I especially like the idea of diversifying to have income streams that pay at different points in the transaction. Magazines or corporate clients are typically slow to pay, while coaching/ebooks/courses are more up-front income.

    I’m curious how you began your freelance career. Did you slowly build a client base while also working full time?

    • Great point! Yes, I’ve had magazines that take 9 months or more to pay, but with my courses, I’m paid right away.

      Yes, I did build a client base while working. I started out full-time as an administrative assistant in Berkeley, but luckily for me — and unluckily for the owner — the business wasn’t doing well so my boss was only too happy to let me gradually cut my hours as I got more and more work. I did this for maybe 6 months until I finally made the leap in July 1997. That first year, I earned $30k, which was WELL over what I had been making at the office job.

  11. Linda, so great to see you here. It’s so true. Doing a few things within the same vein (for me, writing) is like a mental workout. Writing for magazines causes me to demand the same level of quality in my custom publishing and advertorial work, and my clients, in turn, can count on that quality. I also think that writing short, long and in-between all help a writer’s skills stay sharp. Thanks, as always, for your morning motivation, and your work in the blogosphere.

    • Nice to see you here too, Sabra! I like the way you pointed out that what you learn in one area can transfer over well to another area. For example, as a magazine writer of mostly service articles, I became very adept at explaining complicated topics in lay terms — which of course transferred well into the teaching.

  12. Good info. I get sick of writing for others all the time, especially when employers insist upon doing it in a way that makes your head spin.

    Mostly I just focus on my own writing to get through those doldrums.

  13. Creative post Linda! I lie ghostwriting, penning paid guest posts, generating adsense revenue, video revenue and running a network marketing team to leverage my talents. Always on the lookout for new streams and it seems like you shared a few with me ;) Thanks!

    Social media coach is up my alley. I have been engaging like mad and growing my responsive followers/friends…..yeah, friends I should day, lol! for like 4 years now. I know what it takes; now to squeeze in the 25th hour to work this into my globe-trotting, world-traveling, online money making brand ;)

    Thanks for stoking the fire Linda!

    Ryan

  14. Nice Post Linda!

    I believe, keeping the mind open to accept new ideas and to remain consistent with your blogging and consultancy mission are so important! We bloggers feel tired sometimes, sometimes disappointed, but I can tell you that every time I come back more stronger!

  15. Sheetal Sharma :

    Inspiring post, i would definitely give a try to my writing skills and who knows in the process, i may earn something, thanks for sharing this post.

  16. Reading the first paragraph made me think it could be something other than writing and teaching. LOL. Then again, I realized that as a writer, diversifying could only mean other rooms inside the same house.

    Appreciated the tips especially because there are no writers who don’t get bored at creating and writing content at least once in their lives. They have all these good ideas, but there are just off moments you can’t shake away. And when that happens, the suggestions can easily fill in that boredom gap.

  17. I’ve been doing free guitar lessons on YouTube for 6+ years and have not been able to make any significant money after trying to sell some online courses/memberships and offering webcam guitar lessons. My lessons are very popular (millions of views) and I have lots of YT subscribers, Facebook page, email list etc. So it is very discouraging as I’d love to do this full time. I end up taking lucrative IT contracts which I don’t enjoy but at least now I insist on doing them from home. At this point I’d settle for 10-20 students a week over webcam lessons. Any tips? I’m also getting in better shape and learning about plant-based diets so I thought maybe the diet crowd would be more eager to investing in this knowledge.

    • So what you’re saying is you have a ton of *freeloaders*. Doesn’t do you much good.

      I’d talk to a business coach. There are so many things that could be going on that she could help ferret out and develop solutions for.

  18. Terrific insights. The other day, I was asking myself “Why am I dreading writing?” You answered the question from the get-go. Who wouldn’t be
    bored writing about pets or education issues 7×24

  19. Great post Linda!

    Indeed I think it’s critical in this day and age to diversify your services. You never know when the bottom is going to fall out of the online content creation market, or affiliate sales market, or the ad revenue market – for a prime example, one needs look no further than how the Penguin and Panda updates had the entire online world in a tizzy.

    Spreading your eggs around multiple baskets (that sounds a bit dirty for some reason!) is definitely the way to go to build a solid business foundation.

  20. Great post, I completely agree if you do the same thing everyday you will get bored and fear doing that task. Not even just for writing but for anything in your life. It’s great to change up your life.

  21. Linda, your post is so timely. I have been a content creator for years now and I have been comfortable doing things I know I’m good at. The thing is, freelance writers won’t always have a long-term gig no matter how good they are in writing. There were really slow times for me.

    You’re right, diversification is the key. But I have to say, that in order for a writer to be open to diversification, he or she should be confident enough in what he/she does.

    There’s this comfort zone we all like to stay in and anything outside it is kind of scary. We, as writers, need that confidence–the force to drive us out of our comfort zones. It is only then that we can reap the rewards of diversifying what we do.

    • I think you’re right…it would be hard to diversify into, say, info products, mentoring and courses if you don’t feel solid in your knowledge. After all, it’s difficult to teach something you’re not confident you know!

  22. Yes! As you said people are hungry for expert knowledge on any subjects. Everyone like to take opinions and suggestions from experts.

    I like your ideas and i would like to implement it. As i am a senior web developer and it could also help me to teach people through e-book. So great thanks :)

  23. Hey Linda,

    Great post..
    I have always loved the idea of ‘Rework” and this is what a lot of people don’t ‘get’.. !
    If you already have a lot of well written posts etc.. you can ‘re purpose’ them into eBooks, videos with transcripts, Podcasts.. as well as bundle into an online course!

    I am working on my won at this very moment– so good reminder to FOCUS and get the work finished!
    ;-)