10 Steps for Writers Who Want to Earn More Than $15 Per Article

Earning $15 per article is a fine way to start a writing career – but don’t lose these steps for writers who want to earn MORE money from their articles and posts!

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…

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14 thoughts on “10 Steps for Writers Who Want to Earn More Than $15 Per Article”

  1. Hi Laurie

    Thanks again for replying. It was VERY helpful. I feel some hope now that I don’t need to pay to quote experts. Writing a credible article is (more) within reach. My new goal: not only plan, but really contacting publishers to get written permission to quote. Will let you know how it all works out.

    Just did a google search – “how many words can i quote copyright” – got some good information. Never thought of doing internet searches, Thanks for that advice.

    Yes I actually read about being able to quote a certain amount of words. But I don’t remember which book I read that in. On the other hand, most material I read says “the number of words or sentence is only one factor”. There are other factors to consider, such as

    i) what are we quoting for – since we bloggers are quoting to make our blog article more readable, resulting in indirect incomes if we get sufficient readers, I’m not sure how will copyright authorities view this.
    ii) Will our quoting (and letting blog readers read for free) have any effect on the commercial value of the book. I’m thinking there are 2 possible outcomes to this. If our quotes made our blog readers actually want to read the book we quote, then we may have no problem. But if after reading our quote, the readers actually got the whole message and did not need to read the book, then we might get in trouble.

    So far, that’s my understanding about copyright. It is SOoOO complicated.

    Looking at the bright side – now I know I don’t need another degree. That will save me a few years ☺

    Emailing sources for interview – that is a brilliant idea. I will definitely give that a try.

    ps: I’ve read your “how to increase writing confidence – grow the skin of a rhino”. Very encouraging. Hope I will get some time to comment there soon. If not, I’ll comment in your other posts.

    Thank you so much for everything

  2. I’m not going to lie, I expected some tangible steps that I could follow based on the headline. This stuff is mostly “feel good” advice.

    I got from this:
    Keep studying and practicing.
    Tailor your query letter.
    Never give up…

    Doesn’t seem like a sure-win to me.

  3. Hi Seth,

    Thanks for being here! You’re very observant; yes, I do reference and quote alot in my writing.

    I love your attitude about blogging. Even if you fail to earn your goal amount, you will learn a great deal if you forge ahead and take it one step at a time. I don’t think you need a medical, health, or even a writing degree to write about health topics. My degrees are in Psychology and Education, not health.

    To write my articles, I email sources questions. That is, I email them my interview questions and I follow up if I have further questions (after receiving their answers). They know they’re being interviewed for an article, so I don’t need written permission to use their stuff.

    The best way to learn about copyright and using other people’s material is to do an internet search for specific questions. I know you can quote a little bit of people’s writing if you link back to them, but I can’t remember how many words or sentences you can use.

    I’ve never paid anyone to quote them, in my blog or any of my magazine articles. If you unintentionally infringe on someone else’s copyright, you’ll receive an email, comment, or even a DMCA notice. They’ll ask you to remove their content from your site.

    I hope this helps a little, and wish you all the best!


  4. Dear Laurie

    First, I want to apologize if this comment only slightly connects to this post. I did not know how else to contact u.

    I’ve been following many of your writings and I noticed you reference and quote a lot. To me, Your best quote was in “busting cold and flu myths” in Alive Australia winter 2012 issue – which is also where I found and start reading your wonderful works. You quoted Dr Susan Biali, among a few other credible health professionals.

    You probably have many better quotes. But these stands out to me because of my interest in health issues. I have to admit, although my favourite was your health quote, I prefer reading your Quips and Tips for writers and life’s challenges. Maybe because in your blogs there’s more interaction – I think I’m addicted to comments.

    Bout me. I just started blogging – April this year. I am hoping to make an income from it. My hope is about US$15,000 per year. I live in a developing country so that’s enough. I know after reading other’s comments in your ‘6 reasons your blog doesn’t make money’, the chance of me earning my target is low. I’m always thinking
    1.am I too late to enter the blogging world.
    2.Would my non native English be a problem.
    Still, I thought I should give it a try. Even if I fail, I think I will learn a lot from trying.

    Fear problem aside, many of the stuff I want to blog about have been written by people more qualified than me (I don’t think I’m the only one facing this problem). I want to write about cell phone radiation, reducing meat (I still eat meat) & consumption of food and cosmetics chemicals/pesticides, electric blanket, to name but a few. But I do not have any qualifications in health/medical field etc. I am willing to study if I need to, but I think there are ways to write about this stuff without a health degree.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that you don’t have any health qualification – besides a related psychology degree, but you managed to write better health information than some health practitioner. I’m very sincere about that statement. Some professionals write books in a way that is very hard to understand for lay person.

    Alright, here is what I need help with. How do you get written permission to use other people’s material (what to include or say to them)? How do you contact them (email, physical mail, phone)? Would they ignore small-time blogger like myself? I want to learn more about copyright, trademarks, intellectual property etc because I don’t want to get into trouble. And I want to include quotes and reference in my blog because it makes it more credible.

    I read somewhere that to get permission we may need to pay royalties. Did you ever pay to quote other writers? I thought it’s really difficult to pay royalties before I even start making a cent from blogging. Having said that, I respect other people’s property. Because I won’t like people stealing my content as well. So I want to do things the right way. Do you have any articles and guides about getting written permission, and paying for it etc?

    Also, if I unintentionally infringe copyright as a blogger, what sort of penalty would I face? I will never copy paste someone’s material. But I do hyperlink and review/comment on the source. And I tell people what to expect from the link etc. Is this acceptable?

    I also want to write a summary and main points from the links I recommend. But I’m not sure if this would infringe copyright.

    Another reason I worry about accidently infringing copyright is because I’m sure there are many other writings that I’ve never come across. If I write something (which I thought was my original idea and expression) that is similar to what someone has first written, what would happen?

    Fyi: I am currently reading Blogging & Tweeting without getting sued by Mark Pearson. Really hope to be able to understand this whole copyright thing.

    I also have more questions for you. But they are not related to any of your articles that I’ve read. What’s the best way to contact you?

  5. Hi Laurie

    I found you most helpful. I want to blog but I would appreciate your input before I start. I want to write articles, voice my opinion, and hopefull people will comment. I want to name the blog Argue With Me. I will write about current news events and various other topics. Is there a market for this and can I make money with a blog of this type?

  6. Aleah | TravelingFreelancer.com

    Great tips, Laurie. I’m a full time freelance writer and editor now, but the most I’ve been paid per article is $25 haha And good that you still earn a lot from Suite! I’m lucky to have $5 a month. Then again, I only have 50 articles there, unlike you. Hopefully things will be better there soon.

  7. I live for the day that I can say I’m a full-time freelance writer. This has eluded me so far. I’ve worked hard and am still hanging in there. You’re right about starting small, though. One can’t refuse writing jobs because they’re too small or because the pay isn’t what they expected.

  8. I have been writing for a long time and the truth is, I earn enough to make a good living. My salary is enough, but of course I hope to double my earnings as a writer! I think it’s possible if I know and accept the challenges of being a freelance writer.

  9. Laurie,

    I really appreciate these tips for writers who want to earn more than $15 an article because I’m one of those starving writers!

  10. Love the quote “Imitation is the highest form of pissing me off. Quit stealing my content and violating my copyright.” ~ Jen T. Verbumessor.
    Totally agree with that one. This is one of the things I am glad Google is tackling head on. Great pointers as always. I enjoy reading your articles.