Turn your creative writing passion into cash
If you have a real passion or talent for creative writing then you may be able to earn a living from it in ways you haven’t thought about yet. For example, you may be pursuing a traditional publishing route for your main project, but need some additional income at the same time. Here we give you some ideas on how you can earn an income from your passion. If you are happy to consider more functional writing jobs as well, check out our academic writing and copywriting jobs.
Type of job: Writing
Skills: You will need a talent for creative writing. If you feel you have a passion but aren’t sure about your talent, you could always consider taking a creative writing course online.
Hours: Highly flexible. Creative writing work has no set hours. However, it is useful to try to stick to a schedule.
Equipment: Minimal. You will need a computer with word processing software (or you could use traditional pen and paper!).
Pay: Varied. Successful creative writers will earn a good living. In this article we aim to show you a few ways in which you can use your talents to make a decent income.
What is a creative writer?
A creative writer uses writing as a form of art, to create original prose which does not have the purpose of simply conveying information. For example, creative writing may involve storytelling or expressing thoughts, ideas and emotions. A creative writer can specialise in a number of different genres or styles. There is no requirement that creative writing is fictitious, as biographies would fall within the scope of creative writing.
Some types of creative writing include:
- song lyrics
Professional creative writers use their art to make a living, but it can be difficult to reach the stage where creative writing pays the bills. The following are some suggestions of how to turn your passion for creative writing into cash in a fairly structured way, perhaps while you are waiting to land that big book deal!
Write short stories
If you enjoy writing short stories then you can earn a somewhat regular income by writing for companies like UpWorthy.com. Each short story should be around 500 words, and could be paid between £60 and £120. Once you have successfully ‘pitched’ a few short stories you will generally have an understanding of what is expected and be able to re-create your success more regularly.
Alternatively, if your short story is something special, you can find a list of magazines (both online and print) which may pay you for your work, or at least give you some fabulous publicity for future work, at TheWriteLife.com. Short stories for magazine submission should normally be less than 7,000 words.
Become a ghostwriter
A ghostwriter writes books, articles and other literature on behalf of others, on the understanding that the other person will take the credit for it. For example, a novel may be written by person X, but person X was employed to write it by person Y, and it will be person Y who is named as the author of the book.
There are several advantages of being a ghostwriter:
- You will know in advance how much you will be paid for the work.
- You will not have to wait for royalties or for marketing efforts to produce results.
- Ghostwriting can also be fairly lucrative, with successful ghostwriters making tens of thousands of pounds for one full-length book.
- There is also no need to engage in marketing and promotion, which can be time and money-consuming.
- You can maintain objectivity more easily. As the work is not going to be attributed to you, you will not have the same emotional attachment to it.
- Ghostwriting as a career will also make you a better writer for your own work, as you will be required to move beyond your own personal interests and experience in order to write to order. You will also get to regularly practice your writing with the bonus that you are getting paid for it.
However, in order to work as a ghostwriter you will need to be comfortable with someone else taking the credit for your work. For a lot of writers that will necessarily mean working on their own projects as well. In fact, it is important to maintain a portfolio of work which is attributed to you in your own right, as you will not be able to show potential clients examples of your previous ghostwriting work.
Getting work as a ghostwriter might seem difficult at first. Many ghostwriters report that the majority of their work comes from word-of-mouth referrals. However, with the growth of freelance websites, it is now possible to find a wide range of ghostwriting work online. Jobs may be short, such as writing small articles for websites, right up to full length books. Although the rates of pay for jobs acquired this way may not be as high as those from clients who seek you out directly, it is a good way to build up experience and a client base for future work. A look at the relevant section of www.freelancer.com should give you an idea of what typical ghostwriting jobs involve.
