Writing online is tough because most do it for love.
This means they get paid $0 and often fall behind in other areas of their life. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Writers can earn a living from their craft.
The catch: you have to treat writing like a business. And every good one has a business model. For writers, though, I recommend a revenue stack.
This simply means multiple ways to get paid to reduce risk and ensure you pay this month’s electricity bill.
The ways writers make money are quiet. Part of this has to do with a scarcity mindset amongst writers. The other reason has to do with the fact none of this is obvious.
Making money as a writer requires a person to be creative so they can capitalize on in-direct monetization rather than the lazy, “you write, we pay” model that many are addicted to.
Here’s how writers can make money.
Many writers write non-fiction.
An article or story is level one in the non-fiction world. It gets the reader horny but it doesn’t deliver the knockout blow.
Many writers forget about level two.
If writing content on the internet is the landing page or sales funnel, then an online course is level two. If readers think you know something they don’t or can learn from, they’ll happily pay for your education.
This comes in the form of online courses.
The most basic course is filmed beforehand and delivered on-demand through software like Kajabi or Maven.
Online courses are still a form of writing. You have to write the whole thing before you record it. Then you have to send emails full of writing to explain parts of the course and attract people to it.
The difference is courses are a more in-depth form of writing. You have to come up with:
- Containers for information
- Action steps anyone can follow
- Clear takeaways with homework
Courses that meet these criteria generate writers one-time payments. They come, they buy for a decent entry fee, they leave.
Time for money
This one is quirky.
It involves cohort-based products. These are typically an online course, mastermind (people are vetted and have to apply), or coaching.
Cohort means you achieve the goal of the product by doing it together with other people at the same time. This means for the writer, the whole delivery happens in real-time and is limited by a writer’s schedule.
While trading time for money might sound stupid, it can be lucrative. Why? Social experiences tend to get better engagement. When people are engaged they’re more likely to get what you’re promising.
This leads to a better customer experience that drives repeat purchases and customers to refer new clients.
Many writers overlook the cohort model because of the time commitment. They’re missing out.
Plus, if you build a business around a company name instead of your name, you can always outsource some of the time-based commitments later on.
You’ve all heard of subscriptions.
Think of subscriptions like a way to ease the cash flow burden on the customers of your writing business. If a product is $500 then it can easily become a subscription that smooths out the payments.
Some writers are geniuses and release their own software. I’m not that smart so I don’t have Timmy Time that you can buy on the app store. Soz.
The subscriptions that make sense for writers are:
- Paid newsletters
- Monthly templates of some sort
- Access to an exclusive writing community
The smartest thing a writer can do is earn part of their income from a subscription.
I think getting 100% income from subscriptions is dangerous though. I predict subscription fatigue will continue so I prefer a mix of payment types in case things change.
Paid to write
This model has two types 1) Newsletter ads 2) Freelancing.
Newsletter ads are an easy way to write a regular column and send it out each week, and instead of the readers paying, the sponsors pay.
For this to work you have to pick a popular topic that doesn’t change. Because I get bored with a topic easily, I have chosen not to do this model. Also, you have to nail your ethics.
If you place an ad in your newsletter, ideally, it doesn’t create a conflict of interest and is a product/service you’d happily use. Otherwise you become a fake-ass Hollywood actor that nobody will trust.
No trust, no cash.
Freelancing is the other paid-to-write model. The beauty of this one is you don’t need a large audience. I know people with 200 readers who have 5 clients and make 6-figures.
The key is to advertise your freelancing services on your social media bios and know how to pitch a potential customer.
The higher the price you charge, the fewer clients you have to do deal, and the less drama you’ll encounter.
For some reason rich writing clients have low expectations. Cheap clients are the opposite — avoid.
Paid to recommend
Building products and services is harder than it looks.
And the more social-proof you have the higher the conversion rate is of leads into customers. Many writers make life hard for themselves. They build a sh*tty product and then try to flog it for peanuts.
The smart strategy is to first recommend someone else’s product. That way you can focus on the writing needed to sell the product, and learn how an online business works.
This is called ‘being an affiliate.” Once you’re a good affiliate you can start to add your own products/services. Plus if you make another writer good money by being their affiliate, they’ll start to accept your Zoom invitations and perhaps even share more about how they make money.
It blows my mind that I run a 7-figure writing business and more writers don’t just say “you know what Jimbo, I’m gonna sell his thing first.”
Again, affiliate sales sometimes get a bad rep so perhaps that’s why. Also, I find many writers have a high level of skepticism and are afraid to sell — even more reason to become an affiliate first to rewire your psychology and ditch the scarcity mindset.
I’ve always found it miraculous what happens when a writer starts to make money online. Suddenly they get it. And that’s why being an affiliate is so damn important.
Writers should earn a living.
Yet many don’t. They’re not taught the quiet ways to make money that people like me (and Justin Welsh, who inspired this list) use to feed our families. That’s a bloody tragedy. As a writer, don’t let that be you.
Open your mind to making money online.