On Writing: How to Earn Money by Writing Stories

Writing has been my main source of income for nearly a decade and while it's been an up-and-down journey, it's not one I've ever regretted going on. I earn money writing stories on this blog you're reading now, for clients as a freelance writer, and also in actual real published books, like my three short story collections (Shy Feet, London Eyes, Nine Women).

It took me a while to figure out that making money from writing stories was not only possible but it actually also has unlimited potential; it's actually a very adaptable skill to have and one that can be applied to lots of different media, as this guest post will explain. Because yes, this is another guest post for you, written by another content creator who makes money writing stories.

So, allow me to handover to Laura May from Just Another Magazine who will give you some ideas on how you can make money from writing stories, creative writing, and writing both fiction and non-fiction. (P.S. If you're not sure which of those to focus on, this post on whether you should write fiction or non-fiction may help.)

How to Earn Money By Writing Stories

Creative writing and writing stories are often considered nice skills to have, especially at a time when content creation online is at an all-time high, but they can sometimes be seen as more of a hobby or a side project than a real career choice. There are also the many stereotypes of struggling writers never earning enough money from their stories that discourage writers from trying to earn a living from writing stories, but the reality is that there are countless opportunities to earn money from telling stories. Whether you want to write non-fiction or fiction,  creative writing and storytelling are not only nice skills to have, they are also real opportunities to earn a decent income.

However, this article isn't going to give you any shortcuts or ways to make money fast. As with most industries and skills, creative writing is something that takes time to master and not just from a writing-perspective. It can also take time to figure out where best to focus your efforts in terms of how to make money with your writing. That's why this article will cover some of the challenges you'll face pursuing a career in creative writing, as well as some of the ways in which you can start to build up your income from your skills.

How Easy is it to Earn Money by Writing Stories or Creative Writing?

While it is possible to earn a living from your creative writing skills, it’s not always an easy career path to follow and these are a few things you should consider before you take the plunge.

  • It Takes Time to Make Money from Writing

Turning your writing hobby into a full-time income usually takes quite a bit of time and a lot of dedication. You should be prepared to put in a lot of effort and time, and build up your income slowly  — you’re not going to be earning lots overnight.

As with any creative industry, in addition to gaining experience and skills relating to writing, writers also need to think and learn about how they manage their work and so become adept in marketing, branding, networking, and time management. So yes, all of these things take time.

  • It's About More Than Just Writing

As mentioned above in order to monetise your creative writing skills you also need to be able to promote yourself, communicate well, understand finances and the operational side of running a business or being self-employed.

You can find lots of online courses that teach you the fundamentals of business and there are sites such as Small Business Bonfire that cover tips on self-employment and running your own business. Here are also some of Frankie's lessons learned from freelance writing for three years.

  • You Have to Motivate Yourself

To earn a reliable living from writing stories or freelance writing, you need to be able to continually motivate yourself and stay on track with your work. Mindset is everything! There will be times when you have lots of work and things feel good, and other times when the work dries up and it feels very unsettling.

Furthermore, many writers will experience blocks or times when they feel uninspired, so you need to learn more about yourself so that you can overcome them. Here is Frankie's post on understanding what is writer's block, and how to avoid or beat it.

You could take some inspiration from this mindset podcast with Steve Sims. The podcast covers Steve Sims’ tips for changing your mindset, focusing, and getting things done. It’s also a good idea to use time management techniques that help to minimise distractions and ensure you meet your deadlines.

Knowing how to keep yourself motivated and productive is going to be essential to earn an income from your creative writing. That's why self-care and self-love are so important for writers, and don't forget the power of affirmation - here's why Frankie thinks every writer needs affirmation, and you can find her WriteNOW Cards, positive affirmation cards for writers, here and on Instagram.

How to Earn Money from Telling Stories or Writing

In reality, not many people are going to make money from writing stories by becoming a successful published author; you'd actually be amazed how many bestseller authors still have other jobs or sources of income, and only a very few make a decent amount of money from their books. But stories are needed not only in novels and books, but all over every single industry. An ability to write creatively, to tell stories and to connect with readers is a very desirable skill to have and you can and should be paid for using to help businesses, individuals and brands create engaging, far-reaching content.

So yes, there are plenty of other opportunities to make money from your writing and we're going to dive into some of them below. Some of these ideas will provide you with an income while you work towards your dream writing job, and some of these may eventually become your full-time career.

  • Writing Short Stories

There are many fiction websites and literary magazines that will pay you to write short stories that they can publish. If your long term goal is to write your own novel, then this could be a good way to get some practice in and earn at the same time. Plus, it generally takes less time to write short stories so you can set yourself up with a steady source of income if you’re committed to writing them on a regular basis.

This article summarises some of the print and online journals that are accepting fiction submissions, as does this post which also gives some magazines that want short stories.

  • Writing Articles, Essays or Creative Non-Fiction

In the same way, there are many different types of publications - online and in print - who accept submissions for non-fiction and pay for them. Whether you're pitching to local or national newspapers, to journals or websites, or poetry to anthologies, you won't know if you can get published unless you try. 

