We live in a marvelous age.
Thanks to the internet, more people everyday are discovering ways to build extra income streams in their spare time.
Many of these income streams eventually grow big enough to replace full time jobs!
There are many avenues to freelancing success, but one of the biggest AND easiest avenues is freelance writing, meaning you get paid to write.
In fact, there are so many ways to get started writing for pay that it’s almost overwhelming.
- “Which niche do I pick?”
- “How do I get clients?”
- “Do I use freelancing sites?”
Keep reading, because we’re going to break down all of this. By the end of this article, you’ll be armed with everything you need to get out there and make money writing!
Niches Contain Riches
When you’re just starting out, you may be forced into being a “generalist”. You’ll take any assignment that comes your way in a desperate attempt to build a portfolio and make a few dollars.
You shouldn’t stay that way for long. Sooner or later, you’ll have to niche down.
“Niching down” helps you command higher pay rates because you gain a lot of valuable knowledge.
Here’s an example: let’s say you want to be a health/fitness writer. In order to succeed, you need knowledge in areas like exercise, diet, supplements, basic physiology, and fitness industry trends.
Through both client projects and your own research, you’ll get better at two things:
- Understanding your niche
- Writing well
Your work quality will continue to increase and with it, your pay.
You can also niche down even further if you’d like; you’ll have less potential clients, but the rates you can charge only increase.
How To Pick Your Niche
Ah, the good ol’ “how to pick your niche” debate.
There are two big views on choosing a niche to get paid to write in:
- Pick something that’s lucrative
- Pick something you love
I’ll tell you which one I think is the better method of the two, but first, let’s look at both sides.
Something That’s Lucrative
Making 6 figures by sitting at your laptop hitting keys is the dream to many people. The possibility to make so much cash getting paid to write while in bed wearing pajamas is what draws so many people to freelance writing.
So it makes sense that you’d want to go where the money is. Niches like real estate and B2B tech tend to be big money-makers because everyone wants a place to live and many businesses need information about business technology.
Advocates of lucrative niches have another argument that boils down to this: when you’re making a lot of money from something, it will become your passion REALLY fast. On the other hand, they’ll say if you turn your passion into your work, you’ll grow to hate your passion.
While this side of the debate has a few solid arguments, let me explain why you should pick a niche that you are passionate about.
Something You Love
Before I explain this side of the niche debate, quick note:
It’s okay to go with something profitable if you don’t have any huge passions. You may develop a lucrative passion completely on accident.
In an ideal world, you would be passionate about a lucrative niche.
But not everyone loves to write about real estate or B2B topics.
You can easily make do even if your passion isn’t considered “lucrative”.
When you love an activity, selling yourself to clients comes much more naturally for a few reasons:
- You convey excitement and energy
- You most likely have a solid grasp on things related to your passion
- Your passion indicates you’ll produce high-quality work
- You’ll look forward to working with the the client, possibly finding other ways to help their business (and earn more money from them)
Sure, there may be fewer opportunities available if you’re passion is unique.
But your knowledge and passion for the subject will resonate with prospective clients, making them want to work with you.
Whichever niche you pursue, you’re bound to make money getting paid to write if you apply yourself every day.
Now that we’ve looked at the “money vs. passion” debate, you have all you need to pick a niche. Let’s move on to some sites that will pay you to write content.
Upwork is perhaps the most well-known freelancing site in the world.
It began as a merger of two freelancing sites called Elance and oDesk.
Originally called Elance-oDesk, it was rebranded to what we know today as Upwork.
But its history doesn’t stop there.
Recently, Upwork went public. You can now buy shares of Upwork’s stock. Because of this, it’s renown will only grow larger.
That’s good news for freelancers on Upwork!
All that news coverage means more people in need of freelancers will be using Upwork in hopes to find good, affordable freelancers.
Freelancers can apply to jobs by using their “Connects” that act as digital tokens. Upwork built this in to encourage you to apply to the most relevant jobs rather than everything on the site. The Basic plan gets you 60 Connects per month.
