How Writers Get Paid
Here’s the thing, most people I know, or those that I start to work with, have a few misconceptions about how to actually get paid what they’re worth. Even a lot of professional, working writers you may know and follow are struggling to survive because they follow a certain line of thinking.
Writers start their careers in various places. Some start with writing blog posts on bidding sites for pennies a word.
Let me be 100% honest with you: bidding sites CAN work, but it takes a while to get traction. I started there myself, and you have to put in work to create enough trust and goodwill to build a reputation, otherwise it won’t be worthwhile.
It’s not that it can’t be done. There are probably hundreds of writers that make sites like Upwork work for them, but they are few and far between and—most likely—are fighting for the lowest quality jobs.
Writers in the media sphere make money by writing content for larger publications. These are people who have large followings on Twitter, write essays and articles that are topical, but are having a hard time paying their bills.
Because the amount of content they need to produce to make a living wage is INSANE. When you’re starting out, $250 for an article may sound like a lot. But media companies are only paying people with large portfolios and a proven track record those kinds of numbers (just go to http://whopayswriters.com/ and see for yourself).
If becoming a media influencer, or a writer for a large publication, is what you aspire to, that’s great! In fact, I’ve written for large publications, too—it’s a great way to build an audience and get your voice heard, spread your message, or write something that’s important to you.
However, it’s extremely difficult to make a living doing it full time. It’s a struggle until you build up a large enough audience and someone gives you a book deal, or you figure out another way to monetize your audience. Again, totally doable, but very hard and time consuming.
Copywriters get paid differently, and depending on what model you fit yourself into, it varies as well.
You can be an agency copywriter and make a decent salary, but that becomes a job, and you’ll be tied down to a desk as part of a company. I’ll touch on this more in the future, for now, I’m going to focus mostly on people who want to freelance as a copywriter.
Most wealthy writers I know are either “A-List” Copywriters, or people with huge audiences which they’ve monetized.
I myself have focused on freelance direct-response copywriting, and I get paid per project rather than per hour. This is the ideal place to be in as a freelancer. I can charge $5K for a project that might take me only 30 hours to complete. That would even out to about $166 an hour—and I’ll show you exactly how to find clients who pay that much in just a moment, but for now know this:
Writers get paid in a variety of different ways.
Some of my favorite writers who have big audiences and pump out countless essays and articles still do copywriting on the side to keep income coming in. Myself included. I freelance part time so I can pursue screenwriting and other creative endeavors.
Getting paid to write, and making a decent living, is 100% possible.
Different Ways To Make Money As A Writer
Now while everyone is competing for small amounts of money, there ARE other ways to make money as a writer that doesn’t involve you charging $12/hour for a blog post.
It’s all about how you approach things.
If you’re a writer who wants to focus more on content-driven deliverables (blog posts, general website content, SEO, etc.), you can market yourself in ways that will bring larger paydays by focusing on what clients will value and pay more for.
Taking your skills and approaching the market with them in a unique way can lead to opportunities you may not have thought about. For example, a screenwriter can sell their expertise to large companies who need brand stories, or even corporate CEOs who need speeches written.
Think about this for a moment: there’s a CEO or company founder with a high six-figure salary. She needs to write a speech, but she doesn’t have the time. If you can solve that problem for her, and write a great speech or presentation, do you think she’s going to pay you $.03 a word? No. She’ll likely be willing to throw more money at the problem, and depending on how well you position yourself to her, you could sell a few thousand words for a few thousand dollars.
Now obviously this super busy CEO would most likely send one of her assistants to find a speech writer online. They would do a Google search and come up with the best options. And maybe you don’t have a website that has anything to do with this, so she won’t find you.
This is fine.
I’m only sharing this example to make a point: the way you think about and approach your freelance writing career will affect the results you get.
If you’re a copywriter, you can go the agency route and pursue the life that comes along with it, or you can go the freelance route and see HUGE paydays. Many writers I know in this space are making six figures or more. It’s doable.
If It’s So Easy Why Aren’t More People Doing It?
For starters, most people don’t think about different avenues for their writing. They either think they have to wait for a big payday for some story they’re writing, or that they have to write blog posts for almost nothing. This approach is limiting their growth.
The key to making money as a writer is to focus on value and where money goes.
If you can get this down, and position yourself as a more valuable asset in the marketplace, you’ll be a step above all the writers in your niche.
There ARE many different avenues that are lucrative for you to sell your words.
Focus On Value And Where The Money Goes
By nature, writers tend to undervalue themselves and their services. This isn’t on purpose. The world has assigned them a value they take on. They see low prices and accept them as “just the way things are.”
Getting out of this mindset trap will put you on a path to greater and more lucrative success as a writer, because there are many places where you CAN charge higher than average prices.
But you have to understand where you’ll be seen as most valuable.
A company whose business is built around a direct-marketing model of attending industry conferences, networking, and speaking to generate leads is not a good fit for someone who wants to write blog posts for them (though if their CEO wants to write a book to be seen as an authority, there’s a good opportunity for a ghostwriter pitch!).
On the flip side, a company that sells health supplements, or organic foods online might have a greater need for long-form blog posts to help educate their audience. A company that relies on well-written white papers and studies to generate leads will place a higher value on a writer who can get the job done, than a company that doesn’t.
An online information marketer who uses content pieces to drive email subscribers onto her list so she can sell products through email will value a great email copywriter over one that specializes in FB ads.
The list goes on, but the point is to figure out where your expertise can provide the most value.
Sure, maybe you can do EVERYTHING, and that’s great, but you’ll be viewed as an expert if you specialize. Once you get a bit of traction, you can package things up and create larger services.
A great way to measure whether or not a company or industry requires and values you is by using what I call: "The Correlative Value Equation."