How many times have you gotten paid for your writing?
If you’re like the 30.5% of writers we surveyed, you haven’t even gotten paid once.
That’s a big problem. You can’t pay your bills with free work, even if that means an article in the Huffington Post, Forbes, or any other giant publication.
You need (and deserve) work that pays well.
Unfortunately, unpaid work is extremely common. 54.3% of our survey respondents said that they have had more unpaid work than paid work.
It’s so common that a false narrative has developed around it.
Freelance writers are often taught that they have to take on unpaid work at first in order to build a portfolio. You’ve probably heard this before.
The idea is that you climb the ladder much like you would in a corporate job, starting out as an unpaid intern and working your way up to a paid employee.
However, it doesn’t always work like that. Many writers struggle just to find unpaid writing opportunities in the first place.
So how can a writer ever get paid? You’re about to find out.
Why writers don’t get paid
There are two main reasons why freelance writers don’t get paid.
The first reason is not knowing where to get paid.
Many of our survey respondents said they couldn’t find anywhere to pay them well for their work.
Content mills are a popular option for getting paid as a writer, but they don’t pay well at all (often less than 1¢ per word) and have no flexibility.
But sadly, most writers don’t know where else to look. Content mills like Textbroker and freelancing platforms like Upwork have taken over the industry to the point where writers are lost without them.
There are alternatives (more on that in a second), but they’re often called unreliable because they don’t offer daily work like mills do. Many writers don’t even know about these alternatives.
The second reason is thinking paid work is impossible to get.
Because high-paying work is hard to find for so many writers, it’s considered a pipe dream. Many writers believe that paid work takes a long time to get or that it’s reserved for the upper echelons of writers.
As a result, writers don’t actively seek paying work. The lack of knowledge of where to look makes them give up.
Writers don’t give up because they’re lazy––they give up because they’ve tried and failed. They develop a mindset that unpaid work is just how it is and maybe someday it’ll pay off.
Thankfully, it’s a lot easier than you might think to get works that pays you well.
That’s not to say that you can get a $1/word job in the next five minutes. It will take some work, but the payoff is great.
The honest truth about getting high-paying work
At Writing Launch, we value transparency and honesty, so we’re not going to sugarcoat things.
The brutally honest truth about high-paying work is that it’s not always as consistent as mills or platforms.
It certainly can be, but that’s not always the case. Of course, that doesn’t make it worse––you’re trading low pay and high consistency for higher pay but lower consistency.
You might be getting daily work from a content mill, but does it pay well? Are you happy with your career and where it’s headed? Are you doing what you want?
Many writers would say “no” to all of those questions. They’re looking for something better.
If you want freelance writing work that pays well, you’ll have to consistently put time and effort into finding that work.
You’ll have to spend time every day seeking out work, sending pitches, and contacting prospects. You’ll need to learn about selling what you do and crafting the right proposals.
If you want to get the freelance writing jobs that you dream of, finding work will have to be part of your daily work routine.
This is why many writers choose mills or platforms. They don’t know where to look, and they feel like they don’t have time.
But even if you feel like you don’t have time to look for work, you do.
And even if you’ve never gotten paid for your freelance writing, you can.
Without further ado, here’s exactly how you can start getting paid without content mills or freelancing platforms.
Define your niche and your offer
Before you do anything else, you need to determine what your niche is and what your offer is. Let’s tackle each of those one by one.
We recommend choosing just one niche to start with. While you can write in multiple niches, it’s easier to start with one and work your way up if you want to. (Also, many professional writers have only one niche.)
The ideal niche has three important characteristics: sufficient interest, activity, and pay.
If you only use one or two of these factors to determine your niche, you won’t see the best results.
For example, if you choose a niche just based on your interests, you could find out that there’s just no market for writing in that niche.
Once you’ve settled on a niche, think about what you have to offer. In other words, consider why anyone should buy your writing.
How will people benefit from your writing? Focusing on the benefits you provide will help you communicate your value better.
It helps to create a value statement to better understand what you can provide.
A value statement is a sentence that describes your value. An example: “I help local businesses get more sales by writing product descriptions that connect with customers’ wants and needs.”
Here’s another example: “My well-researched articles help readers learn more about my topic.”
You need to be able to communicate your value before you look for work. It’s an important step that you can’t overlook.
Look in the right places
This is probably the question that’s been on your mind since the beginning of this article: “Where do I look for high-paying freelance writing jobs?”
There are two basic methods of finding freelance work: searching and networking.
Searching is exactly what it sounds like: looking for freelance writing jobs. This usually involves perusing online job boards.
Networking is reaching out to people you know (or even strangers) to find work. Your coworker might know someone who needs writing done, or perhaps a friend of a friend needs web copy.
Both of these techniques are good, but we’ll focus on searching.
