So many of us have personal stories we like to convey to others. Personal essays are actually popular in many publications. If you feel you have some exciting stories to share, you can get paid to write personal stories.
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Are personal essays really popular?
Let’s face it – everyone loves a good story. They like to hear about the time you went camping and a huge bear came upon your tent or even more tender stories, such as the time you went across the world to adopt a child.
Our social media is crawling with personal essays and stories. You don’t have to be famous for someone to want to read them either.
The huge advantage in penning a personal story or essay is that you don’t have to be a professional writer or highly educated. In fact, you would probably have an easier time writing a personal reflection than they would.
Reflections are deeply personal. One has to be able to reach deep inside to offer an account that touches other people’s hearts, whether it’s sad and makes them cry or funny and makes them laugh.
A personal essay is something that connects to others in a huge way and traditional other types of writing don’t often do that. That’s because personal essays offer a way for another person to relate to you on a deep and meaningful level.
So, the answer is “yes.” Personal essays are not only popular but sought after in today’s world when all of the hustle and bustle of the world rushes our lives and sometimes, we just need quiet moments of reflection that touch our soul.
But I think my life is boring – Why would anyone be interested?
The truth is many of us feel that way about our lives. But, it’s the mundane and wonderful or the sad tales in our lives that others can relate to. We’ve all had life events. If we can show triumph over tragedy, laughter, sadness, frustration, how we’ve overcome, or just about any human emotion that really just involves everyday real-life situations, someone will want to read about it.
Trust me. Think about how popular Big-Brother shows and soap operas are. People love being involved in other people’s lives.
Fiction is make-believe. Personal essays are the stuff of life. Turn your memories into cold, hard cash.
What can I write about?
If you dig deep enough, we all have life experiences that we can touch up and craft into a story. Think of it as a simple, informal and biographical nonfiction point of your life.
There are so many topics you can touch on – having your first child, seeing your child off to college, getting married, being widowed, the best vacation you ever had (or the worst), changing your careers, going back to college later on in life, having a special-needs child, the first Christmas one of your parents have passed away, or your first Christmas without a child being home due to them having moved or being away at college, having a parent with Alzheimer’s or another life-impacting disease, being a victim of a crime, turning your own life around, etc.
You can even write about things that didn’t directly happen to you, such as what your favorite book is and how it relates to your life.
The whole point is to connect with the readers. We all have these life experiences and some embark on them for the first time, or others just want to relate with others who’ve had similar experiences. These are all universal experiences that are meant to be shared.
Many points in your life can qualify and make an intriguing, heart-wrenching, funny, or interesting story that others will draw from. All you have to do is tell your story! Tell what really happened and make it real and authentic.
I’m not really a writer
That’s okay! This is one of those genres that doesn’t call for professional writers. As long as you can spell and have decent grammar, you can most likely write a personal essay. Or two, or three, or ten, or twenty! You get the picture.
The truth is most of us love telling stories to our friends, our families, and even on our social media profiles. All you have to do is draw your story out and tell it on paper and in print, rather than verbally.
You’ve read these types of stories before in some of your favorite magazines. Did those writers seem to be a distant cousin of Shakespeare or Stephen King? The answer is most likely “no.” They just told their story.
But, can I actually make money doing it?
Yep! These same magazines I just talked about will often buy your story. Many of them want real-life stories. While a very few of them don’t offer compensation for personal stories and essays, many of them do.
How do you find them? We’ll help you out by showing you a few of them here, but you can also think back to where you’ve read them. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of magazines and publications out there.
Many of them accept personal essays. It might also depend on the type of story you pen. For instance, if you write an account of something involving parenting or your child, parenting magazines are probably the place to start.
If you write about how your wedding had to be postponed twice and all the snafus associated with it, one of the wedding publications would probably be more interested.
Try to tailor the type of story you write and match it up to a suitable publication. There are some publications that might entertain more of a variety of the types of stories they accept.
Essays are the easiest form of writing. Readers love them. If you’ve never considered adding personal essays to the kinds of writing you write and sell, consider them now.
Where can I sell my personal essays?
Many more places than you probably imagine. Let’s look at some of them.
- Chicken Soup for the Soul – This is probably our most favorite source for personal essays. They have variously themed books that they release throughout the year. Currently, their website is showing open submissions for the following upcoming books: Christmas and Holiday Collection – 2018, Love Stories, Miracles and More, When Good Things Happen to Good People, My Crazy Family, Stories of Redemption, and The Best Advice I Ever Heard. They update this list throughout the year and also offer suggestions for each book as to the types of stories you can submit relating to each topic. They give a lot of help. They encourage uplifting essays that are less than 1200 words long and pay $200 for each one published. Who wouldn’t want one of their personal essays to make it in one of Chicken Soup’s iconic books?
- The Christian Science Monitor: Home Forum wants a first-person essay on your personal experience that is upbeat, funny, or positive. They don’t want anything related to death, aging, or disease. They especially give consideration to current topics. They’ll pay $75 for a 400 to 800-word story. Query them at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Sun – This isn’t the tabloid publication from the UK. It’s actually an intelligent literary journal that favors personal stories and essays. Their contributor page publishes an example of the type of stuff they look for. They don’t specify a length and will publish up to 7,000 words. They pay anywhere from $300 to $2,000. Quite generous, if you ask me.
- The Establishment – They publish just about anything. And I mean anything, so if you’re choosy about where you want your work published, you may want to give them a good look over to be sure you want to submit your work here. They’ll pay $125 for an 800 to 1,500-word personal essay.
- The New York Times Modern Love – This section of The New York Times is so popular, it has its own Facebook page. They want submissions that are a maximum of 1,700 words and will pay $250 to $300 if it’s accepted. The Facebook page has advice for making your pitches to the magazine.
Those are just a few ideas. There are many others, including the Boston Globe, The Penny Hoarder, Salon, Slate, Guideposts Travels Tales, True Story, First Person Impression, Good Old Days and much more.
Some may not pay as well and some of those may actually be a better place to start and to get your feet wet.
You could also consider starting your own blog and use your collection of stories to eventually self-publish, all the while using your blog to promote your upcoming anthologies.
There are many markets for personal essays. People actually want to read about what is happening in other people’s lives. They have a desire to connect at a human level. So you see, you really can get paid to write personal stories or essays.
As a writer, you have an in-demand talent that can be used to earn you TONS of money online. You can earn money freelance writing, for sure, but it's still just trading dollars for hours. Personally, I recommend starting your own website! Information is the currency of the internet, so why not leverage your talents to build yourself a serious online income! Learn how to create your own blog-style website and make money through advertising.