As someone that's been working online for over 9 years now, I'm glad to say that if you are a writer, you will have access to lots of different ways to make money writing online. The main value of the internet is the exchange of information, and the vast majority of that information is done with text. Even in other formats like video or audio, there's a written element to those mediums like scripts, translations, and subtitles.
The trouble with the typical “make money writing online” list is that they list a bunch of recent gigs you can apply for, so if you read the article six months later, the jobs are no longer available! So for this article, I've organize eight general-ish categories to get you started with, and let you know what's available out there.
The even better news is that there are as many ways to make money writing online as there are writing niches. Here are all the different ones I could think of off the top of my head:
- blogs & articles
- fiction & nonfiction ebooks
- summaries & excerpts
- speech to text
- ghost writing
- product descriptions
But digging a bit deeper, there are even more opportunities for niche writing projects.
- college essays
- dirty stories
- dating profiles
- greeting cards
- game reviews
- guest posts
- horror stories
- lesson plans
- music reviews
- movie reviews
- academic paper
- travel reviews
- thank you notes
- top 10 lists
The methods of payment will vary too. Some will pay per word, some per completed article. Some gigs you can get paid simply for a completed piece of text, while others will require that you have a knowledge of website CMS (WordPress, Joomla, etc) so you can upload relevant photos and videos. You can make a lot of money freelance writing if you really put your mind to it. People are making over $100k per year doing this!
Of course, income like that won't happen overnight! But you can work towards a significant income with online writing, just like any other “traditional” career.
There's every type of working relationship out there too. As an editor that outsources writing for some of my websites, I have some people that I work with for a set amount of articles per week. Every week is the same number of articles, and the same payment for each article regardless of topic. Some freelancers I work with are paid per word, some are paid per hour. If I have a specific topic I want expert writing on, I'll bring someone on to write a few articles for a short term project.
The subject matter you can write about is limitless. Anything from political opinion pieces to Amazon product descriptions can get you paid. Health and fitness blogs are just as popular as end-of-the-world-zombie-apocalypse blogs. You can stick with what you know, or do the research and write about anything that comes across your plate.
Enough rambling. We get it. But how much can you get paid to write online? That depends on a lot!
Let's dig into each type of writing and see how to land gigs, as well as how much money you can expect to get paid for each style of freelance writing online. Before you dig in though, I'm keeping a list of online writing opportunities that I review. So you can browse through those posts and see if there's a specific item that you're interested in.
Make Money Writing Online
1. Freelance Writing Gigs
In my opinion, this is the easiest way to get started making money writing online because it's kind of a free-for-all. There are all types of jobs, all types of clients, and thus a wide variety of project commitments, pay levels, and subjects to write about. Everything is done on a bidding system, so you can just apply for the work you want to based on your availability and how much value you place on your work. They also have other gigs available on these websites like graphic design, virtual assistants, research positions, coding, videos editing, and loads more.
Three popular freelance writing websites are:
Personally, I use UpWork. I like their method of bidding, payments, and am used to their system. I previously used Freelancer, but just like the way UpWork ran better so now just focus on hiring from there.
Sites like these do get flack from professions writers because writing gigs are very competitive, and pricing is often the most negotiable aspect. You are competing on a world stage, so people in developing countries like the Philippines and India will be half the price or less of what people from North America or Europe will work for.
The poor reputation is only somewhat deserved. As a new person to outsourcing, I will admit that I would get caught up in price wars. I simply would go for the cheapest bid on the table. However, I learned my lesson many times over and wasted a lot of money getting crappy content that was basically useless. Now I refuse to hire writers from anywhere by native speaking nations.
Plus, as I mentioned, there are all types of jobs available. If you want to make $200 per article, you can. But you have to be an expert with in-demand knowledge or excellent research skills to land gigs like that. I once hired a food writer for $200 per article 1000-word article because I needed specialized knowledge and this person was an experienced chef in that field. I also paid a premium price for a “gluten free expert recipe writer” because I needed accurate recipes for this special diet.
These are just examples from my hiring experience. I focus a lot on article writing because that's what I pay for. But in the past I've paid for things like video and podcast transcriptions, excerpt writing, product descriptions, and editing.
When you get started, yes, you'll probably need to sell your work for less than it's worth. It's tough to get started and to gain a “reputation” in the bidding community. Once you've had a few positive reviews, you can bump up your price per hour and start demanding more of your clients.
2. Ebook or Blog Ghost Writer
Depending on what type of writing you enjoy, you might like to get involved in a more immersive project like ghost writing an ebook or writing for a specific blog. How you price a project is up to you. Though I found quotes online of $8 to $20 per page, or $250 to $750 per book, those numbers are quite meaningless other than to just give you an idea of the range.
