Long ago, I came up with a list of 113 ways working freelancers can grow their writing income. If you’ve been wondering how to make money writing — serious money, that is — this list is for you. If you’re a newbie, you’ll find plenty of useful suggestions here, too.
I’ve given the list a major update, since things do keep changing in the freelance world. Enjoy!
Aren’t you sick of the negativity out there in the freelance writing community? I know I am.
You know the spiel. Uninformed comments like:
Print is dead.
All articles are now $5 or less.
I can’t believe this Craigslist ad asks for three free samples.
The fact is, some freelancers are still earning a great living, and you can, too. But first, you’ll have to stop buying into the gloom and realize that what you earn is really up to you.
Take the attitude that you are an unstoppable force of nature, and you won’t give up until you’ve got your freelance writing biz earning what you need!
To help you take charge of your writing career, I put together a list of 100+ proactive things you can do right now to build your income. Yes, there are a couple of affiliate links below, for things I personally know well and can recommend (plus direct links to a couple useful things I’ve created for you).
Surely, one or more of these ideas can help you bust a move toward better pay? Here we go:
How to make money writing: 113 ways
I’ve organized these tips into sections — these links will take you straight to each subtopic:
- Bust your fears
- Client management
- Creative marketing
- Marketing 101
- Running your biz
- Social media
- Support & learning
Bust your fears
2. Stop waiting.
3. Stop worrying about what people think of you.
4. Stop wondering where the shortcut is and start taking action.
5. Get a perspective on your challenges. Then, just make the time to write.
6. Grow your network. On LinkedIn, in person, everywhere you are.
7. Get out and meet live humans. People give you jobs, not computers.
8. Scared to go networking? Bring a friend for support. Then, take it slow. The first time, just go and observe and smile a lot, and then go home. Next time, introduce yourself to one person.
9. Start a networking group, if there isn’t a good one in your area. Great way to get known by a lot of people fast — because everyone thanks the host, don’t they?
10. Create a “me” speech, so you know what to say when people ask what you do — after the part where you say “I’m a freelance writer,” and they say, “Really? What kind of writing do you do?” (Thanks to IJ Schecter for this one.)
11. Follow up on your networking, to start building relationships with prospects you meet.
12. Send former editors and managers job leads, if they leave their job or get fired. Even if it doesn’t lead to a hire for them, they’ll remember you when they get their next gig.
13. Get cool business cards that say something about your unique writing skills. Bring them with you everywhere.
14. Make a special offer on your business card, such as a free consult. Keeps it from being tossed out.
15. Consider getting a t-shirt or magnetized car sign that advertises your writing.
16. Get on LinkedIn. It’s a big search engine companies are using to find freelancers, every day. I know, you hate social media. Do this one anyway.
17. Ask for recommendations, using LinkedIn’s tool. LinkedIn recommendations make the sale!
18. Respond to full-time job ads you see on LinkedIn, and ask if they need a freelancer in the meanwhile.
19. Put keywords in your LinkedIn title, so your prospects can find you. But them in your profile’s URL, too (you can change it).
20. Find people on LinkedIn — former editors, marketing managers, co-workers — and reconnect.
21. Join LinkedIn groups — great place to connect with people who could refer you work.
22. Send InMails to people who’ve viewed your profile, if they seem like prospects. Ask if they’re looking for a writer.
23. Get on Twitter and share useful stuff your clients would like. Start building authority.
24. Find editors on social media and pitch them.
25. Find niche social-media platforms for your specialty. New platforms arise all the time. Experiment and see where you connect with good leads.
26. Consider trying Facebook or Google ads to promote your business.
27. Put up a writer website. Shows you’re a pro. Not a coder? Consider this writer website service, which has a done-for-you, drag-and-drop template.
28. Improve your writer website. A clean, sharp, mobile-enabled website makes a big difference in the rates you can command.
29. Make it easier for people to contact you on your website. Kill that contact form and put your contacts right in your header, for instance.
30. SEO your website. Get key phrases your clients would use to find your type of freelance writer into your URL, headline, tagline, and copy.
31. Solicit more testimonials from previous clients and add them to your site.
32. Read more widely so you can find more story ideas to pitch.
33. Get a Book of Lists for your nearest major market, for a ready source of quality corporate leads.
34. Get The Writers Market with online support, so you can easily research publications.
35. Collaborate with designers and other related-industry professionals. Refer each other business.
36. Track prospect nibbles that haven’t panned out yet, and keep following up. Send them articles of interest — anything to keep the connection.
37. Look for ongoing projects. Even regular blogging gigs can add up to big revenue, and let you start each month with some pre-booked revenue.
38. Write blog posts in batches. Massive time-saver, whether it’s for your own blog or a client’s.
39. Plan out blog posts with a scheduling tool such as WordPress Editorial Calendar.
40. Put a “hire me” tab on your blog, so people know you want gigs.
41. Treat your blog as a writing sample. Have a clean design, show you understand social media, and write every post like it’s a $1-a-word magazine assignment.
42. Don’t work without a contract. Otherwise, your clients have no obligation to pay you, ever. Make sure that contract defines payments terms, so you’re clear when you’ll be paid.
43. Ask new business clients their budget for the project. Sometimes, they’ll tell you.
44. Don’t quote your price in a first client meeting, if you’re a newbie. Tell them you’ll get back to them tomorrow with your proposal.
45. Ask for more money, if the scope of the gig expands.
46. Make initial business writing contracts short, say, for only 60-90 days. Then, negotiate a better rate when it expires, based on your growing knowledge of the client’s business.
47. Define a small first project with new business clients. Get started, see if you like working for this client, and don’t get locked into a long contract you slowly realize you’re underpaid on.
