Writing for Money
In This Chapter
- Finding the writer who lives within you
- Knowing what to write about
- Locating the places that pay for writing
You're reading this book, which is proof that you can get paid for writing. Granted, getting a gig for writing a For Dummies book is nice but it's only an example of what you can do — getting paid to write. This chapter is about how you can tap into your inner writer and earn some cash for your written word.
Everyone has thoughts, feelings, ideas, and information that you can share with others through the printed (or digital) word. This chapter explains how you can make some bucks writing, including what you can write about and where you can submit your writing.
Discovering the Writer inside You
Writing from home and finding a way to make money at it is a pursuit that many people dream about. The good news: Plenty of work is available, and many different types of writing work are available for freelance writers. You just need to know a bit more about yourself and your skills before you can start writing. These sections point out some important writing and business skills you need, some basic equipment freelance writers you need, and some pitfalls to avoid as you begin writing.
Cultivating Important Writing Skills
In order to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. A good reader notices both the style and the content of the writer, which in turn helps you become a good writer. Read other people's work and as much as you can about the topic you want to write about and what sites and blogs they're at.
Being a good reader can help you develop a sense for writing because you read the other experts and ideally take note of what they write and how they write it. You can also get a better idea of your market (the people and organizations that will pay you for your writing).
- Figure out the type of writing that interests you. Selecting the type of writing you enjoy will be critical to your success. For example, do you enjoy humorous or serious writing? Do you enjoy short stories, fiction, professional, how-to, commercial (or business), or technical? Write what you are good at and what you enjoy and success will be easier.
- Develop the ability to logically communicate your ideas and thoughts in your writing with clarity. When you read other people's work, notice the structure and the style of writing. Look to see how your favorite writers craft their articles and essays. Model your style and pick up your own content. Write about the topics that you enjoy and have expertise with. When you go about your day, have a notepad (or maybe a digital recorder) and record ideas as they come to you.
- You have to keep on improving your writing abilities. To do so, regularly read the leading writers and bloggers in your specific writing specialty to see what they're doing and not doing. Even if you aren't in a writing-for-hire situation, you should have a blog and write weekly to maintain your writing edge and to remain visible. To me, a successful writer keeps producing, but does so in the entrepreneurial frame of mind.
- Be a self-starter. No one will be hovering over you to get you to do your assignment. Part of the character of a successful entrepreneur in the writing world is to have initiative, discipline, persistence and the ability to handle rejection with aplomb (I handle it with a plum).
Being a self-starter means that you take the initiative; you get the work started because no one else will. Give yourself a self-imposed deadline and a list of specific steps to keep moving forward.
- Develop researching skills both online and at the library. The Writers Market (www.writersmarket.com ) regularly does research and surveys into what are the various payment levels for various types of writing.
- Pick up good habits. Focus on having good time management and managing your workflow. Set up your office to minimize distractions. Procrastination is your enemy (and can zap your ability to make money). The bottom line: Analyze your situation and see what is reducing your effectiveness and productivity.
Grasping Some Important Business Skills
As a micro-entrepreneur, your business is the craft of writing. You can pick up the skills for writing in the preceding section, but you also need to couple them with the skills and responsibilities of a business person. Here are some important business-related skills that you need to master to be a successful freelance writer:
- Understand the legal side of writing. You need to understand thebasics of copyrights. A copyright is the legal and exclusive ownership ofintellectual property (such as a written work or audio or video work), which are produced by an author or publisher. Basically you need toknow whether what you're writing is your property or someone else's(the website, blog, publisher, or someone else). For example, I am theauthor of this book, but it's not my intellectual property (it belongs tothe book's publisher). I'm a writer for hire. (A writer for hire means thatyou're paid for your efforts to produce a work, but you have no ownershiprights to the work.)