Using this Basic plan, you can complete jobs and earn money on Upwork without spending a dime. However, if you pay $10/month for the Plus plan, you get a nice heap of goodies:
- 70 Connects per month; up to 140 Connects can roll over at a time
- Your profile will never bet set to “hidden” if you remain inactive on the site
- You can make your earnings confidential so they don’t display on your profile
- The ability to see competitor bids so you can try to outbid them
As long as you do 1 job per month, this plan MORE than pays for itself.
How To Make A Strong Profile
Your Upwork profile has a large bearing on your success on the site.
Thousands of freelancers using the site have poor or incomplete profiles, so your competition isn’t as fierce as you think. Stand out among the crowd by doing these things when you’re making your Upwork profile!
Believe it or not, some people try to do actual business on Upwork without having a professional photo of themselves.
How successful do you think they are?
When choosing a photo, it needs to be your best. Find a high-quality, crisp, centered photo of your head or get one taken if you can’t find a sufficient photograph.
You don’t even need to be dressed up! After all, they’re only going to see your face. Just look presentable and professional.
Oh, and try to smile in the photo. Who doesn’t love friendliness?
Title And Overview
If you want clients to come to you, you need to nail your title and overview.
Your title needs to be eye-catching and value-packed. You only have a few seconds to “hook” them in, so your title needs to be A+.
As for your overview, use this section to tell the client about yourself and your services. Make your first few sentences as enticing as possible so that when you come up in the search results, potential clients become more likely to click on your profile.
Skills (That Pay The Bills)
Clients get a good idea of what you can do for them if you write an eye-grabbing title and a strong overview.
But to really drive it home, fill out the Skills section. List at least 5 skills that are relevant to the service you’re providing so that clients know exactly what you can do for them.
In addition, make sure to check out Upworks “Tests” section. Scoring highly on tests relevant to your services will reflect well on your profile.
Are you looking to make some side money or do you want to make this freelance thing full time one day?
You can decide this using the Experience Level feature.
To be quite honest, you don’t need to be an expert at something to declare yourself an “Expert” on Upwork’s experience level. As long as you can complete assignments on time and deliver quality work, even “Expert”-level clients will be happy.
Lastly, you’ll need to build your portfolio, include your employment history, add your education, and setting your hourly rate.
The portfolio is very important to include as clients get a chance to see your actual work. However, don’t discount the importance of your education and employment sections.
Even if your education and employment are unrelated to your freelance work, include them anyways. They’ll show that you have knowledge, experience, and a solid work ethic.
As for the hourly rate, this one is pretty much up to you.
One caveat, though.
Don’t underprice yourself!
You might think you need to start by charging $10/hour and slowly “work your way up”, but you can easily get paid to write at a higher dollar amount (say $35/hour).
Your freelance gig is a business, so any decent client will expect to pay a fair rate for your services (especially since they don’t have to pay you tens of thousands in benefits and other things employees get).
Now it’s time to look at Upwork’s strengths and weaknesses. Let’s start with its strengths.
Upwork gets its fair share of criticism, but it has many upsides. Let’s look at Upwork’s strengths!
(Almost) Nonexistent Barrier To Entry
Upwork’s greatest strength (and perhaps greatest weakness, which we’ll talk about in a minute) is the ease of making a profile so that you can start getting paid to write quickly.
We won’t repeat the process of making a strong Upwork profile, but you can be on and applying to gigs very quickly.
If you want client work as soon as yesterday, Upwork will usually let you get it.
The Rating System
Upwork provides a rating system for freelancers and clients. You can use this rating system to screen out “headache” clients and nab the clients that will be easy to work with.
The rating system isn’t just useful for screening clients either; it helps YOU get recognized on Upwork!
After completing a job with a client, you both get to rate each other on a scale of 1-5 stars (and include some written feedback).
As long as you deliver solid work on time, clients will be happy to give you high ratings and positive feedback. This, of course, makes landing new jobs (either through sending out proposals or clients coming to you first) easier with every five star rating.
