Do You Know These 8 Big-Money Writing Markets?

Carol Tice

Fanned out pile of 100 dollar billsIt’s one of the most frequently asked questions I get:

“Where are the good-paying clients? I don’t understand where they’re hiding.”

So today, I’m going to tell you. And they’re not exactly hiding, either. It’s that most freelance writers don’t target many of the best-paying client types in their marketing.

Most of these gigs aren’t as sexy as a cover feature for a glossy newsstand magazine, which is where many freelancers aim their queries. Or writers are stuck writing for mills or small businesses, neither of which will ever grow into a high-paying situation. But if you can get your head around the idea of taking challenging assignments that offer less glory but great paychecks, there are many possibilities.

Despite what you hear on many writers’ chat forums, there are still many, many publications and companies that pay professional rates. Why is that? Why don’t they just put their article needs on a bidding site and get them done for $20 apiece by some guy in Bangladesh?

Maybe they would if they could, but they can’t. That’s because the articles, blogs, case studies, and Web content they need written require a real pro — usually, someone with a specialized set of skills or knowledge.

The skills you need to write for top payers

What are those skills? Some of the assignments I find pay best require an ability to:

  • do high-quality writing on a rush basis
  • intelligently conduct interviews, especially with celebrities or the CEOs of major corporations
  • explain complicated stuff — variable annuities with guarantees, say, or the advantages of a particular file-sharing collaboration platform
  • meet regular deadlines on an ongoing basis
  • read and quickly grasp the gist of long, complex documents such as lawsuit filings or public-company disclosure documents
  • execute specialized writing forms — write a compelling white paper, a textbook, a software manual, or index a book, for instance.
  • demonstrate you can be counted on to deliver exceptionally compelling work, usually through a portfolio of impressive clips and/or writing awards won

Types of big-money clients

Now that you understand some of the skills that help elevate your writing to a higher pay grade, let me describe some of the less-well-known client types that tend to pay well:

  1. National niche publications. These serve a select — usually well-heeled — audience. One I wrote for last year is Venture Capital Journal.
  2. Custom publications. I hooked up with a company in this niche last fall. This particular one produces special sections that run in daily papers, but others create anniversary books for corporations, magazines for hospitals, and so on. My client gives me the sources and the articles are easy-breezy. I even interviewed a TV star for one.
  3. Big-company magazines and newsletters. I’m thrilled to have written for two different Fortune 500 companies’ e-newsletters in the past year. One e-news went to customers, while the other was for employees. One of them insisted on paying me $2 a word after I bid $1, because that’s just how they roll. I wrote a post a while back about all the opportunities in this niche.
  4. Corporate websites. Once you get up around $1 billion in sales, company Web sites can run to hundreds of pages and require nonstop additions, upgrades and revisions. It’s like painting a battleship — you’re never done. I wrote for one company at this level for more than two years and had billings nearly every month. The big company I’m doing online articles for now pays $2 a word.
  5. Major nonprofits. Many writers are acquainted with the low-pay or even volunteer work involved in writing brochures or Web copy for tiny nonprofits. But rest assured major United Way chapters, big relief agencies such as World Vision and big foundations such as the Ford or Bill & Melinda Gates pay professional rates. Think hospitals here, too — many have nonprofit status.
  6. Big, specialized organizations. These include national associations, professional organizations, unions. Anywhere where dues are paid, there’s a war chest of money for marketing. This is a niche few writers even consider.
  7. Trade magazines. The need for freelancers is great, as trades are considered low glamor and you have to learn a lot about things like refrigeration units in convenience stores or the training professional anesthetists need. Trade rates are usually moderate to high, and if you can write about their niche, they may well use you regularly.
  8. Venture-capital funded startups. Some small companies pay very well, and in my experience they are usually the ones sitting on a pot of recently scored investor money. I’ve had VC-backed startups pay $100 an hour, just like the big boys do.


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  1. Ahlam Yassin

    Hi Carol,

    Great post, I’m looking forward to the webinar. I’m hoping you’ll expand on the issue of breaking into the corporate website platform.

