Are you earning peanuts as a freelance writer? I recently took a survey that showed more than one-third of my readers are earning under $25 an hour.
That’s not good.
One of the big ways to earn more from writing is to learn more specialized writing types. Many writers I know are just writing Web content or blog posts, which often pay low wages.
Learning to do more sophisticated projects can change your whole income picture. But exactly what sort of writing assignments pay more?
Below are seven of the best-paying writing niches I know:
- Case studies — If you can tell a story about how a customer benefited from a company’s product or service, you can write a case study. The format is quite similar to writing an article, except that it’s always a glowing success story about how great the company is, rather than balanced journalism. The least I’ve ever been paid for one is $750, for just a few hours’ work.
- White papers — These position pieces build authority, discuss industry issues, reveal industry research data, or compare product offerings — all with the clever end goal of pointing out that the client’s thing is the best choice. Sectors that use a lot of case studies and white papers include technology, finance, and healthcare. Rates range from $1,000 for a 2-pager on up. We’ve got great resources on both white papers and case study writing in Freelance Writers Den.
- E-books — Yes, there are plenty of lowball e-book writing offers floating around Craigslist — and you should ignore those. But if you target bigger companies or more successful consultants, there’s real money to be made writing, rewriting, or ghostwriting e-books for clients. As I write this, I’m working on a light rewrite of an e-book that’s just 60 pages long. Price? $4,000.
- Annual reports and research reports — These chart-filled company reports must be done each year by every publicly held company and large nonprofit — and many privately held companies create them, too. Depending on length, annual reports can be $10,000 projects. Research reports can be a blast, and pay well. At one point, I was getting $3,000 a pop doing quality-of-management reports, where I found former co-workers of CEOs and got them to dish about the guy. Fun corporate espionage work! And a great rate for about a week’s effort.
- Business plans and sale memorandums — These are similar documents that discuss a company’s growth plans. The first types is often created in order to attract investors, and the latter in order to sell the company outright. I did two of these projects earlier this year, at $3,000 and up.
- Technical writing — If you understand technology or have an interest in it, writing user manuals and product documentation is a terrific niche. Most writers in this field have some sort of tech work experience or training. The biggest problem technical writers usually have, in my experience, is that it’s hard to kick this niche once you get into it, because nothing else pays as well!
- Sales pages — Here’s one part of companies’ marketing budgets that never gets cut: creating Web pages that bring in more income. The basics are fairly simple to master, too. I’d never sold anything to anyone before about 2010, and didn’t find it hard to get the hang of it — here’s an example. Writers make up to $2,000 a page writing these for clients…and it’s a great skill to have for selling your own stuff, too.
How do you get started in these specialized writing niches? In quite a few of the above cases, you could begin by writing a sample for your own writing business — a white paper, case study, e-book, or sales page for a product or service you’ve got. Small nonprofits would probably love to have your writing help on their annual report.
To earn well at them, look for bigger companies, mega-successful consultants…in general, follow the money. If they’re making lots of money, they’ve got a real marketing budget and probably appreciate the value a freelance writer brings to the table.
It’s well worth doing a first project in any of these niches for cheap or even pro bono, as having done it once will really help you land good-paying gigs in these writing types.
What’s the best-paid type of freelance writing you do? Leave a comment and tell us how you broke in.