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Want to Make Money as a Writer?: Seven Proven Strategies That Work
by Kelly James-Enger

I believe writers fall into two camps: those who write because they simply love to write, and those who want to make money for their work, or who write for money.

There’s nothing wrong with writing because you love to write. But for fulltime freelancers like me, writing is a means to an end. It’s how we pay our mortgages, buy groceries, save for our kids’ college educations and our own retirement, and hopefully make enough to take a vacation now and then.

Yet I find that many writers are afraid to talk money, or (mistakenly) think that you can’t make a good living as a freelancer. That’s simply not true. But if you want to make money as a writer, you have to start thinking about money—and possibly changing your mindset as well.
Use these seven strategies to start thinking and acting like a writer who deserves to and plans on getting paid. To make money as a writer, you should:

  • Submit your work to markets that pay. This sounds obvious, but if you want to get paid for your work, you must find someone to buy it. If you only submit to nonpaying markets, you won’t make any cash.

  • Actually submit your work! I’m amazed at the number of writers who are diligently committed to their craft, yet are afraid to send in work. Will you be rejected? Yes! Every writer, no matter how talented, has his or her work turned down. But you must overcome that fear to start making money as a freelancer.

  • Ask about pay. Many markets, whether in print or online, now keep writers’ guidelines online. If you don’t see any, don’t be afraid to send a quick email to the editor or webmaster asking about rates. You won’t know if you don’t ask.

  • Present yourself as a writer who gets paid. When I submit work to potential reprint markets, I say something like, “Please let me know if you’re interested in purchasing reprint rights to this story.” Note my language—I don’t ask if the editor is interested in reprinting the story (she might think I just want the exposure), but if she’s interested in paying for that right.

  • Keep track of money. If you want to make money, you should be keeping track of how much you’re making, and from what markets. It also means following up on outstanding invoices, if necessary. Don’t forget to keep track of your business expenses as well, so you can deduct them from your gross income at the end of the year.

  • Write what sells. This is possibly the most important tip of all. I’m a twice-published novelist and still entertain visions of being able to write fiction fulltime. But I can’t. Each novel took about a year to write, and garnered a $7,500 advance. Until I can figure out how to live on $7,500 a year (and that’s doubtful), I can’t write fiction fulltime. So I write nonfiction articles and books about health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness because there are plenty of markets looking for that kind of work, and those markets pay well. My point? If you only write poetry, you’ll have a harder time making money than a freelancer who does copywriting or covers business and technology for a variety of publications.

  • Gather information. Every week, Writing for DOLLARS! provides you with a dozen or so paying markets that cover a variety of subject areas. Other resources like Writer’s Digest list paying markets, so keep up on who’s buying, what they’re paying and submit your work to them.

One more. “Just say no”—to writing for free. It’s one thing if you have a blog to showcase your writing and hopefully attract future clients. But when you write for markets that don’t pay (or pay in “exposure”), you’re devaluing your own work as well as that of other writers. I suggest you say no to writing for free in favor of paying markets. You—and your bank account—will benefit.

© Copyright 2010, Kelly James-Enger

Kelly James-Enger has authored more than a dozen books, including Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success (Writers Digest, 2012) and Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writers Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (CreateSpace, 2010). Check out her blog, Dollars and Deadlines, for practical advice about how you can make more money in less time as a nonfiction freelance writer.

Other articles by Kelly James-Enger :

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