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21 Ways to Make Money Writing in 2010

Cross, Eliza
Eliza Cross

I took it hard last year when Gourmet magazine folded. A former magazine publisher myself, I wanted to blame the closure on poor management at Condé Nast even as magazines dropped like pork dumplings in stockpots of simmering Hungarian Goulash. Okay, perhaps I went a little overboard with that analogy. Still, in stubborn denial I couldn’t believe or accept that readers and advertisers were no longer sufficiently committed to a publication I had long considered to be well-written, engaging and entertaining. What was the publishing world coming to?

Clearly the dizzying array of media choices vying for our attention makes it challenging to be particularly loyal to any one particular brand. Not that long ago, we might have tuned into our favorite television shows at the appointed time and faithfully subscribed to the daily newspaper and a half dozen magazines; today, with the vast offerings of online publications, streaming video, downloads, blogs, ezines, websites, MP3s and podcasts I feel like a virtual Tiger Woods of sorts – with so many temptations and possibilities at hand, I can’t begin to sift through all the choices.

Even though I dearly love how a book feels in my hands and the pleasure of curling up in a comfortable chair with a favorite magazine, I now own a Kindle, watch Netflix movies on my laptop and get the content of my favorite blogs delivered via RSS feeds. As an author and freelance writer, I paradoxically deny the current market conditions of book and magazine publishers buying and paying less; surely, I tell myself, once the economy perks up things will return to ‘normal.’ But who am I kidding? When the economy improves, the media marketplace will be different – and as it grows more robust it will likely change at an even faster pace.

So. If Madonna can keep reinventing herself perhaps we writers can, too. There may be fewer freelance magazine assignments and book deals right now, but even as those publishing avenues shrink other opportunities are emerging. After brainstorming, researching and talking with other writers, I made a list of opportunities for writers right now. Perhaps there’s an idea here that will spark a new direction for your writing. (If you have other suggestions, please send them to me ateliza@sprintmail.com ; I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

Even as I feel wistful about losing publications like the Rocky Mountain News and Gourmet, I know that if writers are to thrive and succeed we must look forward and be open to the new possibilities and opportunities the ever-changing world of media presents.

  1. Teach others how to write. Community colleges, Colorado Free University, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, the library districts, recreation centers and schools are all good possibilities for niche-oriented writing classes. Or perhaps you could create your own online class, host a seminar, or launch a workshop to profitably share your expertise. Promote your classes for free at sites like TeachStreet.com.
  2. Write your own e-book. You can probably publish a basic e-book yourself without giving away part of your profits by simply utilizing one of the e-book software packages available and creating the book in a Word or PDF document. Sell it online and you could be making money while you sleep!
  3. Write a short.  Magazines may not be buying as many multi-page feature stories from freelancers, but many still have columns that pay for reader-submitted anecdotes and tips. Write up your short piece, send it off today and you might pocket an easy $50.
  4. Self publish your book. Success stories abound; if your book proposals aren’t selling, perhaps this is the year to try independent publishing.  If you need inspiration, talk to CAL member Elizabeth Yarnell who self-published her popular “Glorious One Pot Meals” and later sold it to Broadway Books.
  5. Write for the web. There are plenty of huge sites like msn.com and iVillage that need fresh content every day. You may be surprised at the decent pay offered by some online editors. Query away!
  6. Write copy. Businesses have cut staff, but they still need great copy for their brochures, promotions, ads and newsletters. Opportunities abound for talented freelance copywriters.
  7. Ghostwrite.  Make the money; sacrifice the fame. Help a wealthy entrepreneur write his memoirs or help a busy pediatrician write her book about raising healthy kids. You’ll hone your skills and have another book to your credit.
  8. Write bios. Many companies need well-written bios about their key employees for use on corporate web sites and marketing materials. Demonstrate your ability to concisely tell a story and you might also land a gig penning the company’s history.
  9. Be a book coach. Folks who hope to write books love talking with people who have written books. Once your book is published you’ll receive many kind offers, such as: “I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and just pick your brain a little.” I now offer a short bit of advice on the telephone for free, and after that I charge my regular hourly rate for additional time spent providing direction and advice to would-be writers.
  10. Edit or proofread. All writers need a good editor, and many freelancers earn $30 to $50 an hour or more by providing this essential service. Why not you?
  11. Handle media relations. If you’re a freelance writer, you have a huge advantage in the world of PR because you already know how to pitch a busy editor. Use your writing skills and contacts to help organizations promote their message to the media.
  12. Provide social networking. There are plenty of company executives and individuals who think they should have a strong social networking presence but don’t have the time to blog or tweet. Offer to help develop a social networking strategy and provide content.
  13. Subcontract work. Offer your writing and other services to help another busy writer or professional meet a deadline.
  14. Write speeches or talks.  Help a client prepare a presentation, or write your own and seek more paid public speaking opportunities this year.
  15. Recycle an old article.  Most of the work is already done; rework an existing idea or article and pitch it anew.
  16. Enter a contest. The CAL Top Hand Awards were just announced; why not peruse the categories and see if there’s a good fit? Or try something new; former CAL president Roxanne Hawn placed in the Pikes Peak Branch of the National League of Pen Women’s Annual Flash Fiction contest a few years ago.
  17. Sell ads on your blog. Others are doing it; if you post regularly and enjoy a steady following of readers, why shouldn’t you? Or trade ads with another motivated noncompeting blogger and build your traffic so you can attract paying advertisers.
  18. Collaborate. Find a good co-author you trust and get busy on your next book or project. Split the work while doubling your efforts.
  19. Apply to be a paid presenter or judge at a writing conference. Some conferences also offer discounts in exchange for volunteers who handle administrative tasks.
  20. Provide English translation, writing and editing services for overseas businesses. If you know a second language, you can provide both translation and editing. If you don’t, you’re still an expert in English and you can help international companies avoid embarrassment by writing good copy. I recently helped a Dutch law firm rewrite poorly translated English for its web site, and I don’t speak a word of Dutch.
  21. Help another writer promote his or her books and services. Most writers can use help with marketing, and some are shy about promoting their own work. It’s often easier to boldly promote another’s work – especially for a nice fee.
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