There are two misconceptions about making a living as a writer. The first is that it is very hard to do. The second is that it is easy. While it is by no means impossible to make money as a writer, it does require hard work, determination and thick skin (because not everyone will love your writing). Talent and a love of writing help, too.
Professionalism and Accountability
But talent alone does not a successful writer make. Ultimately, it’s your mindset, professionalism and accountability that will be a magnet for your ongoing success…and not just accountability to others but accountability to yourself. Holding yourself to your own standards and then not just meeting them, but exceeding them. Accountability and professionalism go hand in hand because your accountability equates to follow-through. And that is the most important aspect of your professional writing resume. Not following through on a project will kill your reputation quicker than the speed of light. The more you hold yourself accountable with your writing, the more successful you will be.
The Magic Formula
But how do you get started? Where do you find the writing gigs to be accountable for? When I first decided to pursue an online writing career (because, let’s face it, technology is a magical portal of infinite possibilities), I was overwhelmed and a bit lost on where to begin. I saw peers, some that lacked the drive and logophile tendencies I possessed, gaining credibility and access to writing gigs. I couldn’t fathom what secret they knew that I did not. Was there some magic formula? Was I missing a particular phrase in my queries? Did I smell funny?
What I learned is that it was none of these things. It was, in fact, that I lacked experience and a portfolio. What do you do when you need experience to get experience? When you need a portfolio to add to your portfolio? You write. You write anything and everything. You blog—on your own blog or a guest blog. You submit articles to any sites that seek submissions. You write essays, articles, even fiction or poetry. Because writing—having written—is what makes you a writer. There is no magic formula. There is no sweet phrase or secret password that everyone knows. You just need to write. That is your portfolio.
What Kind of Writing Do You Want to Do?
So what are the various routes you can take to make money writing? You can write articles or blogs, do copywriting, content editing, copyediting, e-mail marketing, social media marketing, bio writing…the possibilities are endless. Decide what type of writing you’d like to do. Are you more an assignment-type of writer? Articles or blogs may be the best route for you. Do you like shorter, more creative writing? Bios or social media marketing. Do you prefer to write more intimate material that appeals to a smaller, more direct audience? E-mail marketing or newsletters. There is no limit to what you can do.
Now that you have learned the not-so-secret secret formula, you probably want to find writing jobs. There’s a plethora of opportunities out there for writers to make money. The type of jobs you find depends on the type of writing you want to do.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have a platform, or your own blog to use as a sample, you might consider using Fiverr or JustaFive to help boost your credibility and get more experience. Of course, as the names imply, the prices are set to $5 per gig, but you can add premium services at higher prices. And as you gain happy clients and good reviews, you become more credible as a writer and can add the work you’ve done to your writing portfolio.
There are other sites, like Craigslist, Indeed and Simply Hired, which offer free listings of jobs, both paid an non-paid, for writers. Listings are usually searchable by location, as well as by job type and amount. These can be great places to start out, or to search for more long-term and contractual writing positions.
Odesk, Guru and Elance offer up many high-paying gigs for writers. You can search for different types of jobs, such as editing, copywriting, article and blog writing, transcription, e-book writing and more. You may have to sign up for an account, create a profile and in some cases, take certain tests to showcase your knowledge in a particular area before you’re awarded a job. It’s also a great place to start, and once you complete jobs and gain feedback, you get more exposure. Exposure on these sites usually leads to more and better paying writing jobs…sometimes even fulltime or contract writing positions.
You can also find paying jobs for writers and bloggers at sites like ProBlogger. The jobs listed here are usually specifically for article and blog writing from high profile sites and corporate business blogs.
Paying sites, like Examiner, Demand Studios and Suite 101 are always seeking writers to write in a particular niche. This not only allows you to build a portfolio and get paid, but it brands you as an expert in your particular field. It’s a great way to get started making money as a writer, especially if you have a lot of knowledge in a particular area. Similar sites worth considering are Hubpages and Squidoo, which work on a revenue-sharing system.
Exposure, Exposure, Exposure
Though you may have to start off with some low-paying or non-paying writing jobs, this can be great exposure. And exposure is the ultimate currency of your writing career. Once you have a good number of quality writing samples in your portfolio, you’ll be able to use that to get higher paying writing jobs. The exposure you gain, even from those non-paying gigs, can literally be the catalyst for a successful and prosperous long-term writing career.
Kemari Howell is a best-selling editor, writer, and digital publishing consultant living as an unwilling Floridian. Her writing has been cited on Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Yahoo! She is the founder and managing editor of the upcoming site, GoddessMode.com. You can learn more about her on AmEditing.com and find her at Twitter.com/KemariWrites and Twitter.com/AmEditing.
It feels like an uphill battle at first, but once I started gaining traction as a freelance writer, I soon became overwhelmed. It’s not too hard to find gigs, but it’s challenging to find the right ones – especially if you know you’re undercharging. Most low-paying gigs aren’t worth it, but if they give you exposure, especially a byline, it can be worth the effort.
I started out on Elance, but working with clients directly, without a middle-man, that’s the best way to make money. But to pursue clients directly, you have to have a really solid portfolio and a strong pitch.