Self-publish an e-book
If you are a budding novelist struggling to have your work picked up by a traditional publisher, self-publishing may be the way forward. You can self-publish a book in print, and one way to do this without too much initial outlay is to use a ‘print-on-demand’ service such as www.bookbaby.com or www.lulu.com. These services allow you to sell your book and print one copy at a time, to order. However, it tends to be more difficult to sell books like this, with typical sales only around 100-150 per book. Much easier, and more lucrative, is the self-published e-book market.
Probably the easiest service to use for self-publishing your e-book is Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. The advantages of self-publishing an e-book are that you can get started essentially for free (if you are confident that you don’t need to spend any money on additional services), you have access to a huge audience, you can build up a following of readers, you won’t need to involve other people (such as an agent) if you don’t want to, and you can keep up to 70% of your royalties.
You have probably heard of some hugely successful novels that started off as self-published e-books (think 50 Shades of Grey) and if your book takes off then this can be a way to really launch your writing career. But, for the vast majority of writers, even brilliant books do not make fortunes initially. Now the self-published market has opened up there is huge competition, and readers are becoming aware that the ease with which writers can self-publish now means that many of these books are sub-standard.
So, what can you do to make your e-book stand out?
Well, the first part of the answer is pretty simple – make sure it’s good! That means self-editing your work and giving it to some trusted friends to read. Make sure that you let your first readers know that you really do want an honest opinion. If your book needs more work then it’s better to find out now. Although you probably won’t need an agent at this stage, it is almost certainly worth paying for a good editor. You can find a lot of great resources to do with editing over at TheCreativePenn. If you can’t afford an editor right now, think about joining a creative writing group – you will probably find that you can gain a lot of help from other participants.
You will also need some cover art for your book. You *may* be able to do this yourself with a program such as Adobe Photoshop, but it will probably take you a lot more time and effort for a less-good result than it would a professional. Really, this one will just depend on your budget. If you can afford to have someone design some cover art for you, that’s great. If you can’t, try to do something yourself that looks simple and professional. Keeping it basic is a good starting point if you are creating the cover yourself. You could use a design website like Canva, which offers some free e-book cover templates for you to adapt. If you do decide to hire a professional, you might want to consider freelance sites such as www.upwork.com and www.freelancer.com.
Once your book is ready for self-publishing as an e-book, the practical process is relatively straightforward. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing supports a range of formats, including Microsoft Word, and provides a free and simple guide to formatting. You then just sign in or create an account, fill out some information such as title and categories, upload your cover, set your price and hit ‘publish’! That’s it, your book is available for sale.
Having your e-book listed is not quite the end of the matter though. Lots of self-published writers find that they have to spend a lot of time (and sometimes a lot of money) on promotion. Amazon offers some merchandising tools on-site, including an author’s page which you should take some time to fill out carefully. One strategy which is commonly used is to offer a short book (around 100 pages) for free in order to jump-start a reader following, and then charge for your next (longer) book. But, you are probably going to find that you need some promotion from other avenues. Initially, all your promotion efforts should be free or minimal cost. Once you are successful, you may find that you spend a great deal on advertising. For example, one successful author, Adam Croft, reportedly spent a six-figure sum on Facebook advertising over a period of just a few months.
Good places to start with free or low-cost promotion include:
- Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Set up a profile as an author and engage with others naturally. Make sure not to ‘over-promote’. If all you use your profiles for is to try to urge people to buy your e-book then it is likely that you will find you gain very few followers. However, if you engage as part of the community, as well as promoting your book every now and again, you are much more likely to find that you grow your audience over the long-term.
- Book Gorilla: This service offers advertising for around £30-£40, as long as your e-book is priced at $0.99 or lower for the duration of the promotion.
- Ereader News Today: This promotions marketing website works on commission, making it a great starting point. You only pay a fee (of 25%) based on books you actually sell through their promotion.
- Bookbub: If you are happy to offer your e-book at a substantial discount (or even for free) to assist with gaining a readership and reviews then you may want to consider placing an advert through Bookbub. Pricing starts at £100 or less for some categories, but can be significantly more for others. Perhaps this is one to save until you are already making money through your creative writing?
