I still remember that amazing first day of writing for cold hard cash. I was a broke college student without a job and I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay the rent. I found an online freelance writing platform, and that night, I made a whopping $2 for writing a blog post about a hockey team.
Believe it or not, anyone can make money writing. While that doesn’t mean everyone should, if you have something you’re passionate about, whether it’s graphic design or sports, chances are there are people and businesses willing to pay you to write about it.
Article writing is much more profitable for me than it was in those early days, and it’s still very easy to get started, if not even easier than it was more than a decade ago when I first began. If you would like to take advantage of opportunities to write for cash, here are 7 steps you should take to get started today.
1. Choose a niche and type of writing
When getting started writing for pay, it’s tempting to have no focus at all. You just want to write and get paid for it, you don’t want to be too picky. This is the wrong mindset to have.
Although you should keep your mind and options open when building a portfolio, to really stand out and get paid as a writer means that you have to specialize in something. I specialize in writing blog posts and website content for entrepreneurs and small businesses. These specialties have taken years to develop.
Choose a subject (small business, science, parenting, fashion, etc.) and a type of writing (blog posts, research papers, website content, newsletters, online advertisements, etc.) to specialize in and then spend the majority (60%+) of your time and effort mastering this specialty. Trust me, it will help you stand out and command a bigger paycheck from clients in the future.
2. See what and who is out there
Now that you have a niche and a type of writing you will specialize in, you should know what is already out there in terms of content and writers. Start searching about your topic, read articles, follow other writers on Twitter and LinkedIn, and see what websites and publications are focusing on this subject.
This information will help you find potential clients, learn about your subject, and give you information that will help you price your work.
3. Create a small base of work to showcase
Before someone pays you to write for them, they are going to want to see what you can do first. Even if you aren’t yet being paid for your work, write several pieces of content to use as examples when talking to prospective clients.
You can even choose a company that hasn’t hired you to write content for, just explain this to the client you are showing this work to. This is also a great strategy to land new clients – write an article for them to show them what you can do. While you don’t want to give work away for free, if you need to build a small portfolio, which you should have on hand, this is an opportunity to show them what you can do.
Tip: A great first step in creating a base of work is to start publishing on Medium.com and your LinkedIn account through LinkedIn’s publishing feature.
4. Set your minimum rate per hour
One of the most common questions I get about writing is, “How much should I charge?” Instead of coming up with a random price, I advise that new writers go about setting a minimum rate – the least amount they would accept per hour.
Here is how I would come up with that number. Think of a reasonable per hour rate that you would be happy with making, and that would allow you to pay your bills (based on a 40-hour workweek). Once you have that rate in your mind, whether it’s $10/hour or $25/hour, double it.
This may sound outrageous, but when you’re not working a 9-5 job and you’re writing for specific clients, much of what you will do, from researching to learning to finding new clients, is completely UNPAID! You need to account for these expenses.
5. Sign up for freelancing/blogging platforms
Freelancing platforms often get a bad rap. I started offering short blog posts for just $5 each on the gig website Fiverr. I soon had over a hundred jobs and through this process I gained a lot of experience. While I no longer would write anything for $5, I still accept jobs on freelancing platforms. They are a great way to find occasional work and create new connections.
Platforms to consider:
• Elance.com / Upwork.com
6. Inform everyone of what you’re doing
One of my biggest mistakes is not letting my friends, family, and business connections know exactly what I’m up to and why. A lot of people in your network want to help you and to see you succeed, but if they don’t know what you’re doing, it’s impossible for them to help you.
Reach out to your connections, from college professors who you’ve impressed to old bosses to your distant aunt, and let them know about your new writing effort. You never know who they might be able to introduce you to. A key question to ask during all of these conversations is, “Do you know anyone I should talk with about this?” Most of my long-term clients have come from these types of conversations.
7. Create a Plan
Even if you just want to earn $100 extra a month, you should create a short plan of how you plan to accomplish that. I recommend creating a short-term (the next month) and a long-term (the next year) plan to outline what you want to accomplish as a paid writer. This will help keep you on the right track and make sure you’re working towards something that you want. Follow these steps and you will start earning money as a writer. And from one writer to another, welcome to the business! You will not get rich quick as a writer, but it’s a rewarding career and it can be a profitable side hustle that brings in a little extra income each month, or maybe even more.
Need additional help? Don’t worry, I want to help. Email me at email@example.com and ask me a question about writing for money.
Guest Blogger: Michael Luchies
Michael Luchies helps entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses connect with and grow their audience with content. He is the Founder of TrepRep, a former TEDx alum, contributor for Entrepreneur Magazine, and has published over 1,000 articles as an author and ghostwriter.