Do you ever wonder where the better-paying freelance writing gigs are hiding? It can be hard to believe a good income is even possible, especially if you’re trapped in low-pay assignments that don’t even earn you the minimum wage.
The good news is, there are plenty of niches that pay better than writing, say, a 300-word blog post or a 50-word online product description — to name just two classic bottom-of-the-barrel niches where pay is often miniscule.
The problem is, many writers aren’t aware of all the different types of freelance writing gigs that offer better pay.
Below is a list of writing niches that I can report writers are seeing strong rates for. I’ve noted rate ranges as I’m aware of them, from talking to thousands of writers through Freelance Writers Den and my coaching. I’ve also included tips on industries and approaches for connecting with these clients.
Better freelance writing gigs in review
What assignments pay writers well? Here’s my list:
- Advertorials — These are the magazine articles that have a note that says ‘advertisement’ at the top. Think $1 a word for these articles, which provide useful info, often have quotes, and feel like journalism, but slyly serve the advertiser’s agenda.
- Annual reports — Nonprofits and publicly traded companies are required to issue annual reports. At big companies, these can top 100 pages or more. And they’re often outsourced to freelancers, because they’re a massive-yet-seasonal project. Rates can easily run to $10,000 per project and more. Watch your local business journal for lists of publicly traded companies, and start building relationships to make connections for these gigs.
- Articles for top consumer magazines* — Many print magazines continue to thrive, despite cries of doom. The last article I wrote for one, for Forbes, paid $1.50 a word. Good rates for these freelance writing gigs are still out there. Take that Writer’s Market online, dial their search engine up to five $s, and make a list of great-paying magazines you want to target.
- Branding/slogans — We all know ad agencies get big bucks for doing this work — and that smaller to mid-sized companies can’t afford those agencies. There’s an opportunity here, especially if you have an agency background or branding experience.
- Brochures — Target companies that attend trade shows. Then do in-person marketing, and you’ll find they’re still creating brochures. Rates for a basic, 3-fold brochure start around $750 and go up from there. It’s so easy to write better brochure copy than the average, it’s amazing — go to your local Chamber of Commerce and pull a bunch of these to read, if you don’t believe me. This is a great, accessible niche for moving up to better pay.
- Book ghostwriting* — One of the most lucrative niches in the entire writing universe, pro book ghosting rates begin at $35,000 per project. These are relationship-driven gigs, so build your network and let connections know you’re looking to ghost books.
- Brand journalism* — It’s the hottest niche around for displaced journalists. Brand journalism is writing reported stories for a company, not a magazine. In an age where we tune out ads, brand journalism is booming, and a growing number of companies are producing fantastic online magazines.
- Business plans/confidential information memorandums — Startups seeking funding often need to create a sizzling-hot business plan or CIM to impress investors. If you love learning what makes a business tick and can tell a good story, these freelance writing gigs are for you. And they start at several thousand dollars in pay and go up from there, depending on complexity. Want to learn? Check out bplans.
- Case studies* — If you love telling stories, these ‘customer success stories’ can be a lot of fun, once you learn the required format. They also typically pay $750-$1,500 or so — not bad for a couple of pages. If you have existing business clients, ask them how old their case studies are, study the layout, and sell them on some new ones.
- Content marketing + strategy* — If you’re still ‘just blogging,’ it’s time to learn more, and position yourself as a strategic expert. Learn how SEO really works today and how to craft successful content campaigns. Landing these freelance writing gigs will help you leave the world of $50 a post (or less) behind and start earning pro rates.
- Corporate research reports — Are you nosy? If so, and you’ve got a knack for business, these projects are for you. When a public company gets a new CEO, investment firms often commission research where you find past co-workers and get them to spill on whether the chief was great to work for or a total a*hole. I’ve gotten $1,500-$3,000 for these, depending on length.
- Corporate social responsibility reports — In addition to their annual report, more and more organizations prepare an annual report for stakeholders. These reports typically cover an organization’s impact on the environment and society. As with annual reports, CSRs at the big companies can top 100 pages, and pay rates are similar.
- Crowdfunding campaigns — Watch this space for an upcoming guest post from a writer who’s making $2,000-$4,000 per project writing Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns. These are fairly easy projects for people who can gather facts and tell a compelling story. You get to put together a short video script, too. A slam-dunk if you love working with startups.
