My professional writing career began as a side hustle.
I was in my late teens. A friend (who knew my love for writing) asked me to contribute to a local nonprofit blog. I didn't even consider charging them. I was just honored that someone liked my writing enough to give me the opportunity. Outside of university admission and scholarship essays, this was my first time seeing someone use my words to meet a real-world need.
Over time, volunteer writing for the nonprofit opened the door to my first paid writing work. The first project came from a freelance designer, who also worked with the nonprofit. One day the designer asked me to help him with a brochure he was creating for one of his clients. He would design it. I would write the copy, for $15 per hour.
The more I wrote, the more opportunities fell into my lap. I found one-off blogs to write for and occasionally businesses would ask me to write their copy. For years I had a writing side hustle without even knowing there was a term for it.
Today, writing is my full-time hustle. I started my writing business almost six years ago and it's been the most fulfilling job I've ever had. But I wrote this article because you don't have to run a full-time writing business to earn money through your craft.
Not all writing opportunities pay equally. Some are also more fun than others. If I had to start from scratch with a writing side hustle today, here are the three profitable side hustles I'd pursue.
1. Write long-form content for B2B companies
This has become one of my favorite writing niches. I think a lot of folks are intimidated by the idea of writing long-form. Sure, most people can muster the mental focus to write a 500 word blog post. But do they have the patience to draft and edit a 2,000 word blog post? What about a 7,000 word ebook? Or a 5,000-word technical white paper?
Those word counts are the stuff of most people's nightmares.
But if you love the craft of writing as much as I do, the challenge is more exciting than intimidating. If somebody has to write the scary long-form content, it might as well be someone who loves it. That person can be you.
B2B (business to business) companies need a lot of long-form content. It's a core part of their online marketing efforts. Businesses need blog posts that rank in Google for competitive search terms, which requires being comprehensive (and therefore long). They need white papers and ebooks to attract new leads or educate interested buyers.
If you have a knack for holding attention and communicating complex ideas with simplicity, then writing long-form content is one of the most profitable writing side hustles.
Long-form writing rates
Beginning rate for long-form blog writing: $200 - $500
Experienced rate for long-form blog writing (with SEO experience): $501 - $1,500
Beginning rate for white paper or ebook writing: $500 - $1,500
Experienced rate for white paper or ebook writing: $1,501 - $6,000
2. Write case studies for professional service businesses
One of the best ways to market a professional service business is through storytelling.
New customers want to see that a business has solved their problem before. (No one wants to be a neurosurgeon’s first patient.) So, how do service businesses like consultants, architects, and business coaches show off what they’ve accomplished?
They do it through case studies.
Case study writing is just storytelling. Typically, you (the case study writer) begin by interviewing the company about how they achieved success for one of their best clients. Then, you get on the phone with the customer to hear their side of the story.
You use both interviews, along with any additional data from their client, to tell the story in a compelling way that makes readers want to work with the professional service provider.
During the customer call, I like to gather quotes from them to use throughout the case study. Quotes make the story more dynamic and show future readers that this isn’t a rose-colored-glasses version of the narrative.
Case studies can be fun to write because so much of it comes down to simply telling an interesting storyteller. This is a great writing side hustle for people who aspire to be journalists because the most important work happens during the interviews.
Case study writing rates
Beginning rate for case study writing: $250 - $500
Experienced rate for case study writing: $501 - $1,500
3. Ghostwrite for people of influence
By “people of influence,” I don’t mean celebrities. Sure, that’d be a great gig if you know some famous folks. But for most of us, that’s not an option (at least not from day one).
I’m really talking about people who have authority within their field and realize the value of teaching and telling their stories in public. This could be a local entrepreneur talking about their business journey. It can be a pastor, author, public speaker, politician, or a university professor.
Most people in these positions of authority realize the value of creating content based on their experiences and story. But a lot of these folks are already successful. And successful people tend to be pretty busy, which means they don't have time to sit down and write articles every week.
That’s where you come in.
Ghostwriting is the art of telling another person’s story and ideas through their subject's voice. Like case study writing, you usually need to conduct some interviews to gather the necessary content. You may need to get on the phone with your ghostwriting client regularly to gather more information and hear their latest ideas.
I like to record and transcribe calls with my ghostwriting clients to make sure I capture their exact words, turns of phrase, and storytelling style. When I sit down to write, the transcription helps me remember my client's voice so that I tell a story that truly sounds like them.
Another cool aspect of ghostwriting is your words can be published in many forms. You can ghostwrite books, blog posts, social media posts, and magazine articles. The craft offers broad publishing variety.
Beginning rate for ghostwriting: $0.30 - $0.40 per word
Experienced rate for ghostwriting: $0.41 - $2 per word
Writing as a side hustle in 2022
This list is not exhaustive. The best part about using writing as a side hustle is that the need for good writing is absolutely everywhere.
The theme of this article is writing services, creating content on behalf of other people or businesses. This is not the only way to earn money from your writing, but I believe it's the most predictable path. Unlike other popular options like novel writing, blogging, or creating infoproducts, writing as a service is an almost guaranteed income.
With that said, the ways to monetize your writing are almost endless. Despite what you've heard about the narrative of the starving artist, writing is actually a highly in-demand (and potentially profitable) skill.
Writing is my career. It also happens to be one of my favorite hobbies and greatest passions. If you enjoy the craft as much as I do, and are looking for ways to earn good money from your skills, then I want to encourage you. There are more paid writing opportunities than ever before.
Businesses need great writers. And frankly, there aren’t enough great writers available to help them. The opportunity is out there, if you're willing to look for it.
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