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Ideas for Money: Are You A Writer or An Editor?

Opportunities abound for those whose work is words.

Many of today’s readers use electronic tools as their primary source for reading as they access mountains of information each day.  Every man, woman and child can source whatever they wish to read based on personal interests and preferences.  One important result is the demand for writers.  Equally important, the kinds of writing and editing opportunities are changed.


Today, writers can choose to write and publish their own work.  In fact, a self-publisher can form a business around their written work.  No longer will self-publishers be called vanity publishers.  Instead, writers are free to use the many publishing formats in ways that best serve their unique purpose.  Beyond print, a writer can publish their work as a blog, as an e-book or even as content on their own website.  Whatever the subject, there is a vast global market with a tremendous appetite for the written word. 

Writing and editing for others

The demand for writers and editors has grown though the nature of the work is somewhat changed.  Importantly, today’s writer and editor can tailor their career to serve their own needs and preferences as well as those of their clients. 

While traditional writing and editing jobs for publishers, advertising agencies and advertisers remain, the real growth and change is found with electronic media.  

Content creation is imperative for every business and for every business website.  There is an unquenchable appetite for content.  Every website needs new content, fresh material.  Some sites need new material every single day.  Other sites are satisfied with adding new material on a weekly or monthly basis.  Here, writing includes article development as well as blogs.  Ghosting a blog for an organization or an individual is work that can last.

Beyond content creation, there is social media.  Face-book and Twitter have changed the face of communication.  We live in a time when toppling a government using social media is “so last year”.  Many small and independent businesses need a social media presence but don’t have the time or skill to make it happen.  That’s right, writing for social media is a new job frontier. 

Many of today’s editorial and writing jobs can be virtual, completed over the internet without in-person meetings.  Your employer can be in London, Tokyo or another state while you complete your assignments from the comfort of your at-home workspace.   

Skilled writers and editors only, please

Before we go any further, let’s address skills.  Some of us are fortunate to be naturally gifted writers.  Others went to school where they developed their writing skills.  We are not all polished writers and editors.  A simple rule of thumb is to keep your day job until you’ve proven that your writing and editing skills can generate the income you seek.

The details: alternative writing and editing  

Content development, blogs and social media.  Firms large and small must make their presence known on the internet.  Original articles for web pages are more and more necessary.  At the same time, many organizations must stay in regular contact with their prospects and constituents.  Whether in the form of blogs or newsletters, organizations that share their own expertise grow credibility and build acceptance.  

Here are a few things a freelancer or contract writer should know along with some tips for finding these kinds of jobs:

  • It’s helpful to have your own expertise.  Whether it’s food, finance, fashion or something else, your reputation and credibility are enhanced when you are an expert.  An expertise also helps you find prospective clients.  When you are an expert and you belong to industry-related associations, you can use related association membership lists for prospecting or you might create an ad for that industry’s newsletter.  Consider giving speeches or teaching a course for a related organization.
  • Regularly search on-line for firms in your area of expertise. 
  • Develop a roster of firms that meet your interest and skills.  Find out how they hire; provide their HR department and/or the specific hiring department with a presentation kit selling the work you do. 
  • Understand and practice SEO, search engine optimization.  A professional writer will have no trouble writing articles intended to be found on the web.  That is the purpose of SEO – to make certain a website and its content shows up in search results.  For the writer, it’s a matter of incorporating related frequently searched keywords phrases into titles, subheads and body copy.  SEO objectives vary; these should be addressed with each client. 

Blogs. A blog is an online publishing tool.  Each blog entry becomes a webpage.  It can be optimized for search engines.  Each blog entry can be enhanced with navigation and graphic tools.

A blog is ideal if you are an expert, if you have a unique perspective or if you wish to share unique tips or ideas.  A blog can be a powerful tool to grow market awareness and your customer base.

If you are blogging for a company or an individual, it’s likely the blogs you write will be posted onto their website.  When blogging for a company, your content will likely relate to products or services.  However, many organizations are now introducing blogs from their leaders or in-house experts.  Because blogging is demanding, requiring a new entry every day or week, ghost bloggers may be hired.    

If you decide to create a blog as your own marketing tool, there are many blog hosting services.  A few of the most popular are WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr.  Compare the hosting services before making your decision.  Each is free though premium services are available for some.  For each, learn whether you can acquire your own domain name or will be required to use the hosting service domain name.

A successful blog means you’ll be making entries each and every day – prepare yourself.

Social media writing.  This is one of the most recent job types to come on the scene.  It’s no longer just performers, media stars and politicians who tweet.  Social change can now be driven by tweets.  

Tweets and Facebook entries are not just time consuming, they are also something of an art.  If you’ve a flair for short but meaningful content you might add social media writing to your repertoire.  Remember, though, that some kinds of ghost tweeting gigs will require you have knowledge and expertise in a specific arena. 

