Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Support Your Writing by WRITING—How to Earn Extra Money While You're Working on Your Book

by Edie Melson

If you’re truly serious about being published, you’re going to have to put some time, energy, and yes, even money into that endeavor. Trust me, we’d all like to think we have enough talent to make it, but talent will only get you so far in this industry.

The publishing biz is built on networking. And while it’s possible to create valuable contacts online, there’s still no substitute for an in-person meeting. That means you’re going to have to get to some writing conferences, and those aren’t cheap.

So what’s a writer to do?

Use your skills—and your need to improve your craft—to kill several birds with one stone, and begin writing articles for pay. This will do several things:

It will give you clips—published proof you can write that you can show to potential editors and agents.
  • It will prove to industry professionals that you can write on a deadline and work with editors successfully.
  • It will give you the opportunity to improve your writing skills.
  • It will give you the opportunity to network with professionals who can provide valuable contacts.
  • It will enable you to attend conferences and workshops without breaking the family budget.

If this sounds to good to be true be warned, it’s not all roses and rainbows. Earning money by writing does take work. And it’s not usually an immediate cash cow. Here are the skills you need to earn money as a freelance writer while you’re following your dream of writing books.
  • You need to learn how to network and market your skills. Paying writing gigs don’t just fall from the sky. You need to search them out.
  • You must be flexible. My highest paying writing assignments have never come in the categories that I love to write about. I haven’t done much writing I hated, but truthfully, writing about remodeling bathrooms isn’t what I’d call my sweet spot.
  • You have to take chances. I have always been willing to take on assignments that stretch my skills. Doing that has paid off EVERY SINGLE TIME.
  • You have to be persistent. Freelance writing is a numbers game. In the beginning you’ll land an assignment or two for every ten you query. But as your expertise expands (along with your portfolio) the numbers go up. I consistently bag over half the assignments I apply for now.
  • Finally you have to be organized and treat this like a business. People are paying you for your work, the least you can do is keep a calendar with lists of when and who you queried, assignments, and payments received.

I'm actually teaching a course on this very thing over at ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writer). If you're a member, the online courses are included in your membership at no extra charge. Beyond that, your membership entitles you to access the course archives chock full of previous courses. 

It's not too late to join, or feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!



  1. Beyond going to a writers' conference (which is expensive, as you noted) how do you network with other writers in order to get a writing assignment?

  2. And, where do you research a topic you have little to no information about?

    1. Ellen, I'll answer both questions here. You can network with other writers online through writing groups, like ACFW. Through blogs, and through social media. As you get to know other writers, they'll often share leads or contacts about writing opportunities.

      To research a topic use the Internet. Start by typing the topic into a search engine and dig in, making notes of where you find your information. Once you have the facts you want to use, be sure to verify them by tracing the facts back to original sources. For example if I wanted to use the fact of how many people live in Greenville SC, I trace that fact back to the US Census. That is the place that fact originated.

      I hope this helps! Blessings, E

  3. Thanks Edie. The idea that you can go online to connect with other writers for potential contacts is great to know. I wouldn't have thought of it. Tracing a fact back to its original source helps a lot since there's a lot of misinformation on the Web.

  4. This is a topic I've been thinking a lot about lately, though, honestly, not with a lot of enthusiasm. But you're right: sometimes we have to do something we aren't ecstatic about in order to fulfill that which we dream about. Thanks, Edie! :)

  5. I started out as a non-fiction writer and have a fair amount of writing credits. While they didn't pay much, I gained experience meeting deadlines and learned much about the craft.

    There's also something reassuring about acceptances when you're working on a long-term project. It helps defeat those nagging doubts about your ability.