The Truth About Writing for a Living

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Article by Wendy McCance

Can you really make a good living as a writer?  Is it a struggle or can assignments be found easily?  Can you honestly get paid a decent wage for writing an article?  These are just a few of the questions you might be asking yourself when deciding if writing for a living is for you.

I am in several writing groups on LinkedIn and I have read about the struggles writers are facing while trying to carve out their career.  Yes, you can have a career as a writer and make a good living.  No, it’s not for the faint of heart.  Below I have tackled some of the biggest questions people have as they try their hand at writing for a living.

1.  Is it hard to find opportunities as a writer?

Yes and no.  It depends on what you are willing to do.  There are always job postings for companies looking to bring on a writer.  The companies that are most often looking to hire a writer fall under the marketing/advertising field.

If you want to work as a freelance writer, you can find several opportunities. Companies like Aquent are temp agencies for writers.  There are many companies looking for temporary writers and an abundance of temp agencies that you can work with.  Here is a terrific list of places to check out.

Another option is to write for magazines and newspapers.  Here is an enormous list of magazines taking submissions.

You can also write to individual companies to see if they are interested in using a freelance writer.  I have personally found the most work by writing daily emails to companies in my local area.  I have noticed that companies generally like to work with someone who is in the area and easily accessible.

2.  Are you stuck writing articles that don’t interest you?

No.  You can target whatever markets interest you the most.  Love food and wine?  Reach out to restaurants, wineries and magazines that are heavily based on those topics.  Think about what you would like to write about and then get creative.  There are many opportunities in every field you can think of.

3.  Will you be stuck working hard writing for pennies?

Not if you refuse to do so.  Ask for what you think you are worth.  If you are having trouble figuring out what to charge, check out my price list as a guide. You can also use the Writers Digest.  The book offers several pages of low, medium and high fees writers use when pricing out assignments.  Here is the link to the FREE pricing guide.

4.  Are online sites a good place to find writing assignments?

Personally, I don’t use them.  Never have and never will.  I won’t work for such a small amount of money.  I have also heard too many stories of getting the run around once you submit your work.  It just seems to be a huge hassle and not very profitable.  That being said, there are many people who swear by those sites and have had decent experiences with them.

5.  How long does it take before you make a decent living?

It depends on how hard you are willing to work.  I prospect for business several times a week.  I probably contact close to 100 people each week.  It might sound like an exaggeration, but trust me, I want steady work and it takes continuous discipline to keep a decent income.  As time goes by, you will get repeat business which makes life much easier.

I must mention that I got ill several months back and had to stop prospecting for a few months.  It didn’t take long for me to see my opportunities dry up. Once I stopped prospecting, the assignments slowed way down.  You can seriously tell quickly how much effort you are putting in to keep up a certain wage.  Thankfully that experience is now far behind me.

6.  Do you need a college degree to work as a writer?

Not necessarily.  A degree is preferred if you want to be hired to work within a company instead of as a freelance writer.  A degree is also needed for technical writers.  If you will be working as a freelance writer and have knowledge about what you will be writing, a degree most likely won’t be necessary.  In all the years I have been writing, I have never come across a time when a company asked if I had a degree.  The companies I have worked for could care less.  They based their decision to hire me on the clips I provided.

7.  How do you get clips of your work before you get those first few jobs?

I personally think having a blog is the most powerful tool you can have.  You can demonstrate your ability to write, show off what topics you are well versed in and a company can see how the public reacts to the articles you have posted.

Another way to gather clips is to look for opportunities to guest post on other websites.  Many times you can get paid or at least be given a byline.  Here is a list of places to guest post.  Several of these sites pay very well.  I must add, these sites are looking for a well written article about a topic they discuss on their site.  You shouldn’t need to worry about showing clips of past work.

8.  Will you feel lonely working as a freelance writer?

You might.  It truly depends on how much you need to be around other people.  If you feel like you will get depressed easily, you might want to consider a job working in an office.  Writing can be lonely work simply because it is a solitary endeavor.  Another way to avoid feelings of isolation is to get out of the house and join a networking group or writing club.

Have I answered the questions you had?  Is there still something you are wondering about?  I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.  Just write your questions in the comment section below.


Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
Wendy McCance

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12 thoughts on “The Truth About Writing for a Living

  1. Love the article. I found it on LinkedIn. I’m currently a student looking to get my degree in theology and I wanted to do writing as a source of part time income but I’m having a difficult time getting myself out there. I write regularly on my blog and have emailed a few people about writing for their website and have received no reply. Any specific advice for an under qualified rookie like me? (not that what you’ve previously said isn’t helpful, I bookmarked all of those links, ha!)

  2. Great article. I have been primarily using the online sites to find jobs and have, subsequently, been undervaluing my work. Recently, even when I use those sites, I price my work correctly and have gotten more jobs than when I sheepishly ask for something less than I deserve.

    I am most in concert with your idea of selling yourself constantly. I also send out approximately 100 submissions a week and have greatly expanded who I send them to in the past few weeks. I have been a surviving freelancer for the past six years, but having the confidence that goes with that experience has led me to actually believe I can get the best paying jobs. And it has started to work!

  3. Great info, both realistic and encouraging! And I love, love, love that you emphasize that you don’t have to work for less than you are worth, that you should work with clients who value your work and pay you accordingly.

    • Cyndi, it’s so true too. It’s rare that I have had someone say that they can’t afford what I am charging. The ones who couldn’t afford the fees were always brand new companies who would have had the same reaction had I asked for half what I charge. Everyone else has felt the amounts are reasonable and honestly, compared to the amount the marketing companies charge for web content, it is!

      • Hi Wendy, Also loved your more recent guest post on the online freelance writing sites. Very much on target. I’m committed to standing with my fellow writers who aren’t willing to work for peanuts. My hope is that it will stop content mills from continuing to create business models based on poorly paid writers and editors. As publishing evolves, you and others like you are leading the way in encouraging a win-win compensation situation for writers, editors, social-media managers and their clients. Thanks for that!

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