Pen and paper, writing

To be a professional writer means being paid for one's work. To make a worthwhile income from writing requires the writer to find paying markets before starting work.

Making Money From Writing Needs a Professional Businesslike Approach

Above all else freelance writing is a business. If a would-be writer wants to make money they have to produce what the market will pay for; not simply write what takes their fancy.

Business Research and Analysis of Writing Markets and Readers’ Needs

The people who are making money from writing, whether on line or in print, do so by doing their research first. There are two different types of research. There is that required for the book or the article but first the writer should research the market for the kind of work they can do. This is basic marketing and it is the starting point for any business. The writer should research:

  • Who is the customer and what do they and their readers need. What publications or other clients use the kind of work they do?
  • Do they use freelance writers and do they take speculative work or only commission based on the basis of a query from the writer?
  • How much do they pay and on what basis. There are now many more models especially in the on line market where it can be a single payment for the article, a payment based on page views or payment on some share of the advertising revenue?
  • What rights do they require with regard to copyright usage or exclusivity?
  • For on line writing there are other considerations around choosing keywords to optimise the work so that it appears high in search engine rankings such as on Google or Bing. Otherwise it will not found and read.

Identify the Market and the Written Product Required

As result of such marketing analysis the professional writer will shape their product to meet the needs of identified customers and their readers. Only then will they plan the book or article and do the research and writing.

Failing to take that businesslike approach will result in disappointment and frustration as it will not produce good financial rewards. It should be remembered, as many car makers have recently found, just making what they see fit has taken them to the brink of bankruptcy, and beyond.

The professional writer cannot therefore afford to be precious about their work if they want to make even an adequate living.

Make the Choice: Professional or Hobby Writer?

Just writing what one wants, when one wants, is a hobby; however good it is. It may or may not make money. It is of no less or no greater worth for that but it is different from professional writing. Many such hobby writers bemoan their lack of rewards especially when they see others, perhaps less talented, making good or even fabulous money. They often feel hard done by.

In all walks of life, including print and broadcast journalism, there are the stars who make a fortune and those that barely scratch a living. Why should publishers be any different? They are not social services.

There is a place for both hobby and professional writing but they should not be confused as the same thing. Fortunately with the advent of on-line magazines, blogs and other content sites there is an outlet for such work.

For example here on Suite101 both groups coexist and cross-fertilise. Even professional writers can indulge their hobby writing as long as it is non-fiction.

Many hobby writers are happy to make some money but to make a living one has to become professional and treat it as a business.

To Make Money Treat Writing as a Business

So any writer who wants to make money must treat writing as a business. If she wants to write for pleasure, to influence or for academic reasons then she should do so but not expect to make significant money.

Samuel Johnson - a memorable writer - described himself as a hack, and in his role as a lexicographer:” a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge”. He appreciated writing was hard work. The writer of this article seeks to make money from his writing and when he does he wears the epithet "hack" proudly!


First appeared on Suite101


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