As I mentioned in my previous post, The Top 3 Reasons You’re Not Making Money On Your Writing, most of us grow up without the slightest clue that there are any career options for writers aside from a) novelist or b) journalist.
Those are the types of writing jobs you’ll hear the most about, and they’re certainly the two that are most visible in the media, but the truth is there are hundreds of different writing opportunities out there for the aspiring freelancer.
What I’m about to share with you is just a quick taste of what’s possible. So let’s dive right in:
- Content Writing - This is one of the major opportunities for web writers right now, as more and more businesses branch out into the digital realm. It basically involves writing informational content for websites — it can sometimes overlap with blogging or copywriting, but it serves a very different purpose from both. The main purpose of content writing isn’t to sell, entertain, or engage visitors…it’s mainly to get a site to rank well in the search engines. While content writing can be a good source of steady work, it unfortunately tends not to pay especially well, unless you have a specific area of expertise.
- Copywriting - This is what I do for a living, and it’s one of the more lucrative writing gigs out there (the best copywriters can command hundreds of dollars an hour). The reason copywriting pays so well is because you’re directly selling a product or service to a customer, so your work really affects the bottom line of the company you’re writing for. Copywriters can specialize in everything from email marketing, to TV and magazine ads, to sales copy. Even if you don’t want to make a career out of copy, it’s a valuable skill for any writer to learn — because about half the work of being a freelance writer is being able to effectively market yourself.
- Blogging - This is exactly what it sounds like – writing blog posts for money. On the low-paying end of the spectrum this often involves ghostwriting for corporate client. But established writers can sometimes go on to get paid very well ($100+ per post) to write for publications and companies dedicated to delivering seriously valuable content to their consumers. And while it won’t start to pay right away…if you play your cards right, it’s possible to build your own blog into a money-making machine. We’ll talk about a few ways to do that in a few weeks.
- Trade Publications - This is an often overlooked market that can actually pay very well. Essentially, you’d be writing articles and news aimed at people in a specific industry – these are magazines with names like Cattle Ranchers Monthly or College Sports Mascot Review. (Ok, I made those up.) This can be a tricky industry to break into, and it helps if you have connections or experience in the industry in question. The good news is there are trade publications for just about any business you can imagine.
- Press Releases - Did you know there are hundreds of small businesses looking to drum up local publicity who have no idea how to make their products or services newsworthy? And they’ll pay you good money to do the hard work for them? Press release writing is an easy skill for journalists or news bloggers to pick up, but anyone can learn to do it.
- Catalog Descriptions - Have you ever flipped through a catalog or online store and actually looked at the product descriptions? Someone had to write those. That someone could be you. It probably won’t pay tremendously well, but there’s usually quite a bit of work to be done.
- Technical Writing - If you’ve ever known and loved an engineer or programmer, as I have, you have probably come to this painful realization at some point: no matter how tech-savvy you thought you were, suddenly there comes a moment when you have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Luckily, technical writers everywhere are working to make the world a more comprehensible place by simplifying technical knowledge into user guides, instruction manuals, FAQs, help files, and marketing materials. If you have a gift for making the complex easy to understand, this is the job for you.
- Fundraising - This is similar to direct-response copywriting, but in this case, you’re doing it to raise money for a nonprofit organization or a good cause, rather than trying to sell a product. If you’re interested in writing those fundraising letters, emails, and TV spots you’ve seen, you should definitely learn a little about copywriting.
- Grant Writing - There’s an entire group of writers out there who specialize specifically in writing grant applications for small businesses and nonprofits. A grant writer’s job is to try to secure funding for an organization from a government department, corporation, foundation, or trust. Obviously, filling out applications isn’t for everybody, but it’s a skill that’s very much in demand, so you’re unlikely to be out of work if you specialize in this skill.
- Magazine Writing - This job shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Magazine writing can cover a range of different specialties, including, investigative reporting, feature articles, interviews, reviews, and more. Rates for magazines range pretty widely, but it’s not a hard field to break into. We’ll talk more about how magazine writing works in a few upcoming articles.