Running your biz
48. Stop writing for content mills. Just a road to nowhere.
49. Stop buying into the pay-per-click dream. Ditto pay-per-view.
50. Stop bidding on jobs online, where you’re competing with hundreds of other writers. Opt out of the race to the bottom.
51. Send bills out more promptly. Many companies only cut checks once a month, so don’t miss the cutoff. Better yet, negotiate for better payment terms and get paid faster. Better cash flow is as good as a raise.
52. Cut your expenses. Then, you’ll feel less pressure to take low-pay gigs and have more quality marketing time.
53. Know the home-business tax breaks. Keeping more of your money has the exact same effect as earning more.
54. Consider using a co-working space for the networking, fresh perspective, and referrals from other business owners working there.
55. Pitch bigger companies. Bigger really is better, in our line of work.
56. Start a retirement account and make regular deposits. Charge more, so you have enough to put some away.
57. Send query letters.
58. Send simultaneous queries, even when magazines’ guidelines say not to.
59. Send multiple ideas in your query. Ups your odds of success.
60. Don’t wait to hear back on those query letters. Send more query letters immediately.
61. Learn how to write great queries, if you’re not getting assignments.
62. Do more research and find new markets. New online markets are emerging every day and new magazines are started.
63. Pitch publications’ websites, too. They may also assign articles separately for their website — and vice versa.
64. Look for customer magazines, when you’re shopping, at the dentist, wherever you go. Read, pitch them — you already know their products.
65. Read company newsletters and magazines you get digitally and in the mail. Pitch them.
66. Query better-paying magazines. Seriously, you can only get $75 from your local mags for so long. Right?
67. Resell your articles, if you’ve only sold first or limited rights.
68. Recycle unused parts of interviews you’ve done into new stories.
69. Write more than one article off the same set of research, for noncompeting markets.
70. Ask interview sources what else is going on in their industry. Leave with another story idea.
71. Don’t overreport. You’re not going to be able to fit eight sources into a 500-word article.
72. Learn to write to length. Less rewriting means time saved, and more income potential in the year.
73. Keep idea lists, so you always have more ideas to pitch if an editor asks.
74. Have another idea ready, every time you turn in an article.
75. Consider adding businesses to your client mix, if you only write for magazines. They tend to pay better and faster.
76. Send customized prospecting emails. The rest is just spam.
77. Make cold calls. Just grab the phone book, pick up the phone, call marketing directors and ask if they use freelance writers.
78. Send direct mail postcards. Few writers do that, so you can really stand out.
79. Stop responding to Craigslist ads. Need I explain?
80. Find better job boards where the companies have to pay to post a listing. LinkedIn’s board, for instance.
81. Find niche job boards for industries where you specialize.
82. Have a marketing plan. If you don’t know where you’re going, guess where you end up?
83. Write an ebook and sell it. Then, help clients do it.
84. Put on free classes for your prospects, either online or in person.
85. Create a free, informational report to give your prospects, with writing or marketing tips. End with your contact info or a special offer.
86. Create a newsletter your prospects can subscribe to, in order to stay in touch.
87. Analyze your clients, and how you got them. Which marketing methods paid off in the best clients? Do more of that.
88. Donate your writing services to a charity auction — you’ll meet a prospect, and get some good PR.
89. Volunteer for a good cause, and gain valuable contacts. I once wrote for my regional library system’s newsletter, and have spoken on Society of Professional Journalists panels, for instance.
90. Enter free or low-cost writing contests — it gets your work in front of editors who might hire you.
91. Get listed in online resource guides of service providers and professional associations in your target industries. Often, it’s free.
92. Bid on government contracts. Get qualified to bid directly or save the paperwork and connect with agencies that are bidding contracts — often, these are big projects at decent rates.
93. Raise rates for new clients. Then, keep on doing that, until you’re earning what you want.
94. Raise your rates for current clients.
95. Raise your rates every year in the fall, to take effect the following year.
96. Ask for client referrals from all your current clients, past clients, friends, and former co-workers.
97. Write for more parts of your existing clients. Does that publisher have other magazines? That company have other divisions?
98. Get up earlier. Do a block of marketing before everyone else gets up.
99. Stay up later. Work in the quiet, while others sleep.
100. Give up television. You won’t believe how much more time you have.
101. Get more exercise. You’ll be healthier and better able to focus and write.
102. Take a day off. I’m talking at least one day offline each week. Only you can prevent burnout.
103. Take mini-breaks where you get up from your computer and walk around a bit.
104. Outsource boring tasks that rob you of productive writing time.
105. Know your chronobiology. Write at your most productive and creative time of day.
106. Write what you feel inspired on, instead of the piece that’s “top priority.” Go with the flow, and you’ll be more efficient.
107. Drop your lowest-paying client, to make time to market and find better-paying clients. I’ve yet to meet a writer who ever regretted dropping a client who wasn’t worth the aggravation.
108. Log your daily activities, and eliminate things you do that aren’t resulting in income.
Support and learning
109. Take a class and learn how to market better. Or, learn a new writing specialty.
110. Join a writer’s community and get support and feedback from peers.
111. Learn to write hard stuff. Write about actuarial forecasting, advanced washing-machine technology, or software development. Find the niches where they can never get enough good writers.
112. Learn to write sales copy. Helping clients make more money will always pay well, and there’s always a need.
How to make money writing? Pick a way
There you have it! More than 100 paradigm-changing ideas for growing your writing income.
Obviously, there are a ton of strategies here. All of them won’t be right for you. But in there somewhere are things you should be doing in your writing biz and aren’t.
To make it easy for you to keep this brainstorm sheet, I’ve turned it into a download PDF — get it here. (Then, check your email for your download link.)
That way, you can come back and easily review for new strategies — and you’ll never wonder how to earn more money from writing again.
What have you done to earn more from writing lately? Leave a comment and tell us your tip.