There are some searching techniques you can use. Here are 3 of the best ways to search for freelance writing jobs:
If you haven’t had success with getting paid for your writing, you might want to start here. Guest posting (i.e., writing articles for blogs as a guest author) is one of the easiest ways to get paid for your writing.
You don’t need any experience to get started, and you can guest post in almost any niche you can think of.
It’s a simple process. Find a blog that accepts guest posts, pitch an article, and get published and paid!
It’s important to note that usually you shouldn’t send any work until after you get paid, but guest posting is the exception to that rule. You have to send the content in first, and then you get paid.
We do recommend that you try to find blogs that initially ask for pitches and not entire articles. Also, be diligent in making sure the blog does indeed pay writers. Who Pays Writers is a helpful resource for this.
To help you get started, here’s a list of 50 blogs that accept guest posts.
Still have questions? Check out our webinar on blog writing that’s almost an hour and a half long.
This link aggregator site is an unlikely spot to find writing jobs, but it’s proven effective for many writers. It looks intimidating, but you get the hang of it rather quickly.
Two communities within Reddit, /r/forhire and /r/hireawriter, are populated with job postings from individuals and companies who need writing done. If you’re interested in learning more about finding freelance writing jobs on Reddit, here’s a guide.
There are many other job boards that can prove useful for freelance writers. Keep in mind that there’s a fair bit of spam on these boards, so you’ll need to navigate them carefully.
Some of our recommended job boards include:
Look for jobs in your niche, and make sure the payment information is specifically stated.
Remember, never work without a contract, and never send any work until you get paid (unless you’re guest posting).
You can get paid and published
Getting paid well for your work is completely possible.
Content mills and freelancing platforms would like you to think that it’s not, but it is.
You will have to actively look for work every day, and it might get discouraging from time to time. However, it gets much easier as time goes on, and you can set your own rates and make your own rules.
If you’ve never gotten paid before, try out these techniques. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section.
Are you having trouble getting paid for your writing? Are you going to try any of these techniques? Let us know in the comments!
I did a search of the Reddit and the websites suggested in the article which was quite concise … I like Reddit but it seemed it there were more postings of people looking than hiring and I could not figure out how to make it so I could only see those posts that were for hiring – there was no link or adjustment or option for that on my Reddit (I’m on an iPhone, (so weird) … ..
.then I went to :
Problogger – was okay but nothing that I would qualify for but I will keep looking at that one site
Morning Coffee Newsletter – had nothing – no jobs found
Online Writing Jobs Newsletter – the site no longer existed
I have to open the 50 blogs ( here’s a list of 50 blogs that accept guest posts) and research each one of them…
Definitely use desktop if possible! Mobile is unfortunately limiting for writers, even just for more casual research. It’s physically more difficult and not as intuitive, even with a tablet, and many sites still somehow aren’t optimized for mobile.
Has anyone heard of the Silver Ink Literary Agency? Got an email with the following message:
Penguin Random House, a Traditional Publishing Company in New York is looking for books to acquire in exchange for an upfront money and continuous royalties. …we are not connected to any Self Publishing company.
Any info/feedback will be welcome.
Denis, we don’t cover that here since that falls under creative writing. We cover freelance writing!
This is very comforting news. But one question for me still stands… where can I submit my work? In what format should it be? And what payment method is used?
James, we go over all of that information in our courses, but you can find truncated versions in our webinars, which are available on our YouTube channel here.
Hi, I note that most of your recommendations are for the US market. Is there an equivalent European organisation, or would you be able to pay attention more to other countries?
Actually these recommendations are all applicable worldwide!
This article is very informative. I just enjoy reading the possibilities for writers. I haven’t begun as of now, to research the websites that offer job listings. Once I leave this article I will seek and search. I have a website and also affiliates on the 1st page of my website. I am helping other business owners increase their sales and receive viewers to their content. I welcomed the opportunity to become a member in Vistaprint’s affiliate program. Vistaprint’s design team have really assisted me in my new website design. I think they did a great job. My website is viewed daily. I pay a small cost each month for their services. Sales are just not happening for me. I have offers for promotional items to customers who make a purchase. I am also a member of Vistaprint’s reseller program. I want to sell my business. I don’t have enough revenue to make this possible. I am considering putting my website business in the hands of my literary agent once my novel is complete. I was fortunate to receive a publishing contract from a New York publishing company. My novel is now in the publishing stages and will be complete this year. I have KDP Kindle publications on amazon. I just recently submitted a “take down action” of my paperback book on sale with amazon. It was a process to get control of my book. I own the copyright. My book is available on my website for sale. I had to send an e-mail to office of Jeff Bezos and his team was very cooperative. It had been ten years that amazon posted my book for sale through a world-wide distribution network. I only received one royalty payment from a book I purchased from amazon. I always received a “no sales report” status from amazon and the publisher. I paid the publisher in full for a bestseller contract. Now, the publisher’s assets have been sold to Author Solutions. I was also a part of the class-action suit filed against Author Solutions. That was a total waste of time for authors like myself who deserved and received no compensation. The case was dismissed and only two authors received compensation. I read an article in The Writers Digest magazine (May/June 2019 edition) informing writers that amazon does not give writers accurate sales reporting of customer sales they make from authors. I will keep my three publications on amazon’s website. They have given me outstanding exposure and an author page. I need money more than exposure.
