Most of us get into freelance writing simply because we love writing and couldn’t imagine a better way to make a living. We love words, we’re good at stringing them together in interesting ways, and we’ve got enough talent that others are ready and willing to pay us for it.
But freelancing writing, like any other kind of service-oriented career, is a time-for-money trade. Straight up.
Yes, you can figure out ways to make yourself more productive, learn how to type faster, and hire out your research, but ultimately, it comes down to spending time working in order to earn money. The more you work, the more you make.
Which isn’t all that bad, but at some point, you start to realize that there are other ways to profit from your expertise—ways that don’t always require more work to make more money. And as a freelance writer, there are three primary ways to make this happen while still serving your target market: publishing a book, creating a course, and promoting affiliate links.
A lot of companies and online professionals rely on the help of others to sell their products for them, and in exchange for that help, offer a kickback for each item sold.
Amazon Associates is one example. If you sign up as an affiliate seller for Amazon with this program, you can promote any product you find on Amazon on your website or to your email list, and for every single person who buys, you get a commission of that sale.
Six-figure blogger Carol Tice who teaches other freelancers how to make a living from freelance writing, monetizes her site and her business in multiple ways, including affiliate links to products she loves.
“They’re a very modest source of income,” she admits, “but I keep these up because they introduce writers and bloggers to products and services that can really help them grow their business, such as Freshbooks, MailChimp, The Writer’s Market, and The Well-Fed Writer. As long as I keep getting thank-you notes from writers who buy these through me who’re super grateful to have found a great tool or resource, I’ll keep them going.”
And the cool thing about promoting affiliate links, like Carol mentioned, is they don’t have to be hard sales that annoy your audience. They can just be to products and services that you already know would be helpful to your audience and clients—so rather than annoying them with “Buy this! Buy this!”—you’re offering them resources that they’ll actually be happy about purchasing.
There’s always going to be the story of the guy earning multiple six figures per year by writing stories he publishes on Amazon.
If the guy from the link above earns $450k per year, that breaks down to $37,500 per month. But I think the vast majority of freelance writers would be happy bringing in 1/10 of that per month on an eBook, or maybe even half of that number.
Even an extra $1,875 (5 percent of that guy’s monthly income) earned passively would be a really big deal to a lot of us, buying us the time we need to go after our more ideal clients, or just time to not spending sitting down behind our computers.
To be fair, writing an eBook for side, passive income isn’t as simple as writing up a manuscript and hitting “publish.” There’s an entire entrepreneurial backend of eBook marketing that needs to happen for the book to be a success (like Alexis Grant discusses here).
But if you set up the launch and the promo in a strategic, planned-out way, with a plan to continue marketing your book throughout each quarter, it can turn into a nice side income that’ll let you earn more, be pickier with your clients, and/or have more time to yourself.
Smith has been in the business of copywriting for over 20 years, so to say he’s experienced and knows what he’s doing is an understatement. But while Smith still clearly offers his services as a for-hire copywriter, he’s found an effective way to leverage his expertise for recurring, passive income by packaging his knowledge into courses on writing sales copy, writing white papers, and the business of copywriting. They’re good courses too (they all have a rating of at least 4.5/5 stars, which shows that yes, he does know what he’s talking about).
So while a course does take a considerable amount of time to make—think videos, worksheets, checklists, and written content—their potential to keep paying dividends back to you year after year is huge, especially if you take advantage of a pre-existing platform where people know they can find good courses, like Udemy.
And for Smith, because his courses are always live and there are always people looking up courses on Udemy, they’re an open source of passive income, providing a nice cushion for him and his writing clients.
While Smith is a copywriter who made courses on copywriting (and plenty of others do the same), the fact that you’re a writer doesn’t mean you can only teach writing. Focus on your specific niche that you regularly write for (like health, marketing, DIY car repair, etc.), rather than writing itself.
Whether you decide to go for passive income right now or not, you will find yourself with more financial and legal responsibilities as you start earning more as a solopreneur.
In general (no matter how much you’re earning), it’s a good idea to put something like an LLC in place to protect your personal assets and have separate cards and bank accounts to keep your personal and business finances separate.
And once you have an official business entity, you’ll be expected to pay estimated taxes quarterly or you’ll face a potential fine tacked onto your taxes when you do your yearly filing.
Plus, of course, once you start earning more, you’ll have to pay more in taxes once you pass each taxation threshold.
I feel like I’m approaching a decision to start monetizing my business-of-one beyond just offering services. Not that I’ll be rolling anything out next month, but that I’ll soon start deciding what that will be.
I’ve already shifted away from offering repetitive, monthly blogging as a service I offer to new clients, grandfathering the old ones in. (Which is why you still see me writing here.)
But every time I do non-blogging work for a client, they usually email to tell me how they love my work, sometimes asking to hire me to do more work for them. So I’m starting to see a really awesome opportunity to either develop my own course or to, at the very least, act as an affiliate for other freelance writers who’ve developed how-to courses on writing sales copy.
Have you ever thought of turning your freelance writing expertise into a passive revenue stream? What ideas have you had? And if you haven’t done it yet, what’s holding you back? Let me know in the comments section.