How to make money from writing

 28 June 2013

Chris Farnell is an author and freelance copywriter. He shared five ways to support yourself with freelance writing work, which you can fit around your own creative projects.

Working on a novel or creative writing project takes time. You can support yourself and develop your skills with other kinds of writing.
Working on a novel or creative writing project takes time. You can support yourself and develop your skills with other kinds of writing.

If your ambition is to make a living from your writing, the advice can be discouraging. Even well respected novelists are rarely able to live exclusively off the royalties of their work.

However, the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of people that need words to be written for them, and more and more often businesses are bringing in professional copywriters to do the work.

It’s actually not too hard to build up a roster of freelance clients. This gives you the income you need to support yourself while also allowing you the flexibility to work on your own creative projects.

However, more than that, this work can inform and improve your writing skills. You need to gear your work towards a specific audience, often working under extremely tight constraints of time, space and vocabulary, which can teach you things you bring back into your more creative work.

1. Writing copy for websites

Businesses need websites, and those websites need words writing for them.

Copywriting gives you the income you need and the flexibility to work on your own creative projects.

Writing good website copy means gathering as much information as you can from your client, working out what information their customers or clients are going to need, and delivering it to them using clear and compelling language.

There is a lot of web copy work out there, but to make yourself more appealing it’s worth teaching yourself some ancillary skills, such as basic HTML and web design, and particularly good SEO practices. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, simply refers to making sure your website is written and laid out in such a way as to rank highly in appropriate search results for Google and other search providers.

2. Maintaining a company blog

Something that can often provide a boost to a website’s search ranking is a steady stream of new and relevant content. For this reason many company websites include an on-site blog that is regularly updated with news, offers, and relevant tips and advice.

Many businesses have neither the time, the staff or the skills to update these blogs regularly themselves, and so outsource to freelancers.

To do well at this kind of work, you’ll need to be able to come up with fresh ideas on a regular basis, to ensure the blog doesn’t end up repeating itself.

While some companies are happy simply to have regular new content because of the SEO boost it provides, if you put the effort in you can create a blog that attracts new audiences and gives your client’s site a boost through social media sharing as well.

3. Writing articles for linkbuilding

Again, this is work that largely exists thanks to Search Engine Optimisation. Although there are many SEO consultants who claim that they have the secret to leaping to the top of Google search results, the only completely reliable method of getting a high search ranking is to ensure that your website has lots of links directed to it from other relevant and reputable sites.

Aim to write useful, informative articles that websites will be happy to host.

This is where guest blogging comes in. You find blogs and websites that deal with subjects relevant to your client – for instance, if your client is a bakery, look for cookery websites. Then you approach those sites offering to write unique, relevant content for them in exchange for a link back to your client.

The important thing is to remember that these guest blogs are not adverts for your client, so don’t spend your time waxing lyrical about them.

Instead, aim to write useful, informative articles that relevant websites will be happy to host.

4. Business-to-business publications

There are plenty of business-to-business publications looking for writers. These tend to come in the form of print or online magazines that cover either specific businesses or business in specific regions.

They are usually free publications that support themselves by doing profiles of businesses and selling advertising space to their suppliers.

This work involves performing telephone interviews with the managers or CEOs of the businesses being profiled, then writing up the articles.

It can involve unsociable hours (it’s not uncommon for the phone calls to take place on South African or even New Zealand time) but it often pays well.

Often the articles are easy to write once you’ve done a couple of them. The trick is to be able to take your interviewee’s transcript and reshape it into a narrative.

5. Managing social media

This can be a tricky one to pull off, but alongside their own websites it’s becoming essential for businesses to run accounts through Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

You’ll need to be able to come up with fresh ideas on a regular basis.

This can be done for SEO purposes or simply as a marketing tool in and of itself. While simply running a Twitter account might seem easy, these can be more challenging than other copywriting jobs.

As well as keeping the accounts regularly updated with new and engaging content, it’s also important to interact with your audience.

That said, if you’re able to build on your client’s audience they will soon find you invaluable.

Chris is a lead copywriter for SEO and web content agency Blink. You can find other creative jobs at Brand Republic.


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