- Syndicated Columns - Sadly, with the decline of the newspaper industry, it’s becoming harder to land a regular newspaper column. However, it’s not impossible to break into this field, especially because more and more websites are starting to run weekly or monthly columns as part of their regular content.
- Neighborhood Newsletters - This probably won’t pay much (if anything), but it’s a place to start! If there’s a local organization that puts out a regular newsletter, get in touch with the editor and ask what their needs are. It’s a great way to get a few clips for your portfolio and build connections in your local community.
- Creative Writing - Yes, there are markets out there for short stories, novels, memoirs, personal essays, even poetry. Often these pay fairly poorly, but there are still plenty of publications out there offering professional rates. Be aware that the competition is often stiff — this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to to publish your work, but it does mean you need to make sure your writing is as good as it can possibly be before you start sending off submissions to literary journals, agents, and publishers.
- Speeches - Politicians aren’t the only ones out there who rely on speechwriters. Anywhere there’s any kind of important public event, there will be someone too nervous to organize their own thoughts for the crowd. If you’ve got a gift for writing in a commanding, yet conversational tone, maybe this is the job for you.
- Screenplays - Obviously, there’s a huge demand for new material in television and movies, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. The problem is that this is a pretty competitive field, and unless you’re well-connected or lucky, your script is unlikely to make it onscreen as you originally imagined it. Think carefully about the level of creative control you’re willing to give up before you decide to specialize in screenwriting.
- Celebrity Ghostwriting - You didn’t think celebrities like Snooki actually wrote their own memoirs, did you? This is the kind of job you really need to have the right connections to get. As I understand it, these are the kinds of jobs that come to you, rather than the kind you apply for on LinkedIn. It helps to be a successful celebrity reporter (maybe somewhere a little more refined than the National Enquirer) if you want the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to temporarily assume your favorite celebrity’s identity. It may sound distasteful…until you realize that ghostwriters can make tens of thousands of dollars on the right book deal.
- Comedy - On that note, if you’re a fan of The Daily Show, you really didn’t think Jon Stewart wrote all of his own material night after night, did you? If you’re genuinely funny and able to conjure up witticisms on short notice, this might be the perfect gig for you.
- Resumes - You know what people really hate? Updating their resumes. That’s why they will pay good money (often hundreds of dollars) to get someone else to do it for them. Now, not just anyone can become a resume writer. You have to have a fairly good idea of how to take another person’s job experience and make it sound like the perfect fit for a particular position. And if your clients aren’t consistently landing interviews or getting the job, well…you’re not going to get much good word-of-mouth.
- Greeting Cards - Yes, you can actually get paid good money to write the cheesy poems and lame jokes inside of greeting cards. Some companies will actually pay around $250 for one short poem. The downside is you don’t get any credit for your work and you relinquish your ownership once they publish it. So don’t submit anything you’re especially attached to.
- Fortune Cookies - If all else fails, just remember that somewhere, someone out there is getting paid good money to write enigmatic and often poorly-translated messages to be placed inside baked goods. While you probably won’t get credit for your work, just think…you’ll probably be able to reach an audience of millions. Not too shabby!
Keep in mind that this is a very abbreviated list of the writing opportunities that are out there – these are just the ones I had time to cover in a blog post. If none of these sound like the right fit for you, don’t despair. Here’s a few books from my own writing library I personally recommend that will give you an even better idea of the writing opportunities that are out there, how much they pay, and how you can get started:
- 88 Money-Making Writing Jobs by Robert W. Bly
- 102 Ways to Earn Money Writing 1500 Words or Less by I.J. Schecter
- The 2013 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition
And remember, if you’d like to set up a personal consultation to find your personal writing path, I am still taking new coaching clients.
Next week, I’m going to share my 7-part process for getting started as a freelance writer – no matter what area you decide to specialize in. Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up for our mailing list, so you don’t miss out. :)
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