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How Do I Start Earning Money Online as a Writer?

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A few years ago, when I was living in Paris, I spent Bastille Day running around the city with some friends. All of my friends were “traditional” workers, who had been given the day off for the national holiday.

“It’s so great that you took the day off to be with us!” one of my friends remarked, as we sat sipping espressos on a sunny sidewalk terrace.

“Oh, I’m not taking the day off.” I responded. “I’m getting paid for this.”

It was the truth—I blogged about the Bastille Day celebrations later that evening and received a nice paycheck for my day of adventure.

Naturally, I hear this question all the time: How can I work from home and make money online?

After all, who wouldn’t want to get paid to write about fun stuff? It’s easy to understand the allure of a freelance writing career: no long commutes, no office cubicle hell, no annoying coworkers. I work from home every day with my cocker spaniel at my feet. I can take vacation whenever I want. I don’t answer to a dictator boss. Freelancing is great for moms with kids, burnt out employees, and oddballs like me who don’t want to slave away in an office all day long.

Want to join the club? Let’s start from the beginning.

So, How Can You Start Earning Money Online?

First, do you have any skill as a writer? Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a fancy journalism degree to work as a freelance writer, but it certainly doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to land paid writing jobs.

I frequently make mistakes, I Google my pressing grammatical questions, and I sometimes commit embarrassing spelling errors. At the end of the day, however, I write pretty well, which is why I’ve managed to eek out a living doing this. If you’re not so gr8 great with grammar, don’t waste your time trying to get online writing jobs.

Phew, glad we got that out of the way.

Start Making Money Immediately

If you have a full-time job and don’t need immediate income, you’re in good shape. When I started freelance writing, I was not in that position. I was a college kid who needed to make rent in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I didn’t want to work at McDonalds, so I started freelancing. I’m not kidding.

If you need cash fast, there are plenty of ways to get started. Let’s not sugarcoat things—you might be making just a bit more than the minimum wage at first. My first big job paid me about $6/hour. Ouch. And yet, it was something. I could work as many hours as I needed to and I didn’t smell like fryer grease at the end of the night!

mTurkI know a lot of people who have worked for content mills like Textbroker to earn a few extra bucks, and hey, it works. You can also try crowdsourcing sites like mTurk. Back in the day, I earned almost $10k working on mTurk alone—check out the screenshot! (One of my favorite employers on mTurk was Crowdsource OneSpace, who no longer uses mTurk’s platform, as of last month. You can still sign up to work for them here.)

Of course, there’s also Upwork (formerly oDesk), where you place bids on available writing jobs.

Selling Your Own Work and Blogging

Countless writers dream of writing the next great American novel or creating a multi-million dollar blog like The Huffington Post—and there is nothing wrong with that! I am a huge fan of ambitious, over-the-top dreams. Don’t let what others tell you is or isn’t possible define your goals.

I will provide one simple caveat: selling your work takes a lot of effort. I’m not the best person to give advice on writing a novel, but I so admire people who have done it successfully. (Check out Joanna Penn’s exhaustive resource, The Creative Penn, if you’re interested in trying your hand at self-publishing!) It takes work!

Constant Content soldThe same is true for blogging as a career. Yep, there are lots of examples of successful bloggers who make a living writing on the web. And yet, there are countless others who never turn a profit. Think you want to earn money as a blogger? You better be in it for the long haul! Blogs can certainly serve a great purpose—this blog allows me to help other freelancers out, connect with potential clients, and publicize my work—but you’re unlikely to turn a large profit in short time.

If you’re set on selling your own articles, you might want to consider working with Constant Content. I wrote a long blog post exploring the various facets of Constant Content a few weeks ago. I’ve sold several pieces on that marketplace for $60, $75, and $100, which is a great rate for many writers starting out.

Building a Freelance Career

Once you get past the thrill of earning a few dollars, churning out content quickly loses its allure. I will point out one small benefit of starting at the very beginning, which is simply that it teaches you to write efficiently. As a college kid writing quickly to earn money for rent, I quickly got to the place where I could write 1,500 words in an hour. Writing all of those blog posts and articles, I learned how to format content for the web and discovered the ins and outs of principles like keyword density and backlinking. Are there easier ways to master those skills? Most certainly, but hey, find the silver lining where you will, right?

If you’re ready to build a real career, you’ll need to begin working with bigger fish. I’ll let you in on a little secret: good clients are willing to pay you appropriately for your work. You don’t need to slave away for pennies on the dollar. You can and SHOULD be earning a decent wage.

The first step is creating an online portfolio for potential clients to review. (I put together an easy tutorial for doing this on WordPress.) You’ll then need to carve out a niche, start connecting with clients, and invest in starting a legitimate business. There are countless resources you can use to learn more about how to effectively pitch clients, respond to job ads, and build a roster of ongoing clients, including this very blog. 🙂

I’ve only just scratched the surface of how you can find writing jobs online and start working from home. I can tell you it is possible—after all, it’s what I do, day in and out! Whether you’re simply looking to supplement your income or you truly want to make a career out of writing on the Internet, I wish you the best of luck in your professional endeavors.

Have a burning question? Pop it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help you out. If you’re an experienced online worker, feel free to share any resources that will help other workers looking to get started online.