If you have a love and talent for writing, it’s not impossible to turn your passion and ability into a profitable side hustle or even a day job. It can set you on the journey to become your own boss and to spend your working hours doing something you love.
Plus, becoming a freelance writer can give you the flexibility to lead the life you want to. For example, it’s something you can do to bring in some cash while you travel the world or take a break from a corporate career to spend time with your children. It takes hard work and dedication, but it also offers you freedom and independence.
Four tips to follow if you want to get paid to write online
Whether you plan to make writing your side hustle or your 9-to-5, here are some tips on how to get paid to write online.
- Build a strong online portfolio.
- Get used to cold calling.
- Nurture relationships with editors and other writers.
- Learn complementary skills to help your writing stand out.
Ready to make freelance writing a career? Keep reading for more in-depth advice.
Build a strong online portfolio
You don’t need web design skills to build an online portfolio. With many drag-and-drop website builders, any writer can start a website.
At the minimum, your writer website should have these pages:
- This should show off your expertise as a writer and show a bit of your personality. You can also add client testimonials here.
- When deciding which pieces you should include in your online portfolio, remember to only include examples of your writing that are representative of the types of content you’d like to write again.
- Contact. Make it easy for a potential client to make that first step by providing your e-mail address and an embedded contact form.
If you don’t yet have many examples of work that people have paid you to do to add to your portfolio, why not blog about the subjects you’d like to write about? Writing informative blog posts is a great way to showcase your abilities to people who might hire you without giving your work away for ‘exposure’ (or for free).
Cold calling can be scary – and lead to multiple rejections – but it’s a great way to win clients. It allows you to be selective about who you work with and you could be selling yourself to someone who isn’t sifting through dozens of applications for a writing gig. Here’s the thing to remember about freelance writing, especially for magazines and newspapers: Editors are the gatekeepers. If you want to write for a publication, you need to contact the appropriate editor.
On top of that, remember you’re not pitching yourself; you’re pitching a story idea. Simply e-mailing an editor of your favourite publication to tell them you’re an experienced writer and would love to contribute is not enough. Send them three story ideas that you want to write. In your pitch, be sure to include:
- Your first and last name.
- A link to your portfolio or links to specific pieces in your portfolio that are similar to what the publication you’re pitching publishes.
- Three story ideas (pitches). Keep these brief and break them down into bullet points. Ask yourself these questions when crafting your story ideas: What makes this interesting? What’s the angle I want to take? Do I have research to back it up? Does this fit well with this publication’s content?
If you don’t hear back in about a week, then feel free to send another e-mail to follow up with the editor. You can even add another story idea. That way, you’re providing the editor with something new, rather than simply asking if they saw your last e-mail.
South African websites, newspapers and magazines are under financial pressure, so it isn’t that easy to get paid for freelance work by them right now. You can try get a foot in the door by offering them a free trial of your services.
You can also try contact brands or their advertising and marketing agencies to offer your services as a writer.
Nurture relationships with editors, writers and people in other creative industries
The writing industry is all about relationships. Every pitch you send to an editor, even if it gets rejected, should be seen as the start of a relationship. Keep pitching. If you do win an editor or client over, remember to continue to nurture that bond with them.
Also, remember to connect with other writers. Some of the really good ones might have more work than they can handle and can refer clients to you. Or your finance writer friend might know someone from an agency or publication who can use your expertise in the medical industry.
It can also be good to network with people in digital design, photography, PR and other marketing and creative professions. They can often help you get in touch with people who need professional corporate writing services, ranging from web copy and brochures to blogs and press releases.
Learn complementary skills to help your writing stand out
To get paid to write online is never just about writing. If you want to stand out in a competitive marketplace, you’d better have some skills to bring to the table in addition to your way with words.
Consider learning one of these things to enhance your writing:
- Also known as search engine optimization, SEO involves strategically using keywords to increase the chances that your blog post or article will rank well in Google Search. Why is this a big deal? Organic search is a major source of traffic for publications and business websites. If you can prove you know SEO, you become a much more appealing freelance writer.
- Social media marketing. Particularly with content marketing, social media strategy should be a component of every written piece. In other words, it’s not enough to just write a great blog post. How will you get people to read it? You need to have a social media strategy to promote that blog post and get good traffic to it. Many content marketing writers offer social media services in addition to their writing. It’s an attractive package for many businesses that use freelance writers to boost their content marketing efforts.
- Niche expertise. Finally, you need to have an area (or areas) of expertise that you can write about skilfully. Understanding a complex field like finance or technology can help you win work – there aren’t many people who can write difficult, technical concepts that are fun and easy for others to read about. Alternately, if you love music, food, travel or movies, writing about these topics can be an enriching way to make some cash on the side.
Get paid to write. Start now.
Remember, if you want to be a freelance writer, it’s important to start building your portfolio now, send pitches frequently, and nurture relationships with editors and writers. As with anything, getting started is often the hardest part. But once you do, you’ll probably wonder what took you so long to finally take that first step.
This article has been adapted from an original piece by Amy Rigby.