Getting paid to write may sound easy, but the reality is a little more complicated. Freelance writing can be hard to break into, and the pay can be low (or nonexistent) for beginners.
The trick is to get your first few articles or creative pieces published and then use them to score bigger clients and better pay. And even if long-term freelancing isn’t your goal, building a portfolio that showcases your published work can bolster your career as a writer or subject-matter expert.
However, publishing those first few pieces is typically the hardest part of your writing journey. To help, we’ve compiled several places where you can get paid to write now. We’ve also included tried-and-true techniques to allow you to grow as a writer and, ideally, make more money writing in the long-term.
Get Paid to Write for Flat-Rate Websites, Blogs and More
If you’re new to freelance writing, one of the first things you may notice is how opaque the whole process is. Websites, blogs and publications often rely on armies of freelancers, but their contributor guidelines and pay are often nowhere to be found.
Instead of diving straight into negotiations with editors about assignments and pay, first try to find a site or publication that has a straightforward process for contributors so that you know exactly what they’re looking for and how much they’re paying. (We’ll cover pitching and negotiating further below.)
Ready to make money writing online? Here are 20 sites to try pitching:
Copyhackers is a content company based in Canada. It provides educational materials to help new copywriters as well as paid opportunities for writers to publish lengthy articles on Copyhackers’ blog.
Its submission guidelines are clear: You should be well versed in the topic that you’re pitching. And you should expect to be writing blog posts that are 2,000 words or more “unless it’s extremely wonderfully amazingly readable reading.”
Pay: $300 to $1,000 per blog post
Categories/Topics: Advertising, branding, UX (User Experience) or marketing concepts; freelance lifestyle or advice; entrepreneurship
As its name implies, Listverse specializes in listicles aka list posts. These are highly clickable posts where each main point is part of a numbered list (sort of like the article you’re reading right now!).
The contributor guidelines mention that you can write articles related to “any topic you like” so long as it’s interesting, well-researched and in the form of a list of at least 10.
To narrow that down ever so slightly, the website is broken into several topics: bizarre, entertainment, general knowledge, lifestyle, science, society and more. Your articles should roughly pertain to those areas.
Note: Listverse will only pay freelance writers via PayPal.
Pay: $100 per list post
Categories/Topics: Bizarre, entertainment, general knowledge, lifestyle, science, society and more.
To understand what type of articles Narratively publishes, look no further than its tagline: “Human stories, boldly told.” All sections of the website are open to submissions. Just be sure that your story is longform, gripping and has strong narrative elements.
For an in-depth breakdown of the different sections and story types, read Narratively’s submission guidelines. You’ll need a Submittable account to send in your draft.
Pay: $300 to $400 per article
Categories/Topics: Personal essays and reported articles with a narrative, human-interest approach
4. Reader’s Digest
Reader’s Digest needs no introduction. But what you probably didn’t know is that it offers one of the funnest and low-risk ways to get paid to write.
But instead of swinging straight for the big leagues with a front-cover feature story, you can submit jokes and micro-stories to Reader’s Digest, which will publish them online and in the print magazine. If your submission is selected, you’ll get $100 a pop. (That’s among the highest per-word rates in the industry.)
Categories/Topics: Jokes or true personal stories (100 words or fewer)
According to its website, Unemploymentville is “a place for anyone who has felt the sting of being out of work.”
It also happens to be a place you can write guest blog posts if you have interesting small-business ideas, helpful job-searching techniques or personal stories about dealing with job loss.
Pay: $25 to $75 per blog post
Categories/Topics: Unemployment, job hunting, personal essays related to finding work
6. Writer’s Digest
Writer’s Digest is a century-old magazine dedicated to publishing “everything writers need to stay inspired, to improve their craft, to understand the unique challenges of publishing today, and to get their work noticed.”
According to the submission guidelines, Writer’s Digest accepts submissions for a variety of sections of the magazine, and it occasionally accepts cold pitches for guest posts online.
Pay: 30 to 50 cents per word (print); or $50 to $100 (online)
Categories/Topics: Personal essays, memoirs manuscripts and feature stories of interest to the writing community
Get Paid to Write Using Freelance Websites
To diversify your income as a freelance writer, you can also sign up for freelance marketplaces, sometimes referred to as content mills. For these types of freelance websites, there’s typically some kind of screening process involved before you start working with clients.