Thank you for the valuable insight. I have been published for over two years and have never been paid. A friend asked just yesterday how my writing was going. I had to admit that it’s quite discouraging to plug along and feel as though my writing just isn’t good enough. I had no idea so many writers are in the same position.
You’ve given me hope.
Nydia, it’s our pleasure! Not getting paid in over two years of writing is a travesty, but we can definitely help with that. Be sure to sign up for our webinar tomorrow––even if you can’t make it, we’ll send out a replay to those who sign up. I know it’ll help you to take that next step and get the treatment you deserve for all of your hard work.
I was a newspaper reporter and a weekly newspaper editor back in the early 1980s. I’ve since continued my writing efforts into writing ghost-columns, trade magazine articles and teaching both business writing and fiction writing. All I can say is that nothing pays anymore and all of my efforts now “date me,” because most of my work was pre-computer age. No one hires writers anymore and certainly no one pays for the time it takes to make phone calls, arrange meeting times, time involved in actually interviewing someone or some 2 or 3 people and then time it takes to sit down and write up the work. It’s just not worth MY TIME to get paid next to nothing, so I recommend finding another field or line of work. All it is – is a race to the bottom for these content mills and blogs. I have now chosen graphic design as my field. It is still very competitive, but it allows me to write some — just depending on the business. Sadly, most people don’t read anymore either.
I would very highly recommend looking at guest posting. It does pay (as I note in the article), and it’s excellent if your portfolio needs refreshing. Thankfully, the freelance writing economy isn’t as bleak as you think––there are still many great job opportunities.
Does that mean writers need to completely change careers? I don’t think so at all. There is a lot of great writing work to be had, but it’s harder to find, which turns most writers away. But putting in a little time each day to look for work can be a complete game changer.
Thanks for this–it’s helpful, timely, and practical. A
Just about sums up the entire entry level gig economy.
My Novel has been used my many company. A Fight to be Heard. It is being used as Let your voice be heard. I Universe publised my Novel. I have not received a dime.
Great advice. Thanks!
Thanks so much for sharing! I just wanted to bring to your notice that the link for Babble isn’t working. Is there another way of getting in touch with the editorial team?
Greetings, Writing Launch:
This was a very informative online article. It shows exactly what freelance writing can do – educate, entertain, or inform. Therefore, I’m all in. I’m going to get started right away.
Glad to hear it!! If you have any questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since a contract can be inferred from correspondence, it is possible to work without a formal contract, just an exchange of e-mails–but you need to know that you’re dealing with professionals, not some fly-by-night wannabes. And I’ve never heard of being paid in advance of submission to a publication, although that would be the way to go if you were not submitting to a publication but were doing contract writing (day, preparing a brochure for a business or writing a speech for someone). Big name publications often pay on acceptance or provide a kill fee if they can’t accept the article you’ve written (it happens;sometimes you and the editor just aren’t on the same wavelength about the finished product). Otherwise, this advice is good.
That’s true, but I always recommend that writers err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, even professionals can be flaky, but I agree that every writer should vet who they work with––that’s great advice to reinforce.
You’re right about publications not paying in advance, and I noted that in the article, but it bears repeating. Your comment reminded me of an interesting article I read on kill fees, and perhaps you’ll find it interesting as well: http://www.scottcarney.com/2015/02/kill-fees-ruin-writers-hurt-magazines-destroy-journalism/
I started out with content mills and from my experience with them truly aren’t for the writers, it’s for the owners of the content mills. I gave up all my content mill accounts for the simple reason of not getting paid well enough for my efforts. I got tired of orders from clients that were either unclear, threating, or rejected for no reason.
I would work my butt off for a client only for them to underpay me or downright reject my work, which always worried me that they would keep my work without paying me and use it as their own work. I had no way of protecting my work.
Yes, I will use what I learned today to seek out and find work that pays me well for my efforts.
I would like to learn more about writing up contracts as this is new for me.
Thank you for this awesome post it came at a perfect time in my life.
Thank you for posting this information. This isn’t strictly writers, either. I’ve been applying for months for editing jobs. Last week I found out what the problem was. For a job that pays about $7 to $9 an hour, the company received over 200 applications. Two hundred! The competition is brutal out there. My next step is to beef my Web site and go door-to-door at the sites I want to work for.
I think your article will help a lot of people. Thank you, again.