Make Money Writing: How Fast Can You Cash In on Freelancing?

Carol Tice

Lately it seems like everyone I meet is in a hurry to make money writing.

One writer recently wrote me she needed to know how to make money writing “on the hurry-up.”

Another told me she wanted to know what type of freelance writing to focus on “to quickly earn well.” Turns out she’d spent a year procrastinating on getting started, and was teetering on bankruptcy.

How to Make Money Writing

Are you looking for a quick way to make money writing?

Here’s a hint…sitting around waiting for a magical-unicorn client to appear is NOT how it’s done.

Another person told me she quit her six-figure corporate job after her boss refused to give her leave time to care for a dying parent.

She’d walked out! With no plan for what to do next, and apparently, no savings.

Now, she had discovered freelance writing and wanted to know if she could replace that fat income and make money writing. Like, now.

If you’re short on time and money, it’s time to discuss realistic expectations for pursuing a freelance writing career. Here’s what you need to know.

How long will it take to make money writing?

Just to clear up any misconceptions bouncing around out there…If you want to make money writing, this isn’t an easy, short road to riches for anybody who can sling two sentences together.

In fact, I recently saw a freelance-writing coach colleague of mine describe it to one desperate writer as “one of the worst jobs for raising fast cash.” That about sums it up.

Anyone who is getting into freelance writing because they think it is a magical instant cash machine, turn back now.

If you love to write, are willing to write a lot and keep improving, and are willing to write for others about what their audience needs to know — as opposed to whatever you feel like writing about this morning — then this can be a great career for you.

You can earn well at it, but it will generally take time to get there.

How fast you can ramp this is going to depend a lot on you.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you run a solo business before?
  • Do you have a writing portfolio from your day gig or maybe past freelancing that you could put together on a writer website to impress prospects?
  • How aggressively are you willing to market yourself?
  • Do you have any past editors or marketing managers who might help you with referrals?
  • How much free time can you devote to this?
  • How open are you to getting some training in writing or marketing that might provide a shortcut to earning faster?
  • How long can you survive on your savings before you will be desperate and have to take any gig (i.e. do you need to make money writing fast?)
  • Do you want to write a book instead?
  • Would you be willing to work some kind of side job or liquidate assets to support your freelance dreams?

Growth usually happens a little at a time

Even an experienced writer with previous business experience isn’t going to instantly earn six figures as a freelance writer. I know writers who variously pumped gas and worked as a bar back while they were getting established.

For instance:

I left 12 years of staff writing jobs to freelance in 2005, and I had run a home-based freelance business before as a script typist.

It still took about six months of aggressively beating the street talking to prospects to find good clients and replace my income.

I was lucky to have a modest severance check and unemployment checks to help me get over the hump. We also had a good credit rating and access to more money if we needed it.

If you have no money at all, it will be hard to end up earning well.

Why? You’ll soon need to take any and all freelance gigs you can scrounge up to make money writing, even if it’s just a little money.

You’ll be haunting the Craigslist ads and joining the content mills just to bring in a little cash.

Soon you will discover the ironic formula of freelance life:

The more desperate you are,
the less you make

Desperation leads to having to accept poorly paid jobs, which means you must work every waking hour.

If need to make money writing fast, it’s hard to make the leap to the pro client level, where payments might take 30-90 days to arrive.

Lots of writers tell me they’d love to get off the content mills, but that they couldn’t survive a month or two without that skimpy mill paycheck that comes promptly each week.

You get caught in this vicious cycle…

  • You can’t get ahead.
  • You’ve found some quick, easy money. But it’s not good money. Because if it were easy for freelance writers to earn good money, we’d all be millionaires.
  • All the low-paid work really kills your self-esteem. Soon, you think you deserve $10 an article.
  • You can’t even imagine there is good-paying writing work out there.

Sound familiar? Even if you believe it’s real, you might have no idea how to find quality clients, or how to tell scams from good offers.

Often, this only leads to quickly going broke and having to go find another day job. Goodbye, dream of independence.

