Here’s Where the Big-Money Online Writing Gigs are Hiding

Carol Tice

Here’s Where the Big-Money Online Writing Gigs are Hiding. Makealivingwriting.comIt’s the single question freelance writers ask me the most: Where is the good pay?

For instance, I recently received this email from Jessica:

I’m a fairly new freelance writer. I’ve had a few decent-wage gigs since I started writing for a living roughly a year ago, but since then things haven’t been looking too hot.

The question for me really, is: How do you locate the clients willing to offer acceptable pay? I don’t have as much experience as I’d like to by any means, but I am very confident in my writing ability and know that the samples I DO have are worth a second glance, if not a third.

It’s hard to find decent writers and I think that gives me some edge, but what happens when the employers don’t want decent writers? Online bid sites have been hindering rather than helping me. Any advice on how to get my name out there and get into those higher-paying markets?

If, like Jessica, you’ve been searching and searching for good online writing gigs, and all you’re finding is freebie and $20-an-article gigs, one thing is certain.

You’re searching in the wrong place

If you’ve been answering online job ads month after month and getting only insultingly low offers, or bidding on freelance sites and getting starvation wages, why are you still doing it? You’ve proven the good jobs aren’t to be found there. You need to try other forms of marketing.

It’s really that simple. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, as the old saying goes, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always gotten.

To earn more money writing articles, you’ll have to shake up your marketing. Look under some new rocks.

In a sense, good-paying writing jobs are not hiding. You are hiding from the good-paying jobs.

I can tell you there is great pay out there, and in the past year, I’ve seen a real boom. Rates are rising at many websites.

There is a catch, though — you have to go out and find these gigs.

Where? Definitely not on a job ad where 1,000 writers are all going to send in their resume.

How to locate better clients

To find a great client, first you have to know who they are.

Right now, imagine your ideal client. Is it a magazine editor? An online editor? A successful company?

Close your eyes and think about it. Got them pictured in your head? Good.

Now, where does the person who hires writers at that market hang out? Who do they talk to? What do they read? What blogs might they comment on?

Most of all, what do they need? Think about how you could solve these prospects’ problems.

Next, think about where they would look for writers.

To connect with better clients, all you have to do is be there.

Is that more work, figuring all that out? Yes, it is. But the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is a great deal larger, too.

How to deal with low-pay offers

What happens when “decent” — I’d say “great” — writers find employers who don’t care about writing quality and want to pay squat? They move on.

If I’m quoted a laughably low rate, I’ll often say, “I’m sorry you’re not able to afford professional rates right now. Feel free to give me a call in the future if your budget changes.”

Sometimes, they do.

Now, everybody’s definition of low pay is different.

When I started freelancing in 2005, for me it was $50 an article or post. Now, it’s $400.

But know what your floor is, and don’t go below it.

Don’t waste your energy trying to convince low-paying prospects that they should pay you 10 times what they’re offering. It’s not going to happen.

Instead, devote all your energy to marketing your writing business until you connect with the clients who will pay you what you’re worth. Become an unstoppable force and don’t give up until you find the clients you want, and have all the work you need.


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  1. Ahlam

    Networking is essential, and many times I’m in social settings where I CAN network professionally, but forget. Does that sound silly? lol. There have been so many times when I’m like, hey, I could have easily introduced myself and handed my card to so and so but didn’t. Since I’m not used to in-person networking, I just forget to do it. I have to remind myself that I am a freelance writer who can interact with individuals in real-time, and I don’t have to be a slave to my computer.

    Great post, giving writers the encouragement needed to move beyond the mills.

  2. Susan Payton

    It never hurts to ask. I received a reply on a Craigslist ad I applied to (it didn’t mention price) and what they were willing to pay was too low. I said that. Then they asked what my rate was. I told them. They’re now my biggest client! It never hurts to say that it’s too low, and if they can increase their budget, you might be interested.

