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A Quick Guide To Getting Paid For Your Writing – The Writing Cooperative

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Image by Mirza Babic

It took a while to get up to the point where I make an average of $4k a month from writing alone. In the beginning of my career, I was barely scrounging up $400 a month. In all honesty, I didn’t have much direction. I purchased a book on Amazon for copywriters, put up a website and just hoped for the best. I couldn’t tell you the difference between APA and MLA or demonstrate a dangling modifier. All I knew was that I loved writing, that I was good at it, and that I was tired of being a project manager-and really just tired of NOT working for myself period.

Over the years I’ve definitely had some bumps in the road and disappointing moments. However, I always ended up weighing the pros and cons of writing and working for myself versus getting another job, hating it within 6 months, and feeling “stuck” all over again. At the end of my self-doubt was always the realization that even if I made less money from writing, I’d still be happier than I would be in the rat race. The journey from “struggle writing” to actually building a fruitful career is well known in the writing community. I was thinking about my journey last week while I was out on a run, and it dawned on me that these key things are what really helped me make the transition where I could make a living as a writer, so I thought I’d share them.

1. Stay in your wheelhouse and make it a mansion

I think this lesson was the hardest for me to accept. In the beginning, I wanted to do it ALL. If you needed it written, I was willing to do it for you. This meant spending days doing research and writing about subjects and that I probably shouldn’t have. And while many copywriters are open to doing it all, I came to find that this wasn’t the case for me. What I excelled at was writing about things that I at least had some prior knowledge of, or was mildly interested in. For example, I once took on an assignment writing about the mechanics of a jet’s engine…no-go.

I also discovered that I HATE writing product descriptions. This may seem easy to a lot of people, and it typically is. But the redundancy of the descriptions drives me absolutely crazy.

Example: Imagine writing a 100-word product description for bed sheets. Simple enough, right? Now, imagine writing a 100-word product description for the same brand/type of bed sheets 30xs over because they’re available in 30 different colors. By the end of the day when I’d finished a batch, I’d typically have a headache…no-go.

Sticking with the types of writing that I excelled at truly helped to lower my daily cortisol levels and kept me motivated to produce great work.

2. Start from the bottom, but not the pits of hell

Businesses are known for underpaying writers. Capitalism at its finest. And when you’re first starting out, you’re really just trying to build up your portfolio, so it’s easy to keep accepting jobs with low pay in order to just get the business. Plus, you never know what new projects a job may lead to. Many of my clients today came from jobs (and their referrals) that I took years ago. However, even back then I knew my worth as a writer, albeit a new one, and simply refused to accept jobs that weren’t worth the time. My main considerations were the pay per word, amount of time I’d need to spend on research, the amount of time estimated to write/edit, and their revision stipulations.

Writing a 500-word blog article for 0.1 cents/word when it takes you 45 minutes to write it can leave you feeling depleted. Know your worth and determine the minimum amount of money that you’ll accept.

3. Read as much as you write

It’s true that most writers are voracious readers. When I first started out, I was writing more than I was reading because I had to. I felt like the majority of my day should be dedicated to writing and I wasn’t wrong. However, I began to neglect my daily book reading hour that I’d come to love-I was just too tired of looking at words. When I hit a dry spell with writing jobs, I picked it back up and I noticed something once I began to get work about a month later…I had more to write about.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” Stephen King

This couldn’t be more true. Not only did I have more writing ideas, but I was inspired to writer more-and write better! Reading fills your writing well with subject matter ideas, expands your vocabulary, improves your syntax, and can be a saving grace when you when you need to be inspired to keep writing. Once I started reading more and learning about different things, I had more subjects that I was able to write about, i.e. more writing opportunities that I could apply to.

4. Know where the opportunities are

21st-century writers have it easy. Imagine trying to find writing work in the 1850s. Today, there are tons of online platforms that post writing jobs and offer contract work for writers. Not only that, but there are simply more opportunities because the barriers to entry to start a business have decreased significantly, creating more work for both novice and seasoned pen masters. Conversely, this can also lead to having to shuffle through tons of garbage in order to get to the good stuff.

You really have to be diligent in your search for work to find the opportunities that can lead to more opportunities. I did 6-hour searches every day for about 5 weeks just because I wanted to know of EVERY place online that I could find work-and it was worth it. I sorted the jobs into the following 6 categories.

· Blog Ghostwriting Platforms

· Short-story Ghostwriting Platforms and Calls For Submission Sites

· Copywriting Contract Sites for SMBs and Entrepreneurs

· Online Newspapers and Specialty Magazines

· Proofreading Contractors

· Worldwide Businesses Always Looking for English-Speaking Writers

After I created this list, I always had opportunities to apply to.

5. Talk to other writers

Networking with other writers online was definitely instrumental in helping me find job sources. I’ve also picked up a lot from writers who’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have. I’ve learned how to send great pitches and what editors frown upon when reading them. I also learned how to develop a portfolio that’ll stand out from anyone else’s, and how to diversify it based on the type of work that I was looking to get.

The best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received however was from a friend of mine who I met online in a French language exchange. He lives in California and is making over $90k a year writing for some of the biggest brands in the United States. He told me that the only thing that separated him from most writers who couldn’t pay their bills was simply “doing it enough”.

He said that you’ll make money from anything that you do long enough and good enough because eventually, you’re going to come across people who have more money to spend on your work.

Writing doesn’t have to be the struggle craft that it once was-at least not after you’ve built up your portfolio. Above all, I found that consistency with looking for opportunities in addition to writing every day made all the difference in how much I made every month.


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