Written By PollyAnna Brown

How I Went From Getting Paid $30 Per Article To $1999 Per article

My writing career started as a suggestion from a professor while I was getting my master’s degree in psychology. I’d been dreaming of writing for years, but never quite felt comfortable or ready to take the leap.

It also didn’t help that the one time I shared my writing dream with someone they asked me, “Who do you think you are? The next J.K. Rowling or something?” Back into my secret writing cave I crawled.

So when my professor suggested I started writing articles, I thought, Great idea! This could be my chance to see if I was any good at it. Little did I know, she meant academic articles. But that one suggestion threw me headlong into writing articles for publications around the world.

Within a few weeks, I’d been published in multiple countries on three different continents. Most of these gigs were free, but I knew that making money was possible with writing. That’s how I found my first content mill. Like so many writers at the beginning of their journey, I was hungry. All I wanted to do was write and get paid to do it.

Content Mill Queen

Like most budding writers, I didn’t think about how much time I invested to produce quality reading material for different sites or publications. All I knew was that someone was willing to pay me to put my thoughts, expertise, and research to work in a way that would entertain people. I was so in!

Gathering bylines became a game I excelled at, and all of a sudden, my writer pipedream didn’t sound so crazy anymore. It actually looked real because it was real—except for one small problem.

Due to the demands of the content mills, I found myself dreading writing. I’d log into my writer dashboard, look for the best paying gigs—which were from $20-$30 per article—and tried to bust out as many articles as I could just so I could buy some groceries.

To everyone else, it looked like I was living the freelance writer’s high-life. In reality, I was overworked, underpaid, and it was killing my passion. I had to find a way out.

Writing for publications was my answer.

Writing For Publications

Writing for publications paid significantly higher than the content mills. I regained creative control, and I could actually buy groceries. This is still one of my favorite ways to grow my career as a writer, but surprisingly, writing for publications wasn’t the highest paying gig. The secret to financial independence for me came in writing for other people.

Ghostwriting, Copywriting, and More

When you’re a writer, you can take for granted how rare your gift is — I absolutely did. The truth is, most people suck at writing. They don’t understand how to weave a story together, they struggle to relate to the reader, and they definitely don’t understand how to turn their words into agents of change for their audience.

That means there are literally millions of people walking around with important stories and messages inside of them that they can’t get out in a way that creates the impact they’re seeking. These people don’t have your gift or skill, and without you, their gifts are stifled. Business owners, companies, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders are happy to pay you thousands of dollars for a single project because they know your ability to put the right words to what they’re trying to say is the difference between creating a legacy and being forgotten.

This is how I started making $1,999 or more per article, and thousands of dollars for other writing projects like websites, blog posts, email sequences, video scripts, and more. I connected with business owners and companies that I believed in, creating content that spoke to their messaging needs.

For example, my audience is made up of predominantly of online service providers, such as coaches, consultants, graphic designers, online course creators, and more. Many of them get stuck in two places: getting the copy written for their website (copywriting) and getting their content written (ghostwriting).

When it comes to copywriting, my clients get stuck because they feel weird talking about themselves, and they also get lost in talking about the things that they think are interesting but that their audience doesn’t really care about. This can create writer’s block that lasts for months, which means their websites are held up, and they feel like they can’t move forward.

So when I create content on my marketing platforms, I talk about how they’re struggling to get their words down, how they’re not sure what to say, and how they have an important message to get to their audience, but it’s stuck inside of them because they’re tripping over their words instead of hiring help to get their copy done for them. The more I reflect their experience back to them, the easier it is for them to feel seen, heard, and understood, as well as admit that they actually do need help.

People often think that they should be able to write for themselves. There’s a lot of shame people can feel around not being able to write in the way that they want to, so when they realize it’s not just them, that most people actually struggle with this, it’s easier for them to come to you and ask for help.

At the end of most posts, I include a call to action for clients to reach out to me if they’d like support with their copywriting needs. Clients who reach out to me to create copy for a five page website from scratch pay $4,999. If there are more pages to the website or there’s something more in depth needed, the investment goes up.

In signing ghostwriting clients, the process is the same, the work is just a little different. I’ve had ghostwriting clients that have me help them with their content on social media, writing their blog posts, and even writing media articles. All of them are different. For a single blog post (usually just under 2,000 words), I charge $1,999. Some clients like shorter blog posts or prefer a monthly retainer. One of my mentors works with companies who are making over $20 million annually, and charges her retainer clients between $10,000 — $20,000 per month based on the deliverables.

