So you want to make money writing online? Congratulations! You’ve chosen a great way to make a living.
Yes, there are actually ways to get paid to write articles, website copy, emails, eBooks, and more. And no, you don’t need to be a famous author or a big-time journalist to do it.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced writer, there are opportunities out there for you to make money writing online. In this article, I’ll teach you how to get started.
Where to Look for Work
1. Job Boards
One of the best places to start your search for writing jobs is on job boards. These websites compile all of the latest writing job openings in one place, making it easy for you to find a job that’s a good fit for your skills and interests.
Some of the most popular job boards for writers are:
💡 Tip: You can also search for online writing jobs or freelance gigs on regular job sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or my favorite: LinkedIn Jobs. I’ve found some of my best clients just by searching for “finance writer” on LinkedIn’s job board.
Read more: How to Get Freelance Writing Jobs — Essential Tips from Publishers
2. Gig Economy Platforms
There are also quite a few gig economy platforms you can join to find writing jobs. Some of the most popular include:
⚠️ Warning: Gig sites are known to be a race to the bottom — meaning, the pay is often very low. So, while they can be a good way to get started writing online, you’ll want to move on to other strategies as soon as you’re ready.
Read more: Fiverr: It’s Not Five Dollars Anymore — Is It Still Worth Using?
3. Content Agencies
Content agencies create content for other businesses. They often have a team of writers they assign projects to. So another option for finding paid writing gigs is to work for one of these content agencies.
If you want to go this route, look into:
💡 Tip: In addition to these sites, try googling marketing agencies that specialize in your industry. For instance, one of my first clients was a digital marketing agency for financial advisors. (I’m in the finance niche.)
4. Cold Email Your Favorite Companies
One of the best ways to get started as a freelance writer is to reach out to companies you already love and let them know you’re available for hire.
This may sound intimidating, but even large brands are more approachable than you may think, especially if you pitch them the right way.
Here’s how to do it:
- Identify businesses you’d like to work with.
- Use a tool like Hunter.io to find a person at that company you can contact.
- Send them a short email explaining who you are and how you can help. Include a link to your website and writing portfolio so they can view your work.
💡 Tip: Cold emailing takes time and effort. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from everyone you contact. Just keep trying and eventually, you’ll land some writing gigs.
Not sure what to say when you cold email? Here’s the exact template I’ve used to land some of my biggest freelance writing clients:
Subject: Introduction / [Company Name] Copywriting
Hey, [First Name]!
Hope you’re doing well. I’m a huge fan of [company name] and just wanted to say I absolutely loved your [blog post/newsletter/etc.] on [describe the thing you’re complimenting].
Seriously, I’m in love with your mission and how you’re helping [target audience do XYZ]. #swoon
Okay, I’ll stop fangirling now.
I wanted to make an introduction because I’m a [insert title] who specializes in [brief description of what you do].
I know that finding dependable, high-quality writers can be a challenge. So I wanted to ask if you’re looking for any [insert title] to help lighten the load?
Here are a few portfolio pieces that may align with [company name]’s brand:
- [link to portfolio piece 1]
- [link to portfolio piece 2]
- [link to portfolio piece 3]
I’d love to do a test piece for you if you think my writing style jives with your mission and brand.
Finally, you could find work by turning to your inner circle and asking if they need writing help.
Maybe your cousin owns a real estate business and needs help with his website copy? Maybe your next-door neighbor has a small eCommerce business but hates writing product descriptions?
You never know what opportunities may crop up if you just ask.
💡 TIP: You could also add a line to your email signature asking for referrals. It could be as simple as: “Know someone who needs a [insert your job title]? Send them my way + earn a $100 referral bonus when they book a project.”
What You’ll Need
Okay, now that you know where to look for online writing jobs, let’s talk about what you need to go get ‘em.
The cool part is there are only three things you need to get your writing career off the ground: a portfolio, a website, and (maybe) a social media account.
Seriously, that’s it.
The most important thing you need as a writer is a strong portfolio. This is what will land you clients and help you get paid to write online.
The other thing you absolutely need is a website. This is where clients will go to learn more about you and your services (and where they’ll view your portfolio to ultimately decide if you’re the right fit).
Social Media (Maybe)
Depending on your niche, you may also want to have a social media profile of some sort.
This is totally optional. But it can be a good way to network with other writers and brands in your industry.
For instance, I’m a finance copywriter for personal finance brands, so I use LinkedIn to network. If you’re a lifestyle copywriter, you may find Instagram or TikTok more helpful.
What You Don’t Need
Now for the list of items you don’t need (just in case Mr. Imposter Syndrome is telling you you’re not qualified).
First things first, you do NOT need a fancy English or creative writing degree to learn how to make money online. Anyone can learn the writing skills needed to succeed, either through practice or by signing up for an online course.
Previous Work Experience
You also don’t need any previous work experience (though it obviously helps). Just because you don’t have a long list of writing credits doesn’t mean you can’t get started.
This is where your portfolio comes in. It does the heavy lifting for you.
