How to make money from writing

On the very first day of my very first work experience placement on a newspaper, an old hack warned me that no-one goes into journalism for the money.

He was right too – the wage of a jobbing journalist was, and continues to be, appalling, especially when compared to the renumeration expected by similarly-skilled professionals, like lawyers and accountants.

In fact, one of my newspaper colleagues took the job of office cleaner to supplement her income, and it wasn’t uncommon for trainee journalists to have to balance the coverage of parish council meetings with bar work.

‘No-one goes into journalism for the money’ became, or perhaps always had been, an industry mantra that I kept hearing throughout my adventures in work experience land, my training, and my career in newspapers.

So can a budding writer make money from journalism..? Actually, I think they can.

A few weeks ago Secret Agent Marketing did some work for a new client. He is well-paid as a consultant, but his passion lies in writing about his hobby, which is unrelated to his job.

He’d just come away from a training course where he was told that there was very little money to be made in freelance journalism.

Magazines, he was told, would pay peanuts for contributions – if they accepted them at all. Understandably, he left dispirited.

Luckily, our client has something of an entrepreneurial spirit, and working with us he identified a way in which he could make money from writing – by starting his own magazine.

The internet has opened up a world of opportunity to talented writers who want to make the move into publishing.

Blogging sites like WordPress provide a cost-free platform on which engaging stories and attractive pictures can be published.

Free social networking platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn can drive traffic to a blog.

And, once a loyal band of readers has been established, our writer can start monetising his or her site.

Here are my top tips for starting a successful and profitable online publication:

  1. Identify a niche. This could be in your field of expertise, or in your locality (see hyper-local sites like People are more likely to visit your site if it’s giving them something they can’t get anywhere else.
  2. Populate your site with interesting, informative and well-written articles. Remember: Content is King.
  3. Promote, promote, promote! Use meta tags within your platform to identify key phrases within your article that people will be searching for.
  4. Harness the Power of Social Media (running joke – has to be said in an American accent). Connect with people who have an interest in your niche, and get them visiting your site again and again.
  5. Build a following, then start monetising your publication.

Find the right niche and build a large enough audience and you never know where it might lead.

The aptly-named Pete Cashmore, who started technology site Mashable from his Aberdeen bedroom in 2005, is rumoured to be in talks with CNN to sell his site – which attracts 20 million unique visitors every month – for around £130 million.

  • If you want to start your own online publication, for fun or profit, contact Secret Agent Marketing for some one-to-one advice, training and mentoring.
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