    • Carol Tice

      So right on, Susan. Sometimes they’re just naming a figure and really ignorant of rates…but most of the time if they’ve formed an idea in their head of what they’ll pay, my experience is maybe you could get them 20-50% higher than that. But 500-1000 percent higher (which it would need to be for some folks to make a real wage)? Not likely.

  3. Lindsey Donner

    Great advice, Carol. Furthermore, writers need to know their own value–do you have expertise? Clips? Talent? Sources? If not (yet), then you’re going to have to start building something organic–although I would suggest crafting some great guest blogs vs. working for a low-paying gig, as clients who don’t want to pay won’t provide useful referrals or references, either. Better to write something of your choosing in a high-profile location as a favor, but that’s just my two cents.

    Remember, the lowest-paying clients are also the pickiest and most controlling. I’ve yet to encounter an exception to that!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Lindsey —

      You bring up a couple of great points! I find many writers are a-scared to pitch bigger publications and companies because they think it’ll be harder to work for them than smaller ones. But that hasn’t been my experience. Low-payers can also be the biggest pains, while major clients can be a breeze.

      Not to reveal the secret sauce in my paid Webinar next week, but I totally agree with you — in a sense, if you’re looking to build clips, it’s about exposure and prestige.

      Write for the highest-profile, most highly trafficked, best-reputation place you can, even if it’s for free. Writers don’t realize how a gig like that can become a referral engine for you and send you great clients. Where we all know writing for mills usually isn’t doing that.

  4. Susan K

    Great points, Carol, and to be honest I don’t even understand the rationale as to why people apply to advertised jobs online (as you stated, 1000s of people are sending their resumes to the same place). I don’t understand why people bid on sites but then again, I’ve never tried it, so who knows –maybe there is something interesting there.

    From the time that I started as a freelancer, I approached companies directly through email. Company names and/or lists are everywhere (google, LinkedIn, etc.).

    LinkedIn is also a great place to get projects, too, and it really doesn’t need to include much marketing.

    • Carol Tice

      I really love the jobs on LinkedIn — companies PAY to put those on there. That means they a) have money and b) are serious about hiring a pro writer at real rates. I don’t find any scammy junk on there. When I was actively marketing my writing business, I looked at their job listings a LOT — but more on that coming in a post on Friday.

      • Susan K

        When I mentioned LinkedIn for finding projects, I actually meant just listing a profile and waiting for people with projects to contact me. That’s part of why I like it (doesn’t take much work other than putting up information).

        However, that’s interesting, I never even thought of doing the reverse (looking for projects). When I havedown time, I may pokearound and see what is listed. Thanks for the idea.

        • Carol Tice

          You might want to take a look at this post about all the ways I use LinkedIn for some more tips! When I was marketing aggressively I’d try to spend 10-15 minutes a day on there doing a few key activities…more details in the post.

          If you need business, I’m not a big fan of sitting and waiting and hoping somebody gives you a ring…

          • Susan K

            I could be wrong, but I think that it depends on your industry and niche. I already get the right balance of work through LinkedIn by just listing the information and there is a limit to how many hours I can work in a day/week, etc. People do email from there without the need to do additional things. So lots of additional time in there would be pointless (to me).

            However, if someone isn’t getting much work, by all means, I do agree they should do and at least try other things.

            I do agree with your original premise of the blog post; don’t bid on projects or apply to places where a thousand other people already are applying to the same project.

  5. Karen

    I may be way off-base here but I think one of the reasons that so many writers will write for such low pay is that, ironically enough, their only goal is to make money. Writers always used to be readers who tended to pitch one of their favorite magazines/newspapers/small press publications. Now I think some (obviously not all) new writers are in it to “make money from home quick” and are more likely to go the job boards and content mill route, rather than starting from reading something they love, tryng to emulate it, and then pictching to the publication they read it in. What’s most worrying is when would-be authors don’t have any idea which publishers to send their manuscript to because they don’t read books regularly enough to know which publishers publish what. Surely wanting to be a writer should grow out of being an avid reader, so the markets for your work are self-evident (or is it just me?)

