Q&A: Getting Started Writing for Money

Colleen recently wrote me and asked:

Do you have any thoughts that you would give someone looking for some income from writing?

It’s a big question. I’ve been writing for a long time, most of my life. And several different occasions, I’ve hired writers. So I have more than a few thoughts. But, the very first response I have is one that I’m not sure you are looking for, but I’ll say it anyway.

What do you like to write? What is your dream writing situation?

There are so many different ways to earn money writing. Some pay well, some not as well. But one thing I’ve learned is that if you are willing to market yourself, willing to write for others, putting others’ needs before your own, you’ll find a way to earn money writing.

Others, looking in, think of writing for money as writing for newspapers and magazines or writing books, or writing ads. But writing opportunities are so much wider than that, especially today.

If you want to write for magazines, definitely get a copy of Writer’s Market and look for magazines you are familiar with or are willing to get familiar with that pay on acceptance. Do a search online for your favorite publications and the keyword “writers guidelines”.

I served as a magazine editor for several years; we always loved getting new content to met our editorial needs. *But* that’s the key. When you pitch a magazine an idea and then write it for them, be sure you are familiar with the publication, understand who their audience is, and get familiar with the publication’s mission, editorial style, the desired content.

If you want to write for newspapers, or have a newspaper column, think about how you use that byline to direct your readers to other content you have written or how you can re-use the content for another purpose.

I wrote a newspaper column for a year. Meeting deadlines, coming up with quality interesting content week after week, is an awesome experience that hones your writing skills. But newspaper content won’t grow your income as much as grow your skills, exposure, and credibility. Leverage that.

If you want to write books for traditional publishers, learn to write book proposals first, research agents and publishing houses that represent your genre, and build a following via a blog while you are shopping your book around.

Or better yet, and my personal favorite, build a following via a blog and social media and self-publish your writing. Self-publishing is so much easier and cost-effective than it once was and you get to retain your rights and keep higher royalties. But, you do have to do most of the leg work.

But also look outside of these traditional writing paths. As a writer, the internet expands your possibilities in so many ways that I can’t even get into here. Blogs and websites are publications that need content often. Guest posting, being a blogger for hire, or a content provider is perfect for writers looking to build their portfolio and credibility.

Sites like LinkedIn help you connect with marketing, public relations, and communication professionals who hire writers to write business communications, marketing materials, website copy, press releases, and a whole myriad of other types of written communication.

Online publishers and Internet marketers look for writers to help write PLR, ebooks, kindle books, website copy, press releases, blog posts, and product reviews. Or you can turn that on end like I did, and become an information publisher yourself – build online publications, create a PLR site, or write ebooks yourself.

If you have specialized knowledge from a career or hobby, and you don’t mind writing about it, leverage that. I spent many years writing about business and technology, and many years writing about parenting and homeschooling. It’s easier to write about what you know, and you provide valuable insight that outsiders can’t bring.

The possibilities are endless, if you are creative and open. But also, it can be overwhelming. So back to my first question – “What do you like to write? What is your dream writing situation?”

Once you’ve written that down, dwell on it, pray on it. And then go market yourself to the people who buy that type of writing.  Every writer should have a blog or at the very least a website, so prospective clients can learn more about you and read your style and samples.

Know that your skills are valuable. The need for writers and writing doesn’t go away, it just shifts a bit based on the publications and media of the time. If you are a good writer and are willing serve others, you’ll find opportunities and opportunities will find you.


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One Response to Q&A: Getting Started Writing for Money

  1. Colleen says:

    Thanks, Shannon, for getting back to me on this. On top of the new ideas you gave me, you reminded me of a few things that I knew and had forgotten!

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