Here’s the basic problem with the “make money writing quickly” mentality:

In freelancing, as with any startup business, when you take the quick fast buck, it robs you of the time you need to find the big-money assignments and to do those better gigs.

The smart way to make money writing

You have to believe in your skills and have financial resources to be able to say “no” to insulting offers. But it’s the key to building a healthy freelance income.

It also means finding out how to identify great clients and market your services to them. And possibly a willingness to find creative ways to make ends meet in the meanwhile.

That’s the quickest way to build your business beyond the starvation level, to earn a healthy, sustainable living as a freelance writer.

How do you make money writing? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

What to do next

Want to get out of the low-paying freelance writing cycle? You won’t want to miss our next 4-week bootcamp!

 

9 Comments

  1. Valery Larson

    You are so right, it is not a get rich quick scheme to earning oodles of money. It takes time and hard work (and loving the work really helps). For quite a while I wrote for free for a local small newspaper about local small businesses. They started paying me and asked me to mainly cover restaurants and food and because of my connections to people, events, publicists, I got more connections for writing opportunities. Also, learning my camera really has helped. I was such a crappy photographer but I’ve really grown to love my camera and will keep learning. I guess it’s a round about way of saying to put one foot in front of the other and never give up. Those earlier writing jobs were great even though the pay didn’t exist. I look at it as schooling and the editor was a lovely woman who saw my potential. Now because of the virus, I’ve been learning creative ways to write about subjects. There is always another window or door if we are willing to look.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      So agree, Valery!

      In my first staff job, they issued us a fairly sophisticated camera. We traveled all around to different cities interviewing people, and they wanted us to take all the shots to save budget. I learned how to run-and-gun and grab a shot inside stores before they complained about it… and to take a fairly decent photo as a result. Was fun!

      But yeah — the people who hit me up like, “I need money this week, what can I write for you?” First off, I’m not a hiring agency or content mill. And second… that’s just not going to happen. This is a career you build, not a source of instant cash.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Reply
  2. Azhar

    Can we write on worker’s current life problems & further improvement!!

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Azhar… I think you’re asking the wrong question. You ‘can write on’ anything you like, any time. And SHOULD write about whatever you like. In your free time.

      If you’d like to write about ‘worker’s current life problems,’ for pay, for a living… then you’d need to find a paying market that is looking for articles on that topic. Also, to be paid well on the topic, you’d probably need journalism skills, and the ability to conduct interviews, report facts, and tell a cohesive story. That’s what the well-paid places will be looking for, including businesses who might want coverage of that on their blog.

      Get out and research your markets! I’m sure there’s plenty of places that are assigning those types of topics right now.

      If you’re asking if you can write that for ME… I think my blog has got this covered already, with many posts we’ve already done on recession-proofing your freelancing, how to win as a black writer today, and more.

      Reply
  3. Kipyakwai

    So true,have been writing for a while and can point out, it is never an easy ride. Have worked both full-time and part time as a writer. If you need fast cash writing go elsewhere.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      I think it’s more, ‘If you need fast cash, do something BESIDES writing.’ This is more of a long game.

      Reply
  4. frank phillips

    I have a question: Can I submit manuscripts to publishers or agents via email or must they be printed on paper and sent snail mail? I wrote a novelette and tried to submit it to agents but never heard so much as a rejection.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Frank, submitting your novel to agents isn’t really within the realm of freelance writing. So a bit out of our wheelhouse here.

      In general, agents/publishers/editors these days are too busy to respond unless interested, so that doesn’t surprise me. If you submitted ‘over the transom’ with no invite or introduction, I think odds are dismal. I’ve honestly no idea whether you could submit a completed manuscript either way and get a response.

      Both of the print books I did with traditional publishers, I was approached and recruited to write them, so I didn’t go through the pitch process. What I DO know as a book ghostwriter is that they’re usually looking for a book PROPOSAL first, rather than a completed manuscript. Hope that helps! You can google about what the proposal consists of.

      Reply
  5. Susan Shirley

    That’s great advice, thank you Carol. And desperation doesn’t just apply to writing.

    Reply

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