Make sure you bone up on your knowledge of copyright and related laws. These laws rule over what you produce; either in written, audio, or video means. This is important to know whether you're producing your own works (such as when you're publishing) or if you're a writer for hire
You also need to know what legal phrases, such as first rights and all rights reserved mean. (First rights means that the publication, website, or media outlet has the right to be the first to publish your original material; all rights reserved means that no one else has rights to the work except for the author/writer). Writer's Digest and Writers Market cover legal issues for writers regularly; check out these sources later in this chapter.
In addition, find out more about copyright laws at places, such as the Copyright office (www.copyright.gov ) and the Copyright Clearance Center (www.copyright.com ). I would also recommend checking out the Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org ). When you're at these websites, get familiar with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was enacted in 1998 and intended to deal with copyright law with the new and growing electronic and digital environment.
- Understand business agreements and protocol when dealing withpublishers and other entities involved in your work. When you workfor someone in terms of writing and editing, you need a clear understandingof what you're expected to do and what you'll be paid. If you write andthe client isn't pleased, it may be just cause to not pay you. Whateverwork you produce, you want to do it right according to the agreement sothat your client is happy and you get paid (and ideally be invited backfor more writing work).Page 124 | Top of Article
- Know how to market and sell your services as a freelance writer. You have to consider these important skills every day as a freelancer. You can do a lot with both your writing skills and your content in terms of marketing. Check out the Chapters in Part III for how to market your skills.
- Build equity. Consider creating content that you can copyright and own. You want to have your own intellectual property that you can sell in whatever way you see fit. Having intellectual property is an asset that can keep producing income. Refer to the later section, “Getting Paid Multiple Times” for more details.
- Build your portfolio along the way. The more work you have and the more clients you have worked for, the better your chances of getting more and better assignments.
Identifying Your Equipment Needs
Fortunately, a writer's tools aren't difficult to come by. Here is the raw minimum you need:
- A computer with Internet access: If you want to write on a bare-bones budget, you can access the Internet at your public library.
- An email account: You need an email account. You can go with a free one, such as from Gmail or Yahoo, to keep in contact.
- A blog or website: A blog or website can publicly showcase your writing prowess and take advantage of more ways to make money with your writing (Writing good content means more visitors to your blog, and you can make money from advertising programs such as AdSense) or get into publishing (creating published product that you can sell at your site). You can find out more about marketing through blogs in Chapter 16 and more details about publishing in Chapter 10 .
- Word processing software: Use the mainline software packages for word processing and related document types (depending on the type of work you do). If you don't have the money to get the higher-level software packages, you can consider the Open Office software suite that you can download free at www.openoffice.org .
Avoiding Pitfalls in Freelance Writing
Being a freelance writer (or any type of business that you own) is that you have freedom to control your time as you see fit and to be your own boss and control your destiny. Being a freelancer means that no one is forcing you
or cajoling you to work. This freedom can be a pitfall. Here are some other pitfalls you should watch out and avoid, especially when you're starting your freelance writing (or any other type of) business:
- Getting distracted. TVs, refrigerators, family, friends, neighbors, and members of the Water Buffalo Lodge can distract you. Don't let anything keep you away from writing.
- Settling for lower pay for your work. Research the market to see going rates for various types of writing work and make sure you aren't selling yourself short.
- Failing to create your own content. You don't want to just earn income; you want to create intellectual property that can build wealth. As a result, you want to create products (ebooks, ezines, audio programs, and so on) that can make money for you (check out Chapter 10 ).
- Ignoring what successful writers are doing to convert their craft into greater income. Many great writers took their content and parlayed it into much more income. Some writers have taken a single article and have sold it multiple times.
- Failing to think outside the box. Successful writers parlay their work into opportunities, such as consulting, seminars, and even product sales.
Choose Your Writing Specialty
In order to be a successful writer, selecting what type of writing you will do is important. Writing is a very diverse activity, so you don't want to be a jack-of-all-trades writer. For instance, trying to write a mystery novel, a business how-to book, and a technical manual for manufacturers wouldn't be a smart decision.
- Choose your content category.
Your initial decision is to write fiction or nonfiction.Page 126 | Top of Article
- Determine the subcategories.
