Over the last decade, I’ve been a marketer, a tech person, a content marketer if I wanted to be pedantic… but most of all, I’ve been a writer.
Whether it’s my books, websites, or client work, writing is what I’ve always done, and still do every day.
But can you actually make money from your writing in 2023, especially if you’re self-employed?
Yeah, I think so.
Here’s how I make money by writing on my laptop these days, as well as what I’ve learned about being a writer (who hasn’t died of starvation) over the last few years.
P.S. A lot of this is inspired by what I wrote in my book, Simple Business. Give that a read if you want to hear more about building a business that fits around the life you want to lead.
The best ways to make money writing online
You have two broad ways to make money writing online. These are:
- Writing for other people’s platforms
- Writing for your own platforms
Currently, my income is split roughly 70% writing for other people, and 30% writing for my own platforms.
In the last few years, this has been closer to 95% of my income from writing for other people.
However, I’ve recently been building some of my own platforms (especially my book review website) which has started to change this balance. This year, I’m hoping to get it closer to a 50/50 split.
Let’s look into the pros and cons of writing for others vs. yourself, including the ease of making money and how much freedom and creativity you can enjoy.
1. Writing for other people’s platforms
Writing for other people is how I’ve made most of my money, both in my previous full-time work and in my freelance client work of the last five years.
If you’re smart about it, you can calibrate your work to have minimal meetings and allow you the most freedom and flexibility.
A few ways you can make money writing for other people:
- Writing website copy for businesses
- Writing blog posts for businesses
- Being a full-time or part-time content marketer, writer, journalist, or some permutation
The main advantages of writing for other people are that you can usually make more money (and free up more time for fun stuff), and make it sooner and much, much more easily.
It’s not at all impossible that you could create a website page detailing your experience, share it with your network, and get your first writing client the next day.
These are pretty compelling reasons.
The money you make writing for other people will depend on your experience but also on the industry.
At least in B2B tech / SaaS, where most of my clients have been (and a lot of money tends to be for writers), if you have experience and do a great job, you can easily charge upwards of $1,000 per 2,000-word blog post.
For website copy, you can usually charge a project rate based on your experience and the project scope (as well as the industry standards too, usually). This will often be in the thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands.
What about the disadvantages of writing for other people’s platforms? Well, you have less ownership and creativity. You might be able to include a bio and link to your portfolio, or it might be anonymous.
You will also usually get paid a one-off fee, rather than receiving any ongoing income that you might achieve with your own platforms (at least when you have a large audience).
That said, writing for other people is almost always the best way to get started making money from your writing.
2. Writing for your own platforms
Over time, I’ve been building up my own writing platforms at the same time as writing for other people. This has been a long, long process, but a) it gives you more freedom and b) it’s fun!
If you’re lucky, you can also make some money writing for yourself.
The main ways you can make money writing for your own platforms:
- Writing books or ebooks
- Starting a blog that’s monetised (via ads, affiliate programs, or your own products)
I’ll emphasise now that making money writing your own stuff is hard. This isn’t the lite approach. You can also risk ruining your hobbies if you put too much pressure on them to make money.
Most people who self-publish a book make very little money from it, so it’s better to do it for your own goals and enjoyment rather than for financial gain. (Unless you’ve already published several other books, or you already have a big audience you know will buy it.)
When you start a blog, it will usually take at least 1-2 years before you have enough readers to buy your products, make decent affiliate income, or join the best advertising platforms like Mediavine.
I started my book review website a whole decade before I decided to put ads on it a few months ago, which immediately took it from a few hundred dollars a month to a few thousand.
In order to make money writing books or via your own blog, you need to have a reason for people to listen to you. You also need a big enough audience to make you cash.
This will usually require a lot of time, focus, persistence, and oftentimes, luck. For this reason, you need to do it first and foremost because you enjoy it.
But if it’s something you want to do, the best time to start is now (other than, well, a decade ago or anytime in between). With time and consistency, you can create something you’re proud of, build an audience, and perhaps bring in some income too.
The best combination for my writing work
For me, the best combination for making money from my writing has been this: paying the bills by writing for other businesses, and writing my books and starting websites for fun, creativity, curiosity, and pocket money.
If those projects start making money, yay! That’s great. But it’s important to keep in mind that it will probably take a lot of time and consistency before you see any signs of profit.
When you do, and if you manage to keep going, you can start making more from your own projects – and maybe even switch to it entirely someday, especially if you need less income to live well.