Fancy yourself a wordsmith? If you’ve always been clever with wordplay, you can weave a story that keeps your audience engaged, or you have the ability to describe the essence of an idea in a few simple sentences, then you might be able to take your skills and turn them into an income.
Maybe you’re looking for a way to make some extra money in your free time, or you’re aiming towards a long-term career goal of writing for a living. Either way, this guide will show you how to make money writing and the tools and skills you need to get you there.
Of all the ways you can make money online, writing gigs seem to fill the top 10 lists, and for good reason. Income can range from $20 per hour up to $110, for positions that span both creative roles and the nitty-gritty technical ones.
You can get your creative juices flowing by writing and publishing your own book, sharpen your sales skills in copywriting roles or be a jack-of-all-trades while blogging.
Now you know that it is possible to make money freelance writing. However, for many wannabe writers, a far more puzzling question is how to make money writing. Here are some of the most common writing positions that you might find advertised, along with the average salary and the key skills needed to excel in that job.
With so much of our lives spent online, there’s a greater need for publications to keep producing relevant content. A content writer’s role is to create content that informs, entertains and educates the reader.
A content writer can produce articles for many channels including websites, blogs, social media accounts and email newsletters. Experience with online marketing strategies, strong research skills and the ability to write concise and engaging content are some of the key skills needed.
The average salary for this role is $77,437 per year and freelancers can make between $22 and $100 per hour. One of the cons of this role is that it can take some time to develop a portfolio of work so that you can get to those higher salary work. Content writers with significant experience, however, are more in demand, so you can have your pick of assignments.
A copywriter position has many overlaps with a content writer’s, with some key differences. A copywriter’s primary goal is to persuade. They use language and words to convince the reader to take an action that might include engaging with a company in a certain way or buying a product.
Copywriting is often used in advertisements, landing pages, emails, sales copy, print ads, digital ads and brochures. The best copywriters know how to craft short-form copy that is highly persuasive.
This can be a high-stress position for some writers as it is more conversion-focused than other forms of writing, but the added responsibility can be reflected in the salary. The average wage for a copywriter is $78,260 per year, while a senior position averages $113,102 per year.
If you’re a fan of technology and figuring out how things work then consider using your skills to help present technical information in a user-friendly way.
Technical writers gather information and communicate the complexities that might baffle the best of us in the form of in-app or in-software help, a website or a blog. Technical writers earn $94,862 on average per year, or between $35 and $110 per hour.
It’s more difficult for technical writers to find freelance work as salaried positions are usually offered. Fortunately, this means that once you do secure a position, you won’t have to be concerned about seeking out new clients.
For writers keen to take on more of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into starting and maintaining a website, blogging could be a good option. You’ll be your own boss, direct your own content and be in charge of any copywriting needed.
The catch is, instead of getting paid to produce content, you’ll need to monetise your website using avenues including promoting third party products, advertising or sponsored content. On the plus side, you can centre your website around whichever topic you’re passionate about.
The amount you can earn depends on how well you’ve chosen your website niche, your ability to produce search engine optimised content and the quality of content that you produce.
Publish a book
Ready to write the next bestseller? If you’ve got a great Australian novel waiting to get out or the next Harry Potter burning a hole in your brain, you could consider writing a book and self-publishing it. 10 years ago, self-publishing was a job in itself, but thanks to platforms like Amazon, making money from writing a book is much more achievable.
One big positive of this option is that once you’ve got the book out there, you’ll continue to earn money with potential future book sales. Build a back catalogue and you’ll only grow your income further. A downside of self-publishing is that the more prominent channels can take a big chunk of your earnings, but this is often offset by the greater visibility they provide.
Success in this area involves a commercial-minded approach where, similar to niche websites, you target an established market or find an audience that’s not currently catered to. Non-fiction is a natural fit for most, but fiction works can still be a hit.
It’s tough to quantify how much you can earn from publishing a book, with factors such as the price of each book, the royalties you receive and actual sales to take into account. To give you a rough idea, using a popular price point of $9.99 per book with a royalty of 40% (the lower end of the scale) and seven sales a week, you could earn $1,458 in one year.
If you’re fluent in a second or third language, you can make money translating books and texts for businesses worldwide. The sky’s the limit with this one, as you can find work running the gamut, from writing technical assembly instructions to translating whole websites for a new international market.
The downside is that some of the most common languages will have lots of competition and you’re often competing against freelancers willing to earn a lot less. If you speak Finnish, Japanese, Danish or Arabic, then the good news is that you’re more likely to fetch a higher rate.
You can expect to earn anywhere from $20 per hour for a freelance position up to $86,000 per year on a full-time salary.[embedded content]
Freelancer platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer.com can help connect writers looking for opportunities to employers. You can find jobs posted by large companies alongside small business owners and freelancers like yourself looking for some additional assistance.
Upwork is most like a traditional job posting website. Individuals or companies make job postings or can browse candidates, while candidates have the opportunity to apply for any available jobs.
This freelancer platform was founded in Sydney back in 2009 and is known as one of the oldest and largest of its kind. Freelancer.com has more of a crowdsourcing approach where employers post jobs that are bid on by freelancers.
Different again, Fiverr lets freelancers package their services rather than getting billed by the hour or for a specific job. Fiverr was made popular thanks to its online services priced as low as $5, but freelancers can choose to charge as little or as much as they’d like.
Along with the above services that can help you find work, here are some essential tools that you might need to help you make money freelance writing:
- Video conferencing software for interviews and meetings (e.g. Skype or Zoom)
- Collaboration tools for real-time editing, commenting and sharing documents (e.g. Google Docs)
- Proofreading software to highlight any spelling or grammar mistakes (e.g. Hemingway or Grammarly)
- Online money transfer service (e.g. PayPal or Transferwise)
Each writing position will have its own specific skill set that’s necessary to excel in the role, but we’ve narrowed down the top three skills that freelance writers need to be successful.
Communication. Possibly the most critical skill, keeping your clients informed, asking questions when needed and making sure both parties understand what’s required will make your tasks go smoothly and help you present a professional front.
Organisation. Working for yourself means you’ve only got to keep yourself accountable. Maintain a calendar, know your deadlines and prioritise your jobs to make sure you stay on top of your workload.
Editing. And then more editing. A first draft is rarely perfect and many writers will agree that you should spend more time editing and proofreading than writing. Look out for grammar, punctuation, spelling, overused words and redundant points.
Writers can find a variety of free and paid courses online to help boost their skills. Keen students can search for relevant course content through providers such as Coursera, Udemy and Hubspot.
Examples of useful courses include:
Check out our Online Course Finder for help finding the right course for your chosen writing career.