    Also, I have a question. I’ve launched a website, and I find myself reflecting on issues that are touching my life now, not necessarily business related. Do you think this hinders potential clients from actually hiring when I direct them to my website, and they see issues of politicals and getting over grief as opposed to business related copy?

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t think blogging on a personal topic necessarily means your blog won’t be a good sample for getting gigs, Ahlam. I used my blog about writing to get gigs writing about…surety bonds. And other weird stuff.

      I believe what makes the difference is that you conduct your personal blog in a professional way. You make your posts all stick to a tightly defined niche is #1 — that’s what any business will want you to do for them. So if all your posts are about…gluten-free recipes, or Crossfit workouts you do, or whatever, I think it doesn’t matter…as long as you stick to that topic and show you know how to work a niche.

      You make your personal blog look great too — it’s uncluttered, shareable, and visually appealing with images for each post.

      Another plus is to show a lot of engagement — your posts get a lot of comments and they can see you responding. There are a lot of gigs out there for community moderators, and that can help you get that kind of gig — they see you know how to be always polite, and that you respond and keep your audience engaged.

      To me those are the big three — stick to a niche, visually strong, and engaged audience.

  2. Jan Hill

    Wow Carol, I never cease to be amazed at the wonderful, useful information you provide! Every time I read one of your posts, I am re-energized and more determined to make my freelance writing businesss work. Thank you!

    • Carol Tice

      Well thanks for my upper of the day, Jan! I spent a sort of embarrassing amount of time on this blog, and it’s really gratifying to know people do find the information useful for building their writing income. That’s what it’s all about…

  3. John Soares

    Great list Carol. I’ve been doing an ongoing project for a nonprofit that works out to about $100 an hour, with an average of about ten hours work per month. And they found me through my website by doing a Google search.

    It’s definitely smart to go where the money is!

    • Carol Tice

      Right on and thanks for posting this response, John! When I tell people you can get well-paid writing for nonprofits, often I’m told I’m crazy. People don’t realize how professionalized the nonprofit world has become, and how competitive it is. Major nonprofits have to present themselves in a very compelling way…and they need professional writers to help accomplish that.

  4. Kelli

    Hi Carol,

    Thank you for the post! I’m curious where you find information about the “custom publications” that you mention (market #2).

    Again, thanks for the information – very helpful!

    • Carol Tice

      I think locating custom publishers definitely takes a bit of sleuthing. I was referred by a former editor to the one I connected with. Many magazines have custom publishing arms, so anyone you’re writing for already is a place to start, maybe you could gravitate over to their custom-pub side as well.

  5. Sarah

    Thanks for the list.

    You mention that skills you need to acquire high-paying work includes doing rush jobs. Do you ever feel the work or product could be compromised? Do you try to check the work or do anything to insure that it is not? Just curious.

    • Carol Tice

      I think I’m known for keeping my quality pretty high and consistent on rush work.

      There’s an old saying about this — used to be on a poster in editing rooms I’d see in Hollywood. It’s a triangle with the corners labeled “good, fast, and cheap” — the tagline: Pick any two. If it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good. But if it’s fast and pays great, I will make sure it’s good.

  6. Erika

    This is a great list. I’m going to keep these targets (and any more I can think of) top of mind to help me tailor my own blog posts. Taking a good hard look at my current blog shows me that it’s focused more on the small business or solo entrepreneur – the business that usually doesn’t have any money!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Erika —

      But there is that one area where the money is flowing — well-funded startups. They often have big aspirations and are spending like a bigger company as they try to rapidly rocket the company into the big-time. You might try scanning the news releases at VCAOnline or VentureDeal for news of funding rounds, to find prospective companies to call on.

  7. Sofia [Freelance Writing Tools]

    It’s great that you could always come up with some unique ideas that are capable catching the attention of your readers – I DO appreciate this difference from differences.

    Thanks & Keep posting!

    Sofia [Guest@FWT]

  8. Jen L

    This is a great list. I know that I’ve found the most reliable work from nonprofits and trade publications, but I’m sure they wouldn’t be the first outlets that some writers might think of when brainstorming for new ideas.

    • Carol Tice

      Once you tune into these market types, your radar is always up. I just opened my mail and there was a NEW magazine by my insurance carrier for their customers. Guess who I’ll be pitching next?


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