Online news, reviews and commentary.  Do you write insightful movie reviews?  Perhaps travel-logs are your strength.  Whatever your passion and expertise, there are e-magazines, e-news organizations and others who pay for an article or an on-going column.

Self-Publishing.  This is not for the faint of heart.  It is fraught with risk.  Many self-publishers end up selling few if any of the books they have printed. 

The first consideration, then, is why you want to self-publish.  Is there a business reason?  Do you expect to make a profit?  Please don’t decide to self-publish if you think you are going to be “discovered”.  Getting discovered as a self-publisher may have the same odds as winning a PowerBall or MegaMillions jackpot.  Here are but a few reasons behind self-publishers making the leap.

  • Speakers with established speaking businesses will sometimes choose to self-publish.  Many speakers sell their books “at the back of the room” after giving a speech.  They also sell them on their website.  When an organization engages a speaker, some speakers offer a special rate for distribution of the book to all attendees.  In most instances, the speaker is not otherwise marketing their book. 
  • Like speakers, when the target audience is relatively limited.  You may choose to self-publish a book for your businesses’ customer base or for a family reunion.  You may choose to self-publish if you are an artist or a gallery wishing to show your work to prospective customers.
  • Again with a limited audience, you believe a book will serve to grow your credibility and you reputation as an expert.  For example, organizations and professionals may choose to publish a limited edition book in support of their practice or their website. 

Before you venture forth, be sure to read everything you can in preparation.  Of particular note is self-publishing guru, Dan Poynter, who has 76 titles to his name.  His firm is ParaPublishing, a nod to its origins developing materials about parachutes.  Another resource is The Independent Book Publishers Association.  The strongest rational against self-publishing is found in Writer Beware’s Self-Publishing article. 

Again, before you decide on self-publishing, consider what that actually means, what will you have to do after you’ve written your manuscript.  You have choices. 

  • You can do it all yourself, hiring a book designer, cover designer and editor after which you’ll decide on the printing firm.  Then comes the big question, how will you get it to market?  Who will handle distribution?  How will you get your books into bookstores and libraries?  How will you get reviews?  How will anyone ever learn about your book?  If you have a narrow, targeted audience, many of these concerns disappear. 
  • You can choose a firm that handles all the facets of publishing from book design to distribution, mostly for a fee.  The three biggest self-publishing support firms are these:

CreateSpace is Amazon.com’s self-publishing arm.  At no cost to you, you can use their tools to design your book and cover.  The result is a product ready to go to press.  Because it is Print On Demand, a book won’t be printed until you’ve actually sold a book on Amazon.com.  Alternatively, you can use CreateSpace’s many services including book and cover design, editing and marketing; there is a cost for these added services.  Also available, for a fee, is distribution to retailers, bookstores and libraries.         

Lulu.com offers free publishing tools.  Added services including cover design, editing, marketing and distribution are available at various prices depending on whether you bundle services or use them individually.

 Xlibris http://www2.xlibris.com/ is another Print On Demand self-publishing support firm.  All services here are for a fee and come packaged for every kind of book type and marketing/distribution purpose including various niche markets from poetry through sci-fi.

AuthorHouse  (authorhouse.com) offers a wide array of self-publishing services.  They start with basic packages but go well beyond basic design and marketing.

e-Books can be self-publishing in another format.  E-books are sold through Amazon.com’s Bookstore (Kindle), Barnes & Noble's e-Bookstore (Nook), Apple’s iBookstore (iPad and iPhone) and more. 

Amazon offers a free service to convert your book to the Kindle e-book format at Kindle Direct Publishing.

Alternatively, you may decide to convert your book using Smashwords or FastWords from which you can distribute directly to the major e-bookstores.

Affiliation with other writers.  Writing and editing can sometimes feel solitary.  One solution is to get involved with a related association.  If there is one in your area, it’s especially nice to get out, to meet like-minded professionals.  Of particular note, affiliating with other writers can be a terrific source of leads.

Be Aware

Unfortunately, there are cons lurking around many corners awaiting a simple error or misunderstanding.  A Huffington Post article about self-publishing advises writers to consult Writer Beware whose mission is to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry.

Before you approach a new and unknown organization, due diligence is necessary.  Find out if it is legitimate, learn about the kind of business they do, how they make their money.  Check the firm fully.  Use Dun & Bradstreet data.  Check with the Better Business Bureau Online.  What does their “About” page tell you?  Can you contact them directly? 

Because the web is full of cons with myriad means to swindle, it’s necessary for you to proceed with caution.  Do not make any kind of a commitment, do not share personal data and don’t agree to a meeting until you have fully confirmed the legitimacy of an organization.

Beware offers that are simply not true.  Authors and self-publishers are the target of any number of fraudulent concerns masquerading as agents, writers’ services and more.  Their simple quest is your money.  At Writer Beware, you will find lists of questionable practice practitioners.