If you’ve got a way with words, you might be wondering how you can make money from your writing talents. Thanks to the internet, this is easier than ever.
There are lots of ways to make money from writing online, with opportunities for people of all skill and experience levels. These jobs are often remote and flexible, too, so you can fit them around other commitments like study or family.
In this article, we’ve put together a list of the best ways to make money writing, ranging from simple side hustles to lucrative, long-term gigs.
In digital marketing, content is king. Businesses rely on all kinds of written content to build relationships with their customers, with blogs and social media posts among the most popular. As a content writer, you could be getting paid to create them.
Unlike journalism, which requires a professional-level qualification, you don’t necessarily need any formal credentials to work as a content writer. You just need to be able to research your subject matter, write to a professional standard, and understand how your target audience ticks.
So how do you get started, and how do you find clients?
First, decide what topics you want to write about. You can write on a wide range of subjects, which means your potential client base would be unlimited. Or you could specialise in a subject that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about, which could mean less competition and higher rates.
To find clients, join popular online job marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, or PeoplePerHour. Here, businesses post thousands of writing jobs, and you submit pitches telling them why you’re the right fit for the job. Alternatively, you can avoid the commissions on these sites by directly approaching businesses in your chosen niche.
If you don’t have experience, don’t worry! You can still demonstrate to potential clients what a great content writer you are by simply… writing some content! Visit their blog or social media, find out what topics they care about, and then write a sample piece of content on the topic, showcasing your skills. Voila – instant portfolio!
Pay varies wildly for content writers. You’ll likely be competing with extremely cheap writers from nations where the cost of living isn’t as high, so be prepared for potential clients to try to lowball you. There are plenty more who are happy to pay fairly for quality work, so don’t be afraid to charge what you believe your time is worth.
Copywriting is the art of selling with words. Traditionally, it was done through direct mail, advertising and so on, but the explosion of digital marketing means that it’s crossed over into the online world, too.
The terms “copywriting” and “content writing” are often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same. To be an effective copywriter, you need a good understanding of brand identity, as well as psychological concepts like persuasion and influence. The good news is that there are lots of books, courses and other resources readily available if you want to learn.
As a copywriter, you can earn money online writing things like:
- Pay-per-click ads, like those you find on Google and Facebook.
- Product descriptions on e-commerce sites, including Amazon.
- Sales pages selling products and services.
- Landing pages, which encourage people to sign up for an offer.
- Emails (think the emails you get when you sign up to an online mailing list).
Print copywriting is still big business, too. You can work with businesses or agencies writing copy for:
- Print magazine ads.
- Direct mail ads.
- Promotional literature.
- Product packaging.
Like content writers, copywriters can easily find clients on marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, or PeoplePerHour. Alternatively, you can reach out to businesses and advertising/marketing agencies directly to offer your services.
Again, if you don’t have a portfolio, look at a product or service your target client offers and write a sample piece of copy showcasing your abilities. If you’ve taken any courses or you have relevant experience – e.g. you’re a medical student pitching to a healthcare client — be sure to mention this too.
Because of the extra skills involved, and the fact that your work can be directly tied to results (e.g. sales made through a sales page), copywriters tend to command a higher fee than content writers. However, just like with content writing, the pay varies and you’ll need to be cautious of clients trying to get your work on the cheap.
Writing a book
Becoming a published author is a dream many writers share. If you’ve got an idea for a great novel, or you’re dying to share your expertise on a particular topic, why not put pen to paper and make it happen?
True, getting published is notoriously difficult. Just ask JK Rowling, who was rejected by 12 publishers before finding success with her first Harry Potter novel! However, if you have the talent and the resilience, becoming an author is a fulfilling and lucrative way to make money writing.
If this is something you can see yourself doing, start by networking in online or “real-world” writing groups. And if you need a push to get your words on paper, consider joining the annual writing event NaNoWriMo, (short for National Novel Writing Month).
Every November, thousands of aspiring writers take on the challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. The short deadline really lights a fire under those who might otherwise procrastinate, and there’s a really supportive community that shares advice and encouragement. Industry experts also watch the competition closely to find up-and-coming authors, so it’s a great way to get your work in front of publishers.
