I've been writing freelance for close to 15 years - in both non-fiction and fiction. In all that time, I think I've only written one piece that never received monetary compensation. (I fondly call that piece my 'apprenticeship'.)
You see, it never occurred to me that I might NOT to receive payment for my words and so everything I wrote and submitted ended up in a spreadsheet alongside a dollar figure. I wrote - and still write - with that result in mind.
Now I'm learning that this kind of submission acceptance rate is not entirely the norm. So what's the difference?
There are plenty of things you can do to increase the amount of money you earn from your writing efforts. Often, though, it's the addition of some smaller things you can do that can mean bigger income overall.
Let's take a look at some things you can do to increase your writing income today:
1 - Know Your Audience
No matter what you write and no matter to which publication or editor you submit, there will always be an audience for your writing at the other end. The readers' preferences dictate much of the style and tone of any magazine. Editors purchase work that fits within those preferences.
Does the publication favor slang or innuendo? Do they prefer technical explanations? Will they accept first person anecdotes or is every other piece written in instructional tone as though talking directly to a reader?
Knowing what kind of style and slant that audience prefers will give you a big edge when your submission lands in front of an editor.
2 - Know The Publication
Research your intended market. Read, study and really absorb other content in your chosen publication. Do any similarities stand out? Any consistencies in style, rhythm, context or content? By reading back issue of target markets, you can learn what type of writing each editor prefers to accept.
Take note of the preferred word counts. Do the editors have a preferred layout? Is there any consistency in style or tone? Check use of jargon or slang.
Know what the publication expects and then write according to those expectations. Your chances of receiving an acceptance will be greatly increased!
3 - Reprint
A friend of mine is also a freelance writer. We were discussing selling reprints of articles already written and sold elsewhere. To her, selling an article once was great. Selling it a second time for doing nothing more than submitting it to a second publication was considered a bonus.
To me, selling a piece less than four times means I didn't research well enough in the first place. This research will include finding the best offer for first rights, the best subsequent offers for reprint rights, foreign sales and then electronic (or Internet) rights.
Before submitting any work, know what secondary and subsequent markets might exist for each piece. Check what rights the editor/publication will be purchasing for each submission. Know when the rights revert back to you so that you can submit the piece again as soon as possible
4 - Tracking
Of course, if you're going to be submitting multiple pieces to various markets many times over, it's important to keep close track of what you sent and where!
I keep a basic spreadsheet, made from Microsoft Excel software that came with my computer. The spreadsheet shows things like:
-- date of submission
-- name of publication
-- date of acceptance
-- amount of payment
-- currency (if applicable)
-- date rights revert back to me so I can re-submit the piece to someone else
You can purchase submission-tracking software if you don't know how to create a spreadsheet yourself. However, learning to set up a basic spreadsheet is not difficult and best of all it's free. There are loads of free Excel tutorials on the Internet.
5 - Smaller Markets for Smaller Pay
My friends and family have been well trained over the years to pick up, cut out or write down any potential writing markets they find in magazines or on the internet.
Many magazines will include sections that pay for reader contributions. These small snippets of information often pay small amounts of money, so it barely seems worth the effort or the time involved to write and submit to these low paying markets.
However, considering these pieces are so short, they pay very well on a per-word basis. Imagine - $25 for 25 words that you could write, submit and send out within a couple of minutes? That's a great return on your time-investment!
These snippets of information are called fillers and are short enough that you should comfortably be able to submit 5 or 6 a week in just your spare time. The benefit is seeing 5 or 6 small checks arrive in your mailbox a few weeks later, ranging from $5 to $50.
They all add up to extra writing income!
These fillers can include (but are not limited to):
-- handy household hints
-- money saver tips
-- cute or funny sayings
... and many more.
6 - Foreign Sales
The Internet has been a blessing for writers all over the world. Now more than ever it's easier to find new markets in different countries, offering a freelance writer the opportunity to sell a piece of work to a publication in another country.
Including foreign sales to your writing bio can have some great benefits, but it can also have drawbacks. For a more detailed look into increasing your writing income using international currency, please see our article here: Take Advantage of International Currency
7 - Diversify
So many writers get caught up in the belief that they need to focus on the important assignment or book or feature that they're working on right now. The human mind is a funny thing, though. The more important a piece seems, the more stubborn the writer's mind wants to get.
If you seem stuck on an article, write a short fiction story. If you're stuck with a novel, work on an article. If you can't think of anything at all to write, try writing down some jokes to send out as fillers.
I've heard reports from many, many writers, confirming that the simple act of putting the 'important' piece aside and working on something completely different seems to free up the mental clog that slowed progress on the important piece.
Another handy side effect to working on something completely different is that you now should have another piece of writing to send out to another publication!
8 - Write More!
I know it sounds silly, but it's true! Many writers spend a lot of time researching, learning, finding markets, networking.... anything other than writing!
Write more - of anything, everyting - it really makes no difference. You're a writer, after all! So write!
If the major feature piece you're planning isn't ready yet, then scrawl out a few fillers during your break. At least you can say you wrote something, no matter how small.
If you're still working hard on networking to find that big contract, then submit a few smaller articles to smaller magazine markets while you wait. Once again, the checks still add up in your bank account.
No matter what you decide to write, the quickest way to increase your writing income is to write more...
... and then send it out the door.