Setting up payment is simple: simply link your bank account with Upwork and you’ll be able to receive payment for your writing.
Upwork gives you a variety of payment options to choose from:
Pick which one best fits your needs!
You can technically get paid whenever you want by clicking the big, green “Get Paid Now” button. For providing you such a convenience, however, Upwork will charge you a small service fee.
To prevent client compensation “malpractice” (aka a client refusing to pay you after giving them your writing), Upwork transfers the client’s funds to an Upwork Escrow account. This account serves as a “No Man’s Land” for the money.
Upon the client deciding the completed work is sufficient, they will release the funds to you.
Oh, and if the client goes silent on you?
Upwork’s one step ahead.
Clients have 14 days to release the money you earned or Upwork will do it for them.
Upwork payments go through a few verification steps, so you won’t get your money immediately. It is a small price to pay for drastically better payment security, though.
Upwork is a freelance marketplace, meaning they facilitate business between freelancers and clients. You don’t have to sift through companies that aren’t looking for freelancers; every client on Upwork is on there because they need a freelancer.
Sounds great, right?
As always, there’s a catch.
Well, more than one.
Service Fees Galore
First, Upwork has some hefty service fees that work like this:
- 20% of your earnings for the first $500 billed to a client
- 10% for lifetime billings between $500 and $10,000 with a client
- 5% for lifetime billings in excess of $10,000
When you’re just starting out, 20% is a significant part of your earnings. Think about it: if you made $500 from a client, Upwork will take a full $100 of your hard earned writing pay!
And remember, that’s all pretax. After taxes, you could be taking home only half the money you actually billed the client!
Upwork partly justifies these service fees as convenience fees (you’re presented with hundreds of potential clients without spending a second spamming off cold email pitches). That’s fair, and Upwork deserves to make money for its service.
Still, those service fees can really impact your take home pay if you complete a lot of smaller or one-off projects for clients.
Upwork allows you to get out of using their platform if you fork over thousands; otherwise you have to wait 2 years to be able to take a client off the platform (will you even have that client in 2 years?).
While this fee structure promotes long-term working relationships, it’s quite hard to earn $10,000 with one client on Upwork with the lowball rates on that site.
Which leads me to my next point…
Bottom Of The Barrel Prices
A seemingly non-existent barrier to entry in getting paid to write means you’re pitted against countless other writers all around the world (or around the US if you’re looking at US-only jobs).
On top of that, many clients tend to be “price-shoppers”; in other words, they’ll hire the cheapest freelancer they can get regardless of work quality.
This deadly combination leads to absurd open jobs like “write my 300 page novel, my budget is $300” or “I need a copywriter for a 10-email sequence to sell the hell out of my new product, I’ll pay you $10 per email”.
Some “average” email copywriters charge 10x that rate for the email sequence!
The laws of supply and demand are in effect here. Plenty of cheap freelance labor all desperately vying to be underpaid for hours of writing.
Hidden Nuggets Of Gold
Upwork might contain many clients offering criminally low rates, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for pennies.
If you take a bit of time, you can find quite a few clients offering good rates for your high quality work.
Learn the ins and outs of your niche, hone your paid writing skills, build your portfolio, and sell yourself well in your proposals; you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you’re being offered weekly blog posts at $80+ per post.
ProBlogger is slightly different than Upwork.
Rather than being a freelance marketplace, it’s a job board.
So what’s the difference?
Job boards typically have more complex projects available, but the compensation tends to be much better.
On that note, let’s dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly about ProBlogger.
ProBlogger has a few upsides that give freelance sites like Upwork a run for their money.
Not only that, but it also has advantages that separate it from the other freelance writing job boards.
Freelance sites like Upwork have a lot of low-paying, unrewarding jobs to sift through. The truly meaningful, exciting, and lucrative jobs can be hard to find.
On ProBlogger, many jobs are more complex. There are a few content mill postings here and there, but many postings come from legitimate companies that you can find via a quick Google search.
