One of the easiest ways to make money online is through writing. It is the ultimate side hustle with the potential to offer you a full-time income working from anywhere. But how do you start? Here is how to become a writer and make money writing.
I have been working as a professional writer since 2015, and it has been quite a ride. I have learnt from experience, which is the hard way, and there are many things I wish I knew back then.
It has, however, been a very rewarding journey.
Here are the things you will need to know as you start off writing online.
I. Choose Your Writing Direction
The very first step is to choose your path in writing. Yes, writing is broader than you probably thought. Each option comes with its advantages and drawbacks. The following are your choices as you start out.
- Copy/ content writing
- Feature writing
One mistake that most novice writers make is having too much faith in their quality that they jump right at the deep end. With time you will come to realize that it’s not about what you think is great writing, but what readers think.
For instance, in normal writing, I wouldn’t write a one-line paragraph.
But in professional writing, it happens all the time. A paragraph could be just three words.
Yes, that’s right.
Why am I insisting on this aspect? It determines your entry point into writing. Now let’s have a look at each of the above choices.
Copywriting is by far the commonest and most popular option for writers. Basically, it involves writing articles that are used on websites. It spans virtually every field.
Did you know that over 547200 websites are created per day? Websites need quality content for them to rank in search engines. Most of the people launching these websites, therefore, need copy/ content writers, and that is why this entry point is the most popular.
As a copywriter, you not only meet the needs of your client but also of the visitors to your client’s website.
That’s your way of touching lives.
Of course, you need to know that once you deliver the content to the client, you no longer own it. The copyright belongs to the client once they pay.
The other option that is almost similar to content writing is feature writing. Unlike in content writing where you lose all the rights to the articles you write, you get the credits in feature writing.
Your work will be published with your name as the author.
It could be in newspapers, magazines, forums and other websites that have sections that people can contribute.
Although it is quite an attractive entry point, it is harder to get into as a newbie. You will need to be really good at what you do to land such opportunities.
The easiest way to get such opportunities is to look in the direction of your expertise. It could be a career or a particular skill that makes you an expert in that field. It will be easier for you to get an opportunity to contribute as an expert.
It’s a great way to beef up your portfolio. You will need to horn your writing skills and learn how to pitch your work to potential clients if you want to get into feature writing.
If your mastery of language is beyond reproach, then you can consider starting as an editor. Editing involves going through content created by writers and correcting any mistakes, for instance, grammar and other aspects.
You will need to have a high index of accuracy because of a couple of reasons. One, there are automatic proofreaders available today which easily pick grammar and other mistakes. The chances are that the content you get would have passed through this checkers. If you cannot work better than these automatic editors, there won’t be a need for you.
Secondly, companies that insist on editors are mainly established ones and will often require a bachelor’s degree to back up your proficiency. You have to be the best at what you do.
If you trust your writing and want to work for yourself, then you can get into professional writing as a blogger. It is the most flexible one of the options as you are your own boss.
Typically it involves setting up a blog either through the popular blog sites like Blogger or setting up a website with providers like WordPress.
You have the option of running a free blog where you don’t spend anything on set up or going premium and paying for your own domain.
Unlike the above three options, it will take a while before you start earning as a blogger. It could be six months before you see any profits. However, it is one of the best as it is scalable and will keep growing in profits.
There is, however, a need to work more and spend a considerable amount on growing your blog faster.
Become an Author
At one point or another, you must have dreamt of authoring a book. I mean, the idea of writing a book and earning from it over and over again passively is breathtaking in itself. It is possible and easier than you think.
Currently, avenues like Amazon KDP have made it easier for anyone to publish their works without spending a dime. Self-publishing allows you to write and design your book easily using their software.
I personally have enjoyed earnings from books I published a couple of years ago. The email about payments from Amazon every month is always exciting.
Although choosing this direction is excellent, you need to understand the following:
The competition is stiff, and there are no guarantees that people will buy your book
Your writing needs to be great
It is therefore not a suitable direction in case you are still not sure about your quality of writing. You can always head this direction later as you get better in writing.
II. Learn How to Write Professionally
Once you have chosen your entry point, it’s time for the second and most crucial step, learning. A common mistake that most writers make is that they want to make money on the very first day.
However, I’m not talking about taking a long time in the name of learning. It can be as short as a couple of hours or days, depending on the hours you are putting into the learning.
The idea is to prequalify yourself when you pitch to clients. Nobody wants to hire a writer who has no idea what writing professionally means.
It’s your lucky day because I’m going to give you a crash program of what you need to know. I will break it down into the steps of writing, which are common to almost every form of writing.