A Huge Social Media Following
In today’s day and age, it seems like everyone is an influencer with a huge social media following.
But trust me when I say you don’t need a huge social media presence to make money writing online.
In fact, I have a LinkedIn profile and one itty-bitty Instagram account with less than 200 followers.
That’s it. It still hasn’t stopped me from building a six-figure freelance writing business.
Tons of Money
Finally, you don’t need a ton of money to get started writing online. In terms of business start-up costs, you’ll pay next to nothing to get up and running.
For years, my only expense was my Squarespace website (which costs about $16 a month). All the other software you’ll need (which I talk about below) is completely free.
How to Get Started Making Money Online (Follow These 7 Steps!)
Now that we’ve gone over what you need (and don’t need) to get started, let’s talk about how you can actually make money writing online. 🎉
I recommend following these steps — in this exact order — to launch your writing career:
1. Pick Your Niche
The first step is to figure out the type of industry you want to write for. This is called your “niche,” and it’s how you’ll command higher rates and become an expert writer.
I recommend choosing an area you’re passionate about. That way you’ll enjoy making money writing online for years to come.
There are literally hundreds of niches for online writers, but a few popular ones include:
- Beauty and fashion
- Fitness and exercise
- Food and wine
- Health and wellness
- Real estate
- Software-as-a-service (SaaS)
- Video games
💡 Tip: Stuck between two niches? Just pick one for now and get started. You can always pivot into a different niche if you feel it’s not right for you. The most important thing is that you take action now.
2. Figure Out What Types of Writing You Want to Do
Once you’ve narrowed your niche, the next part of the puzzle is nailing down the types of writing you want to do. There are endless ways to make money writing online. For instance, you could specialize in:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Digital course copy
- Email marketing
- Landing pages
- Long-form SEO content
- Magazine articles
- Product descriptions
- Script writing for videos
- Social media ads
- Social media descriptions
- Sponsored content
- Technical manuals
- UX micro-copy
💡 Tip: While I recommend one niche, it’s okay to offer several different types of copy to your clients. So if you see multiple that interest you, add ‘em to your list and start experimenting!
3. Learn Basic Writing Skills
The next step is to learn whatever skills you need to be a successful writer in your chosen niche.
If your goal is to write personal finance blog posts, learn how to write headlines that command attention, how to structure an article, how to break complex topics into plain language, and how to weave in SEO keywords throughout your content.
If you want to write social media ads, learn how to craft short, attention-grabbing copy.
If you want to become a technical manual writer, learn how to write step-by-step instructions.
There are tons of resources out there to help you learn. So scour the internet for tips and tricks. Read blog posts, watch YouTube videos, and start developing your skills.
✍️ Try this exercise: Writing is a muscle that develops over time. One way to strengthen it is to handwrite your favorite copy. Seriously. Find examples of the types of writing you want to do — whether it’s punchy promotional emails or personal finance blogs. Then, grab some pen and paper and copy it word for word. This exercise helps your brain pick up on the patterns and techniques used in that type of writing.
4. Build Your Portfolio
Once you’ve mastered a few writing basics, put your skills to the test by creating your portfolio.
Your writing portfolio is a collection of your best work — the articles, blog posts, web pages, etc. that you’re most proud of.
You can create a portfolio in one of two ways:
1. Find people in your niche who need writing help.
If you’re nervous, be upfront and tell them you’re new. Maybe offer to give them a discount in exchange for a testimonial.
2. Create some sample pieces from scratch by yourself.
This is what I did when I was just getting started. Rather than finding clients who were willing to take a chance on a newbie, I just created three blog posts that I thought my ideal personal finance client would love. I added them to my portfolio and voilà! I was ready to go.
5. Create a Basic Website
Next up, you’ll want to create your website. Remember, your website doesn’t need to be anything fancy or complex. A simple site with these key elements will do the trick:
- A homepage that includes your elevator pitch (AKA, how you help your clients)
- Your portfolio
- A list of your services with pricing
- Your contact information
- A little bit about you
- Client testimonials (if you have them)
💡 TIP: I personally built my website (cassidyhorton.com) using Squarespace. It took me just a few days to put it together with no coding or website knowledge required. So don’t let a lack of website design experience stop you from getting started. You got this! 💪
6. Start Finding Clients
With your website in hand, it’s time to start finding clients! Choose one or two strategies from earlier — either job boards, gig economy platforms, content agencies, cold emailing, or referrals — and get to pitching.
7. Experiment and Have Fun!
As you start working with clients, you’ll quickly learn what you like and don’t like. You might find that you love writing blog posts but hate crafting social media ads. And that’s totally okay!
This is your business and you can do whatever you want. So experiment with different copywriting niches, types of clients, and projects until you find a combination that feels just right.
BONUS STEP: Invest in an Online Course to Speed Up Your Success
All the information you need to make money online is already out there on the internet. But if you want to expedite your success (and avoid rookie mistakes), then a writing course could be worth the investment.
There are digital courses available for literally anything you could ever want to do:
- Want to learn how to become a copywriter? There’s a course for that.
