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Recent events have people rethinking their approach to earning an income.
Working from home has fast become the norm for many companies and their employees, and with a growing awareness that it’s possible to make money online, more people are looking for remote opportunities.
99firms says 57 million Americans (more than 36%) are part of the gig economy. They note that Uber, eBay, Freelancer, and other companies have given people the opportunity to pursue side hustles.
They also note that freelancing has increased substantially in the last few years.
My prediction is that these trends will continue.
In this piece, we will look specifically at how to begin making money as a freelance writer.
In 2012, I invested in a music industry tech startup and this led to my first real paying writing gig.
I was brought on as a digital marketer for the startup, and my main responsibility was writing blog posts – three per week, to be exact.
At first, I was only earning about $1,000 per month for my work, but in due course, my pay was increased to $2,000 per month.
In retrospect, even $2,000 per month is quite low for all the duties I was shouldering, but I had invested in the startup, and I was excited about it, so I went along with it.
To this day, there are still websites that don’t have a blog, and entrepreneurs or business owners that don’t understand the value of blogging or ranking in search.
You could approach these businesses with the idea of blogging for them, and even make an income.
But fair warning:
Search engine optimization best practices have changed quite a bit, and ranking for broad keywords (e.g., marketing) can be tough, while there is still plenty of opportunity with long-tail keywords (e.g., digital marketing business Chicago).
Yoast has an insightful piece on why you should focus on long-tail keywords. If you’re going to be helping businesses build their online presence, it would be worth studying up.
All good things must come to an end.
After 19 months of contracting with the music industry startup, all marketing activity was put on pause to focus on the development of essential software.
So, I needed to seek out new revenue streams.
After taking a much-needed sabbatical, I reached out to a friend of a friend, who had a ghost blog writing business.
He noted that he had new leads coming in weekly and asked what subjects I wrote on.
I noted that my specialty was the music business, but I was open to writing anything.
Before I knew it, I had a couple of writing assignments as a ghostwriter – and found myself writing about custom merchandise and architecture in Australia.
This did not grow into a substantial writing income at first. But it wasn’t long before I was making $1,000+ per month as a ghost blog writer, and a year in, it was a rare month I didn’t earn at least that much.
Sometimes, clients would request additional, related work like podcast pre-interview documents.
Whenever there was a “special case” like that, the business owner would refer me, because he knew I had quite a bit of experience in podcasting and new media.
So, I started ghostwriting for entrepreneurs, and I would soon discover the money to be above and beyond anything I had made prior. Doubly so if I were ghostwriting guest posts for them.
Ghostwriting isn’t always easy. You need to be able to deliver high-quality content on demand.
That said, it can be lucrative, especially if you’re ghostwriting books, as Josh Steimle discovered.
Maintaining and posting to your own blog can lead to many opportunities, as it has for me.
Even as I was working as a contract digital marketer and ghostwriter, I kept posting to my own blog.
And, eventually, as I started interacting with more people on social media, new opportunities began lining up.
One such opportunity was with Music Industry How To.
I have been a staff writer with them since 2015. I still write for them to this day.
Out of respect for that relationship, I won’t reveal my earnings. But let’s just say I can easily live on what I make as a staff writer.
In my experience, being invited to become a staff writer will come down to three things:
- Networking. You must begin forming connections with people in the industry you understand best. In my case, it was the music industry. Commenting on social media posts still works.
- Skill. You must be able to demonstrate that you can write long-form, error-free, detailed, authoritative content.
- Knowledge and experience. You must be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry. Experience helps greatly.
Staff writing opportunities can be long-term, stable relationships, and if that’s what you’re looking for in your writing career, you should begin building your body of work immediately.
Other Opportunities Worth Exploring
The truth is, there are plenty of other opportunities to explore as a freelance writer.
I used to experiment with a variety of revenue models, be it revenue sharing sites like InfoBarrel, advertising, affiliate marketing, or otherwise (and I have made some money in each).
Here are some of the better options available for a new writer.
Just know that freelance writing, ghostwriting, and staff writing will probably form your “bread and butter” revenue.
It’s best to think of most of the following as supplemental, though some have made good money with them.
- HubPages: Revenue sharing sites aren’t in vogue as they used to be in the 00s and early 10s, but they still exist, and HubPages is the best option available today.
- Fiverr: There are several sites where you can promote your services as a freelancer and be hired. Only 10 years ago, Fiverr was just a fledgling platform whose promise was that you could purchase services from freelancers for $5 per pop. Today, they are a powerhouse in the freelance marketplace niche and you can sell your services as a writer on Fiverr.
- Upwork: Elance and oDesk merged to become Upwork, which is one of the biggest freelancing platforms online. Become a service provider, and you’ll be able to see, apply for, and maybe even be selected for a steady stream of jobs. You can make good money on Upwork. 99firms says 30% of Fortune 500 companies are hiring through Upwork.
- Freelancer: Freelancer basically occupies the same space in my mind as Upwork. It’s a freelancer marketplace website and could be another potential source of income for you.
- Medium: Some bloggers say Medium is bar none the best site to write for today. If you want to get views on your articles, I agree. As for getting paid, I remain skeptical after publishing over 450 stories.
- News Break: News Break is a great site to write for. Focus on current news events for best results.
- Pro Blogger Job Board: The Pro Blogger Job Board is a good place to go to get a sense of who’s hiring, for what type of position, and what experience they require. You may not necessarily be able to land a job directly from the Job Board, but you may be able to make some connections or find ancillary opportunities.
For myself, I’ve identified about 15 income streams as a writer.
I’ve written five books, three of which became best-sellers, so that’s one.
Others, besides the ones already referenced, include copywriting (which can also be quite lucrative), emails, eBooks, podcast scripting, course scripting, and even songwriting.
99firms says 30% of freelance writers make under $10 per hour during their first year.
This was certainly true on my journey to earning full-time and beyond as a writer.
If I weren’t patient with the process, I’m sure I would have given up. At times, I didn’t live on a whole lot more than $500 per month.
But I was rewarded for my perseverance, and anyone who gets into this field is sure to be rewarded for theirs, too.
- 99firms, 30+ Freelance Statistics to Be Aware of in 2021, https://99firms.com/blog/freelance-statistics/#gref
- Yoast, Long-tail keywords: why they deserve your focus!, https://yoast.com/focus-on-long-tail-keywords/
- Josh Steimle, How to Become a $100,000 Ghostwriter, https://joshsteimle.com/writing/how-become-100k-ghostwriter.html