I have had conversations that go like this for years now:
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a writer,” I say.
“Oh, what kind of writer?”
“Well, I write to pay the bills.”
I say that as a way of saying to people, you probably haven’t read anything I’ve written. I haven’t published a best-selling novel or a self-help book that has changed people’s lives. I haven’t even had articles published in well-known magazines such as The New Yorker or Redbook. But I have been working as a freelance writer and editor for 10 years, getting paid to do what I love, and enjoying almost every minute of it.
Many writers have dreams of writing the Great American Novel, signing a lucrative contract, and living off royalties for the rest of their lives. But most of us are realistic enough to know that rarely happens. And while many writers also have other types of jobs to pay the bills, careers like teaching, nursing, banking, or countless other nine-to-five-type jobs, you can make money by writing. It’s just a matter of persistence and patience.
Here are some ways to get paid for writing, while you work on that big novel you’ve always dreamed of.
- Use a Freelance Website. Sometimes you see them referred to as content farms, these companies that specialize in matching up freelancers to jobs. Warning! These are usually very low-paying jobs. (Hence the moniker content farm.) But if you have the time to fill out the applications or proposals, and don’t mind working for pennies in order to get a few paid gigs under your belt, it’s not a bad place to start. It’s at least worth a look.
Some examples: Upwork, Demand Media Studios, and iFreelance.
- Network. As with any job, who you know is important. Networking is one of the best ways to find writing jobs. Talk with other people who are writing for magazines or blogs and ask them if they would refer you. Make use of your LinkedIn profile to let people know you’re in the market for writing jobs, and also message people who you think might need some writing done to let them know you are offering your services for hire.
- Join Associations. Organizations like the Editorial Freelancers’ Association and the Non-Fiction Authors Association are a good way to network. Some post jobs or allow you to post a profile available for people looking for freelancers. They also offer classes and support for freelancers.
- Query. The good old-fashioned cold call is still one way to get jobs. Invest in a recent copy of the Writer’s Market, it’s a great place to find editors and contact information all in one place. Then get your ideas together and start emailing. You never know when that emailed query will turn into an actual paid job. And sometimes a regular position as a contributing writer!