If these numbers feel big to you, keep in mind that I didn’t start charging $4,999 for five pages of website copy overnight. I had to build up to it. Going from $30 content mill articles to thousands of dollars for copywriting and ghostwriting felt like a large leap, so give yourself some patience and grace if you feel the same way. You don’t have to start big with your pricing. You only have to make sure you feel that you’re getting paid fairly for your work. You’ll know quickly if you need to charge more. Plus, the more results your clients get from the writing you produce, the more confidence you’ll build in your writing, and you’ll be open to charging more because you’ll have the ROI (return on investment) results to back you up.

My client list grew over time. After years of consistently putting myself out there and doing good work for clients, I now choose to work on the projects that I’m most passionate about. I only have so many spots that I can fill with client work in my day, and I have more prospective clients than I can service. That means instead of feeling the need to take on every client who comes to my door, I only work with the clients that I feel a deep bond and connection with—the people who I believe are making a positive difference in the world.

Take a moment to think about that. How would it feel to have choices in who you work with? To hand select the causes that you are excited to give a voice to, while also giving yourself the time, space, and peace of mind to give to the passion projects that made you want to write in the first place? It’s life changing.

This is the good news for you—there actually IS more than enough work to go around. That’s why I’m going to tell you how you can get more writing gigs for yourself so that you have more time to dedicate to the novel you’ve been working on for the past ten years or write for publications that you love without having to take gigs that make you want to live in the forest without the Internet.

Getting Gigs That Pay Real Money

There is a simple process to closing writing gigs that pay real money.

  • Pick a group of people or an industry that you feel strongly about. This can be an area you’re already proficient and well-versed in, or an area that you can get up to speed on quickly that you find fascinating. If you’re going to write for someone, you have to make sure it’s something you enjoy writing about.
  • Once you’ve chosen your people, start filling your social media and other marketing platforms with content about how your people are struggling with their messaging. This positions you to fill that void for them and become their voice.
  • Work your business. Writers have a tendency to fall in love with their art and ignore the business side of their craft. Don’t be that person. I was that person, and it made me hangry (because I couldn’t afford food or time to sleep). It leads to starving artist syndrome, and hangry writers aren’t at their best. So instead of trudging through the business, marketing, and sales aspects of writing, learn to love or appreciate them like you do the actual writing part. Because the truth is that in working the business, you get to write a hell of a lot more and you get to pick the projects that really call to you because you become a writer that’s in demand.
  • Do good work. Get projects in either on time or ahead of schedule. Manage your client’s expectations. Let them know in the beginning that it may take two or three edits to find their message’s sweet spot. When you’re laying out the timeline for your client, remember that projects will take you at least twice as long as you think they will, so quote the timeline three times as long as you think it will take. That’ll give you a small buffer for when procrastination tries to ruin your life. My best advice here is to schedule smart. You’re most in your client’s energy right when you get off of the phone with them. If you can, set aside a day or two immediately after that conversation to get the initial draft of their project done. You’ll be further ahead than trying to wait until the end of the timeline you quoted (especially because when you turn projects in early, you get brownie points with your clients).
  • Grow your skills. You’re a great writer as is, but one of the things that keeps me in demand is my commitment to consistently enhancing my skills. By investing in your craft and refining your writing chops, you stay sharp, ahead of the curve, and you don’t get lazy. This means writing outside of your main field of expertise. One of the greatest ways I stay sharp in taking on my client’s voice is by writing fiction or doing character dialogue exercises. When you learn to see and write through someone else’s perspective, it helps you capture someone else’s unique way of communicating so that even though they aren’t writing the words, they’ll feel like you took what was in their head and put it on paper.
  • Rock out custom samples. Many potential clients will ask to see samples of your work. There’s two major speed bumps that come up if you do that. The first is a good chunk of your potential clients have decided that it’s very difficult to nail their unicorn voice, and if you present them with a sample that doesn’t already sound like them, you’ve lost the sale. The second is that many clients that will ask you to sign nondisclosure agreements, which means you won’t be able to share your samples. The workaround for both situations (or if you’re new without any samples to share) is to create short custom samples for potential clients. This gives them a chance to see how they resonate with you and how you take direction. It also gives you a chance to see if they’re going to be awesome or if they remind you of that jerkface you used to daydream about knocking out. This is the best way to win writing gigs fast and stand out.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing you can learn on your writing journey is that your voice matters. Your skills are highly sought after. You don’t have to hope and pray that someone will publish you. You can save the hail Mary’s for when you need an actual miracle. There are so many people out there begging the Universe to send them someone like you.

