Learning how to make money writing online is easier than ever today thanks to all the opportunities available for writers. In this guest post, freelancer Elna Cain provides practical advice.
You kept it a secret from everyone and held on to it while you grew up.
Your dream was that one day your story would be read by thousands of people. Your characters would be locked in the minds of people from all over the world.
You would be instantly famous.
Or, if anything, your novel would be published, sold and you could finally make a living from your writing.
And with the internet and self-publishing available, it's becoming easier than ever before to have your words in print, but it's not any easier to profit from your writing.
Being a successful author is difficult.
If your book is published and distributed to common bookstores, you're looking to sell a minimum of 30,000 books a year before you can make a living from your novel.
And if you don't have a strong marketing thumb – or team behind you – and your novel isn't popular among the mass markets, you'll have very little chance of making it.
And it's not much better if you go digital either. Without a big email list, large following or a popular blog, good luck selling your eBook to more than a couple hundred people.
The Dream of Making Money Online
You know creative writing is your thing. But after trying to make it as an author and failing to succeed, writing is now a hobby, something to do on the weekends or when you have free time.
Does the dream ever die? No. You'll always have stories in your mind, so how can you turn your love of writing into cash?
It's still possible to profit from your writing and reignite that dream you've always had.
You can with freelance writing.
A freelance writer works on a self-employed basis. You're an independent business owner that makes your own schedule, sets your own rate and controls your own destiny.
Sure, instead of writing a love story between a reclusive man and a power-driven woman, you'll be writing on anything from digital marketing to parenting advice to even self-development.
As a freelance writer, you write about a myriad of topics or choose to focus on a core writing niche.
While blog writing is a popular type of writing and the easiest to get into, you can choose to be a magazine writer, copywriter or write various types of content like press releases or site content.
You might think authors have no place in the online freelance writing space.
But, you know what?
Being an author can lend well to freelance writing:
- You're a natural storyteller – does everyone come to you to hear stories? You can spin magnificent stories at a drop of a hat. The best freelance writers weave a story and connect with the reader to pique their interest and prime them for reading the entire post.
- You have a creative mind – are you a slave to the muse or do you command your muse? While authors think of storylines, book titles or characters, freelance writers come up with topic ideas, headlines, and call-to-actions.
- You know how to tie up loose ends – authors know all loose ends must come to a close. Your storyline has to finish, and all questions have to be answered. As a freelance writer, it's your job to deliver on the headline. This means, backing up what your headline promises. If it's 5 ways to save on road trips, then your post must provide these ways in an easy to read format.
Not everyone can be a freelance writer. If you have a firm grasp of the English language, and you know how to write for an online audience you'll be able to start profiting fairly quickly.
I'm a freelance writer, but I mostly write blog content for small businesses, solopreneurs and start-ups. I average around $250 a post. I'm making a full-time living only working part-time hours.
If you want to break into freelance writing, here are the steps to kick-start your career and profit from your writing.
1. Find Your Writing Niche
As an author, you may have a niche that you enjoy writing about. It's the same with freelance writing.
Find a topic you are interested in or have expert knowledge in. While many writers use their previous work experience, you can use your hobby as your niche.
Don't feel you have to know your niche before you begin. When I first started, I picked what I knew – parenting, education, and psychology. But, I found my niche – digital marketing – while writing online and finding ways to promote my services.
So, in the beginning, you may pick a few topics you are familiar with, but in the end, you may come to learn you enjoy writing about a totally new topic.
Until you narrow down your niche, treat freelance writing as a side-hustle for creatives.
2. Create Sample Pieces
As a freelance writer, you're going to have to hustle and pitch to job ads to land a writing gig. Prospects want to see your online work.
There are a few ways to gather some sample pieces if you're new:
- Use your blog – if you have a non-personal blog, feel free to use some of your old posts as samples. While it's best to provide samples within the niche you plan to get paid for, if it's all you've got, use it.
- Guest post – a great way to get your name out there is to guest post on other blogs. Find a blog in your niche that allows guest contributors and pitch them your blog post idea. At the end of your guest post, you'll have a byline where you can link to your website and promote your services as a freelance writer for hire.
- Publish on LinkedIn Pulse – LinkedIn rolled out a publishing platform called the Pulse where you can repurpose content or create new content. Follow up with potential clients who read or share your work.