If you're writing fiction, you can go into mystery, romance, sci-fi, and so on. For nonfiction, your choices are endless, and they include everything from human interest to how-to.
- Choose the structure.
If you decide to write fiction, determine whether you want to write short stories, novels, and so on. If you decide to write nonfiction, figure out whether you want to write short articles, manuals, and so on.
- Select your style.
Figure out whether you want your style to be humorous, corporate, and so on.
The following sections discuss some fruitful areas that you may consider pursuing as a freelance writer.
Blogging in the Blogosphere
Blogging is a very active area with plenty of room for new writers. Many blogs involve commentary on a variety of topics. In fact, blogs need a steady stream of new content to remain relevant and popular. Many blogs pay writers, although most may compensate you in nonfinancial ways, such as free advertising. (Chapter 18 discusses article marketing in greater depth.)
If you want to find actual paying assignments for blogging, here are active sites that post paying assignments and jobs in blogging:
Providing Website Content
Lots of websites need content ranging from product descriptions and reviews to articles and information/instructions for site visitors, guests, and/or members. Some sites, for example, are catalog sites, which need content, such
as sales copy for products that customers can order from the website or sales copy for an email blast for an upcoming sale. Other sites are news sites that need writing on current events (whether those events are national, local, or maybe industry news). The need for content is endless, which means that the nimble writer stays employed.
The following sections describe several of the types of text you can write for different websites. Use the resources in the “Locating Places That Pay for Your Writing” later in this chapter to find specific opportunities.
Creative writing is any writing where the purpose is to express thoughts, feelings, and emotions in an imaginative way rather than to simply express facts and figures. Creative writing can come in many different forms, from articles, short stories, or novels. If you have a great imagination and a flair for writing, creative writing may be the venue for you. Maybe you're the next J.K. Rowling. (If you are, please mention that my book helped you get your start.)
If you have a funny bone, you may be laughing all the way to the bank by writing humorous material. The world loves a laugh (or at least a smile), and humorous writing is constantly in strong demand.
The opportunities for humorous writing range from jokes for humor websites and greeting card companies to longer articles and books. Probably one of the better known buyers of funny comments is Readers Digest (www.readersdigest.com ), but virtually any source where you can read some funny stuff is a potential market for you. You can start with the Writers Market (see the section later in this chapter).
A ghost writer is someone who can write articles, reports, books, and so on, but doesn't claim credit for the writing in the form of a byline. Typically the person paying for the ghostwriting takes the credit and gets the byline.
If you don't mind not getting credit, ghostwriting is an active area and worth considering. You can search online for “ghost writing opportunities” to get started. Many of the resources in the “Locating Places That Pay for Your Writing” section later in this chapter are also helpful.
You can find technical, also referred to as professional, writing in many corners of the writing world. Sources, such as corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions (like universities and technical schools) need your writing services.
Technical writers are a stout breed. Experienced technical writers don't have difficulty getting lucrative assignments. Qualities include an attention to detail and not falling asleep at your desk.
Many businesses need help with everything from writing fliers to catalogs and news releases. Just think about what all that companies do to produce for the benefit of customers, employees, vendors, and so on. They may need a writer to help them with their next promotion.
Consumers read everything they need to make an informed decision. Tons of publications and websites cover everything from how-to and product reviews to investigative writing and topics and so on. You can write for websites that cover consumer markets. Search online for different options. You can also find publications and websites in the “Writers Market” section later in this chapter.
Sales Copy Writing
Writing sales copy is a specialized skill set that every writer should get into, even if they don't plan on getting formal assignments on sales copy writing for businesses and other organizations that sell products and services.
Sales copy writing is about writing copy with the intent to persuade or motivate the reader to do something (“Supplies are limited … get your widget today!”). Being able to write sales copy is a valuable skill, and very experienced copy writers are among the biggest earners in the writing world. Their work ends up in direct marketing venues, such as mass marketing emails, direct mail pieces, and online and offline advertising.