1. Understand the Instructions
For every writing job, there is always a set of instructions that are to be met. The client specifies how they need the article to look like when complete. Some of the most popular elements when it comes to instructions are the following:
Some clients will provide you with the title for the article. In many other cases, you will need to come up with a title for the post. You may be given instructions on the dos and don’ts of the title, but in most cases, it will be up to you.
Here are some things that make a great title:
- Not too long- 60 characters or 12 words at most
- Exciting- makes someone want to click on when it shows up in the search results
- Relevant- covers what the article is all about
- Numbers- in case it’s about tips, steps or other elements that are numbered, use numbers for instance 10 tips for healthy living in 2020 is more catchy than Tips for healthy living
- Use keywords- include the focus keywords if possible
Search engines like Google rely on keywords when showing results in searches. For instance, if you search for affordable trucks, Google will check through billions of web pages to find the ones with the focus on affordable trucks and show in results.
The reason why the client wants content written is for them to be found online, and that means ranking high in search engines. Yes, they want to meet the needs of their customers, but they will have no customers unless they show up in search results.
Understand the keywords and how the client needs you to place them. If you are not told, place them as follows:
- In the title if possible
- Within the first paragraph
- In at least one subheading
- At least once in the body of the content
- In the conclusion
In as much as the content needs the keywords, ensure you don’t do it too much. It’s called keyword stuffing and is punishable by Google.
Your client will also require the post to be of a particular length. The number of words includes the entire article apart from the title and subheadings. That means a 1000 words article will need to be over 1030 words for it to meet the word count needs.
Always ensure your work is within the word count limit.
Pillar posts will have a word count of over 2500 words. You can be given articles that are as long as 10,000 words. Before you accept the job, ensure you are ready for such an amount of words.
The word count determines how much you get paid. The longer the post, the more you earn.
As you gain more experience and start working on complex posts, your earnings per word will increase to as much as five times.
In freelancing, time is everything. Time is money sounds like a cliché until you start working as a writer. You may have jobs that need a fast turn-around time. Always ensure you can deliver within the time allotted.
There will be other instructions from the client that give you some insight into the specifics of the article. You will base on these instructions in customizing the post to the client’s needs.
Some of the things covered in the special instructions include the following:
- The tone of the article- friendly, formal or informal
- Point of view- first, second or third person writing (we, you or they)
- Name of company/ business and what they do including links in some cases
- Their competition- links to articles by competing sites
- Structure- instructions on how they need the article needs to look like
- Things to address- could be questions, topics and other aspects that the post needs to address
In many cases, you will not receive these special instructions and therefore will need to do it the best way you know how.
After you understand the instructions, it’s time to dive into the next step.
You will come to realize that research is pivotal to professional writing. It makes you an expert in anything you set your mind on no matter how complex. The internet has everything you will need to work on any project.
‘If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!’ Richard Branson
Thanks to Google, everything is within reach. Search the title or keywords, and you will have access to everything you need for the article.
What I usually do is get the information from all the posts that show up on the first page of the search results. That’s because I want my client’s post to rank on the first page, so the post needs to contain everything covered by all the posts on page 1.
That’s how you outdo the competition.
In case you were given links to use, open those links and do your research. Also, take time to visit your client’s website in case they left a link so that you know the exact look and feel expected.
Does it sound like too much work? Maybe, but it will get easier with time.
The best way to do it is to skim through all the posts in the search results, pick the three that cover that topic best and jot down the things you will write. It may take you 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the complexity.
After gathering the things you need to write, its time you embark on the writing. Your goal is to deliver an article that looks better than what already exists.
Of course, the first paragraph is a challenge. It’s called the writer’s block. You will find yourself struggling to put it down. It’s expected because it is the most critical part that determines if someone will read your article or not.
It takes a reader 3 to 10 seconds to decide whether they will read the article or not. That’s how long you have to capture their attention. That means your first paragraph needs to be spot on and show the writer what they will get by reading the post.
The body of the post is divided into sections using subheadings. It makes it easy to read.
Nobody will read a wall of text. Divide it into sections and paragraphs. At most, have a subheading after every 150 words. The highest you can go is 300 words.
Make your paragraphs short and easy to understand. Use fewer sentences in paragraphs. You can even have one-sentence paragraphs, as mentioned earlier.
Mix the sentence lengths. Alternate long complex sentences, while still maintaining relevancy, with simple ones. It’s amazing.
Write a compelling conclusion that ties up everything. It needs to present the verdict on the matter. It can also include a call to action in case a client requests it.
You’ve done all the heavy-lifting, but one crucial task is left, proofreading. Always spare time to go through your work and correct any mistakes.
The best way to proofread is to use both automatic and manual proofreading. I have found it highly effective.