The assignments posted all require a little more effort: larger projects, more research, even video meetings! These all lend more credibility to ProBlogger.
With more complex work, you’ll be paid more to write, making it much more lucrative.
On ProBlogger, a vast majority of jobs are paying at least decent, livable rates. I’ve never seen a posting fall below $0.07/word, which is a decent rate for a brand new freelancer. Do the math, and writing even 3,000 words a week at this bare minimum rate nets you an extra $840 pre-tax!
Oh, here’s another little bonus: unlike Upwork, ProBlogger has no service fees. You keep all the money you earn!
Well, minus Uncle Sam’s share.
Upwork is technically free, but paying for it unlocks features that make freelancing so much easier.
But let’s talk about job boards.
Many job boards out there make you pay a monthly fee to use them.
They don’t even provide a free membership option.
Fortunately, ProBlogger is completely free. Once you make an account (and you don’t even really need an account to do this), you can view jobs and start sending off email applications.
So no service fees AND no monthly fee… ProBlogger’s sounding pretty good so far.
Many Upwork clients are looking for a one-off, quick turnaround job.
Almost every single ProBlogger client is looking for a solid writer for the long term.
It may take a bit more effort to land a job on ProBlogger, but the effort is worth it when you get to work with a great client that values your work and wants to keep paying you to wordsmith.
While it appears that ProBlogger is dominant as a lead source, it isn’t free of pitfalls.
Infrequent Job Postings
The quality of ProBlogger opportunities comes at the cost of quantity.
On Problogger, you might see a new posting every day or two.
Large freelance marketplaces have 10x that within an hour!
Many newer freelancers are intimidated when first setting digital foot into ProBlogger.
Plenty of postings call for a Bachelor’s Degree, a strong portfolio, proven work experience, or some combination of the aforementioned items.
While totally “Entry-Level” postings do exists on ProBlogger, they are few and far between.
If you’re like most people who want to turn their writing abilities into a small side hustle, you probably just want to sit down and write.
Unfortunately, ProBlogger is rife with postings asking for a freelancer who can do other things like:
- Keyword research
- Graphic design
After putting in long hours at the office, the last thing you want to do is take on another full time job.
For ProBlogger, it comes down to quality vs. quantity and higher pay for more skills.
There are less postings, but they are more lucrative. They also require more skills and responsibilities.
It is free, however, which makes it more accessible compared to other job boards.
Flexjobs is a more premium freelance and remote work site than most, as it comes with a monthly fee.
Rather than smaller freelance projects, the site is centered around remote work. Said remote work can be full-time, part-time, or freelance.
Flexjobs is for the more serious freelancer, but you don’t need to be extremely qualified to give some of the jobs on here a shot.
Ultra-High Quality Jobs
Since members of the site have to pay a monthly fee, FlexJobs ensures that member also get access to the best opportunities.
FlexJobs screens each posting very carefully to make sure only the highest quality jobs make it onto the site. Such dedication gives members peace of mind from knowing they won’t be scammed by a client.
Plenty Of Opportunity
ProBlogger might be free, but FlexJobs posts way more jobs.
In fact, they’re updating their postings almost every day to cater to their paying members.
Sure, you might have to pay more; but you’re getting more opportunities to make that money back!
Got questions about freelancing or remote work?
FlexJobs regularly updates their blog with useful information about remote work. Simply reading this free content can give you a leg up on the competition when it comes to landing paying gigs.
Even the most premium of services or products aren’t perfect, and FlexJobs shows it.
Mandatory Monthly Fee
The most glaring downside to using FlexJobs is the monthly fee.
Granted, it’s only $15 a month and you can easily cancel it.
But for newer freelancers who have less of a chance of landing quality gigs, using FlexJobs could be equivalent to flushing money down the toilet.
The fee does grant you access to amazing features, but those feature aren’t worth it if you aren’t getting a return on your investment.
Not As Exclusive As You Think
The FlexJobs postings might seem exclusive to the site. But dig around on the web and you might find the same postings on other sites.