If you’ve had no luck with traditional publishers, another option is to self-publish. This was unheard of a few short years ago, but now industry giants like Amazon have made it easy for people to cut out the publishing middle man.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing lets any author upload and sell their manuscript through the platform, as digital Kindle books and print-on-demand paperbacks. Every time you make a sale, Amazon will take a cut as commission.
Going a step further, there are businesses that will work with you to turn your novel idea or draft into a professionally written book, and then provide you with a platform through which to sell it. You could argue that you’re not technically making money as a writer, but if you’re a natural storyteller that would struggle to organise your ideas into a marketable book format, this is a great way to bridge the gap.
Ever wonder how people make money from blogging? Many of them are affiliate marketers.
An affiliate marketer promotes products sold by other retailers on their website, blog and/or social media pages. The retailer gives each affiliate a unique tracking link to use on their pages, so they know which affiliate is responsible for sending a visitor to their site. They then give the “referring” affiliate – you! – a commission on whatever the visitor spends.
So how does this relate to writing? Well, in order to send those visitors to an affiliate site, you have to first attract them to your site and get them to trust your recommendations. You do that with great content! You’ll need informational articles and guides to build trust with your readers, and you’ll also need reviews, round-ups and other “commercial” content that drives people to your affiliates.
It might be a while before money starts rolling in, but with quality content and consistent effort, it can snowball into five-figures-a-month territory. Your actual income will largely depend on the price of the products you recommend and the level of commission you receive.
Amazon Associates is the most popular programme, offering 1-11% commission depending on the product category. However, most brands will have their own affiliate programmes, with commissions as high as 50%.
Content writing is just one part of affiliate marketing. To be successful, you’ll also need at least a basic working knowledge of things like search engine optimisation (SEO) and web design. However, if you like the sound of affiliate marketing, you can easily learn the skills you need to monetise your blog online.
You don’t have to be a journalist to write for magazines. In fact, you don’t even necessarily need to be a great writer (although of course it helps!).
Both print and online magazines will often accept submissions from people who have experience in their niche, or even just an interesting, relevant story to tell. For example, lots of parenting blogs publish articles from regular mums and dads from all walks of life. They know their readers want to hear from people just like them, who can relate to the ups and downs of raising kids.
Think of a topic you have some experience or expertise in, then search online for magazines in that niche. Most will have a link in the menu or footer to a submissions page, which will tell you how to submit your ideas.
Not sure what to write about? Some publications will give you suggestions of topics they want, but sometimes you’ll need to do a bit of detective work. Check out their existing articles and look at conversations on their social media posts to get an idea of what their readers want to hear about. Do you have a relevant experience to share, or a new angle on a hot topic? Then get pitching!
It’s worth noting that not all sites pay for contributions. For major sites with large audiences, simply having your work published with a byline might bring you traffic, credibility, and of course, paid work. However, whether that’s a trade-off you’re happy to make is a personal choice.
Lots of people have great stories or valuable expertise to share with the world, but writing just isn’t their thing. Those people hire ghost writers who can put their ideas into words for them.
A ghost writer will take the client’s ideas and organise them into a structured, professionally written, marketable piece of content. That could be anything from a blog post, to an e-book, to a full-length novel.
You don’t get visible credit for your work, so ghost writing is not a good fit for people who want to build a public profile or achieve fame and fortune. However, if you don’t mind working behind the scenes, ghost writing can be a very lucrative way to make money writing.
As with content writing and copywriting, you can find lots of potential clients through the likes of Upwork, Fiverr, or PeoplePerHour. Alternatively, if you have a particular niche in mind, consider joining some industry networking groups. Many experts recognise publishing a book as a great way to boost their credibility and authority, but may not have the skills to go about it. That’s where you come in!
Whether you’re interested in poetry, short stories, playwriting or novels, a writing competition is a fun – and potentially very lucrative — way to turn your writing skills into cash. Prizes range from a few hundred pounds to a few hundred thousand, and you‘ll often get your work promoted or even published, too.
Ready to unleash your competitive streak? Check out Creative Writing Ink for a list of current writing competitions. Good luck!