Earn money as an academic writer
If you have a degree or other academic qualifications then you can earn money from the comfort of your home writing academic papers. You may think this sounds like a highly specialised field to get into, but actually there are plenty of agencies providing this type of work. The work can be varied, and will inevitably focus on areas that you already have a proficiency and interest in – otherwise you wouldn’t have taken and achieved the qualification in the first place!
This type of writing can also be very lucrative, with typical earnings being £50+ per thousand words. If the deadline is a short one an academic writer can achieve up to £100 per thousand words, even through agency work! The only real downside is that the work tends to be seasonal. Typically it follows University term times, with the busiest months being October-May. However, it is possible to earn several thousands of pounds during each of those months, so it may be that you can afford to take it a bit easier during the quieter times.
Type of job: Writing
Skills: This is a skilled job in that you will need to have an academic qualification. Usually a degree or equivalent is required, though some companies will provide work to those with A-levels. It will also be beneficial to have good typing skills, although you can use a dictation software such as Dragon if you prefer.
Hours: Very flexible. You can generally fit work in to suit you. Most agencies don’t require that you do a minimum amount of work or that you work certain hours. You will have to work to deadlines, but these will be known in advance. You will be able to choose whether or not to undertake any particular writing work. Once you accept an assignment, you can write it whenever suits you best, so long as you submit it on time. Deadlines tend to be around 5 days to one week, although you may sometimes be offered urgent work for a higher fee.
Equipment: Minimal. A computer with Microsoft Word and possibly Dragon if you prefer to dictate rather than type. However, some academic subjects will require you to have access to textbooks and possibly academic journals. A good way of obtaining access is to visit your local college or university library and sign up as an external user. Most universities allow members of the public to use their libraries free of charge for reference purposes, and for a fee to borrow books to take away. Alternatively, GoogleBooks is often a good starting point, as you can usually find relevant pages of books to read for free.
Pay: Very good. If you have a degree qualification then you can expect to earn around £50 or more per thousand words. Postgraduate degrees earn even more and urgent deadlines can increase earnings to £100 or more per thousand words.
What is an academic writer?
An academic writer uses their knowledge to write custom papers for paying clients. Often, these papers are ‘model answers’ written to specific questions. Alternatively, the writer may be asked to help compile exam revision notes or give advice on choosing dissertation titles. Sometimes, instead of writing work from scratch, academic writers are asked to check over a client’s own work and to make suggestions on how to improve it. In other words, the clients for academic writing are usually students who need assistance in their studies. These students may not have been taught well, may have missed some lectures or may simply need some extra guidance on how to write academic work. Occasionally work will come from other clients, such as corporate clients seeking advice on a specific area or research into a particular topic.
The skill of an academic writer is therefore to explain the answer to an academic question in a way which the client will easily understand. An academic writer supplements a teacher or lecturer in providing further information and guidance around areas of their expertise.
Sometimes, students will pay for an academic writer to write a custom essay based on the coursework they have been set at university. The role of an academic writer in this situation is to write the custom essay, using good-quality academic sources, to assist the customer to understand the question and how to answer it. Very importantly, the student client is not allowed to submit the writer’s work as their own. When a reputable agency is used, a writer’s work is sent out with a copyright notice and a warning that the work must not be passed off as the client’s.
Is academic writing legal?
Yes, academic writing is totally legal. In fact, academic writers take the protection of the law when it comes to copyrighting their work so that it cannot be passed off as someone else’s.
Are academic writing jobs ethical?
Yes, mostly. You can work as an academic writer entirely doing proofreading work or providing research materials or advice to corporations. In terms of assisting students, although universities advise students against ‘collusion’, many students do talk amongst themselves about coursework and other assignments. In fact, some universities now encourage this as they realise that students gain more understanding this way. In a sense, providing a model answer is simply an extension of this dialogue. Additionally, most courses include similar questions and answers in their seminar materials, though if a student has missed one of these sessions for some reason then they will have missed this invaluable assistance with their coursework.
On the other hand, you may think that academic writing jobs are not strictly ethical, as you are providing help in return for money, and therefore not everyone will have the same access to the assistance.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you are happy to engage in academic writing. As it is one of our top ten highest paid online jobs, it’s hard for us not to recommend it if you have the right qualifications.
How much can I make as an academic writer?
The amount you make will depend on your education level and how many words you writer per hour. If you hold a 2:1 undergraduate degree then you can expect to earn around £50 per thousand words. If you use dictation software such as Dragon then you are likely to easily be able to write 1000 words per hour. That means you can expect to earn £50 or more per hour. Work is seasonal, but during the busy months of October-May you can expect plenty of work to be available, and indeed many agencies turn down work as they simply don’t have enough writers to complete it all!
Best subjects for academic writing jobs
Some subjects are better suited for academic writing jobs than others. If you have a qualification in one of the following areas then you are likely to find it pretty easy to obtain work. This is not an exhaustive list though, so if your qualification is in another area you shouldn’t be put off applying for an academic writing job.
