3 Legitimate Income Methods For Writers

There are a lot of income options for writers, but which ones actually work? In this post, I dive into my top three methods for making a legitimate income as a writer - methods I use every month to pay my rent and buy groceries!

I recently took to my email list (hi, The Jinapher Community!) to ask what my readers want.

You see, I know a lot about digital content marketing. So much so, it can be overwhelming, and pinning down a blog post topic pretty much becomes impossible.

So, I asked you guys, and for the most part, I got the same response: you’re writers looking to expand your horizons.

Some of you have already had your success. You’ve put novels out, and now you’re seeking a new challenge.

Others don’t have a novel yet. You want one, but you’re not sure how to get there.

Then, there is a third branch of you who don’t really want to be novelists (although you’re not opposed if the opportunity presents itself). You just want to share your writing, whether that’s via blogging or short fiction or freelancing.

Well, here is the dealio – those are three very different branches to conquer. I’m going to need to ask for your patience as I embark (pun intended) upon each path.

That being said…I can totally help!

Over the next couple of months, I want to write at least one blog post that pertains to each branch, giving you each a taste of what you’re looking for.

All you need to do is submit any questions you may have. You can do so by tagging me on social media, emailing me, or even just commenting on this post.

I will do my best to address as many as I can in the upcoming months.

Not subscribed? Well, you see that annoying sticky header floating on your screen? Type in your email address and you’re set!

Now, let’s jump into what you likely came here for – making a legitimate income as a writer!

Method 1: Submit + Hope

Popularized by bestselling authors everywhere is the oh-so-famous money-making method of submitting your work and hoping it gets accepted.

While legitimate, this method is not the most secure (for obvious reasons). What I suggest is to pair this method with another. Write your submission, submit it, and while you wait to hear back (because some publications take upwards of a year), complete another one or two methods to pay the bills.

I also recommend you start with short fiction. Here’s why:

  • Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means to get your manuscript in front of a publisher, you first have to get an agent.
  • Agents are hard to grab onto. Just like with a publisher, they have to accept or reject your work.
  • It takes quadruple the amount of time to get a manuscript traditionally published because of the wait time on acceptance and rejection statuses.

With those points made, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t traditionally publish. It’s still a viable option, as long as you understand how much patience you will need.

My suggestion? If you have a manuscript, send it out to agents everywhere. While you wait, work on your short fiction skills. Build up your short fiction credits and your online authority with ePublications.

So, where do you begin with submitting short fiction?

First, please understand that not every story that get accepted will make you money. In fact, many stories you get published likely won’t come with a cash value.

However, there are three tools you can use to make sure you are submitting to online publications that DO offer pay:

  • DUOTROPE – for $5/month, you have access to a large database of online and print publications. You can use this tool both for short fiction and novels (as well as nonfiction). It’s most popular, however, for its vast collection of short story publishers. Using their filters, you can easily filter publishers who accept your type of short story and who will pay you for it.
  • SUBMITTABLE – this nifty tool allows you to keep track of all your submissions. You’ll want to submit to as many places as you can, and you’re not going to want to track all those yourself. As far as I’m aware, this tool is free.
  • EMAIL – this is pretty straightforward. You need an email to (a) send query letters when necessary and (b) hear back on your submissions. There are some publications that don’t utilize Submittable. I always kept a list of my submissions on my desktop just in case Submittable didn’t track them for some reason.

With these three tools on your side, you’ll only need time. In college, I would take an hour every day to submit my pieces, and I usually had at least 3 or 4 pieces going out at once. When one place rejected one story, I’d simply send them a different one.

The key is to be sure you visit each publications website and explicitly read their specific submission requirements. Unfortunately, everyone’s different. You can’t just bulk submit and not make your query letter different here and there.

I suggest having a basic query letter you can copy and paste, and then adding to it whatever the requirements are.

Method 1 isn’t difficult; it’s just lengthy. If anything, it will bring you more name recognition and a bigger audience than it will money. However, that eventually leads to money – so it’s kind of a win-win situation. You just need to be willing to put in the work.

Method 2: Freelance

Freelance writing can be a fabulous method of making a decent side income (or even full-time income for some).