Sometimes the companies will feed freelance gigs to you, and you can accept or decline them. Other times clients will reach out to you personally through the marketplace’s messaging system. Payment varies by marketplace, but it is always funneled through the marketplace instead of coming directly from the client.
Freelance marketplaces are a low-risk way to test the waters as a freelance writer, but they aren’t the most lucrative long-term option.
CopyPress is a content-marketing agency that provides its own content management system that freelancers can use to connect with projects from CopyPress’ clients.
While it offers some freelance gigs for designers, developers and influencers, content writing and editing is CopyPress’ bread and butter.
Pay: About 6 to 10 cents per word (writer); 1 to 2 cents per word (editor)
Categories/Topics: Varies by project
Started in 2010, Fiverr is a freelance-service marketplace that has grown to become almost synonymous with freelancing. You can offer almost any professional service imaginable on the site, but freelance writing services are especially popular.
You need to create a freelancer profile to start bidding on and accepting freelance gigs.
And contrary to its name, you are allowed to charge whatever amount you want — not just $5. However, Fiverr takes 20% of the cut.
Pay: Your rate minus 20%
Categories/Topics: Varies by project
With iWriter, you can earn a fixed rate for every article. The rate largely depends on your star rating, which you receive based on a trial article and subsequent projects with clients.
According to the site’s FAQ section, you earn 65% of the price that clients pay for typical assignments, which will translate into very low rates as you’re starting out.
For example, the lowest tier of assignment is 150 words and would earn you 91 cents. Becoming an “elite plus” writer (4.85 rating or higher) will drastically increase your earnings. Complete a writer application to get started.
Pay: 91 cents to $282.75 per project
Categories/Topics: Varies by project
Founded in 2014 as a one-person operation, nDash now boasts a network of more than 10,000 freelance writers, which it connects with its clients, some of whom are household brand names.
To get started with nDash, you need to sign up, create a free profile that highlights your expertise and past experience, and set up an account with Stripe so that you can get paid.
You’ll be able to set your rates based on project type (blog, whitepaper, email, article, etc.). nDash does not take a cut of pay like other marketplaces. It charges its clients instead.
Pay: 100% of your set rate ($150 to $450 on average, according to nDash)
Categories/Topics: Varies by project
Launched in 2007, Textbroker stakes its claim as the first online content marketplace.
To get started with Textbroker, you need to first register for free and then write a trial article, which Textbroker editors will assign a rating. Your rating from your trial article will determine how much money you will earn per word.
After this registration process, you can fill out an author profile to attract clients and use it to pitch them directly.
Pay: 0.7 to 5 cents per word
Categories/Topics: Varies by project
Formerly Elance-oDesk, Upwork is another massive online freelance marketplace. It caters to all kinds of industries, including and especially writing services.
Before you accept gigs, you’ll need to register for free and set up a freelancer profile. With Upwork, you set your own rates and find work by pitching clients directly, accepting work from clients who reached out to you or by bidding on projects that clients posted.
While Upwork is free to sign up, it charges you a fee based on your lifetime earnings with a client, between 5% and 20% of your set rate.
Pay: Set rate minus 5% to 20%
Categories/Topics: Varies by project
Get Paid to Write Poetry, Fiction and Other Creative Works
To get paid to write creative work, forget almost everything you know about freelance writing. Getting your creative writing published is an entirely different beast, and very few people make a living writing poetry or fiction alone.
Still, seeing your name in a literary journal can be a gratifying experience, and that experience is only heightened when you get paid for your creative masterpiece.
Not all creative writing publishers pay. In fact, it’s common to see “submission fees,” meaning you are paying them to review your work. In those cases, publication isn’t guaranteed. You want to avoid those scenarios entirely when you’re just getting started.
Below, we’ve included several publications that do not charge any such fees and will pay you a modest sum to boot.
The creative writing world runs on Submittable, an online submissions manager. You can create a Submittable account for free.
13. The Antioch Review
The Antioch Review, founded in 1941, is run by faculty and staff of Antioch College, a small private institution in Ohio.
The writer’s guidelines state that the journal publishes nonfiction essays, fiction and poetry. Submissions must be mailed in. Published materials are paid a rate of $20 per page.
(Note: The Antioch Review is currently on hiatus as it deals with the effects of the pandemic. Check for updates before mailing your submissions.)
Pay: $20 per printed page
Categories/Topics: Nonfiction essays, poetry and fiction
14. Blue Mountain Arts
If your poetry has a more lyrical, feel-good vibe, consider writing for greeting cards. (Literary journals are notoriously snobbish toward this type of writing.)