- computer science
- sports science
Legitimate academic writing jobs
Finding work as an academic writer can be made a lot easier by using an agency. There are lots of agencies out there, all of which have slightly different specialisms and requirements. However, as a general rule you can expect to be required to provide a full CV, proof of ID, proof of qualifications (eg a scan of your degree certificate) and two pieces of sample work. Choose essays that you wrote at university which were marked highly. Make sure you check over them for any minor errors that you didn’t notice at the time. A good tip is to find work which isn’t too long, such as essays of around 3,000 words, rather than your final dissertation. However, if your dissertation was outstanding then do feel free to submit that also.
Don’t feel that you have to pick from only one of the below companies. As you will be an independent contractor, most will allow you to work for competitors at the same time. Of course, you must ensure that you never submit the same work to more than one company (or even more than one customer!) as each piece will need to be unique.
Perhaps the biggest and best known academic writing agency, Academic Knowledge has provided more than 180 million words to its clients and completed more than 60,000 orders. That’s plenty of work! Pay is monthly (work up to the middle of each month is paid at the end of that month) and is always reliable. The internal website is very professional, so you can see how much work is available at any one time and how many writers have ‘bid’ on it (easy orders tend to attract 3-5 writers). The team allocate work fairly so that all writers get work, though more experienced writers can expect to be kept busy! You are in control of how much work you undertake, can pick and choose from the work available, and can set a maximum number of words to avoid being awarded too much. As well as writing jobs Academic Knowledge also hires proof readers and markers.
One of the main advantages of working for Academic Knowledge is that they also provide help with obtaining high-quality sources. This is invaluable in some subjects.
Ivory Research (also known as Insta Research) offers very good rates of pay for higher level writing (£70+ per thousand words for a first class undergraduate piece) and pays twice a month for work completed up to three days before the payment date. This means it is one of the quickest payers in the industry. Work is less plentiful than Academic Knowledge, and it may be that there is only enough for part time work through this company alone. It is also less easy to see how much work is available at any given time, as work is sent out via email rather than obtained through their website.
Like Academic Knowledge, Platinum Research allows writers to see all the work available and to ‘bid’ on work of their choosing. They then allocate the work to the most suitable writers. All writers will get a chance to demonstrate their knowledge and to build up a reputation within the company. Most of their writers are part time, though some do receive enough work to be full-time. Payment is made monthly, with the invoice date 10 days prior to the last Friday of the month.
Academic Minds recruit writers who hold a degree from Oxbridge or another Russell Group university. They pay well, have plenty of work available and a good system for work allocation. However, being accepted as a writer is more difficult. As well as the normal requirements, this agency also conducts telephone interviews with potential writers. The interview is fairly informal, but you may decide to build up a little experience with another company before applying to work for them. Once you are accepted you can expect very high rates of pay, with urgent orders fetching significantly over £100 per thousand words. Payment is made upon invoice – 10 days after completion of the work. However, it can take a further 10 days for payment to actually show up in your account.
Prospect Solution employs writers on a wide range of subjects. Pay is industry standard of around £50 per thousand words. You can log in to see how much work is available, though it isn’t usually as busy as Academic Knowledge or Academic Minds. Payment is made monthly at the end of the month.
Setting up on your own as an academic writer
Experienced academic writers may choose to earn more by finding their own work rather than relying on an agency to provide work for them. Websites such as www.upwork.com, www.freelancer.com and www.peopleperhour.com may be useful for advertising as a freelance academic writer.
Alternatively, you may decide to become completely independent, or to supplement agency work, by creating your own website and gaining customers through advertising on message boards etc. The advantage of doing this is that you will be able to earn roughly twice as much per thousand words as you would by working for an agency.
However, there are also lots of disadvantages. You will have to have a secure payment system set up, although Paypal may be a good starting point. More importantly, you will be in charge of all the admin tasks yourself. This will involve dealing with clients, taking queries, providing quotes and offering support. You will also no longer be in control of how much work you undertake or the exact jobs you take on. Going on holiday or taking a weekend off might become particularly difficult. Finally, dealing with client amendments may take more of your time than through an agency, as you are less likely to be able to dispute amendments or point to quality checks on your work. If you think that some agencies, such as Academic Knowledge, employ 40 or more support and administrative staff, you can soon work out that there is a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work involved in academic writing jobs that most writers just won’t have the time to complete.
Tips and tricks for successful academic writing
- Take time to choose your sample work carefully and check it over for errors.
- Only take on work that you know you have time to complete – late delivery damages your reputation and is likely to result in a lot less work coming your way.
- Do a quick search to make sure you have access to necessary sources before you bid on or accept any work. This will only take ten minutes, and will avoid any embarrassing last-minute difficulties.
- Check whether your local university library offers visitor access – most do.
- Expect some client amendments. Most agencies give clients a period within which to ask for minor amendments to the work. Clients do ask for these, so make sure you allow some time within your schedule.
- Use professional dictation software. Good speech recognition software, such as Dragon, can improve your writing speed tremendously, enabling you to earn much more in the time you have available.
- Sign up for more than one agency. During very busy periods each agency will likely have more work available than writers to complete it. However, work is seasonal, so maintaining a good reputation with more than one agency can be really helpful during quieter times.