    • Carol Tice

      Interesting thought! I know some mill writers feel like they don’t have other options — they’re housebound for a variety of reasons and have no marketing time. But still, as you point out, if they read a lot, they’d have some magazine mastheads to look at right at home.

      Another factor to me that I see some of is a sort of incuriosity about what’s out there, and unwillingness to learn and invest in your writing career. It doesn’t take much research in Gale’s, Writer’s Market or other resources to locate information about markets. You can buy a Book of Lists in your city and find out which are the biggest businesses in every sector.

      There’s also massive self-confidence issues involved. People send one query, don’t get a response, and fold their tent. You do need strong self-confidence to go out and market yourself, and keep going despite rejections. You don’t have to face that emotional risk if you simply download some assignments from your mill dashboard. You also don’t usually earn very much, but it’s a tradeoff many writers are obviously willing to make.

  6. Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg


    when you start writing a response to a blog comment and you see that it is SO GOOD and full of powerful information and tips, might I suggest you use them to create new posts instead of “Sacrificing” them to be just comments on already posted posts?

    Gold, I say! pure gold!

    • Carol Tice

      You know, I probably should! Thanks for another great tip, Rabbi. I probably don’t much because I’m already so backlogged with post ideas…I’m usually booked a month or more out.

  7. Jan Hill

    Hi Carol,

    When I think back to when I was writing pretty much exclusively for the mills, I remember almost hating writing and seriously considering never trying freelancing again–it had become such a downer and a chore for me. But now that I’ve dumped all those gigs and am trying to focus on getting better ones, the joy is coming back!!!! And when the joy comes back, it seems like a person seems to attract better clients…funny how that works. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      I have always found that to be true. Each time I sit myself down and say “You know, this client…they suck. I want to drop them.” The minute I do, something better pops right up! It’s like you have to create the space in your life for the better thing to come in.

  8. Jonan Castillon

    I believe it really takes time to find the right and best clients, especially for freelancers like me who are living outside of US. Most clients see us as outsourcing agents who could offer them quality but low-priced articles. I had a short stint with a big magazine site in Georgia but the job has to end because they found another ghostwriter with lower rate. The same thing happened with another client who paid me $30 per 500-word article (my highest so far) but that was only one time because he discovered there are good writers who charge lower. Carol, you posted some great tips, which I would try out…thank a lot…but one question…do I need to live in the States to find a client who would pay me $400-post?

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t believe you do have to be in the U.S. I hear from writers all the time from all over the world — Ireland, Saudi Arabia, you name it — who have found good-paying clients.

      I know you’re going to get some useful information in the Webinar next week that will help you, Jonan!

  9. Danica

    Hi Carol,
    I’ve been reading the blog for a while and my question is this: If you’re operating a business, why are you sending out a resume? As a business owner I’ve never been asked for my resume. Is this an anomaly strictly used for the job boards and classified ads to get clients? Thought I’d ask.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Danica —

      Pretty much. Ordinarily I send about a 2-line bio and links to a couple of clips, even when I respond to ads. I think needing a resume is more common for applying for a full-time writing job.

      Also, resumes are sort of obsolete. See what I’ve done with mine on my writer site — The tab is now called “Where I’ve been,” and I basically tell a narrative story about what I’ve been up to, instead of providing a dull resume with dates and job titles.

      There are also new creative tools like that give you a better way to present your portfolio, too.

  10. Thomas Ryan

    I carry business cards wherever I go. Everyone I come in contact with gets one [whether they ask or not] and I always ‘accidentally’ leave a couple around in key places.

    So far the results are pretty benign, but eventually that will change.

    Great site, Carol! Love the info.


  11. Nicholas

    Hi Carol

    I’m so happy to have come across your post. If possible, can you email so we can chat some more? I have been doing content writing for a while now, but I’m hoping to start taking it to the next level. I’d love advice from someone who is knowledgable in the industry.

    Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you.



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