Do You Want to Write Spam, or Do You Want to Write?
Do you dream of earning your living writing for the internet, but so far all you have earned is $3.62 from Google Adsense through your blog? Would you like to turn that $3.62 into $3,620 in only four weeks? Well guess what?
You can't !!!
No, seriously, you can't. At least it's not very likely. Not if you really want to be a writer. If you want to be a spam writer, you might be able to do it, but you will hate yourself in the morning even if you succeed.
I write web copy for this British guy who has an affiliate marketing website. Every week I review 10-25 websites that promise people they can make $5000 while they are brushing their teeth, just by setting up a dummy affiliate site and promoting a product. Then, they are told they can kick back (or brush their teeth) and watch the money roll in. Often the product is a CD or E-book on how how to make money setting up affiliate marketing sites. (Are you dizzy yet? Good!)
At first, I didn't even know this kind of thing existed. This particular writing job was one of my first, and the guy I do this for is a nice guy and pays me on time. The work is easy if a little boring. So, even though I have plenty of other more interesting projects now, I still write these reviews once a week. It takes me maybe 20 minutes, and it get $65 for that. That's $195.00 an hour, but if I did that for an hour I'd shoot myself. So I don't.
I soon realized that there is an avalanche of this crap on the web--that's why my guy has a whole website devoted to nothing but reviews of it--and 99% of it is dreadful, boring, hyped-to-the-nines garbage. I also realized that a lot of people would like to earn money actually writing for the internet as opposed to paying money to someone else to learn about MLM or affiliate marketing scams.
I am no expert on how to earn money writing, but I do currently earn more than I did at my day job just by writing for the web. So I know it can be done. I made $440 a week gross at my day job ( that IS gross! But hey, I live in Michigan...), and last week, I made $560 writing online for that week. I've got another $500 or so lined up for this week. And I still have my day job, only half-time now because I have too much writing now to work full-time elsewhere, and the writing pays better. I've only been doing this writing since November of 2007.
So, in the spirit of sharing (for free) what I've learned so far about how to earn money writing online, here are some tips. Please feel free to add your own. I'm always looking for good advice.
Plan to Work Hard I spend a LOT of time writing. But I love to write. When I'm not writing, I'm looking for new writing work or keeping track of my finances, or visiting other writers' sites and networking, or emailing my regular clients and setting up projects. This bit of advice may sound kind of silly, but if you don't love to write, I mean LOVE to write as in eat, breath, sleep, dream about it, don't try to earn money as a writer. It's not easy money, but if you keep at it, it can be good money.
Establish an Internet Presence Join several writing sites that pay-per-click like HubPages, Helium, Triond, PrintnPost, or Associated Content. You should also start your own blog with Blogger or Wordpress. Then write your ass off. Do this for at least a month, and garner any cudos you can at these sites. At Helium, you can win weekly writing contests and you can also sell articles outright in their Marketplace section. The negative there is that you are peer rated for Helium contests, and that system can be crushing to a delicate ego. But then, if you have a delicate ego and want to write for money, toughening up is a good idea anyway.
Start Your Own Website My favorite place to do this is Weebly, but there are lots of places you can set up a website without shelling out any money. The nice thing about Weebly is you don't have to know anything about HTML or code or anything, it's all done through templates and WYSIWYG functions. Although this may sound like an egomaniacal thing to do, once you start applying for freelance work, its amazingly effective in nailing projects. Buyers will often ask for samples and you can just refer them to your website. Post a real photo of yourself and a professional bio, and post four or five samples of your writing. You can also post a link to your blog. Think of this site as your online resume. Resist the urge to be flip or coy about your ambitions, and pass up avatars and animated .gifs in lieu of a real photo of your real self. Buyers want to work with a real person, not a sparkly porpoise jumping over a rainbow over and over again.
Set up a Profile at Several Freelance Sites I get most of my freelance work at Elance, but I've also heard good things about Guru.com. My daughter sent me a site called ODesk, but I don't much care for it. A lot of the work posted there is horribly underpaid. The same rules for your website apply to your profile at these freelance sites. Be serious, not flip. A sense of humor is fine, but present yourself the way you would for any job. Take some time with it and don't be modest about your accomplishments, as this is what will get you work. Some sites offer to validate your credentials for a fee, which may or may not be worth it to you, depending on your credentials. Think of any money you have to spend on this sort of thing as an investment in yourself. And remember, a lot of it will be deductible on your taxes as a business expense.
