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The Only Way to Make Money As a Writer

make money as a writer

There is only one way to make money as a writer.

This is a little thing most people who should know, know, and yet, pretend to ignore

Down in the trenches, writers toil. They have the talent to put words to paper, but using this ability to make money is difficult.

If you’re here, looking for ways to make money as a writer, you probably have some interest in writing. How did your interest in writing come about?

Most of us start writing short stories and poems. That is the starting point for many writers. Then reality hits home hard and realization strikes. To make money as a writer in the real world, writing poems and stories is not the best way to go about things.

You can do it, of course. You can keep playing the lottery. However, if you’re serious about making money as a writer, writing fiction is not the best solution. You need enough writing gigs on the side to keep the dream of becoming a published author alive.

In short, you need to know how to make money as a writer. Since I’ve been on this journey for five years now, I will try and give you the nitty-gritty of what you need to expect in this industry of writers.

Before We Begin – The Things You Need to Start

This is not an article where I explain how you should write. I am working off the assumption you’re already a writer.

You have the talent to write. It may seem hard for you to believe, but there is a serious lack of good writers in the market. So, if you do have the talent to write, you really do stand a good chance of making good money as a writer.

However, simply being a talented writer is often not enough. To start, you need to have a working knowledge of certain subjects.

SEO Content Writing

Nothing will make you more attractive as a writer in a jobs market than having SEO expertise.

What is SEO? The full form of SEO is search engine optimization. When you search for something on Google, some websites appear first and some appear on the bottom of the page. Have you ever thought why this happens?

SEO is a practice using which a website can get a higher ranking on Google. You can naturally understand why every website wants to rank high on a Google search. The higher a website is in the rankings, the more people will click through and go to the website.

A big part of SEO is writing quality content. This is the part where you as a writer come in. SEO content writing basically means writing content that ranks well on search engines like Google.

Companies today pay a lot of money to writers who can write quality content that ranks well on Google.

There are many resources you can refer to for learning SEO. I find BackLinko a good place to start.     

Later in this piece, I will explain how you can pick up many writing gigs as a writer. For now, stay with me.

Content Marketing

You will find many definitions for content marketing on the internet. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Content marketing is writing promotional content for clients. It can mean writing blog posts, service pages, email copy, social media posts, ad copy, or anything else your client wants you to write.

SEO content writing is also essentially a subset of content marketing.

As a writer, you have to mold your talent to help your clients achieve certain objectives. These objectives can include things like lead generation, an increase in sales, and so on.

You can try start learning content marketing at a good website here.

A WordPress Blog

To land writing gigs, you need to show clients you can write. For this you need a blog.

Now you may say you already have a blog. This is the thing – most of your potential clients don’t care if you can write haiku poetry. They don’t care if you’re currently writing a historical fiction novel set in Medieval France.

All they care about is how you can help their business.

That’s the reality. That’s why you are here, right? You don’t care about my fiction writing escapades. All you want to know is how I can help you earn money as a writer.

And that is good.

Your blog should reflect the same. In your WordPress blog, give examples of how you can create SEO-optimal content. Show clients examples of your email copy and ad copywriting samples. Make them feel you are a capable professional who knows how to make money as a writer.

Your WordPress blog must also give away the impression that you’re comfortable working with a CMS. A CMS is just the service you use to run your blog. WordPress is a CMS, so is Blogger.

Techniques to Make Money as a Writer

For the record, there are a lot of ways to make money as a writer. You can write short stories, poems, and any other thing that pleases you to make money.

There are many platforms today for writers to make money on. Wattpad, Mirakee, Medium, and so on are some examples of platforms where writers can earn money.

However, I won’t recommend these platforms to you. The reason is fairly simple. To establish a sustainable streams of income through writing, you need to develop skills for which people will keep paying you for a long time.

Success on social platforms like Wattpad isn’t just based on writing. You have to follow other people, comment on their stories, and hope they come back to read your content. Eventually, you have to hope enough people read your content so that Wattpad starts placing ads in your content.

You can build your profile on Wattpad and Medium as a side hustle. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will become a superstar writer flush with ad money in a week.

Wattpad and Medium have potential, but you can’t depend on them to pay your bills, especially if you’re new to the writing gig world.

My goal here is to tell you about things which will credit money into your bank account within four weeks.

I won’t tell you all the ways you can make money as a writer. I will only tell you about dependable techniques which will safeguard your career

Freelance SEO Writing Gigs To Make Money As a Writer

When you’re starting out on your journey, you will naturally assume landing a freelance SEO writing gig is difficult.

