Earn More From Writing With These 7 Great-Paying Gigs

Carol Tice

photodune-3846820-three-seven-jackpot-on-slot-machine-xsAre you earning peanuts as a freelance writer? I recently took a survey that showed more than one-third of my readers are earning under $25 an hour.

That’s not good.

One of the big ways to earn more from writing is to learn more specialized writing types. Many writers I know are just writing Web content or blog posts, which often pay low wages.

Learning to do more sophisticated projects can change your whole income picture. But exactly what sort of writing assignments pay more?

Below are seven of the best-paying writing niches I know:

  1. Case studies — If you can tell a story about how a customer benefited from a company’s product or service, you can write a case study. The format is quite similar to writing an article, except that it’s always a glowing success story about how great the company is, rather than balanced journalism. The least I’ve ever been paid for one is $750, for just a few hours’ work.
  2. White papers — These position pieces build authority, discuss industry issues, reveal industry research data, or compare product offerings — all with the clever end goal of pointing out that the client’s thing is the best choice. Sectors that use a lot of case studies and white papers include technology, finance, and healthcare. Rates range from $1,000 for a 2-pager on up. We’ve got great resources on both white papers and case study writing in Freelance Writers Den.
  3. E-books — Yes, there are plenty of lowball e-book writing offers floating around Craigslist — and you should ignore those. But if you target bigger companies or more successful consultants, there’s real money to be made writing, rewriting, or ghostwriting e-books for clients. As I write this, I’m working on a light rewrite of an e-book that’s just 60 pages long. Price? $4,000.
  4. Annual reports and research reports — These chart-filled company reports must be done each year by every publicly held company and large nonprofit — and many privately held companies create them, too. Depending on length, annual reports can be $10,000 projects. Research reports can be a blast, and pay well. At one point, I was getting $3,000 a pop doing quality-of-management reports, where I found former co-workers of CEOs and got them to dish about the guy. Fun corporate espionage work! And a great rate for about a week’s effort.
  5. Business plans and sale memorandums — These are similar documents that discuss a company’s growth plans. The first types is often created in order to attract investors, and the latter in order to sell the company outright. I did two of these projects earlier this year, at $3,000 and up.
  6. Technical writing — If you understand technology or have an interest in it, writing user manuals and product documentation is a terrific niche. Most writers in this field have some sort of tech work experience or training. The biggest problem technical writers usually have, in my experience, is that it’s hard to kick this niche once you get into it, because nothing else pays as well!
  7. Sales pages — Here’s one part of companies’ marketing budgets that never gets cut: creating Web pages that bring in more income. The basics are fairly simple to master, too. I’d never sold anything to anyone before about 2010, and didn’t find it hard to get the hang of it — here’s an example. Writers make up to $2,000 a page writing these for clients…and it’s a great skill to have for selling your own stuff, too.

How do you get started in these specialized writing niches? In quite a few of the above cases, you could begin by writing a sample for your own writing business — a white paper, case study, e-book, or sales page for a product or service you’ve got. Small nonprofits would probably love to have your writing help on their annual report.

To earn well at them, look for bigger companies, mega-successful consultants…in general, follow the money. If they’re making lots of money, they’ve got a real marketing budget and probably appreciate the value a freelance writer brings to the table.

It’s well worth doing a first project in any of these niches for cheap or even pro bono, as having done it once will really help you land good-paying gigs in these writing types.

What’s the best-paid type of freelance writing you do? Leave a comment and tell us how you broke in.

 

56 Comments

  1. Kersasp Nalladaru

    I am particularly interested in case study gigs how do I procure those gigs? I mean what kind of Google search or what kind of websites to visit and whom to contact?

    • Carol Tice

      Better-quality gigs like case studies aren’t procured by finding a website, Kersasp. These are clients you get by doing your own prospecting and marketing. In my Freelance Writers Den community, we’ve got a bootcamp called Get Great Clients that talks about this process, as well as sample case studies and a one-hour training all about case studies with specialist Casey Hibbard.