The secret to making great money as a writer is learning to value your writing the way someone who can’t write does. When you learn to value your writing like they do, you’ll not only attract clients like crazy (because you won’t be afraid to market to them), you’ll also make a massive difference in the world.


PollyAnna Brown uses her 10+ years experience in entertainment, communication, and personal development to help business owners and entrepreneurs grow their audience, impact, and income. She is the founder of Storytelling Marketing® and co-owns a Business Growth & Publicity firm where she specializes in profitable publicity™. PollyAnna’s on a mission to help entrepreneurs and business owners leverage their time, make more sales, and create a positive impact using publicity and storytelling. Her work has been seen in Thrive Global, Kindred Spirit Magazine, Wake Up World News, and more. To connect with PollyAnna, check out her LinkedIn here:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/pollyannawrites/

 

Your Comments:

  1. Britany Leasure says:

    So how do I start? I want to take the big leap.

    • PollyAnna Brown says:

      Hey Britany!

      Start with choosing someone to serve, and then filling your social media platforms with content speaking to their pain points and how you can resolve them. That’s just one way to start.

      There are many paths to take here. The most important thing is choosing how you want to get started and jumping into action 🙂

    • Shiva KumarSharma says:

      its my first response about the freelance writing. Is it possible for me to submit my poems that I have composed. What are the ways for publishing poems. I am from eastern region of Globe i.e, Nepal the land of Lord Buddha and cultural diversity carrying unique features in the world.

  2. Christine says:

    Most of the organizations that I feel passionate about are not making lots of money, they are environmental NGO’s but I want to start

    • PollyAnna Brown says:

      Hey, Christine!

      There are several ways to approach that. Let’s talk about two really quickly.

      1. You can focus on businesses that have a sustainable or environmental components to them.

      2. You can learn if your services would qualify for grants that you could help them apply for to get you paid.

      3. You could work with other businesses that you like, which would allow you to fund the pro-bono hours you donate to your passion projects each month.

      There’s always a way to serve and work with people you care about. Sometimes you just have to get creative 😉 Good luck! You can do it!

  3. Muhammad Akhtar says:

    Good

  4. LInda Lee says:

    Frankly, at this point I’d be happy making even a little money in a ‘content mill’, learning to write on demand. Where are they? How do they work?

    • Karen Schweiker says:

      Hi Linda,

      Saw your post/comment about “content mill” writing and how you just want to get anything going. I currently work for textbroker.com (been doing it since 2015) and before that guru.com for several years. You simply go to the textbroker site and click on “I Write Content” and “Sign Up.” They’ll give you the instructions from each of those pages. I had to provide a writing sample, my identification (driver’s license) and a 1099 tax form. I did it all online. Hope this is of help to you in getting started.

    • PollyAnna Brown says:

      Hey, Linda!

      It’s been a few years since I worked for one. I would suggest doing a Google search for content writing sites and see who hires for writers these days.

      It looks like Karen has some good resources for you too 🙂

    • Derick says:

      Hey Linda!

      When it comes to writing, please don’t ever be desperate just for anything (that is content mills), it will ruin you. Patience MUST be your greatest asset.

      No need to write so many articles on demand and get paid very little when you can write < 10 articles per month and get paid in 'gold.'

  5. Nicki R says:

    Thanks PollyAnna! Some really helpful tips to follow up…

  6. Deborah says:

    This sounds exactly like what I’ve been looking for but haven’t had the framework (or maybe gumption is a better word} to try. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ll try to find those who are “begging the Universe to send them someone like” me.

    • PollyAnna Brown says:

      Hey, Deborah!

      I’m so glad this resonated.

      Gumption is such a great word (and quality)!

      Side note: a lot of these people are on LinkedIn and other social media platforms 😉

  7. Aden Curtis says:

    Thank you for your encouraging words and insight. Providing custom samples may be the breakthrough advice this ol’ boy needs to pull it all together.
    I hope to connect on LinkedIn!

  8. Jeanna says:

    This is a very insightful article! I’m so encouraged. Thank you.

