So, you’ve been reading blogs like this and thinking to yourself: ‘I wish I could do that.’ Well, you can! (Maybe.) After all, let’s not pretend this craft doesn’t take skill, imagination, finesse and a bit of verbal twerking. Nonetheless, if you want to get paid to write, now is a great time to get in the game. Companies are publishing more content than ever before and using a variety of platforms to do it. That means there’s more and more demand for talented writers who know how to write compelling communication. Brush up on your grammar, and let’s get writing.
Now that you’ve got your award-winning grammar skillz, it’s time to decide what kind of content you want to produce. While some writing skills are easily transferable, by and large you’ll need to tailor your wordsmithing to suit the audience and the type of writing you’re doing. There’s little doubt that copywriting uses a vastly different skill set from novel writing, so rule number one is: know your audience. Once you can tailor your words for your intended readers, opportunities abound.
From faux-news outlets to Fortune 500 company profiles, the demand for decent content is huge. While most larger companies have full time ‘Communication Engineers’ to manage their brand voice, many websites are actively seeking submissions from neophytes with a penchant for Top Ten lists. The upside is: on the web your writing speaks for itself. You don’t necessarily need to have query letters and contacts to get published here. If you craft a killer article, chances are you can get it published somewhere online.
While most major card companies won’t accept unsolicited submissions, there are smaller card vendors out there looking for something unique. However, you’re probably only looking at $25-$50 per idea—sometimes less. For that kind of money, you might be better off setting up a homemade card stall at a farmer’s market. You’d be surprised what a hipster will pay for a piece of paper that says, “you’re the cheese in my sandwich.”
Yes, you too can write content for Woman’s Day and Seventeen! Magazines are always on the lookout for new talent often paying between $.10 and $2.50 per word. Your hourly rate will depend on how quickly you can generate content they can use. Read up on the kinds of articles your chosen magazines are publishing, and tailor your writing to fit the voice of the publication. If you have a special interest story lurking in your personal biography, churn it out and submit it. And don’t forget the little guys like trade and local magazines. They may have smaller readership, but they still pay. Either way, you’ll need to give your writing a hook—a personal angle that the editor hasn’t seen a thousand times before, and you’ll need to introduce your story with a well-crafted query letter. Learn more about how to break in to magazine writing.
Generally speaking, the only rule for the blogosphere is: don’t give your writing away for free. Your experiences, your time, your skills and your perspective are valuable. You should be compensated accordingly. Most blogs pay a set fee for a word count. If they’re offering you ten dollars for a thousand words, look elsewhere. Do a quick calculation of your time, and don’t accept a pittance. Blogs are a great place to start out and build your client roster, because your writing is evaluated on face value. You don’t have to have a substantial resume to get started in the opinionated melting-pot of the blogosphere. At the same time, the moment your voice becomes stale, your clients will look for someone else. Keep things fresh and current and your contracts will keep piling up.
Without question getting paid to write a novel is the toughest option here. To begin, you’ll need to craft the story in its entirety before you can even submit it. It is a hugely competitive market, and today you need more than just a great story. Most agents want to see that you have a platform where you can sell your story—like a blog, YouTube channel or other online presence. That’s not to say you can’t get pulled from the slush pile, it’s just a long shot, even if you are great. Unless you’re the next John Green, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get paid enough to make a living. When it comes to book publishing, it also helps to have contacts in the industry or a résumé peppered with published short stories etc. For most of us, writing a novel is more of a calling than a viable job option, but that certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. If you’ve got the marketing mojo to get your work off the ground, it’s worth taking a foray into ebook publishing. The world awaits.
If you are a master of creativity and simplicity when it comes to language, copywriting may be the road for you. Today, your duties as a copywriter might be purely managing the web communications of a company, or it could range from headlines for billboards to radio and TV. A great copywriter is one who can adapt instantly to write for sterile medical products and then kiss up to the teen market with the verbal equivalent of wine coolers. If you can be clever on demand, your options are immense: from full time gigs at ad agencies, design studios and corporate marketing departments to the flexible hours of the travel writer.
Technical writing requires clarity and precision above all else. There’s not much room for a creative flair here, but that doesn’t mean it can’t pay the bills. If you can distill complex information into simple terms, the world of manual readers will thank you.
Writing for Children
There’s not a parent alive who hasn’t read a bedtime story to their child and thought, ‘I could do that.’ From kids mags to picture books, writing for children requires its own unique linguistic sensitivity. Today’s picture book market is hugely competitive with most agents preferring to represent authors who are also illustrators. If you think you’ve got a kids book in you, just remember, publishers don’t want an updated copy of Dr. Seuss or Roald Dahl—they want the unique voice that only you can give them.
The field of journalism is rapidly changing. Once only within the purview of established and reliable journalists, major news outlets are now seeking the buzz-worthy news that drives viral internet interest. Even a minor local story can make the global news circuit these days. Turn yourself into a proper professional with a journalism masterclass, and see where is takes you.
However you look at it, getting paid to write is a great way to have flexible hours and the work/life balance so many people pine for. Once you get the skills, it’s simply a question of drumming up business by sending out your work far and wide. Take advantage of the open nature of the internet when you’re starting out, then send your impressive resume to local agencies and businesses. No go get on your lexicon!