Monday, January 10, 2011

Writer’s Survival Guide: How to Be a Starving Artist Without the Starving Part

Photo rights: SamPac
Ok, so you’re not on the New York Times Best Seller List just yet. Maybe you’re still struggling to find a publisher. Maybe the dumb public wouldn’t know a good storyline if it came up and bit them on the illiterate ass. Or, maybe you just haven't gotten around to finishing the cursed book. Any way, you are going to have to make some money in the meantime. Why not get paid to do what you are hoping to get paid to do anyway? No not that! You dirty minded hominid! I’m talking about getting paid to write...
On you can write articles on a wide variety of subjects and submit them. As the name would imply, good articles ‘rise’ to the top through a rating system. These articles are submitted to a network of publishers who will pay up to $20 for the rights to your article. That may not sound like much, but it ads up quickly. If you’re not sure what to write about you can pick one of the contests on the site. It feels good to see your writing crush other’s in a humorous prose dual.

HubPages and Squidoo and are part blog, part article site. Articles can be customized with pictures, links, lists, and Amazon shopping boxes. You get a percentage of any ad revenue earned from views and click-through as well as any sales made through an Amazon Associates account. One of the advantages of a Hubpage or Squidoo page is that articles posted on both do surprisingly well on search engines. I have gotten several articles to post on the front page for some keywords (granted not very competitive ones) within a few hours. You certainly can’t make a living off either of these, but they are an effective way to drive traffic, earn a little extra cash and get your name alllll over the Internet without taking your clothes off.

Blogging is another great way to earn some extra cash. A blog usually works best if you pick a niche topic (such as writing) and focus on that. Websites such as Blogger and Wordpress will allow you to host the blog for free and use Google Adwords on the site. A well managed blog can make substantial amounts of money but it will require a lot of dedicated readers, which in turn requires a dedicated authors(s) and a lot of marketing.

Content writing
There are many websites out there who use content written and edited by people just like you and me. People who sit at home in their boxers with a laptop write many of the articles you see on sites like and There are numerous sites out there that will commission you to write articles for them as well a number of content networks who will distribute your work. Typically you can expect to earn anywhere from $5-40 dollars for a 500 wordish article. Be careful and watch out for scams.

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is a process in which a website or page potential to appear higher on a search engine such as Google or Bing is manipulated. This is done in a number of ways, such as using certain keywords, creating articles that link back to the webpage and more. Many of these techniques require extensive amounts of writing. I’m not going to explain how to do the process (there are already hundreds of books and literally millions of web pages already dedicated to making you a web-marketing guru), but there are many websites out there who are looking for freelance workers. Alternatively, many marketing firms are also in need of full time SEO experts and writers for their staff.

“Copy” is basically anything you read in an advertisement or on a website that tries to convince the reader to take a certain action. The iconic “Got Milk?” text was probably written by some English major who had a little novel going on the side. Some may feel like perverting your gift with words to sell a vacuum cleaner is the writing equivalent of selling out, or going over to the Darkside of the Force, but it can be an interesting and educational experience for a writer. Ad copy has to convince someone that an idea, product or service is the best option in as few words as linguistically possible. Not an easy task and a valuable lesson in word-economy.

Like any kind of writing, copywriting is a skill that can be learned. There are many guides available to teach you the basics. Finding work as a freelance copywriter isn’t too difficult either. Check places such as and freelance websites. Copywriters are also needed at ad agencies, which can be a really fun place to work. Welcome to the Darkside. We have money.

Freelance Editor/Writer
After blogging and writing articles for sites becomes too easy you might consider finding some real freelance work. Many major websites and media outlets such as the New York Times, the Huffington Post, NPR and more will accept freelance contributions from well established writers and bloggers. This can be both lucrative and an enormous boost to your career. You probably won’t get to start at the top, but there are plenty of smaller publications who would love to have your articles or your editing skills.

Re-Write NBC’s “The Cape”
Within the first eight seconds of turning on the series premier of NBC’s “The Cape” I knew that this show MUST be looking for new writers. Like right now. Surly they must be aware that the dialogue and plotline need someone fresh before episode 2 airs next week? No? Maybe not. This is a huge disappointment for me though as its cancellation is going to make it a little bit harder for Summer Glau and I to pay for our elaborate wedding and put our three kids through college. After we, you know, meet and all.

Finally, just keep going. Maybe you will have to spend some time selling your soul to a corporation, but having the opportunity to get paid to write shouldn’t be ignored. There is no reason to be an actual starving artist.


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