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Writing and income. They are not mutually exclusive!
I know. It’s crazy. You can actually do both: write AND make money.
There are a myriad of ways to make money writing, but here are some ideas open to anyone:
This is my background! I worked as a reporter on and off for nearly 20 years and in a variety of capacities — everything from sports to transportation to education to crime. And man, did I meet a lot of interesting people.
Despite their well-publicized financial woes, newspapers still have a need for freelancers. And in the current economy, you might be able to carve out a nice niche and steady work, as papers will gladly take good writers who don’t come with the added financial burden of health insurance and paid vacation time.
In the newsroom hierarchy, an editor is who you’d approach about freelancing. If you’d like to cover sports, contact the sports editor. If you want to write features, find the features editor. At small to mid-size papers, these people are quite accessible.
How to Pitch Newspapers
Keys to your pitch: don’t just ask whether they can use an extra writer. Compile a list of story ideas and make it as detailed as possible. Shoot the editor an email, then follow up with a phone call a day or so later.
For example, tell the features editor about three local people or events that would be interesting to write about, and outline who you’d interview and the gist of the story. Maybe the Veteran’s Day ceremony at a local school will feature some interesting speakers, or one veteran in particular has a fascinating story. Or there’s a fundraiser with a particularly interesting back story (a friend of mine wrote a story about a teenager who had overcome childhood cancer and now raised money by bicycling across the state).
If you can shoot solid photographs, this would be a bonus. Small weeklies may expect you to do this, while daily papers often prefer to send their own staff photographer unless you can demonstrate that your photos are of quality.
One benefit to writing for newspapers is that the stories are usually interesting and the pay is decent, typically $50 and up. I’ve made as much as $250 for a story that was less than 1,000 words. Stories will usually run 400-1,000 words. You’ll also compile bylines, which is helpful for your resume or portfolio.
This is a bigger bang for the buck than a lot of other avenues, but the catch is that the work can be harder to come by. But once you prove yourself, editors will contact you repeatedly when something comes up.
If you’ve spent much time on Pinterest, you already know it’s jammed with people telling you how to make money blogging. Monthly income reports seem almost mandatory, and the numbers can sometimes be hard to believe.
“I’m a little slow sometimes,” a guy I dated once texted, “but how do you make money blogging?”
I assured him this was a totally reasonable and common question, and then attempted to explain it. Turns out, it’s kinda hard to summarize in a text. Go figure.
However, here are some basics: advertising, affiliate income, and selling your own products (think books, ebooks, courses, etc).
If you don’t have a website already, I wholeheartedly recommend you build one with Jessica Larrew’s help. She has the greatest step-by-step approach and you’ll be amazed at what you can complete by tackling it a little each day. You can read my review of her 30-Day website building challenge here.
Heads-up: this is a hustler’s world. You will hustle your ass off to make money as a freelancer.
There is a massive amount of competition, and plenty of people who will undercut you and offer to work for prices that seriously make no sense.
A lot of competition comes from overseas VAs (virtual assistants) who live in countries where the standard of living is immensely different than the U.S. Other competition comes from boneheads who simply work for cheap. Sorry, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it.
I’m pretty sure I lost a job opportunity once simply because I sincerely wondered whether I had understood correctly that someone wanted 10 stories of 450+ words for $110. Total. The person ghosted me after I asked for clarification. (And I thought I was being polite! And I had an excellent referral who had introduced us. But I digress.)
Vent over. If you want a good laugh about the writer’s life, check out this fun post with 11 GIFs all writers will understand.
In any industry, there will always be a race to the bottom, as those of us who sell on Amazon discuss at length.
The trick is to differentiate yourself. Whether it’s quality, your expertise in a certain niche, or your ability to churn out copy at blazing fast speed, you’ll need to figure out your secret weapon.
To learn more about discovering new writing niches and ways to distinguish yourself, head to Writer Help Wanted and look around. They have job postings, courses, articles, and are a wealth of information from people who are active and make an actual living at writing! The site is self-directed, as they teach you everything from how to find gigs and different niches to how to set up passive income.
The Horkey Handbook has a popular course on becoming a freelance writer in 30 days or less. The website as a whole has a wealth of information, and if you want to just start out with a little reading, check out their blog post on 7 Steps to Become a Paid Freelance Writer.
Where to Find Gigs
Here are some other ideas to search for freelance writing jobs:
ProBlogger: This site helps bloggers add income streams to their blogs, but also has job listings.
JournalismJobs: One of the industry standards to search for a job in media.
Upwork: Create a profile and then search for clients and projects.
BloggingPro: A site with lots of info for bloggers, also features a job board
MediaBistro: Another site with a slant toward media jobs, though it has expanded into freelance gigs and offers courses and career services like resume writing.
FlexJobs: Search for telecommuting jobs and other jobs with “flexibility”
Indeed: Job search site
Ziprecruiter: Search for anything from full-time work to work-from-home gigs and telecommuting
Fiverr: Create a profile and sell yourself for money! Err, sell your writing services for money. Or your editing, or proofreading. Or whatever other legit thing you can think up.
For a really good blog post on freelance writing, head to Writing Revolt. I love her style and frankness. The post is both inspiring and realistic in detailing the money she made as well as the hustle she put into it.
I hope these ideas spurred some excitement for you! There are so many ways to get creative, and that’s why we writers should flourish, don’t you think? Please chime in with any additional thoughts you have. And check out this post for more ideas on how to make money with side hustles.
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