- Want to learn to break into freelance UX writing? There’s a course for that.
- Want to learn how to write whitepapers? Yup, there’s a course.
I invested in a course right at the beginning of my copywriting journey, and it saved me so much time and frustration. I seriously can’t imagine how much further behind I’d be today if I hadn’t invested in myself.
6 Helpful Tools Every Online Writer Should Use
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of how to make money online as a writer, let’s talk about some of the best tools to help you get your business up and running.
Unless you’re doing something really technical like UX writing, Google Docs is where you’ll write all your copy for your clients. Then you’ll simply share the Google Doc link with them when you’re finished.
This app is amazing for catching typos and grammatical errors in your writing. (I’m actually using it right now.) It’s also great for helping you improve your overall writing skills.
A Plagiarism Checker
✨ My recommendation: quetext.com
This is a great tool for ensuring that your work is original. The last thing you want to do is damage your reputation by copying someone else’s work — even if it’s by mistake.
This app is great for helping you write at a sixth-grade reading level — which is recommended for most types of online copy. You can paste in your writing and it will give you a readability score. It will also offer suggestions on how you can simplify phrases and sentences.
An Invoicing Software
✨ My recommendation: Wave
Next up, you’ll need a way to send and receive invoices, so you can get paid for your writing.
I personally recommend starting with a free service like Wave. This is what I use. It looks professional and makes it easy for clients to pay via card or bank account.
A Biz Bank Account
✨ My recommendation:Bluevine Business Checking
Lastly, you’ll need a business bank account if you want to make money writing online. This will help you keep track of your expenses and income. That way you don’t have a mess to sort through come tax time.
I personally have a Bluevine Business Checking account. It’s free and earns up to 2.0% interest on balances up to $250,000. You can also create five subcategories inside your account for things like taxes, sinking funds, and more.
Read more: Best Business Checking Accounts
FAQs About How to Make Money Writing Online
Should you work for free at first to gain experience?
It honestly depends. You may want to consider doing some free work for friends or family at first to get your feet wet and build up a portfolio.
But if you’re serious about making money writing, then I recommend against working for free. The reason being is that it can devalue your time and skills. Charging something — even if it’s a discounted test piece — proves to yourself and your client that you’re taking your new writing business seriously.
💡 Tip: If you do offer to work for free, tell the client you’ll only do it once — and ask for a testimonial for your website in return. That way you get something out of the deal, too.
Should you take any gig you can get or only gigs in fields you’re interested in?
One of my favorite sayings is, “the riches are in the niches.” The more you narrow your writing focus, the more clients will see you as a go-to expert in your field. (And the more money you can make as a result.)
I like to think about it like this: If you needed open heart surgery, would you rather go to a general surgeon who’s dabbled in a bit of everything or a heart surgeon who’s performed your exact surgery hundreds of times?
In this instance, you’d want the heart surgeon — and the same is true for writing. Choose one industry, become an expert in it, and you’ll have clients knocking down your door.
Should you focus on applying for advertised gigs, or pitching your own ideas?
Do both! You never know what opportunities are going to stick, so try applying for advertised positions and pitching your own ideas. You may find you have a higher success rate with one vs. the other.
Do I need to network to be a successful writer?
While you don’t need a network to get started, it definitely helps to build one over time. The more people you know, the better your chances of hearing about writing opportunities. (Gigs tend to get filled by word-of-mouth.)
This is where having a social media profile can come in handy — even if it’s just a LinkedIn account.
How can I balance starting an online writing business with my day job?
My best advice is to do what you can — even if it’s only 30 minutes a day.
As your business grows, you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend working on it until you’re able to transition to writing online full time.
I also recommend reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It’s all about how small daily actions compound over time into something significant. It’s a huge mindset booster when you’re just starting out.
Read more: Time Management for Freelancers: How to Find Extra Hours for Earning More
What if I’m not passionate about writing? Can I still make money writing online?
Absolutely! In fact, you may find that you enjoy writing more than you thought you would once you start getting paid for it.
Another thing that will help is choosing a niche you’re passionate about. For example, if you love animals, you may find that you could write for days about pet care or veterinary medicine — even if you hated writing in school.
10 Other Ways to Make Money Online (If Writing Isn’t Your Thing)
There are SO MANY ways to make money online these days. So if writing isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Here are 10 other high-demand gigs you could try:
- Edit videos.
- Start a graphic design business.
- Become a web developer.
- Start an Etsy shop.
- Work as a virtual assistant.
- Create an online course.
- Become a social media manager.
- Start a YouTube channel.
- Teach kids online.
- Get into dropshipping.
Read more: Need Extra Cash? 22 Online Businesses That You Can Start Today
The Bottom Line (from Someone Who Writes Online for a Living)
One final word of advice from someone who’s been in your shoes: It has never been easier to make money writing online. Contrary to what that little voice in your head is saying, you don’t need a fancy degree or previous work experience to get started. Find out what you want to do, build your portfolio, and get started.