- Custom publication articles* — From airline magazines such as Delta Sky to the magazines you find in hotels, hospitals, and retail stores, custom pubs feel like consumer magazines, but are created by a business to promote their agenda. Rates range from $.50-$1 a word and more. Many ideas are generated in-house, but pitch them yours anyway, to impress and get in the door.
- Direct response copywriting — Skyrocketing postal rates have really hurt this niche, and a small elite seem to get most of these freelance writing gigs. But if you’ve got connections and the drive to break in, direct response can be one of the most lucrative writing types around.
- E-Books — Sure, there are lots of $200 offers on Craigslist for this gig, but e-books are getting increasingly sophisticated…and so are rates, if you find better clients who understand how valuable this marketing tool can be. My interest in writing short e-books begins around $2,000 and goes up from there.
- E-learning courses* — Training has moved online, creating terrific opportunity for writers to write interactive, online courses. If you have a background in instructional design, online writing, or teaching, this is a niche worth exploring. Multi-thousand-dollar projects are routine for these freelance writing gigs.
- Email copywriting* — Would earning $300 or more per short email be so bad? Learn how to write a compelling email campaign that gets readers clicking and buying, and you can earn very well here.
- Grantwriting* — Yes, small nonprofits want you to do this for free. But large, national nonprofits employ professional freelance grantwriters and pay well. I know more than one writer who has regular, recurring gigs writing grants for the biggies. Several thousand dollars per grant proposal is typical.
- Infographics* — You see these going wildly viral everywhere, doing a great job promoting the sponsoring companies. Which is why businesses pay nicely to get them written and designed. Team with a designer, or do the whole thing, if you have the skills, and earn even more.
- Informational copywriting* — Do you hate writing salesy stuff? No worries — there’s a ton of freelance writing gigs out there for informational web pages that simply describe an issue, trend, platform, or service. I’ve earned $1 a word and more for hundreds of pages like these, and have done quite a few $1,000 projects to create 7-10 short pages of content.
- Internal communications — Universities, business conglomerates — they all need to communicate across the company. Often, the division president doesn’t have time to write those memos, and they hire freelancers. I interviewed for one gig at a university — essentially, telling all the other parts of the university about this college’s needs and plans — for $50 an hour.
- Landing pages — This broad term may refer to anything from a company’s home page, to a short product sales page, or an opt-in page for a free lead magnet. These vital pages help drive sales or capture leads — think $1 a word or more, depending on the complexity of the offer.
- Longform blog posts* — The 2,000-word blog post has arrived, and with it needs to come higher rates. Think $400 for starters. Resist all efforts to get you to write these long posts for a pittance. More companies are realizing long blog posts must pay.
- Media kits — When advertisers come calling, smart publications are ready with a media kit. These multi-page reports are full of juicy details about the pub’s circulation, reader demographics, disposable income, and more. Your job is to take their dry data and make it seem vital for advertisers to get in front of this audience. A key sales tool — expect top-line rates.
- Newsletters* — Whether these are virtual or go out in the mail, newsletters continue to be a proven format for driving engagement and disseminating information. This is one of the most reliable, ongoing retainer gigs going. Rates depend on product length but are often well above $1,000 per month. Manage the design side as well to earn even more. And don’t neglect internal newsletters for employees at companies with a large workforce.
- Online ads — How big is the marketplace for these? Well, this year, online ad spending is forecast to pass TV ad spending, eMarketer reported. Personally, I’m shopping for a pro to write my Facebook ads right now. Trackable digital ads may be one of the best earning opportunities going, since you can prove you got results. Be prepared to earn partly based on performance for these freelance writing gigs.
- “Placed” articles* — When a CEO wants a thought leadership article with his byline in the local business news, they rarely write it themselves. Instead, a pro writer with PR chops writes the piece and pitches the pubs to get placement. Expect $1,000-$1,200 per piece on this.
- Podcast and radio scripts — Why are podcasts a booming niche? Well, 57 million Americans listened to podcasts last year. Increasingly, thought leaders and companies are promoting through a recurring podcast — and somebody has to write those scripts. Often, the bigwig host doesn’t have time. Traditional radio hosts also may need writing help.
- Presentations — Many busy CEOs don’t have time to create their own videos, PowerPoints, SlideShares, and such. Do you have a visual side and write short and punchy copy? If you do, these freelance writing gigs can be a real cash cow. Where to find these gigs: Connect with coaches or thought leaders who do a lot of presentations.
