10 Steps for Writers Who Want to Earn More Than $15 Per Article
The lowest amount of money I’ll accept for writing an article is $50. Those articles don’t require research or interviews – they’re straight out of my own brain. For more in-depth articles that actually require work, I charge $50 an hour.
I love writing for a living, but like any career, it has its drawbacks. Here’s one of my favorite quips about copyright and theft, from a fellow scribe:
“Imitation is the highest form of pissing me off. Quit stealing my content and violating my copyright.” ~ Jen T. Verbumessor.
The hazard of being a successful freelancer writer or blogger is that you’ll get ripped off. It happens to me all the time, and I’m almost at the point of not caring.
Working writers and bloggers have to watch their copyrights, reprint rights, and editorial contracts. Most versions of Writer’s Market have a section that defines and describes those terms – including the most recent 2012 Writer’s Market.
Being copyright-savvy is one of the first steps to being a working writer and earning $50 an hour. Another step is knowing which markets are open to new writers, which is why you need a copy of Writer’s Market.
Here are a few more tips for making money writing…
10 Steps for Writers Who Want to Earn More Than $15 Per Article
The step I didn’t include in this post is “Keep polishing your writing skills” – because I don’t think it needs to be said! Professional writers should always, always keep learning how to write better.
For instance, tomorrow I’m going to a writers’ workshop on bringing your fictional characters to life – even though I’m not a fiction writer. Why? Because every single thing I learn about writing – even if it’s not related to my niche – makes me a better writer.
And the better I write, the more money I make.
And I like money.
Work part-time, write freelance part-time
When I first started freelancing in 2007, I worked 2-3 days a week in an office for about 2½ years. For financial reasons, I couldn’t just jump into writing full-time. Plus, getting out of the house helped me stay sane! I was getting rejections from magazine editors and publishers left right and centre (and lots of no responses), so I needed to get out into the “normal” world regularly.
After about nine months, I decided to focus on writing full-time and I quit working at the outside office job part-time. I found that the more time and effort I put into working as a writer, the more articles I was assigned.
Take everything you read about freelancing writing with a grain of salt
Before I started earning a living as a full-time freelance writer, I was constantly reading different books about writing. I learned how to pitch query letters to magazines, how to find the best magazines to write for, and — most importantly — how to write better.
I’ve also learned that every magazine, editor, and publisher has different preferences regarding query letters, sourcing experts, article submission policies, etc. For instance, one of my regulars likes long, detailed query letters while the editor at my newest magazine asked me to shorten my pitches. So, take “the rules” of freelance writing with a pinch of salt, and find what works for you.
Take risks with the “rules”
The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burell is an awesome way to look at “the rules of a profitable writing career.” There really are no rules – each freelancer has to find her own way.
If a book about freelancing says “write a one-page query”, but your idea takes two pages to explain it properly, then use two. That said, if you know that the magazine prefers two-paragraph queries, then write short pitches. All freelance writers must find their balance between breaking the rules and not being aggravating. This was the step toward a writing career that I found the scariest – and the most free-ing!
Don’t write until you have an official assignment from an editor
It’s a waste of time to write an article before you have a contract. Of course, this is different for poetry, short stories, novels, etc. With non-fiction magazine writing, I recommend waiting until you have an editor’s email or contract that actually assigns the article.
Should you write articles “on spec”? Yes, if you can take your article elsewhere if it gets rejected.
Blog – even if you only get paid $15 per post
Blogging has strengthened my writing skills, taught me writing discipline, and connected me to editors, readers, and other writers. But I never blog about my life — my blogs are all tips-based (such as Quips & Tips for Achieving Your Goals).
I love blogging because it’s my primary source of income! I still write for magazines and a couple of clients when they assign articles, but I’d rather be blogging.
Stretch your writing skills by writing for online ‘zines
Not only did writing for the online e-zine Suite101 help me make money as a freelancer, it also boosted my confidence as a writer. And it gives me credibility. (Though some would argue that! Read Is Writing for Suite101 Worthwhile? It Depends… for a few different perspectives. I don’t write for Suite anymore, but I still earn anywhere from $15 to $25 a day from my past articles. How sweet is that?).
I started out in a volunteer position for BellaOnline, which lasted for a few months. It was nice, but I soon tired of writing for free. Getting paid to write really is a dream come true, and I’ve learned a ton from writing for Suite101.
Submit your articles early (be reliable)
I always try to hand my article in before the deadline, though sometimes it didn’t matter because editors can sit on articles for weeks! That doesn’t always happen, though. Sometimes editors turn them around within a few hours — zipping them right back to you for editing.
Make requested edits quickly and enthusiastically
Most of my articles required tweaking; if I want to keep earning $50 an hour as a freelance writer, I want to turn them around and get them back to the editor fast. And – I want to learn from my editors. I learn the least when the editor simply publishes my writing as is. That’s a little flattering, but there’s no depth there…no writing training or coaching.
If you want to earn more than $15 per article, you need to be a better writer than 60% of the writers out there. That’s all – only 60%.
Keep submitting, no matter how many rejections you get
I’ve learned that most of the time my article ideas just don’t fit the magazine’s requirements. I don’t take it personally, and neither should you. An editor’s decision not to accept an article is a business decision, not a personal affront.
Surround yourself with people who believe in you as a writer
My husband Bruce tells me almost every day that soon he’s gonna retire and I’ll support us both with my profitable writing career. It took me a long time to believe him…but now I realize how smart he is 🙂
For more tips on earning $50 an hour as a writer, read Can’t Get Published? Freelance Writers, Stop Doing This…
If you have any thoughts or questions on writing for a living, please comment below…