Following our blog post on How to Make Money Writing Online, I thought I would add my own PeerStory and experience freelance writing online.
I have been writing as a writer and freelance investment analyst for more than four years and have probably seen just about every scam out there. I can relate when people wonder if you really can make money writing online or if it is just a fantasy.
But I have also made pretty decent money doing it.
Unless you have already been publishing in the traditional media (newspaper, magazines and books) for several years, do not expect to make much money writing online at first. Like any job, you are going to need to build your credentials and work up to higher-paying jobs.
I first got started writing online in 2011 writing for the investment website Seeking Alpha and other stock market websites. I had worked as an equity analyst several years before and was studying for the Chartered Financial Analyst designation so writing about stocks and other investments was pretty natural. At the time, Seeking Alpha was paying contributors $0.01 per page view their articles received. Averaging out my pay across all sites, I was making about $50 per article of 1,000 words which would take upwards of three or four hours to write. For a guy with a master’s degree and a professional certification, $15 an hour wasn’t great but I enjoyed the work.
I posted some articles on higher-profile sites like Morningstar without pay but for the exposure. This really helped to get my name out there and I was invited to be a panel member at a Bloomberg conference in New York on investing in Latin America. I had written one of the first real reports on a new market concept about investment integration in South America and had gotten noticed by one of the editors.
Easy? No, I spent three weeks researching and writing the report. All of that time was unpaid. I saw the topic as something in which I could make a name for myself and put in the time to become an expert. That’s really what you need to do in the beginning, find a topic that is at least somewhat popular and establish yourself as an expert. You may not get paid for the reports or writing at first, instead just posting to websites to build your name, but you will eventually get noticed.
For beginners, I would recommend two resources that will probably be the most efficient source of your time looking for writing jobs. The Problogger job board has always been a decent source of legitimate writing projects. You can try freelance sites like Odesk but I’ve found that the vast majority of jobs never get filled or get taken by lowest-cost providers. Your other resource will be bloggers that may be willing to hire you as a writer. Search around the internet for blogs within the niche you want to write and reach out to offer your services. Don’t expect to earn much at first but it will be a good way to build your skills as a writer while not having to do too much unpaid work.
The Money will Come
After that, the job opportunities started coming in more regularly. I was still working full-time as an economist for the State of Iowa but was slowly converting my hobby/side-gig into a legitimate money machine.
I got several contracts to write for websites on a regular basis, for rates of between $70 and $150 per article. Besides the higher pay, I was also able to decrease the amount of time it took to write each article.
I was finally able to transition to writing online as a full-time gig in late 2013. For those looking for the easy life, working for yourself as a freelance writer is certainly not the answer. You might be able to go to a 9-to-5 job and only put in four or five hours of real work a day, filling the rest of the day talking with coworkers or just staring at your computer. Working as a freelance writer means that if you are not writing, you are not getting paid. You may be making decent money per article or report but if you only write a few per week, you still won’t be able to pay the bills. Expect to spend at least half as much time finding writing jobs as you do actually writing, and all that time is unpaid.
Over the last four years, I have written more than 1,200 articles, four books and 30 research reports. I have only been stiffed on two reports before I instituted a payment policy of 50% in advance. I now write upwards of 15 pages a week on paid contract work and make a little over $45 an working about 30 hours a week.
This does not include the two blogs I manage and the ten to 15 pages of content I post per week. Running your own blogs can be just as rewarding as freelance writing online but can also be a lot of work for very little pay, but that’s a topic for a future post.
Some final pointers on making money writing online:
- Set a process and format for your articles or reports. Setting this process and format will help you really reduce the amount of time it takes to put something together. I know a lot of writers that take upwards of ten hours to write an article because they do not have a process. I can usually write up a good two-page article in about two hours but it will take time to get to that point.
- Do your research first and then cut it off. Resist the temptation to constantly go back online to get more facts or research for an article. Do the research you need for your idea and then write up what you have.
- Format your article out first with headings that will be your main ideas and notes on supporting information under each heading. You will put a summary and a closing in as well but these can be written after everything else. This will help your article have a coherent structure, making them easier to read and write.
- Just keep writing. Even if you feel like you need more information or want to change the direction of the article, just write it up without stopping. Once you are done, you can go back to review and edit. The constant stopping to change a theme or get more data is what takes many new writers hours of time to produce one article.