Becoming a writer (and earning money as one)

Many work at home mums would love to earn a living as a freelance writer. But if you think the best way to earn an income as a writer is to spend nine-to-five writing novels, think again…. 🙂

With the book publishing industry going through massive changes due to electronic books, the Kindle, IPads and blogging, it’s much harder to get a book deal than it was just a few years ago. Even if you do, as the author you’ll be expected to do virtually all of your book’s promotion yourself. You’ll only get to keep around 8% of the book’s cover price, so unless you’re JK Rowling and can sell books by the truck-load, that’s a lot of work for not very much money.

True, there’s more to life than money. But if you’re determined to use your writing as a way of keeping a roof over your family’s head, you’ll need a better strategy than getting a novel published.

Now isn’t an easy time to break in to journalism, either. Digital publishing has taken its toll on newspapers and magazines too, meaning that any budding journalist will be competing for work with trained journalists with years of experience. Plus tight deadlines mean that journalism often isn’t flexible enough for mums with young children.

But don’t despair, there’s one place that always needs fresh writing – the internet.

Here are some of the ways you can earn an income writing for the web:

  • Website copywriting

The average website visitor has the attention of a gnat, so web copy needs to be concise and to the point. Many small business owners struggle to explain their product or service in such a brief and engaging way. Could you help them?

  • SEO copywriting

Any writer on the web will need to know the basics of optimising copy for search engines. Basically, this is weaving keywords into the text in a natural way so that readers don’t notice them but search engines do. If you have a talent for writing, you have a head-start.

  • Article writing

Often only around 500 words (although sometimes longer), articles are used to teach readers about a product but without giving them a sales pitch. They are also used to get the attention of search engines.

  • Ghost writing blogs

Blogs are a very effective way to market a business online, but some businesses don’t have the time, skill or inclination to keep writing regularly. Could you be their ‘ghost blogger’?

  • Sales copywriting

Writing copy that persuades the website visitor to get out her credit card or pick up the phone.

  • Your own blog

Start a blog, build up a readership and then sell advertising space, write your own information products (e-books, e-courses) or promote someone else’s products as an affiliate.

So, lots of potential there. But there are few traps to avoid too:

  • Scams

If someone offers you a course that will make you a wealthy writer overnight, the chances are it’s a scam.

  • Working for peanuts

You will meet plenty of people on the web who will want you to work for a dollar an article. You cannot possibly make a living this way (except perhaps if you live in a developing country). You need to a) not take work from these people and b) have the confidence to value your work more highly than this. That’s not easy if you’re just starting out, but it’s essential if you’re going to make a living from writing.

  • The blogger’s hamster wheel

By that I mean becoming so focused on writing your own blog that you forget to actually sell anything! Also, writing unpaid product reviews or working with PR companies in the hope that you’ll get paid for it one day but you never do. You can get some nice freebies this way, but they don’t pay the bills (unless you eBay them, of course!)

Another blogging trap is to write a personal blog. These are tough to ‘monetize’ because you’re not demonstrating you’re an expert in a particular subject (apart from yourself), so you can’t write an e-book on your subject, recommend resources to help people learn about it or get freelance writing jobs on it. Taking Business Plus Baby as an example: I could write about my life as an mumpreneur, but instead I write articles that I hope will help other mums succeed in business. I do weave bits of my own experience into my posts, but it’s not a personal blog.

  • Getting hung up on creativity

If you’ve always wanted to be a creative writer, a poet or a novelist, you may have to get over your feelings that you’re selling out if you take work where you’re writing for business. There’s nothing wrong in earning a living and surely earning a living from any kind of writing is better than not writing at all? Besides, many novelists started out as copywriters.

So if you want to make an income from writing, it could really pay you to go online. To find out more (and to avoid those pitfalls) I recommend getting a copy of the e-book Write For The Web.

This article contains affiliate links.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Wiertz Sébastien

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