The only problem is how saturated the market is. There are a lot of freelance writers! You will need to be able to completely distinguish yourself within a myriad of professional writers, which isn’t an easy feat. You will need to go into beast-mode for the following:

  • BRANDING – you will need a strong professional brand to use across social media, websites and your resume. With the tools and resources available at your fingertips, freelance employers expect way more than a simple resume and cover letter. Having a proper brand will surely impress them (or begin to).
  • WEBSITE – you will need a professional website that showcases your services. Building a website does not need to be expensive nor difficult. In fact, I wrote this post to make things super easy for you. I suggest giving building your own site a try. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a great skill to have in your toolbox.
  • SOCIAL PRESENCE – your social media needs to be professional. If that means you create separate professional accounts from your personal ones, then so be it. Keep in mind that’s the place prospective employers will look. If you aren’t on social media, then I suggest – at the very least – having a LinkedIn. Several employers will allow you to apply via LinkedIn, which can make the application process 10x easier.

Once you get those three things handled, next you need to actually find jobs. Much like with querying agents, you will need to apply to various jobs. It’s unlikely you will book the first one you apply for. There are a few places you can find jobs:

  • FREELANCE PLATFORMS – my favorites are Fiverr, Upwork and Remote Jobs. That being said, I have had the most success with offering $5 web copy on Fiverr.
  • JOB NETWORKS – LinkedIn Jobs, Indeed, Glassdoor…Get on them all. Set up job alerts for your email inbox and apply to new jobs at least once a week.
  • SOCIAL GROUPS – my main ones are via Facebook. I’m pretty sure LinkedIn has a fair amount of job groups, too. I landed my first freelance gig via my college facebook group. One of my teachers posted about the company hiring, and I just decided to go for it (despite being underqualified at the time). Now, I have 80+ book credits on my resume.

Freelance writing is one of those things where it’s hard to create consistent income. It may be easy to pick up a job, but that job may only have a lifetime of a month. You must be vigilant in actively applying for new jobs and always be on the hunt.

I don’t recommend freelance writing for individuals who (a) like handholding and/or active instruction and (b) want consistency in their lives.

However, if you’re willing to stay on your toes, freelance writing can be a lucrative business. Plus, it has some pretty great perks, such as working for yourself, working wherever and whenever you want, and always wearing pajamas.

Personally, I love working for myself, but I enjoy human interaction from a stable job. So, I currently do freelance writing as a side gig. It helps pay the bills, and it earns me extra experience on weekends I don’t have much going on.

Method 3: Conventional Jobs

Because we live in such a modern society that is so unbelievably fast-paced, it’s easy to forget that there is a traditional route to writing that isn’t a bad idea.

While I love to write Fiction, I knew I never wanted it to be a job. I never wanted to be forced o write a book rather than creating it naturally. That’s when I decided I would look into alternative interests. Granted, they were all still writing-related, but it opened the door for new opportunities I hadn’t even thought of.

When you love to write, it’s easy to just say, “Okay, well then, my dream is to be an author.” It’s easy to hold onto that dream and not explore any other avenues.

However, going after conventional jobs, such as copywriting for social media, taught me that my writing capabilities go far beyond the pages of a novel. I’m actually really great at making digital content, and I actually enjoy it, too!

When you think about “conventional jobs”, they aren’t as glamorous as freelancing, traveling the world, etc. Today, that’s not completely true. Work environments are shifting for the sake of millennials, offering more benefits. Some companies even allow remote work whenever you want. More and more businesses are realizing that if they want top talent, then they need to adjust to the times.

Yes, I want to write more books, and yes, I want to keep freelancing – but I also want to experience a real work environment. I want to be able to put team building exercises on my resume and know that I am a great team player.

Much like with the other methods, this one isn’t going to be for everyone. I think that’s why it’s so great that we have so many options, now. Don’t put yourself in a box and say, “I only want to be an author.” If you have the gift of writing, then it’s likely you can use that gift across a multitude of verticals. Maybe you’ll find, like me, that you really enjoy blogging and/or marketing.

When looking for a conventional job, I suggest scouring the exact same places I listed under Method 2. This could also present the exciting opportunity of relocating if you want to. You can apply for jobs all around the world – and don’t be discouraged if you lack experience. I have found that employers appreciate someone who’s willing to work for that experience more than someone who comes in and thinks they know everything there is to know.

Where to Start?

The three methods I’ve listed are relatively general. I’m sure you’re wondering where to even start, especially if you’re not sure where your talent lies.

If that is the case, then try a bit of each. There is no harm in taking a weekend and giving each a shot. The worst that can happen is your work gets rejected. However, the best that could happen is you get published, you build your resume, and you set off on a new, exciting adventure.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. As I mentioned in the intro, you can email me, mention me on social media, and/or comment on this post. I will say I’m more likely to see an email before anything else, but any will work.

I’m not sure when my next post will be. I know it’s like a huge blogging no-no not to post consistently, but I’m more concerned about delivering relevant information to you guys than a bunch of random posts you don’t need.

So, until next time…


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