A 25 page book about the rise of Socialism among youth in America will be priced differently than a 100 page general guide on how to prepare for an EMP bomb attack. Clients will have different goals as well. Someone might want to knock this book out in two weeks by any means possible, while another person could have a six month timeline with multiple edits in mind.
Just searching on upwork, I see that hourly rates for eBook writing range from $25 to $80 per hour.
The key is to figure out how you value your work. Don't know how much you're worth? Do a few cheap projects and get a feel of what your time is worth. If you are not experienced selling your writing services on the open market, this practice will give you an idea of how you value your time. Bump your price up as you land more projects, or clear more of your schedule as you land more jobs at the current price.
3. Selling Kindle Books
Making money writing online implies that you'll be paid by someone else to write something. However, why not pay yourself to write? Selling kindle books online can be a lucrative venture, but for the average writer, it does take some time to build up enough of a library to make consistent income. Unless you hit a big trend or have some kind of randomly in-demand knowledge, you'll probably need to write several popular books to rely on ebook money to pay the bills.
Like with most writing gigs online though, there is a huge range of what's possible here.
You can pump out a few short fiction stories per month, selling them for $0.99 a piece in the Kindle store. After 100 of those, you could be making a few sales each day, adding a nice passive income to your portfolio. I happened to have specialized knowledge in how to make money online with affiliate marketing, so I took about 4 months to produce a 60,000 word ebook on the topic called Money Blog. People tell me I should sell for $2.99, but it's currently $9.99 and makes about $50 per month. The first year it was published it made about $100 per month, so total for the first year was about a grand of extra income.
If you really want to get clever about things, do your research and find popular topics, learn about them, then publish a book on the topic. I wrote what I knew about, but you could potentially publish a new ebook in a specialized area once per month. After a year, that would be 12 niche books selling automatically on Amazon. Even if they only make $50 per month as mine does, that would be $600 per month in ebook income.
Search Google Trends, twitter, Facebook, and even watch the news for trendy book ideas to write about. Just off the top of my head, some topic could be drone photography, homemade dog treat recipes, aquaponics, and how to be a great single dad.
4. Pay Per View Articles
There are a number of publications online that will pay you for your content. Many “pay per view”, while some may pay a flat fee. For example Listverse offers to pay $100 to any qualifying article they can publish on the home page of the website. That's a pretty good deal, considering pretty much ANY list is possible. Just browsing their page right now, I see topics ranging from 11 Masoni Ritual Connections to the Apollo 11 Moon Landing to 1o Incredibly Boneheaded Blunders.
Personally, I find it hard to believe someone got paid $100 for that second article, considering it's only got 21 shares so far, and is a very general, very boring topic.
I have a feeling there's some kind of catch with the $100 payment, so proceed with caution, but it's definitely worth looking into!
Another similar option is writing for Cracked.com. They will pay for a variety of types of content, including lists, image editing, videos, infographics and more. Comedy is what they're looking for, so unfortunately you won't be able to produce just anything for this website. Plus, they only pay for what they deem shareworthy, so as with this type of gig, you're only getting paid for what's good enough.
But these are just the two options I found in about 5 minutes of research. You could potentially collect 20+ of these websites and submit articles to each one by one until you get paid. If something you write gets rejected everywhere, you can publish it on your own website and potentially make income there.
5. Writing For Online Publications
People get their news online. There are thousands of publications out there. Some are widely known like Forbes and Huffington Post, while others are popular but off the radar due to their niche audience like Kotaku. What a lot of folks don't realize is that these sites pump out an insane amount of content. They probably have some core staff writers and editors, but a lot of their writing is done by freelance writers like yourself.
The good news for you is that although these used to be exclusive and in-demand jobs, taken by only the best writers, the need for daily content means that just about anyone can publish on these sites. I once hired a link building service to write an article for me that was published on Forbes, which linked to my website. It cost me $1000 for said article, but it was as easy as that. So the lack of integrity of these “news” outlets works to your advantage (albeit to the detriment of subscriber experience).
Here's an article on how to get into Forbes, and here's one for HuffPo. Search your publication of choice, and they'll have a page on their site on how to get published there, or you'll find someone with experience explaining how it's done.
It's very likely you'll need some kind of proof you're a writer, which is another reason you should own your own website with examples of your writing.
