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10 Ways to Make Money as a Freelance Writer | Freelance Sprout | Find, Start, and Grow Your Dream Freelance Business
Read the six part series on creating a freelance business plan
 

10 Ways to Make Money as a Freelance Writer

Date April 7, 2008


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Creative Commons License photo credit: eelend

Freelance writing is probably one of the easiest and least expensive business ideas. It’s precisely because of its low barrier to entry that many writing markets are plagued with fierce competition and substandard pay rates.

But, the Internet has opened up more work for the freelance writer who’s able to think beyond “normal” writing opportunities and bend with changing market needs and desires.

Below are 10 key markets freelance writers can market to and—with hard work and a little luck—make a full-time living at.

1. Copywriting

Copywriting appeals to many writers because of high pay rates and consistent work. As more companies take their businesses online, they’re increasingly in need of a variety of online as well as offline promotional material.

Assignments include brochures, newsletters, flyers, advertorials, and other sales literature. Online assignments include Web page copy, banner ad slogans, and pay per click campaigns.

2. Public Relations Writing

As a public relations writer, you’ll be called in to write press releases, put together press kits, specialty letters, and the occasional speech.

Small businesses might contact you to write a query letter for a magazine or newspaper article. The bottom line is that you will be writing to help businesses get more exposure in the press.

This is a growing area as companies realize the importance of writing press releases for the Web. So, you won’t just be writing for the media, you’ll be writing to reach customers directly.

3. Government Writing

Writing for the government can be lucrative if you can manage to piggy-back off a large government contractor.

The government is one of the the largest—if not the largest—producer of written information. Government agencies need reports, newsletters, training manuals, proposals, and articles.

As in other industries, the government is making millions of documents available online. If you’re able to sub-contract with other companies, doing work for the government could set you up for many years.

4. Technical Writing

The secret to technical writing is being able to understand complex information and translate it into something a teenager would understand.

Clients include software companies, hardware manufacturers, medical device companies, electronics manufacturers, and engineering companies.

What will you be writing? Training manuals, reports, online help systems, internal documents, investor relations material, and employee manuals.

5. Ghostwriting

A ghostwriter is someone who contracts to write a book under the name of someone else. Depending on the agreement, a ghostwriter will either get a one time fee or a commission with a percent of book royalties.

Fees can be very lucrative—$10,000 to $20,000+ per book.

You can ghostwrite for politicians, executives, or other famous people. Market your services to small business owners by explaining how writing a book can help land future clients and establish themselves as an expert in their field.

You can also help scientists and professors break into trade journals and magazines by writing articles and the queries to go with them.

6. Speech Writing

Politicians, executives, and other professionals need speechwriters who can put together the right phrases and express ideas in a well thought out manner.

You might write an executive’s speech to shareholders one day and a sentimental toast the next day for a father who just married off his daughter.

Prices are typically in the $60+ per hour range with fortune 500 executive speeches in the $100+ hour range. You’ll have to conduct all the background research as well as the interviews so the fee will be well worth it.

7. Newspaper Writing

Most newspaper articles are written by staff but many smaller newspapers need help from freelancers on a regular basis.

Travel, high-tech, and opinion pieces are good bets for newspapers. If you start small, you might be able to get a syndicated column. If you get a nationwide syndication, you can be guaranteed to make a full-time income.

8. eBooks

Contrary to predictions, eBooks didn’t end the traditional publishing industry. eBooks may not be taking over print books, but they’ve become a second—albeit very effective—means of information dissemination.

There are two ways to approach eBook writing. You can outsource yourself to others, similar to ghostwriting, and charge a one-time fee to write an eBook for someone else. Or, you can write and market your own ebooks.

eBook ghostwriting rates start at only a few hundred dollars and go into the tens of thousands of dollars. One major benefit to eBook writing is that most are “how-to” related so they don’t require very many interviews, if any at all.

Your biggest hurdle will be convincing clients that writing an eBook takes as much skill as writing a print book. And that hiring you—at a higher rate—will be worth the time and money.

9. Nonfiction Books

Writing non-fiction books is similar to writing eBooks only the final piece will be a physical product. Why non-fiction? Because of simple market demand—non-fiction outsells fiction hands down.

Article writing is a great starting point for an aspiring book writer. Many article writers, after years of writing, have enough experience in at least one area to write a typical 150 page book.

If you have an idea for a book, you can either approach a typical book publisher—with a query letter—or you can choose to self publish. You will have to front all the costs if you decide to self publish. But, if you think there’s a good market for your book, you’ll make more money publishing on your own.

10. Teaching/Consulting

Since so many people are interested in writing for a living, why not teach others how to be successful freelance writers?

Other teaching areas include writing for the Web, book promotion, article writing and querying, and blogging.

You don’t necessarily have to be an expert but you should have enthusiasm and a strong desire to teach others how to be successful.

These 10 ideas are only a sample of the many, varied ways you can make money as a freelance writer. People will always need information, whether on or offline, so the demand for skillful writers will only continue.

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