Let’s face it: For all but a select few, novel writing (or any form of creative writing like poetry, short stories, etc.) is not a lucrative career. Or even a reasonable income at all. It can be, but it often isn’t. And even if you do end up making money from fiction, it’s often only after several years and books. The “overnight” success is rarely overnight. Most careers in fiction evolve over time as fan bases get larger and the books get better. (And let’s not even start on the sorry state of the arts and their perceived value in today’s culture.)
This lack of money means that you’re going to have to find other ways to pay your bills and save for your future. Some people prefer to have jobs that are well away from writing. Maybe they have other interests/skills that earn them solid money. Or maybe they’re afraid of burning out on writing if their whole life revolves around nothing but words on a page. That’s a fine and valid approach.
But then there are the others… Those who simply love to write. Some opt for a hybrid approach, working a traditional day job and taking on some writing-related side hustles. Others write all the time.
That’s me. Writing is all I’ve ever really wanted to do. (Good thing, because it’s the only thing at which I’m halfway decent.) Once I figured out that people would actually pay for words (and I didn’t have to go into journalism), I was all set.
Whether you want to write all the time or just some of the time while you wait for your creative writing career to take off, there are plenty of ways to make money with words. (I’m always shocked at how many people don’t realize that writing can be a viable career. So, while some of this may seem like “Duh” stuff to writers, many people are new to the concept.)
Jobs That Involve Writing
Some of these are great for a little part-time money, others require more of a time commitment or are full-time jobs. Some, like blogging, can go either way. How much time you have and how much money you need to bridge the gap often determines what sort of work is best for you.
- Blogging. Your own or working for someone else. The latter is the quicker path to money as it takes time to build your own readership. But you can write on any topic that you’re passionate about. Travel, personal finance, hobbies, food, nature, activism, parenting… It’s all out there and you can contribute.
- Reviews. You can make money reviewing books, but you can also review other things you’re passionate about. I make money reviewing board games.
- Freelance writing. This is what I do, and it can take all forms across all platforms and industries. You’re really only limited by your skills, passions, and ability to pitch your way into jobs. You can write marketing materials, web copy, technical pieces and manuals, magazine articles, training manuals, and on and on. Plenty of companies don’t keep writers on staff, instead relying on freelancers to see to their writing needs. There is also money to be made in writing articles for websites and magazines. Freelancing can become a full time job, or you can use it for extra income.
- Greeting cards.
- Collaborations with other creative professionals. For example, you could pair up with an illustrator and write a children’s book together.
- Game writing. This is near and dear to my heart. You can write rulebooks for board or video games. Or, you can write storylines for role playing games or video games.
- Personal poet. Write poems and speeches for weddings, funerals, and other special occasions.
- Blurb writing. Books, movies, games, etc. all need blurbs for their covers.
- Advertising copy. In addition to web copy, remember that many businesses still use flyers, catalogs, and brochures that need content.
- Journalism. Small town journalism or citizen journalism is especially open to freelancers or part-timers.
- Grant writing.
- Press releases.
- Social media writer. For those who have no idea what to say or how to say it to advance their brand.
- Fan fiction. Kindle Worlds will pay you 35% of your sales for creating fan fiction set in certain licensed worlds. Your story has to pass their review process before it can be published, however. You may also be able to translate fan fiction into a traditional publishing deal if you post it on sites like Wattpad where it can be seen and shared. That’s how E.L. James got 50 Shades of Grey (which began as Twilight fan fiction) published.
Jobs That Keep You Close to Writing/Books/Authors/Readers
If you don’t want to write, but want to stay close to books, readers, and authors, there are other jobs/careers.
- Work in a bookstore. Or open your own.
- Work in a library. (Some require degrees in library science, others do not.)
- Teach/tutor reading and writing skills.
- Teach creative writing. Community colleges, extension programs, and library programs all offer a chance to teach creative writing, usually without an MFA or degree in creative writing. If you have such a degree, you might be able to teach at a university.
- Freelance editing/proofreading.
- Cover design.
- Literary consultant. I had no idea, but these people advise new/aspiring writers on the ins and outs of publishing and self-publishing.
- Book trailer producer.
- Website/graphic designer for authors. Authors need websites and things like promotional graphics. If you have skills in these areas, you can be useful to authors who need them.
- Personal assistant for authors. Authors often need people to handle their social media, promotions, marketing, and other things so they can actually write. You’d help with the ancillary chores while the author gets on with the writing.
There are many more ways to make money and stay within the writing/bookish world. If there are words involved, you can get paid for writing them. You may have to cobble together a few different income streams, but that’s not a bad thing. If one tanks, you still have others.