Blue Mountain Arts, a greeting card and gift company, runs a biannual poetry contest. It accepts submissions online and by mail.
First place receives $350. Second place receives $200. And third place receives $100. Winning poems are published in greeting cards and online. Outside of the poetry contest, you may also submit seasonal poems that follow these guidelines.
Pay: $100 to $350 per poem
Categories/Topics: Feel-good poetry related to special occasions
15. Deaf Poets Society
The Deaf Poets Society is a small online journal that seeks to uplift the voices of deaf and disabled artists.
According to the submission guidelines, you may submit both art and poetry via email. Each accepted piece pays $15.
Categories/Topics: Poetry (and artwork)
Rattle is an online and print journal that publishes only poetry, and it offers poets weekly opportunities to get paid to write.
While the print magazine publishes quarterly, Rattle also holds a weekly “Poets Respond” contest online that asks poets to write about a current event that has happened within the past week.
Pay for acceptance into the print issue is $200 per poem, and online publication pays $100 per poem. Reference the appropriate submission guidelines before sending in your work.
Pay: $100 to $200 per poem
17. The Threepenny Review
A quarterly literary magazine, The Threepenny Review publishes nonfiction essays, memoirs and reviews, fiction stories and poetry in print.
Depending on the type of piece, you can expect between $200 and $400 per published work.
According to the writer guidelines, The Threepenny Review doesn’t accept email submissions and doesn’t accept any submissions between May 1 and Dec. 31.
Pay: $200 to $400
Categories/Topics: Reviews, criticisms, memoirs and other nonfiction works; poetry and fiction
18. Poetry Nook
Poetry Nook is a website and forum for poets and poetry lovers. It’s operated by the literary magazine Plum White Press.
Each week, Poetry Nook holds a free-entry poetry contest (for 350 weeks and counting). Multiple winners and honorable mentions may be chosen. Winners receive a $20 payment via PayPal, and honorable mentions receive $10.
Poetry Nook’s competition is a great way for budding poets to get paid to write. There are no theme or length requirements for the poems, it’s “organic impression and memorability that matters,” according to the entry guidelines.
Ensure you’re entering the correct contest, as the link changes each week. You can find the latest contest on Poetry Nook’s homepage.
Pay: $10 to $20 per poem
Other Strategies to Get Paid to Write
There’s much more to writing than freelance websites and open-calls for submissions. Once you feel comfortable (and perhaps after you have a few successful projects under your belt), you can start to implement some longer-term strategies to build your reputation as a successful writer.
They might not be as clear cut as the options above, but they’re nonetheless important.
Pitch to Your Favorite Publications
Pitching unsolicited article ideas is a tricky and vague process. But pitching is a crucial skill for freelance writers, especially freelance journalists and content writers. There are untold opportunities to get published by your favorite alt-weekly, local newspaper, magazine or online publication, and they’re rarely (if ever) advertised.
In our insider guide to pitching your article ideas, we lay out exactly how to find the right person to pitch and what to include in your pitch email.
Here are some key takeaways:
- Pitch the correct editor or your email will never get read.
- Have a deep understanding of what the publication has already published on the topic.
- Craft a short and sweet email that shows a busy editor that No. 1, your pitch is a good idea and No. 2 that you are the best person to write it.
Finding an editor’s email can be difficult. Scour the publication’s masthead or staff page and use tools like Hunter.io to guess and verify specific editors’ email addresses.
Even if the editor likes your idea, the work doesn’t stop there. You then need to be ready to negotiate your pay — another vague and informal process. Our guide will help you figure exactly out how much to charge for your freelance work.
Start Your Own Blog
If you’re interested in freelance writing or launching a freelance writing business, chances are you either already created a blog or you’re considering it. Blogging is incredibly popular among writing hobbyists, and it’s one of the first steps many new freelance writers take when they want to get paid to write.
The truth is, blogging is tough to monetize. It’s certainly not a quick way to get paid to write, but it’s not obsolete either. It will take sustained effort to become a successful blogger. Luckily, we have a plethora of resources to help you.