Here's another list of publications that pay for non-fiction submissions, and this list which does still include fiction, but plenty of other homes for non-fiction and poetry too.

  • Start a Blog

Starting a blog can be a good way to make money eventually, but it will take some time to establish a following, gain traffic and start earning enough to live off. However, it gives you the freedom to write about what you want to and it's something you could start in your spare time. There are ways to make it quicker and easier to make money too, by having a strong and narrow niche (that you know A LOT about), and by learning good SEO practices so that your blog content ranks well in Google. There are lots of places to learn about this online like Digital Nomad Wannabe and Make Traffic Happen websites which have both helped Frankie monetise her blog, and she's also learned a lot from the Blog Millionaire podcast, although it may not be to everyone's taste!

Once you've decided on a niche or topic for your blog and set up your site (Wordpress is a great place to start with this), you need to write and publish new posts on a regular basis. Promote and share them on other channels like social media so you can build up an audience. You can use a social media scheduling tool to automate promotion. As this review outlines, Buffer is easy to use if you don't have much experience and has a free plan that will be enough to schedule a few social posts each month when you're starting out.

You'll be able to earn money from your blog with advertisements on the site, affiliate links where you get a commission for recommending products or service, or businesses and brands might pay to work with you on creating content too.

  • Freelance Writing

As Frankie mentioned, freelance writing for companies or individuals is one way you can make money from creative writing. Yes, creative writing and telling stories, because some clients really do want this. Whether you're ghost-writing a non-fiction book, or helping someone write their memoir, or doing copywriting an About Us page for a website, telling stories is often at the heart of content creation. Never assume that freelance writing work is mostly content-farm jobs or writing soulless copywriting briefs.

Over the years, working for travel companies, Frankie has written the preface for a book about nomadic living, ghost-written guidebooks and been paid to write lots of other articles about the history, culture and people of places she has visited. There are lots of creative projects out there for freelance writers! Great places to start looking for freelance writing work include Freeup, PeoplePerHour, Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and if you have experience in editing or publishing, Reedsy too. You can read Frankie's tips for submitting proposals on online job sites here.

  • Share Your Knowledge and Teach Creative Writing

If you’ve got a lot of creative writing experience and knowledge, you could teach these to other people. There are lots of possibilities for teaching creative writing — you could offer private lessons and tutoring to individuals, you could run small classes, or you could set up your own online course that people will pay to take. This will work better if you already have a blog, platform or social media following. 

Setting up an online course is one of the best options if you’re looking for an option that won’t take up too much of your time and it’s easy to scale. You just need to find a good platform to set up your course. Some of these include Teachable and Skillshare.

Once you’ve created the course, find a few people to take it for some feedback and then start marketing it. If you’ve put together a good course and you promote it well you’ll have a fairly reliable income.

  • Write for Other Blogs and Online Publications

There are lots of blogs and online magazines or publications that will pay you to write stories, articles or blog posts for their website. This is a good opportunity to try out writing on a range of different subjects and brush up on your online writing skills.

However, it's important to have a clear understanding of how much you'll be paid for your writing, and if there are any conditions on it. For example, some sites ask you to write and submit an article but might decide not to publish it and you won't be paid anything. Other sites might pay you depending on the number of views your article gets. It's possible to earn a living from writing blogs and articles, but you just need to be cautious of the site you write for.

  • Self-Publish a Book

If you're writing your own book then it's easier than ever before to try self-publishing. You don't need to rely on finding a publisher who likes your writing, you can now print smaller runs of your book yourself or for a more cost-effective route use an online platform like Kindle to publish it.

This isn't a quick way to start earning money from your creative writing though — you still need to write something that other people want to read, make sure that you get a professional editor to review it, create an engaging cover and then embark on the many different steps needed to market the book successfully. In fact, it's true that writing the book is less than half of the journey when you're self-publishing because you need to spend just as much time, if not more time, promoting your book and finding the right readers. Many authors will find they have to write and self-publish several books before they start to see enough income to earn a living;  this is also why sometimes writing books in a series will do well.

It's definitely possible to earn money from writing stories, writing fiction or writing non-fiction books and self-publishing them, but with most of these options, you need to be prepared to put in some time and work before you can start making enough money to live off.

  • All the Above!

While all of these ideas can be pursued alone, you may feel like Frankie and have a desire to try them all, or you may want to explore them all in order to maximise your earnings and have a so-called multi-hyphen career. There are many advantages to trying lots of different ways to make money as a writer, but it's also true that spreading yourself across multiple revenue streams may make it more difficult to specialise or "niche down" in one, which then could pose a risk to your income.

It really does depend on your experience to date, your skillset and your personality type. If you can spend a little bit of time thinking about how you want to best make money writing stories, and how you can do this within the restraints of your time, your energy and other commitments, you will figure out the best way to earn a living as a writer. The important thing is that you know now that there are lots of different ways to make money as a writer!

About the Author

Laura May is Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine. We write about beauty, fashion, lifestyle, relationships, travel, trends and anything else that matters to you. Name throwing you off? Don’t take it too seriously — we intend to stand out from the crowd.

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Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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