Thursday, March 18, 2010

5 ways to make money as a freelancer

A million years ago, when I had that extremely short-lived writers' group, I recall someone asking how one could make real money as a freelance writer. She said that writing for magazines couldn't possibly generate a substantial income.

I think that it's true: most freelance writers can't and don't rely solely on magazines or newspapers for income. If I've learned anything in this career, money from freelancing comes in fits and spurts. Many magazines only pay once the article has been written and "accepted." Others won't pay you until the article is published. And since a lot can happen between the time the article is written and publication (once a magazine folded after I wrote the article and I never got paid even though the piece was published in the final issue), it's hard to count on that money until you're holding it in your hand.

So, one must supplement one's income through other means. Here are 5 alternatives to consider:

1. Blogging

In case you hadn't noticed, these days everybody has a blog. Everyone. Newspapers, businesses, libraries, law firms, hospitals...just everyone. And, of course, people like you and me. But, of course, it takes a whole lotta time to keep blogs updated. So newspapers, businesses, libraries, hospital, law firms, hire people like you and me to keep the blogs updated. It can be fun and easy and can mean regular pay. Plus, for an expat freelancer, it means that you don't have to be in the same country as your employer. I have written for a couple of blogs on a regular basis, and have really enjoyed writing without having to be responsible for finding an audience, advertisers, or even pictures and formatting!

Look at Blogger Jobs and ProBlogger for blogging jobs.

You can also monetize your own blog but I think it takes a very specific idea, a huge following and an incredible amount of time to make it profitable. But I do know of people who receive a solid, steady income through advertisements on their blogs.

2. Copywriting/Commercial Writing

You know all those brochures, newsletters, pamphlets, and other marketing materials that cross our paths every day? People write them. Very often, freelancers write them. And these companies are willing to pay good money for quality writing. If you don’t believe me, check out Peter Bowerman’s classic book (and website): The Well-Fed Writer. According to him, you can achieve self-sufficiency as a freelance writer in 6 months or less. What does self-sufficiency mean? Well, according to him, a “comfortable, not-unusual week nets $2000.” Sounds pretty good. I have never attempted to break into business writing since the language of most of the business ‘round here are French, but I do keep my eyes out for opportunities. And I’m sure it’s possible to break into Anglophone business markets from abroad, but as I’ve never tried, I don’t know how. If anyone has any ideas on how to do this, feel free to share!

3. Editing/Proofing
Many freelance writers supplement their income by offering private editing/proofing services. Tons of businesses, students, and fellow writers will welcome you with open arms. If you know your way around Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style or cackled over Eats Shoots and Leaves, then maybe this is an option for you. If you’re an expat freelancer in a country that doesn’t speak English, I imagine that there would be a wealth of proofing/editing opportunities.

4. Résumé writing.

This is the classic job you can do from anywhere. Again, you’ll need to have stellar proofing skills and an eye for detail. You could either seek work through an already-established resume writing company or you could try to start your own resume writing business. This blog tells you how to get started. As expats, we’re well-placed to target people seeking jobs in our home countries. French CVs and American CVs are quite different. I feel confident that many French people seeking jobs in the U.S. would love to have an American eye assess their résumé.

5. Greeting cards.

If you’re always cracking people up with your witty quips or don’t mind getting really sentimental in your writing, consider writing for greeting card companies. You can make quite a tidy sum scribbling a few lines. According to this article, you can make $3 per line to $150 per verse. When you think about it in terms of "per word" payment that can amount to several dollars per word! Makes a nice break from those .10 per word magazines.

There are plenty of other writing options, but I think it’s dawning on my husband that I’m not actually running the kids’ bathwater. I’d better do a “5 more ways to make money as a freelancer” another time. G’nite!


  1. OMG - I never thought about getting paid to blog! And I had no idea there were resources to find jobs doing it. You have made me very excited :) Thanks!

  2. I'm glad you found the post useful. Good luck blog hunting!


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