Automatic proofreading involves checking grammar mistakes and plagiarism using tools available online.
The most common tool and one that I have relied on throughout my career is Grammarly. Although you can use its free version, you get more functionality when you pay for the premium version.
Some of the things it can do are:
- Grammar check- highlights and suggests corrections for all the grammar mistakes
- Clarity- suggests improvements to make it clear
- Engagement- helps you to make the article more engaging
- Delivery- suggests the changes to improve the delivery of your argument
- Plagiarism- checks your work against billions or webpages to ensure it’s unique
- Readability score- how readable your content is and how long it takes to read
In case you are not ready to pay for the premium access, you can use the free version and then use a different tool like SmallSeoTools for checking plagiarism.
If you want to go big, then you can opt for Copyscape which is the titan when it comes to checking for plagiarism.
Once you are sure your work is perfect, you can go ahead and deliver it to your client.
III. Find Writing Jobs
Well that was fast, wasn’t it? If you have understood the above steps of writing, then you are as good as ready to start writing. The rest will be gained through experience. It’s called learning on the job. So how do you find writing jobs?
There are several options:
- Writing agencies
- Freelancer websites
- Direct application to companies
Let’s have a look at what each of them means for you as a writer.
Finding a writing job in a writing agency in your locality can be an excellent place to start. The agencies are basically firms that deliver content to companies and individual clients. They have a pool of writers that they hire through a rigorous process and train them to meet the needs of clients.
An agency could be an established company or a prolific writer who has a broad base of clients. The advantage of working here is that you will learn as you earn and will become a better writer fast.
You can get jobs in writing agencies by searching online or on social media and applying.
In some cases, you may get firms and individuals who offer Pay On Delivery jobs which can be a huge motivation when you are starting off. Payment periods are often weekly, biweekly or monthly.
Freelancer Writing Websites
Your best bet, however, at landing a job in writing is the freelancer websites option. They are large entities getting orders from thousands of clients which are accessible to hundreds of thousands of writers.
Typically, you will need to sign up on these websites and once accepted; you will be ready to start working. While some automatically accept writers, others take you through a hiring process meant to filter out poor writers.
You may be expected to take a quick test and work on a sample article in some cases.
Not all freelancer websites are the same. You will come across two types of writing platforms:
Bidding Freelancer Platforms
In bidding freelance platforms, clients post the projects, and different writers bid for them. The client will then go through the bids and select one writer who they will work with on their project.
If you are good at pitching, you can land yourself a good deal that could earn you hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Popular bidding websites for writers include:
The advantage of bidding writing platforms is that you present yourself as a brand, and once you start landing projects, the sky is the limit. You can also land yourself long-term jobs that will earn you a good amount of money.
On the downside, bidding is hectic, and as a starter, it may be hard to land a job. It may take a while and a lot of time bidding on different projects.
Non-Bidding Writing Platforms
My personal favorite is the option of non-bidding freelancer websites. A client posts a project and a writer picks it, works on it and delivers. It’s straightforward and highly rewarding.
Getting accepted at these sites may not be a breeze, but once you are in, you can make so much money that you decide to go full-time as a writer. Of course, a certain level of quality is expected of all writers.
Ratings are used to determine the level of the writer and hence the amount of money they earn per word. When you deliver a project, the client will either accept or reject based on quality. They then rate your quality. It ranges between 1 star for poor quality and 5 stars for high quality work.
Over time, your star rating may go up or down depending on the average. Your target should be consistent high star- ratings which will result in the advancement of your level.
The top non-bidding writing websites are:
You can apply directly to companies and businesses either in your locality or online. Find out whether there are vacancies for writers and apply.
The requirements vary depending on the type and size of the company. While some may require that you have a bachelor’s degree, others will be more focused on your capabilities as a writer.
If you are bold enough, you can even apply to businesses that have no vacancies for writers. You need to convince them why they need a writer like you and the value you propose.
The best way to spot a potential client is to look around you. If you can see a business that you would like to be associated with, go online and see if they have a website. In case the site doesn’t have adequate content or the quality is wanting, propose to them what you can offer and see how it goes.
Meanwhile, you can work as a freelance to build your portfolio. It will help you stand better chances of getting hired.
You can also scout online for businesses that need writers. It could be your favorite website that seems to be in need of writers. Take a bold step and apply.
Writing is best done part-time at first. Once you get your way around it, you can proceed to the full-time option.
IV. How to Become a Better Writer
The first time you earn your money online will always be memorable. Over time, it will become easier, and you will actually love it. Although it may not be consistent, it’s better than nothing.
Over time, you will stabilize your earnings which will make your writing job dependable. When you get to this point, do not get too comfortable. You should be obsessed with improvement.
