So, you’ve got aspirations to be the next Hemingway. Maybe your goal is to become the next Toni Morrison, JK Rowling, or Margaret Atwood. Or, perhaps, you’ve set your sights on a slightly less literary career and are wondering how you can make money as a writer in the digital age.
Good news: There are more opportunities than ever to ply your craft and make money writing the digital word.
The truth is there is no right path to becoming a writer. Some professional writers have university degrees; many don’t. Some have worked their entire adult lives making money with the written word; some discover the career later in life.
There are two universal requirements for making money as a writer, though, which are solid writing skills (duh) and good ideas. Master those and you’ll be on your way to becoming a side hustling writing machine. Let us show you how.
The skills you need to make money writing
First, let’s get into what skills you’ll need to make it as a writer. A solid grasp of grammar is necessary, of course. No editor wants to work with a writer who is known for sloppy copy.
It can take a lifetime to learn to write well and the best writers are constantly learning. So, take comfort in the fact that even the writers you look up to are learning every day. Just practice. And practice. And then practice some more. How? By writing. And reading books on writing (The Elements of Style is a good place to start. On Writing Well is another solid choice).
Along with the necessary writing chops, you’ll also need solid time management skills. If you want to make money on the side as a writer, you won’t have a set 9-5 schedule. And you won’t have a manager watching over your shoulder; it’ll be up to you to meet your deadlines.
That means keeping track of what’s due when. When you’re first starting out, you may have one client and, maybe, two articles to juggle per month, so you likely won’t have an issue keeping track of deadlines. But, as your client base grows and you start earning more assignments, you’ll need to keep on top of the various due dates. So, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of tracking your due dates in a planner or on a calendar as soon as you get your first client.
You’ll also need some administrative skills. As a side hustling freelance writer, you won’t have a finance department keeping tabs on when – and how much – you should be paid. So, along with article due dates, you’ll need to know when invoices are due and get them in on time – if you want to be paid on time.
The ideas and the pitch
Even if you’re the best writer since F. Scott Fitzgerald and can weave yarns of eloquent prose befit for a classics class, no one will publish your work if you can’t come up with unique and relevant ideas.
The good news is ideas come from everywhere. First, though, you’ll need to figure out what sort of publications you want to write for.
For this piece, we’ll assume you want to write content for companies. Because, hey, that’s what we are and it’s what we know best.
Using Ratehub.ca as an example, you’d want to familiarize yourself with its product offerings and business verticals (in our case, that would be comparing and educating on financial products, such as mortgages, insurance, credit cards, and bank accounts).
Read the company’s blog. Find out what sort of stories they’re already publishing and see if you can come up with your own unique ideas. Figure out what stories you can tell about the industries they operate in.
For example: Have an interesting take on the real estate market in Toronto? That aligns with Ratehub.ca’s mortgage calculator tool and mortgage products and might be something the company is interested in publishing.
Once you’ve got your idea, you just need to pitch the editor and hope for the best (the editor’s contact details can usually be found in the “contact us” page of a website).
If you really want to stand out when pitching your writing to companies, ask them what keywords they’re currently targeting. Companies will usually weave relevant keywords into their articles so that they can be found on search engines for Google. You can try free tools like Ubersuggest or just look at how Google auto completes, or their “related results” at the bottom of the results page.
Keywords are the bread and butter of content writing for companies; so developing an understanding of how they can help you craft ideas is one great way to set yourself apart from other writers.
How to make money writing – summary
- Familiarize yourself with the company you want to write for
- Develop ideas and stories that align with their brand and products
- Pitch the ideas to the editor or content specialist
- Hope they respond and accept your ideas
- Write the articles and meet your deadlines to keep your editor happy
- Send your invoices
- Rinse and repeat
The bottom line
Everyone can claim to be a writer, but there are only a few that do. If you have a passion for writing and a desire to do so, then live your dream and start pitching your favourite publications.