  2. Crissie

    Hi, Carol:

    I once attended a seminar where the real estate investment guru host advised that “money is not attracted … but PURSUED.”

    I guess that concept applies across the board, eh? 😉 Thanks for the guiding light about where it might have been hiding from me for last 3.5 years of F/T freelance writing.

    BTW, what do you think of me writing a great whitepaper about content writing to feature on my fledgling website?

    • Carol Tice

      Great idea, Crissie! Then you have a white paper sample.

    • Crissie

      Actually, Carol. I do NOT have a whitepaper sample. That’s b/c I’ve never (to my knowledge) written one. I say “to my knowledge,” b/c some content mill assignments about technical and scientific subjects might have been part of a larger whitepaper project.

      Where can I learn more about how to break into the whitepaper market to bring in big piles of printed “greenback” paper!! (LOL! – but very serious, too 😉

    • Carol Tice

      Crissie, use the Den resources — I know you’re a member.

    • Crissie

      BTW, I just realized that I misquoted the guru. It should have been stated exactly the opposite way as:

      “Money is ATTRACTED – not pursued.”

      IOW, his basic point was to find a good idea and implement it with the right strategy, then money comes to YOU – in copious amounts after a diligent hunt!

  3. Kerry Mc Donald

    Hi Carol,

    This is an interesting and informative post. I have two stories published thus far in a local magazine. I am from Trinidad, the Caribbean (English speaking country)

    I should have my website up in July and would like to focus on specialized writing soon. Could you provide some advice for someone who is from the Caribbean – the advantages & disadvantages of getting gigs. In addition, what tutorials/courses can aid in doing these specialized writing, such as case studies etc.

    Can I get your views on SEO writing too, is this a lucrative niche and would you suggest Yuwanda Black’s ebooks, newsletters etc?
    Your views on copywriting vs SEO writing, in terms of popularity, well paid etc will be greatly appreciated too. Thank you.

    • Carol Tice

      Kerry, I think you’ve got about 4 blog posts’ worth of complex questions there!

      I’m not familiar with Black’s products…but in general, “SEO writing” is a low-paid, shrinking niche that I don’t steer anyone toward. SEO increasingly isn’t a successful strategy, thanks to Google’s changes. Authority and delivering valuable content is ever more important — writing for people to read, rather than search robots to read.

      I’m not from the Caribbean, so I can’t speak to the particulars of writing from that country. But within my Freelance Writers Den community, we have many non-US writers, and even have a forum for them to connect on, so you could probably get a lot of questions answered there from others based around the world.

      We also have training recordings you can listen to on case studies, white papers, PR writing, and many other lucrative niches. Have a website bootcamp too, so you can make sure your website is effective in getting you clients.

  4. Nadia McDonald

    I would love to write a sales page or case study. Unfortunately, I haven’t written either. These two types of niche intrigue me. As indicated in the article, a sales page can be written in a style or tone that resonate with the client and their voice. I am naturally good with people, therefore, I can strike a chord to capture their tone.
    Additionally, questions are pertinent as well as research. Researching and doing one’s home-work can help build long term relationships and rapport with the client.

  5. Samantha

    Anybody have comments on whether it’s worth taking the time to educate potential clients on the value of white papers and case studies if they’re not yet convinced?

    I’ve casually checked with some acquaintances who own medium-sized businesses and they’ve never heard of these types of content and therefore aren’t sure about spending much on them! Maybe that’s down to the nature of their line of work, though.

    I’m thinking it might be better the spend the time on clients who are already actively looking for this type of content and are willing to spend the $$$. On the other hand, I see some writers try to make a case for the value of this content on their websites.

    • Carol Tice

      I think it doesn’t work if you’re coming in cold to start talking about products they’ve never done before, when they don’t yet know your skills, Samantha. But once you’re in and they like you, absolutely you can up-sell them new products.

      I’ve done that with blogging clients more than once — upsold them a white paper or special report, or web content revamp. Once you’ve got one area of their marketing ramped up a notch, it’s easy to point out how the rest of it now needs to be brought up to that level, too. 😉

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