In 2008, I told myself that I wanted to get paid to write online. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to get paid to write about, but I knew that I wanted to write and get paid for it. It’s been a rocky road filled with disappointments and sometimes getting paid in pennies but I’ve found consistent work that pays.
I’ve yet to receive a check so big it would make Donald Trump blush, but I’ve made enough to cover my rent or to pay a bill. Though there are many writers out there with more experience and are making far more than I am, I’ll give you my take on making money writing online as a new writer.
Be prepared to write for free
Oh yeah, I’ve had to do this once or twice. And sometimes the exchange was somewhat worth it. I wrote for a popular website for free and got access to major events like award shows, private parties, and received transportation reimbursements. I did that for longer than I should have; the perks were SO GOOD. This recommendation I typically give to new writers who don’t have writing samples or have little experience writing online.
My tip for writing for free is to not be like me and do it for too long. Set a deadline for how long you plan to write in exchange for perks instead of cash. After the deadline, make it clear to yourself that you will only write for money. The editors you offered free writing to probably won’t like it (if they’re great, they’ll offer you a paid position), but their promise of exposure to their millions of viewers will not pay your bills. If only exposure was a valid form of payment for bill collectors. Click To Tweet
New Writers Should Start a blog
If writing for websites for free for exposure doesn’t work for you, start your own a blog. You can go all the way and invest in a domain name and hosting plan or you can just sign up for a free blog on the many websites that offer them. When no one would give me a chance, I started a small music blog and moderated it for six years. I got a bunch of opportunities from them and met and interviewed a bunch of celebs.
My advice is to make sure the blog is aimed towards the area of writing you want to specialize in and get paid for. And make sure you know what you’re talking about. Your blog is like a portfolio. It shows the tone you write in, how well you’re able to write, and how much you know. And when you apply to online writing gigs, you can use links to blog posts that show that you can write on the topic they are looking for writers to contribute posts on. Set a publishing schedule you can stick to. And if you’re directing editors to your blog, make sure you’re publishing often. They like that because it shows you’re consistent and reliable.
Actively look for gigs on writer websites
This is one of the most important tips in finding writing gigs. If you’re waiting to be discovered, you’ll be waiting a long time. You need to go look for that next big writing gig. Actively search for gigs on websites like Craigslist, FreelanceWritingGigs.com, FreelanceWriting.com, and Indeed.com. There are tons of other websites I may dedicate a post to during the 30-day blogging challenge, but a quick google search will pull up tons of articles with them listed. Here’s an oldie but goodie tip for everything in life including online writing gigs posted on Craigslist and websites like it– if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, don’t feel defeated if all you see are gigs looking for writers to write in exchange for “exposure” a.k.a. for free. There are paying gigs posted on Craigslist often you just have to sift through a lot of crap to find them.
Always have more than one writing gig
This was a lesson I learned the hard way. I made the mistake early in my online writing career to complete one writing gig at a time. Meaning, I would sign a contract with one website and refuse to take on another contract with another website. I thought I would overwhelm myself with more than one writing job. Ha! Guess what happened when the website I had been solely contributing articles to shut down? Or the other website that got banned from Goggle because some of their other writers were stuffing their articles with keywords creating pieces that made no sense when read by humans?
That’s right, I didn’t have another gig to fall back on. So it always felt like I was starting over when the one gig I was working fell through or the traffic resulted in low payment. Today, I make sure I’m working as many gigs as I can handle without burning out. And this is separate from my small business copywriting clients. I don’t play those games anymore and neither should you.
Collect testimonials from editors you’ve written for
Testimonials are awesome and are like reviews that everyone can read. I like to put my testimonials on my resume to give website owners and editors an idea of what my earlier editors had to say about my writing and work ethic. It’s like product reviews. You wouldn’t feel confident in buying a product that customers gave bad reviews for versus the product that’s getting a five out of five star review from satisfied customers. In your budding online writing career, you are the product and the testimonials you collect are your reviews.
If your work is great and you’ve got great testimonials, the editor or website owner may lean more toward giving you a shot. If you’re shy about asking for testimonials, don’t be. Just ask your editor to give you a two line testimonial about what it was like to work with you. They’ll be happy to do it, especially if you’ve exceeded their expectations.
Learn how to sell yourself
Speaking of products and reviews, learning how to sell your skills is important. Excelling in online writing has a lot to do with your writing but it also has a lot to do with how you sell yourself as a writer. That website you want to write for is probably the website that every writer wants to write for too. That means that site’s editor is inundated with responses. Your email cannot sound like the fifty other emails they read before yours. This makes it easy for the editor to skip right over yours or worse send it straight to the trash bin if the first few lines in your email doesn’t peak their interest.
I like to create email templates for my inquiries where I cover the basics and then tailor it to the type of content the website I’m interested in normally publishes. I also make it a priority to read a few articles on their website to understand the voice the editors are looking for and make my emails sound similar, but not like a carbon copy. Then I sprinkle a little personality in them, but not too much because I still need to sound professional and not like I don’t have a single professional bone in my body. But most importantly, I market my skills. You are a brand, so it’s important to know and sell what you offer and sell how your skills will make their brand better.
Never give up
I’ve learned that to write well you have to stick with it. They’ll be days when you can’t wait to get up to write and others when turning on your computer is the last thing you feel like doing. But you have to fight through it and stick it out. Take a break and binge on Netflix for a day or find a different writing environment that will get you in the writing state of mind.
Do whatever you have to do to never give up. I’m all about making plans these days because as my husband puts it, Success is premeditated. Click To Tweet So whenever you feel something isn’t working, take a moment to figure out what about it isn’t working and make a plan to correct it so you don’t get knocked off your path to making money writing online.
Writing is like exercising for your creativity so if you do something for an extended amount of time, you’ll get better at it. The more writing gigs you book, the more experience you get, the larger your portfolio will grow, and the higher you can set your rates. Next thing you know you’re writing for one of the top 500 websites on the internet. We can get there, we just have to stick with it.