A great strategy could also be to cold-pitch any website that produces blogs in a topic you're knowledgable about or have expertise in. If you are a vet and think you can write great content about natural remedies for common dog illnesses, make a list of 100 websites writing consistent blogs about dog illnesses. Email them your pitch and see what comes back. Cold-emailing is sure to get a lot of rejections, but all you need is one or two to respond!
6. Content Farms
Writing for content farms does not have a very good reputation since it doesn't pay much, but the pay is consistent, and more in the vein of a typical job. Examples of content farms are:
Though you definitely won't get rich writing for these sites, and they don't have the passive income potential of owning your own website, payment is fast, and you don't have to search around for jobs or bid against other writers like with freelancing gigs.
Typically you'll get paid per word, ranging from $0.01 to $0.05, though this may vary based on the topic and length of assignment.
The upside to working for the farms and mills is that you will have a constant stream of work. The downside is that it's going to be pretty low pay. Also, you may end up with projects like one-off articles. Those can be more difficult because you have to become an instant expert in random topics, rather than choosing long term projects that allow you to learn about a subject that you write about.
Using Fiverr is another alternative way making money writing online. In this case, clients will find you! You can post your services on the website, and write however much you feel comfortable for $5. Most gigs nowadays allow for a variety of packages that go beyond the basic five dollar order. So you could write a 300 word article for $5, then offer a 200 words more for another $5.
The upside is that you can just take this work as it comes, and people that hire writers on Fiverr usually have pretty low expectations for content. Many will be non-native speakers looking to save a buck, you can probably slam out some quick work. Even two gigs, making just $10 per day would be an extra $300 per month.
The downside of using this site is that it's highly competitive. Many sellers already have established profiles with thousands of reviews and special seller status that gets them place at the top of the page where most people click. However, they are also swamped with writing, so you may be able to compete on turn around time.
8. Starting An Affiliate Blog
Writers are my favorite people to tell about affiliate marketing, because they are already almost “there”. 90% of what you need to be successful with an affiliate website is the ability to write content people want to read. If you like to write, you can most definitely earn a living online. All you need is a little patience.
For me, I hate working for a boss. I like the freedom and creativity of thinking of a website idea, brainstorming topics to write about, optimizing and publishing those articles, then watching the money roll in.
If you need instant payment for your writing, then starting an affiliate blog isn't for you. If you want to be paid per word or per article, then this is also a strategy that won't fit well. But if you want to create passive income with a long term strategy in mind, then starting an affiliate blog is the best way to make use of your writing skills.
First and foremost, you own your own content. Once it's published online, it will stay there for another decade with your name on it, and you can choose what you want to do with it. You can benefit from it in a number of ways that spell $$$ for you. You can directly promote products through links, or indirectly through display ads from Google or Bing. After years of publishing, assuming you have traffic and an online following you can sell the website for another level of profit.
Imagine making $1,000 per month for the next couple years, then turning around and selling that asset for a $200,000 one-time payment? It's possible!
Of course you won't be making that right away. It could take 1-2 years or more to reach that point, assuming that you are creating consistent, high quality content along the way. Do you have the patience to write 5-10,000 words per week for two years without any payoff? It's unlikely you would see zero profit during that time, since income usually increases gradually as you're building your site. Still, the hypothetical scenario shows the kind of mindset you need to make money writing for an affiliate blog you own.
A secondary benefit to owning and writing for your own website is that you can provide truly helpful information to an audience on a subject you feel passionately about.
Doing one-off jobs or even long term projects for a client may mean you get stuck writing about cat bladder infections for three months. When you make the choice to start a website, you can pick any topic you find interesting, including health, gaming, natural healing, travel, fashion, or online security.
You also have full oversight and editorial control of the project. You decide the conclusion of each article, and you decide the direction of the website. If you think the best way to potty train a toddler is to let them run free without diapers, that's great. Publish! Think that's disgusting and believe the diaper route is the best way to go? Publish!
Who ever thought you could make such good money from simply writing your opinion online?
I got into affiliate marketing, blogging and all that stuff I just described through a training site called Wealthy Affiliate. The specialize in teaching people how to start affiliate websites on a topic of their choice. Training includes how to build the site, how to write articles that rank, how to find affiliate programs and make money from links, and how to create a social media presence online.
If you're at all interested in starting your own website and making money from it, you should check out their free Starter Membership (linked above). The Premium Membership which includes the full set of training and daily support of other members in the community (myself included) costs $49/month, but they allow anyone to join for free so you can see what you're signing up for before committing.
I've been there for seven years building various sites and helping others do the same, so I highly recommend them!
What About You?
Do you have any experience making money writing with any of these methods? Which one do you plan to try out? What do you think about starting your own site?