- Write on Medium. It is a social media and blogging platform ideal for freelance writers. Top Medium freelancers regularly earn over four and even five figures a month.
Want to learn more? Read our guide to How to Make Money Writing On on Medium.
3. Have a Professional Site
To be successful, you need a professional author website. This is your home base where you house your portfolio and explain your services and why prospects should hire you.
This makes it easy for prospects to find you, learn about you and hire you. It's also a great tool to attract clients.
To optimize your professional site and have the best chance of attracting clients:
- Have a headshot on your homepage – using your face to welcome prospects to your site makes you more personable and makes it harder to forget you.
- Include a title – what type of writer are you? Content writer? Blog writer? Business writer? Include your title on the homepage to make it easier for prospects to know exactly what you do.
- Make it easy to contact you – display your contact information on numerous pages. Also include a phone number and social media profiles as alternative ways to get a hold of you.
- Connect your social media profiles to it – Your bios on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium and elsewhere should all have a clear call-to-action and link back to this website.
- Post a writing sample and testimonials – On your website, give potential clients examples of your work that they can read. It's also a good idea to include quotes and recommendations from past clients.
4. Source and Pitch to a Freelance Writing Job
There are many places to look for a paid writing job as a content writer or copywriter. The best place to start is on job boards.
Some free job boards to start looking for writing gigs on are:
Check out our complete list of places to find writing jobs.
Source jobs on these boards daily. The best times to view them are in the morning and at night – before you hit the sack.
Typically, with a free job board, you'll have a lot of competition. To stand out from the rest of the applicants try to be one of the first few to submit your pitch email.
Also, have the upper edge by doing your research on the company or entrepreneur requiring content. Read a few of their blog posts, take a look at their social media updates and find the information you can use in your pitch to make it more memorable.
Your pitch should include who you are and how your experience will help their content needs. It should also link to sample writings and if applicable your social media profiles.
5. Invest in a Course
To have the best odds of succeeding quickly, take a course that provides the foundation for landing and keeping high-paying clients. Improving your writing skills will always pay off, either directly or indirectly.
Having the tools and skills to be an A-list freelance writer that attracts high-paying clients and can command high rates is essential to making this a viable career choice.
While you can do this without a course and from scratch, you'll make mistakes – it happened to me more than once – and it'll take you a much longer time than if you have the support and knowledge from an experienced person who has done this before.
Taking an online course, in related areas like SEO or social media marketing, will give you a new set of writing skills and help improve pitches to a potential client.
Check out our complete list of online writing courses.
6. Learn Affiliate Marketing
As a freelance writer, you probably find it easier than others to create content fast. You probably also use a lot of online products and services.
If you create content about the products and services you use every day, it's easy enough to earn affiliate commissions.
To make money, you need an existing audience, ie. on your freelance website, and a willingness to talk about the pros and cons of your top tools.
Start by writing short articles and scale up to guides, videos and podcasts. You could even link to this affiliate marketing pieces of content via a guest post for a relevant website.
Some affiliate marketers earn six and seven figures a year. It's not quite passive income, but it can prove more lucrative than freelancing over the long-term.
Make Money Writing Online: The Final Word
It's not too late to write that novel you've always wanted to or that series you have in the back of your mind.
Writing comes in all forms. There are freelancers like Alicia Rades and Lorraine Reguly, who are not only successful in their freelance writing but as authors too.
So, what are you waiting for? Stop dreaming about making money from writing and start earning today.
Elna Cain is a freelance writer and coach. She writes for Blogging Wizard, PageWiz, WPKube and more. She works closely with B2C and B2B businesses providing blog writing, ghostwriting and copywriting services.
Not quite sure freelance writing is for you? Why not try her totally free course, Get Paid to Write Online!
How do you become an online writer?
The easiest way to become an online writer today is to set up a profile on Medium and start writing articles related to both your interests and what people like to read. When you've attracted a small following, set up a website and start publishing articles on your own property.
Can you make a living off freelance writing?
It's relatively easy to earn a few hundred dollars each month from freelance writing assuming you're comfortable writing in english and don't mind pitching for work. Making a full-time living may take a year or longer, depending on the industry, your skillset and work ethic.
How much do online writers make?
New online writers on Medium can easily earn up to one hundred dollars a month. With some work, it's possible to scale up those earnings to a thousand dollars a month or more. Successful online writers own websites that they control and earn six and seven figures a year.