And it is.

Unless you find a very naïve or desperate HR who needs to hire a writer by the end of the week, you won’t get hired easily.

To land a freelance SEO gig, here are the things you need to have first –

  • A well written resume focusing on your skills as a SEO writer, not a poet or novelist. You can mention your skills in fiction writing, but don’t make them the centerpiece of the resume. Bring the attention to your skills. If you want to earn a few certifications in content marketing, go here and here.
  • A blog where you’ve written SEO-optimal content. As mentioned in the piece earlier, you can do your chances of making money as a writer a great favor by learning SEO. It is an in-demand skill.

Remember, you must start learning SEO before applying for freelance gigs. It’s not like you need to become an expert to land a gig. Most of the time, basic SEO knowledge is enough to get a job. However, having basic SEO knowledge is essential get a foot in the door.

Where Can I Get Freelance Gigs?

Most job portals have postings for freelance writing gigs. You can make money as a writer by landing any of these gigs. Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster Jobs, and others have open positions for freelance writers.

You will also find many people touting Upwork and Freelancer as good platforms to land gigs.

Here’s the thing.

If you’re starting out, Upwork is a great platform. At this stage of your career, you need to establish yourself and show potential clients your worth as a writer. On Upwork, you can land a writing gig within a week, then land another, and slowly build your profile.

However, Upwork takes a cut for every project you get, specifically 20%. You can check out their entire commission structure here.

After a while, the twenty percent cut starts growing and you will feel it burning a hole in your pocket.

This is why, you should not look at Upwork or Freelancer as platforms where you’ll keep landing writing gigs forever.

After your first four or five gigs, start applying on Indeed, LinkedIn, and Monster Jobs. Here, you can communicate directly with the client and you don’t have to pay any commission.

Should I Pay for an SEO Course?

Do you need to pay for a good SEO course?

No. Don’t pay. Never pay. No course will make you an expert in SEO. No matter what you do, it will take you a year to become an expert in SEO.

Here’s the good part. You can learn the basics within a day or two. SEO is a strange field where expertise almost invariably comes from experience.

The best thing you can do to learn SEO is read free blogs, watch free tutorials, and develop a SEO-like mindset whenever you visit a website.

Never pay to learn anything about digital marketing. It’s not as if the field is not worth it. However, there is nothing special anyone can teach you. You have to learn the basics, apply them practically, struggle, and find your own way.

Full-Time Content Writing Positions

A full-time content writing position is an option after you’ve gained some experience taking up freelance gigs.

You might ask where this need for taking up a full-time position comes in.

Here’s the thing – working in a full-time office setting can help your career a lot irrespective of your long term goals.

Let me share a little secret. What do you think makes a client trust a freelancer? As someone who takes a lot of freelancing projects, I can tell you exactly when a client takes me seriously.

As soon as I tell hiring managers I have worked in a full-time position for two years, they think I’m legit. Like it or not, managers across the world trust a professional who has the experience of getting up in the morning and going to work.

There is another reason you should take up a full-time job. You will learn more working in an office for six months than sitting at home for two years.

Working alongside more experienced than you will trigger some form of competitive emotions on your part. As a content writer, you will force yourself to learn more and even take up new skills to boost your portfolio.

Want to hear another benefit of doing a full-time job for some time? You don’t actually need to apply for any freelance writing jobs. No seriously, I never go to Indeed or LinkedIn to look for remote gigs. Every other week I get a call from some person who got my reference from a former work colleague. And I’m saying three months into the COVID-19 disaster. Yes, you can earn money as a writer even during a pandemic.

What Do I Need to Land a Full-Time Content Writing Position?

Same things you needed when you were applying for a freelance gig.

There is something most people sitting on the outside don’t realize about the content writing world. There are actually not many good writers in the content writing world. When a company has a vacancy for a content writing position, they really want to know one thing – can you write?

That’s it. If you’re someone to whom words come easily, you’re already better than a lot of content writers in the industry. All you need to land a full-time job is this –

  • A well-written resume
  • A portfolio website or blog showing your writing qualities
  • A record of your work as a freelancer

Is it necessary for you to first do a few freelance gigs before applying to a full-time job? Yes, atleast according to me. You will get a good idea about the demands of the job working as a freelancer. This way, when you start a full-time position, you’re ready to deliver from day one.

I’m not here preaching a full-time career in content writing. However, I am telling you to consider working in real office sitting for atleast a year. It will boost your profile as a freelancer.