    • PollyAnna Brown says:

      Hey, Jeanna!

      I’m so glad you’re uplifted and encouraged.

      Sometimes, we just need a little reminder of who we really are. I’m glad my article could support you with that 🙂

  9. Sammy says:

    An eye opener!

    • PollyAnna Brown says:

      Hey, Sammy!

      That’s awesome!

      I know it was an eye opener for me, and I’m grateful to be able to get the message out to help other writers 🙂

  10. Samantha says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. SO helpful!

  11. Nicholas Manyukwa says:

    I write to advise that am interested in writing articles, research papers, and journals.

    I have an interest in areas of business and economics, financial sector analysis, politics covering mainly the social makeup of African societies and their bearing on people’s life.

    I also write on policy formulation and analysis of policy effectiveness.

    Kindly assist with prospective institutions that pay for such work.

    Regards

    Nicholas Manyukwa

    • PollyAnna Brown says:

      Hey, Nicholas!

      For specific places, I highly encourage you to do a Google search with the keywords you’re looking for.

      I would also look at some travel publications that also include culture and business. There are likely publications that also focus on culture and society that would be good fits (these aren’t the areas where I’m an expert so I can’t help with specific outlets).

      I will help you with how to properly search (this is one of the most PROFOUND tools you can have in your writer toolbox).

      The first thing is get into the habit of searching for anything you have a question about. The more you do that, the more it becomes your default practice and you lose less time.

      Second, when searching, make sure you think of all the different angles an outlet could be using when they refer to stories like yours, and use those in your search. Topics like business, finance, and culture are great, but searching for key phrases like “impact of African cultures” and “African societies and their impact on the globe” will help you too. Think about it in as many different ways as possible. You’ll likely pull up stories like yours, which will help you find the outlets you’re searching for.

      Third, look for writers who write on topics similar to yours and see where all they’ve written (it can give you a roadmap to follow while you’re researching).

      The most important piece is building this skill so you can be self-reliant. 🙂 You’ve got this!

  12. Tara says:

    This was such an inspiring read! Thank you so much for publishing this piece, which I’ve decided to read daily for motivation whenever things get tough!

  13. Jacqueline says:

    Really helpful and inspiring article. It’s given me a real lift! Thanks

    • PollyAnna Brown says:

      You are so welcome, Jacqueline!

      I’m glad I could support you 🙂

      Rock it out! 🙂 You’ve got this!

  14. Mia Angela says:

    This is such an inspiring post. I’m working my way to starting my writing career, too. Started with content mills and ghostwriting for SEO companies that paid like 6$ per article. Now I’m looking for sites to guest post to and will pay what my time is worth.

    What bugs me however is how you build relationships. How did you meet the decision makers of the companies you wrote for?

  15. Anne Leyden says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. Looking for ways to monetize what I love to do.
    Many thanks for the clear and concise “how to!”

  16. Matt W. says:

    Hey, PollyAnna.

    Have you considered branching out with real big name writing pros that are members of AWAI.com?

    AWAI is a great U.S. based organization that also provides a lot of credible mentors who know their copywriting, web content writing, email copywriting, PR writing and many more writing niches.

    Besides LinkedIn and “content mills,” Pro Blogger and many others can hawk you “cut your teeth” and get a feel for knowing what clients ar looking for, even if it pos between a penny a word and 5 cents per word, which is the going rate (range) for most content mills that will hire writers with just a writing sample or two and by passing a grammar test.

    Best,

    Matt W.

  17. Iami N. Cognito says:

    Hi there,I read this piece and couldn’t leave without commenting. Informative, inspiring and interesting. Bookmarked to refer to from time to time. I believe I am one eighth of the distance you’ve covered since you started out. Tired of the content Mills now. Stuck and don’t know what next to do. Also want to write a book but each time I think to begin I realize there is something I need to bone up on….like plot development or character building.

  18. Joyce Rambert says:

    Thank you. A child who has recently been sent to foster care may be my granddaughter. I may have to stop my job and stay home. If I can write, I can work and take care of her. Thanks for the tips. I already have a memoir under a pen name that looks like it’s going to make it.

  19. Joyce Rambert says:

    I took notes. Textbroker.com appears to be a useful site. The suggestion to identify your personal interests and try to write for that market is a great idea.

  20. Gail says:

    Excellent advice here. I started reading at work and am about to print for future reference as well. Thanks for the tips and encouragement.

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