First, you’ll need to learn how to start a blog, if you haven’t already. This includes:
- Choosing a writing niche
- Selecting a catchy domain name and finding a web host for your site
- Building a user-friendly blog
Once the basics are set up, you’ll want to make a dedicated plan to monetize your blog. Successful monetization strategies often include:
- Writing informative and authoritative blog posts that are optimized for search engines
- Writing for other blogs and publications that allow you to link back to your own site
- Signing up for affiliate partnerships with brands related to the topic you cover, so that you can earn a commission on sponsored links in your blog posts
- Allowing advertisements on your pages, usually via Google AdSense, so that you can get paid when people visit your page and interact with the ads
Due to the time investment of blogging, we recommend that you simultaneously write for some of the publications mentioned above so that you get some money coming in while you build your website. And don’t fret if it doesn’t take off. At the very least, your blog can double as a portfolio site to help you land other clients and gigs.
Launch a Career as a Writer
The freelance writing business isn’t for everyone. There are a lot of unpaid hours and late nights involved in getting things set up. (And that’s not mentioning additional tax burdens and lack of benefits.)
The good news is that you can break into a career in writing by temporarily freelancing to build up a portfolio. Then you can use that portfolio to land a full-time job with health bennies and paid time off.
What writing jobs are out there? Plenty — and aside from the obvious journalist and author jobs, too.
Everywhere you look, there are words. Words on book covers. Words in your vehicle’s manual that teach you what that dang squiggly exclamation point symbol on your dashboard means. Words that entice you to buy stuff.
You get the idea. There’s a person (or maybe even a team of people) behind all of those words, and they’re getting paid. Their titles include copywriter, UX writer, product writer, technical writer, content marketing writer and more.
Even more good news: These types of jobs were already remote friendly before the pandemic. In fact, writing jobs are among the most commonly listed openings in The Penny Hoarder’s Work-From-Home Jobs Portal.
So whether or not freelancing was your end goal, the published clips you rack up along the way can help you build an impressive portfolio, establish yourself as an expert on a certain topic and even launch your career as a full-time writer. The options are endless.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Writing for Money
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about getting paid to write.
Who Will Pay Me to Write?
Plenty of people and publications will pay you to write articles, blog posts and more. If you’re freelancing, it all depends on how you find your client.
For example, if you’re using a freelance website like Upwork, the pay will come from Upwork — not directly from the client, since Upwork operates like a matchmaker.
If you’re submitting your article or creative writing directly to a publication, it will pay you usually by direct deposit, check, PayPal or some other established payment method.
Plenty of companies also hire writers as employees. Advertising agencies, online publications and marketing firms are among the most popular types of companies that directly hire writers.
Where Can I Submit Writing for Money?
The easiest places to submit writing for money are publications that have clearly stated submission guidelines. Some websites, including content mills, online magazines and literary journals may accept submissions year-round and have their rates publicly displayed. We cover several such places to submit your writing in this article.
Alternatively, you can cold pitch magazines, newspapers and some blogs with your story idea and then negotiate your pay if they like your idea.
How Can I Make Money Writing Online?
Blogging and freelance websites like Fiverr and Upwork are among the most popular options for making money online by writing. But they’re not always the fastest and most lucrative options.
In addition to those popular methods, you should also consider writing articles for blogs as well as more traditional types of publications like magazines, newspapers and literary journals — all of which are very likely to publish online.
No one method is a cash cow, but if you combine them, it’s very possible to make a living writing.
Where Do I Find Freelance Writing Jobs?
Finding freelance writing gigs is much easier if you diversify your sources. In addition to pitching publications directly and signing up for freelance websites, you should set up email alerts for a job board or two.
Mediabistro, The Penny Hoarder Work-From-Home Jobs Portal, FlexJobs and sometimes even the standard job boards like Indeed and Glassdoor can be useful tools in hunting down quality writing jobs.
And instead of waiting for the gig to be posted on a job board, you can go directly to the source. Big online publishers such as DotDash (which owns Verywell, Investopedia, The Spruce and several other online publications) and Vox Media (which owns The Verge, Vox, Eater, Polygon and others) post freelance writer openings on their own job boards all the time.
How Do I Start a Writing Career?
Becoming a professional writer isn’t always a linear process. And it often, paradoxically, requires you to have previously published articles and materials to qualify.
Writing careers don’t always start by getting a degree in journalism or English, either (though a related degree certainly helps). Lots of writers find success by falling in love with writing later in life, choosing to freelance and slowly building up expertise and a portfolio before finally applying for a full-time job as a bonafide writer or journalist.
One thing is for sure, whether by credentials or previously published work, you must be able to demonstrate your writing skills to land a job.
Adam Hardy is a former staff writer for The Penny Hoarder who specializes in stories on the gig economy.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.