FlexJobs isn’t alone in this aspect, but it’s still an unfortunate shortfall nonetheless; even more so when you consider that you’re paying for FlexJobs.
Make Money Writing For Yourself!
Whew. Our discussion about how to get paid to write content is almost over.
But our discussion wouldn’t be complete if we left out this one money-making method that involves no clients, no freelance sites, and lets you express your creativity to the fullest.
So how can you make money writing without getting clients?
Start a blog!
Starting a blog is a fun way to express yourself and build an online asset that can pay you for years to come. Sites like Hostgator make it easy for you to essentially store, or “host”, all of the content for your new website or blog.
Monetizing Your Blog
When your blog gets going, you can turn your personal passion project into an asset that pays you nearly-passive income!
This can be done through a few ways.
You can make money on your blog through ad revenue.
All it takes is placing ads on your site’s sidebar or at the top and waiting for visitors to the click the ads. You’ll get a tiny amount of money for each click.
Be careful: too many ads can slow down your site and worst of all, annoy your site visitors.
Ads are perhaps the easiest way to monetize, but they can turn people off your site and aren’t very financially-rewarding unless your site gets huge.
Did you know you can make money selling other people’s products?
How about putting a link to their product somewhere on your blog and making money automatically?
This is an online business model called affiliate marketing.
To do it right, you have to produce a lot of helpful content for your readers. Then, you can request affiliate links from people who sell products that you’d like to be an affiliate for.
If they see that you have potential to make them sales, they’ll give you a specially-coded affiliate link that you can use on your blog.
If a reader clicks through your affiliate link and buys the product, you get a commission! If you’re an affiliate for a $300 product that pays its affiliates 40% commissions, you’ll make $120 doing almost nothing!
Affiliate links can be dropped into your posts whenever they are relevant. When you grow big enough and become an authority in your niche, you could even make a “Recommended Resources” page and stick all your affiliate links on there.
Now THAT’S some easy money!
Are you an expert at your topic?
Consider creating a course about it.
While high quality courses can take hours to make and edit, they can be a real moneymaker in your arsenal.
One good course could pay your bills each month with a large enough audience!
Not to mention that after creating and selling the course, the money is mostly passive.
Sure, you may have some marketing and customer service stuff to handle, but the payoff is worth it.
Lastly, courses are immensely satisfying products to sell because you get to teach people in your niche what you know AND make money doing it. If you’re passionate about what your niche, I can think of no better vocation. What a deal!
The Going Will Get Tough
Starting a blog does take a lot of initial investment. Here are some things you’ll have to do to get a blog running:
- Get a domain and web hosting
- Set up your website, including picking a theme and writing up your web pages
Then, you’ll have to do these things:
- Perform SEO keyword research (not necessary to succeed, but immensely helpful)
- Write blog posts on a regular basis
- Respond to comments
- Promote your blog on social media
- Find quality affiliate products to promote (someone gives you a special affiliate link for your blog and any sales made through said link entitles you to a commissions)
- Look into other monetization methods (courses, ads)
And even after doing all of this, it can take months before you get consistent views on your blog.
So yes, the going will get tough…
But The Fruits Of Your Labor Are The Sweetest
Don’t give up! If you give up after a couple months, you could be turning away from gold right before you uncover it…
Keep working away at that blog day by day. As you produce more content, rank for more keywords, build backlinks, and gain renown, you’ll turn your tiny trickle of viewers into a sizeable fanbase.
And with a large base of fans comes a large sum of cash flowing in each month.
There are plenty of bloggers out there who make a full-time income from their blog.
And no, not “full-time” as in enough to pay the bills and eat ramen… enough to support a family, live well, and travel a ton!
It’s possible. All you have to do is show up every day.
Have Fun Getting Paid To Write
Opportunity is abundant. Whether you choose freelancing first or are looking to build a blog about something you love, there’s an unreal amount of money to be made.
The only way to find out is to get out there and try!