Radio and TV
Thousands of opportunities exist as the explosion of entertainment venues spring on both TV and radio as well as their numerous (and growing) digital equivalents on the Internet. These opportunities range from program reviews and commercial advertising writing to infomercials and screenplays. For more information, check out sites such as the following:
Locating Places That Pay for Writing
The bottom line: You're a freelance writer, and you want to be paid. These sections provide some helpful resources to help you locate the places that can pay you for your writing.
Finding Websites for Cold, Hard Cash
Many sites directly pay for articles that you write and that they post. They differ in method of payment and how much, so you want to do some investigative work and see which of the following sites offer you the best opportunities.
Perusing Freelance Writing Resources
The following three are the best resources available for the freelance writer. You'll probably get excited by the possibilities when you explore these various sources.
Considering how varied and involved the topic of writing can be, the Writer's Digest (www.writersdigest.com ) is the go-to source for the beginner. This hard copy monthly magazine is great, and its digital version is equally worthwhile. You can find lots of how-to articles from experienced writers and veteran editors on various topics, including working with editors, finding new markets, and becoming a better and more successful writer.
I recently signed up for its free ezine, and I was pleasantly surprised by the freebie for new ezine subscribers — a free report in PDF format entitled “101 Best Websites for Writers.”
The Writers Market (www.writersmarket.com ) is a must-have book for writers of all kinds. This thick book lists thousands of publications and media outlets that pay for written content. Each listing offers plenty of details on the paying source, including the source's writer's guidelines, which tell you exactly how to proceed. You can uncover what they want and what they don't want.
The main book is an annual compendium that you can buy from your local bookstore or online. However, you may want to consider signing into the website and paying a reasonable subscription fee to access the database.
Media Bistro (www.mediabistro.com ) is a great place for the truly serious freelancer. You can find plenty of information on industry news and trends in addition to job postings. This site provides in-depth reports on how to pitch a particular magazine or media outlet on what you want to write about.
Media Bistro also has other benefits as well, such as how-to information and group rates on health insurance. You can sign up for free, but then get the full benefits of the site; it costs $55 per year.
Accessing Other Freelance Resources
Here are some additional options you can use to build your freelance writing business. Check out these sources:
Getting Paid Multiple Times
Writing becomes truly profitable when you can combine your content, some creative marketing, and a good structure or framework to implement your action plan. Here are some ideas for turning your writing into ways to continuously make money long after you finish your work. Here is a residual income plan that I think any competent writer can do (just remember that you're a micro-entrepreneur).
- Create your content.
Write an ebook or other type of digital content that that can be easily sold and downloaded over the Internet, such as a PDF or other common publishing format. (Chapter 10 goes into greater detail about creating self-published products.) Make sure that it includes good content and that it's evergreen (it's a topic of interest that will be good years from now).
- Set up the structure.
Put this content (along with the sales copy for the page) at a digital delivery service venue such as Payloadz (www.payloadz.com ) or E-Junkie (www.e-junkie.com ). Feel free to shop around for others.
At a digital delivery service site, you can set up a page, upload your content, and add your PayPal information (www.paypal.com ). You can usually find great tutorials on setting up at these sites. You'll then effectively have a page at this site that has both the sales copy and the ability to both buy the product and download it instantly.
- Set up the marketing.
The marketing will be from your writing. Write articles on the same topic as the content found in your ebook and place them on your website or blog. Create articles for sale (at paid sites) and create other articles than can be used for article marketing (Chapter 18 shows you how). All the articles and blog posts have the same link to your product. The more articles you have, the greater the funnel that guides all interested parties to your offering.
- Keep track and manage.
Make sure it's working and check your PayPal account. If you have done all the steps and made sure the articles were good content and the product you're offering is an excellent one on a topic that is in demand from your target market, then you should have success. If it worked well, go ahead and repeat it. The more articles your write, the more products you create for sale, the more marketing you do all mean the more sales and profits you generate.