Some of the ways you can make yourself better as a writer include:
Never underestimate the power of reading. Besides being a way to relax your mind and entertain you, it will significantly improve your writing skills.
The human brain is designed to adjust everything you do based on experience. When you read, it picks up the arrangement of words, grammar, structure, creativity and other aspects.
During writing, it will organize your thoughts based on what it deems right, and that right there makes you a better writer.
You will learn how to express yourself better when you read often. Reading also boosts your vocabulary and makes your writing rich.
Through consistent reading, anyone can communicate in a language as accurately as a native speaker.
Getting books to read is currently easier than ever before in the history of humanity. You can download Kindle and get access to every book on Amazon through their Kindle Unlimited program whose first month is free.
Join Writer Forums
You can also get better by being in the company of other writers. Look for forums where professional writers engage in discussions, and you will learn a thing or two about the trade.
It is now even easier to find other writers. You can search for their groups on social media, for instance, Facebook and other sites. Ensure you are active in the groups and forums.
When you start making friends, you can share your samples and find out what they think. Through such exchanges, you may save yourself countless hours in future.
It doesn’t matter whether you are landing jobs or not; you need to sharpen your skills. Look for websites where people can share their articles even if it’s for free and share your work.
The more you write, the better you become. You never know, you might just land a big contract because someone saw your work somewhere and liked it.
Avoid being what I call the ‘tethered writer’. This kind of writer is highly skilled and scribbles impressive words in notebooks, pads, on the phone, on their laptop, and anywhere they can write. However, they never share it for the world to see. The furthest they will go is share it on social media.
If only such a writer knew how much potential they were sitting on, but sadly they never find out.
If you cannot share your work on serious sites, then ensure you compile it into a book. By all means, make sure it pays.
V. The Next Level in Writing
After a couple of years as a writer earning a stable income from writing, you want to consider moving to the next level. You will be ready to go solo which is the most rewarding part of being a writer.
There are very many opportunities for skilled writers. Here are some of the possibilities:
- Launching a writing business
- Affiliate marketing
- Writing books
Here is what each of the above entails for you as a writer:
A Writing Business
You can decide to launch a writing business where you get your own clients and work on your own terms. The first requirement is that your quality needs to be beyond reproach.
Next, you will need to set up a professional website that showcases your skills and services on offer. Take time to create content for the site, which not only helps your website rank in search engines but also showcases your writing prowess to potential clients.
Once you are all set up, you can pitch to businesses and get working. As more and more work comes in, you may need to train more writers to help you meet the needs of the growing client base.
A writing business will land you deals that may ultimately give you a six-figure income.
An easier option is to run a blog. However, when you run it as a skilled writer, you earn more than someone trying it as an entry point into writing.
Choose a niche you are passionate about and write away. You choose when to work and how you do it. Another advantage is that it’s easier to write about something you love.
Once you start getting traffic to your site, you can run ads on your blog and earn from it. You can also do sponsored content which pays well.
Perhaps the option that will get you profits within three months is affiliate marketing. After working for many clients as a writer, you will have an idea of how business is run. You can then launch your own business based on the experience.
Affiliate marketing is where you promote products and earn a commission when people buy through your links. For instance, in this post, I could have suggested a book you can read, and once you click on the link and buy that book, I get a percentage of the profit.
It’s the easiest online business to get into and does not need a lot of capital. All you need is a website, and you will be all set. Some platforms teach you affiliate marketing and help you set up your business at a small cost. An example is Wealthy Affiliate which I have reviewed in the Wealthy Affiliate Review post.
Write a Book
As you get more and more comfortable in writing, you can start working on a book. It doesn’t have to be a gigantic book like novels. In the current world, an eBook of 100 pages may sell more than a novel of 500 pages.
The competition is stiff and therefore make sure your writing stands out. Again, reading more will help you get better in case you decide to write a book.
But here’s a million-dollar idea when it comes to books. Make it a business by publishing as many high quality books as possible.
Set aside funds for your eBook business as the first step. Next up, write at least a book a month. Make every subsequent book even better than the first. Use the funds set aside to market the books on Amazon and other platforms.
You will start getting a following of loyal readers which assures you of sales. You will earn back the money spend on ads and gain huge profits.
Some of the funds set aside can be used to hire people to ghostwrite your books. Always ensure the quality remains high regardless of who wrote the book.
Within six months, you might be earning a monthly amount that will allow you to take early retirement.
Congratulations for reading up to this point. As you can see, writing can earn you the life of your dreams. All you have to do is start. It may get tough at times but know that with every project you get to learn something more. All the best, as you become a professional writer.