These Are the Only Ways to Regularly Make Money as a Writer

I am writing this from my own experience. I can understand if some people don’t agree with this line of thinking. At one point in time, I used to hustle ghostwriting fiction projects on platforms like Upwork and Freelancer. Until I could, I avoided the world of content marketing and writing.

I looked for many places where I could make money as a writer and keep doing what I loved. I sent in poems on websites accepting poetry. Furthermore, I wrote guest articles that paid next to nothing. Eventually, I decided to get into content writing.

What did I learn?

Yes, content writing is boring. If you’re a writer who wants to sit in front of Jimmy Kimmel and promote your next novel, content writing will seem horrifying.

However, there is no better way of making money as a writer.

The SEO, content writing, and marketing trifecta is a gold mine if you’re a writer who can easily spin words. A week of SEO and content marketing tutorials and ten quality articles for your portfolio blog is all you need to land a gig.

The best part is you have limitless options to keep changing your employer. If you’re writing poems and short stories for a publisher, you probably have limited options.

In content writing, the options are endless.

The last few months have been difficult for people everywhere thanks to the pandemic. As a freelance gig writer, on a professional level, things are still smooth. In fact, the pandemic has made more companies paranoid about improving their content and getting inbound traffic.

If you get into content writing, am I telling you to give up on your dreams to become a writer?

Keeping the Dream Alive By Thinking Differently

The ultimate dream of every writer is to make money selling books and being a celebrity author. We all watch our favorite authors closely and take their stories of struggle seriously. I still marvel at how JK Rowling wrote many parts of her Harry Potter books on small tissues of paper in a coffee shop.

These tales of triumph gave us, give me, a reason to keep dreaming.

Should you really give up on the chance of sitting with Jimmy Kimmel or Joe Rogan to promote your book?

Is getting into content writing the end of the writing dream?

I ask myself this question all the time. For a time, I wasn’t sure. Then I read this tweetstorm from Christopher McQuarrie.

Christoper McQuarrie’s thread on screenwriters

If you don’t know, McQuarrie is the man who wrote the screenplay for The Usual Suspects. He won the Oscar for his role in the same. So, he’s not some random guy like me on the internet.

Even if you’re not a Hollywood script writer, there are many lessons you can learn in this tweet thread. Are you someone who sends manuscripts to agents? Are you sitting in front of a computer screen thinking how to start writing an email to a publishing house?

As McQuarrie says, if your entire plan is to keep sending manuscripts and hoping a publisher will notice your brilliance, you’re letting someone else control your dreams.

Your approach to this entire process needs to change. Instead of running after agents, make yourself big enough to make agents and publishers come for you.

Changing the Game

Do you have a blog? If not, start one. Post content on it every day. How many visitors does it get every day?

10? 20?

What if your blog started getting 5000 returning visitors every day?

You could tell publishing houses then how five thousand loyal visitors come to your website everyday. These are people who will buy any book you tell them too. The publishing house will see an opportunity to make sure-shot money publishing your book.

The publishing house will trust you more than ten other rookie writers.


Because you already have a loyal base of fans.

Now you’ll ask how to generally get 5000 people to your website every day? I talked about this in the beginning. Learn SEO. Learn content marketing. Pull every trick in the book to make a successful blog. Make it so popular a publishing house comes to you directly and asks you to write a book.

I want to make money as a writer and I want to publish a book. Many writers, I feel, share these desires. If you’re smart about it, you can turn the whole game on its head to make it work according to you.

Since the beginning, rookie writers give all their power to publishers. It’s about time you start taking it back.

Final Words – Make Money as a Writer

In the beginning, I told you there is only one way to make money as a writer. This was according to my own experiences as a writer trying to make it.

First, I gave you practical advice about learning SEO and content marketing to earn money as a writer.

Then, I told you how you need to think differently about the publishing game to succeed.

The issue of writers making money is close to my heart. No matter how poetic it sounds, I don’t want talented writers to become paupers. Generally, great poetry is only great when it’s in books and not in real life.

On other websites, you will generally find people giving tons of ways to make money as a writer.

When it comes to earning money, I like practices that are dependable and sustainable. This is why I don’t talk about ten other ways to earn money as a writer. I believe there is only one way to truly make money if writing is your calling.

While you make money and break bread, keep playing the lottery as McQuarrie said. Keep the dream alive.

Also read: What is Speculative Fiction?
Also read: Indian Fantasy Novels: The Best Fantasy Fiction From India

(Featured Image Credits: Wikipedia)

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