Bid On Some Jobs Bid cheap at first, and keep at it until you get something. Most of these sites allow you to bid a certain number of times for free, and after that you have to pay a membership fee. I bid for free until I got work, then I joined and paid the fee. Lots of people balk at paying the fee, but I look at it like this: The fee I pay at Elance is less than what I currently spend on gas to get to my $12/hr day job five days a week. Once you successfully complete a few jobs, you can start upping your price and being a bit more selective.
Decide What You Want to Write and What Your Boundries Are Actually I just got this piece of advice here at HubPages. It's GREAT advice. I was having trouble sporadically with clients who would advertise one thing, then ask for 12 more things once I committed to the work, without any extra pay. I don't like to use contracts. If I can't trust the person I'm writing for then I don't want to write for them. It may well take you awhile to learn what you like to write and what you don't, when and how you want to be paid, how much rewriting you are willing to do, how much pestering you are willing to take, and so on. Once you complete several projects, you will begin to see a pattern emerging regarding what goes well and what doesn't, and you will be able to sniff out the clinkers faster and faster.
Expect to Get Stiffed Occasionally Actually I'm amazed at how seldom this happens. I've been stiffed once and underpaid twice, but on all of those occasions I could see trouble brewing and did not act quickly or decisively to head it off. I try to stick with 'escrowed' work--that is, work that is set up so that the buyer puts the money up front into an escrow account through your third party freelance site, then releases it to you when you've completed the project. I have done work without escrow, and I still get paid. It just makes me nervous. The one time I got stiffed was a non-escrowed project, and to make matters worse it was an E-book so I'd already written about 12,000 words whe nthey buyer backed out. This kind of thing will happen, and you will learn from it. Don't take it personally.
Exit at the First Whiff of Trouble If a client is a pain in the butt and very demanding and unpleasant, graciously fire that client as soon as the project feels 'off'. My three unpleasant experiences (out of dozens of good ones) were all drawn out way too long in my naieve efforts to please unpleasable exploitive clients. I back out by thanking them and saying a lot of positive stuff that basically, underneath the schmaltz says, "Go away, ok?" Don't be nasty, don't be emotional, just exit ASAP. One of the best things about working for yourself is you get to fire your clients if they mistreat you.
Keep Searching for New Venues New sites spring up almost daily, so when you are bored or need a break from writing about whatever it is you are currently writing about, search the web for other writing sites. Search HubPages and sites like it for articles by people who write for money and read about what works for them. I've found so many good things this way.
Self-Publish Back in the day when you had to self-publish on real paper there was a certain stigma to doing it. However, some of the best-selling books ever were initially self-published. Here are just a few best-selling books that started out as self-published (on paper) books:
Remembrance of things Past, by Marcel Proust
Ulysses, by James Joyce
The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
The Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton
The Bridges of Madison County
What Color is Your Parachute
In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (and his student E. B. White)
The Joy of Cooking
When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
Life's Little Instruction Book
Robert's Rules of Order
Today, it's a lot easier to self-publish. You can self publish for free or a nominal fee at Lulu, CreateSpace, or BookSmart, just to name a few, and you can charge buyers by the downloadable .pdf file. If you wanted a printed paper book you can do that too. You can even order services through these sites like cover art & illustration. For a small fee you can purchase an IBSN number for your book and market it through Amazon, and also make it searchable in any library or bookstore data base.
So if you are sitting on a book you've been sending around to slushpiles for years, think about just publishing it yourself instead. If you do well, publishing houses will approach YOU. Wouldn't THAT be cool?
Keep at It Most people who succeed at what they do are relentless. They don't slap up one MLM website and lay around and collect money, they do something they love and they keep on doing it no matter what until it works out for them. They can't NOT do it; that's how much they love it. They don't take failure personally, they learn from it and keep doing whatever it is they do. The same is true of writing.
My own personal feeling about it is that, while you can teach people to write or to write better, you can't teach anybody to be a writer. You either ARE a writer or you are not a writer. If you are a writer, you know this already. If you aren't a writer and aren't sure if you are one, but you think you might like to be one, then what you need to do first and foremost is start writing, then never stop. Never stop. One day, boom, you will realize that you are pretty much writing all the time, and at that point you will also realize, that, duh, you must be a writer after all!
So that's my free advice, for what it's worth. (Which may not be much?!) Take a chance, learn and love, live and let live, be happy.