If you would love to write a book, but haven’t done so yet, you might find the following resources useful:
- National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) is a fascinating project that sees writers attempt to write a novel in one month. It also offers a wealth of information and resources for budding writers, and has an extensively used support forum for writers to discuss their ideas, progress and problems.
- Scrivener – software for both Windows and Mac which allows you to keep track of all the elements of your manuscript, including your research, at any time. Scrivener has received impressive reviews, and seems to be the go-to writing software for creative writers.
- The Writers’ Digest provides a great list of resources on the different elements of creating a novel.
Make money from your blog
If you want to make a career out of your writing then it is likely you are going to want to write a blog, at the very least to demonstrate your work to potential clients and to practice your writing regularly. So, if you are going to go to all the effort of creating a blog, it makes sense to turn that effort into some reward in the form of cash.
There are many people who earn their primary incomes from blogging. Blogging involves writing a regularly updated ‘blog’ (similar to a newspaper column or magazine section) which usually centres around one topic. The more you write on a particular topic, the more you build your authority in that topic. The greater an ‘authority’ you become, the greater the number of people who want to read your blog. Once you have a large number of visitors to your blog page, you will be able to ‘monetize’ your blog through affiliate marketing. Not forgetting, of course, that your blog will also build your online presence and your ‘brand’, thereby leading to other opportunities for you to promote your services (such as ghostwriting or editing).
For many writers, the logical starting point for a blog would be to create one about some aspect of writing. Whether that’s a particular aspect of craft, a particular genre, or perhaps a blog about experiences working as a writer (such as how to go about getting published or what life is like to work as a copywriter). Write To Done has an annual ‘top 10′ writers’ blogs section which is worth a look if you are thinking of creating a blog about writing. However, it may be that you have another interest or interest which would make a more unusual blog, which may be able to compete more effectively in the ‘blogsphere’ when it comes to making money from your blog.
There are an awful lot of blogs out there on how to choose a successful blog ‘niche’ and make money from it, so I don’t propose to go into all the gritty details here. However, in essence, once you have your blog set up and are regularly updating it, you can expect to start seeing people reading it after around 4-6 months. During this time you will need to be consistent in updating your blog while the search engines evaluate it. You will also need to ensure that the content of your blog is unique and valuable. After around 12 months you can expect (if you have consistently provided new, unique and valuable content) to have enough ‘traffic’, or visitors, to your blog that you can sign up for some affiliate marketing programs. These programs allow you to display adverts on your blog (which relate to your ‘niche’) and which encourage your visitors to purchase the particular product or service. You are then paid a commission on the sales.
You will probably understand from the above that to make money from affiliate marketing takes a lot of time and effort. But, don’t forget that your blog will also promote your brand and provide a platform for you to showcase your writing talent. The upshot of this is that you should seriously consider starting your blog now, if only to allow you to focus on practising your writing regularly. Consistency and quality is key, but as a writer you are already going to appreciate the value of these.
Creative writing tips and tricks
- Start your own blog. Whichever way or ways you decide to make money through creative writing, you are going to need an online ‘presence’. Having your own blog will give you an outlet for your creativity, and will also allow you to have something to show potential clients. As time goes on and you become more successful, you might find that new clients start approaching you directly through your blog.
- Write every day. Even if it’s just a little. Make at least 10 minutes every day to do a writing exercise. Writing for a living is easier if writing has become a habit rather than just a hobby.
- Carry a notebook. You never know when you will receive creative inspiration – or when you will have those ten minutes spare to write something!
- Read. A good writer appreciates good writing, and knows how to spot poor prose. Reading is a pleasure, but also an important part of developing as a writer. What you choose to read should be varied, but should certainly include some books on the craft. Stephen King’s On Writing is a fabulous place to start.
- Don’t worry too much about getting it ‘right’. Almost all creative writing is going to need to go through several editing processes before it will be the standard you want to give to your reader. Don’t expect your writing to be perfect first time around.