- Press kits — If a company has a big event or product release coming up, they need to organize a lot of information for media — backgrounder sheets, product spec sheets, news releases, bios, and more. The Writer’s Market reports rates for putting these complete packages together top out at over $180 per hour.
- Press releases & pitching* — There are some appalling rates out there for writing short press releases, so choose your client carefully. Complex products or services that not every writer could find a great news angle on for a release will be a better bet. Pay can top $1,000 for writing and promoting a smart, multi-page press release to interest editors and journalists.
- Print ads — Yes, magazine ads still exist. And because they’re directly tied to driving sales, they pay well. Rates for these freelance writing gigs can run up to $3 a word, my Writer’s Market tells me.
- Radio ads — Many radio ads are going longform these days, with DJs talking about or endorsing a product. Ad writing is a historical stalwart of good pay, so expect pro rates.
- Recruiting packets — In any competitive industry that needs highly-trained workers, companies actively recruit at job fairs and online. To do that, they need written materials about why their company’s a great place to work. Recruiting packets for nurses are big biz at hospitals, for instance. Expect $3,000 or more to create their materials.
- Requests for proposals (RFPs) — Somewhat similar to grantwriting, RFPs are a company’s bid to receive an open government contract. Complex RFPs for major contracts can often run 100 pages or more, and need a strong writer to put the company in the running. Rates are not unlike those for annual reports. I meet writers who’ve written these at past day jobs — if that’s you, consider pitching this service. Final tip: Consider becoming a qualified government contractor yourself, and bidding for your own writing gigs. Government is the most overlooked market sector in freelance writing.
- Resume writing* — Yes, there’s less of this work than there used to be, and low rates for simple, 1-page resumes. But at the C-Suite level, I’m hearing there are still lucrative assignments for writers who understand how to create an online-enabled resume that closes the deal.
- Sales pages* — Ever found yourself on a long, compelling sales page for a course or product? It takes talent to create a sales page that converts and brings in the bucks. If you know how to write those, charge $2,000 a page for them.
- Social media marketing — There’s way too much of this going for $1 per tweet, yes. But I’m also hearing from writers with $3,500-a-month contracts to plan and execute a company’s entire social-media strategy. This is another niche where agencies get a chunk of the high end of this business, but there’s opportunity for freelancers, too. Position yourself as an expert here to earn real dough from freelance writing gigs in social media.
- Special reports — They’re one of the simplest free products to create for blog subscribers. Special reports usually run 10-20 pages, and should pay $1500 and up. My first freebie here on the blog was a special report, 40 Ways to Market Your Writing.
- Speechwriting* — If you write like people talk, and are adept at capturing others’ speaking styles, this is the field for you. Prominent people from politicians to CEOs to university presidents hire speechwriters, and $5,000 for a lengthy speech is typical.
- Sponsored content/native advertising — These are a print advertorial in blog-post form, and this market is huge. Business Insider recently forecast native ads would be a $5.7 billion market next year. If you’re writing blog posts for cheap…why not write them for companies at $300-$500 a post and up? Watch your favorite blogs to see who’s buying native ads — then, reach out.
- Special sections — Think of this as an advertorial on steroids. Many publications sell multi-page advertorial sections to sponsors ranging from travel bureaus to hospitals to public utilities. These can be nice, multi-article freelance writing gigs that should pay $.50-$1 a word or more.
- Technical manuals — The biggest problem technical writers have is kicking the habit. Why? Pay for explaining how to operate complex products at a level engineers can understand is so great. Most writers in this niche are former developers, coders, or others with tech-geek cred.
- Textbook supplements* — Writers with a background in teaching or multiple degrees are good candidates for writing the materials teachers use to unpack standard textbooks and teach the material to their students. These are big projects — and John Soares at Productive Writers says rates can hit $100 an hour.
- Trade publication articles* — While many writers dream of getting into top national consumer mags, there’s more opportunity in low-glamour, $1-a-word articles written for a trade magazine audience of, say, gas-station owners or pharmacists. Check this niche out at tradepub.com or simply Google “[industry] trade magazine” to find pubs in the industry you know. Read, study, then make your pitch.
- Video scripts — With YouTube now one of the top search engines in all the interwebs, smart companies are posting informational videos to draw customers in. There’s a lot of opportunity for freelance writing gigs for scripting customer videos, writing how-tos, creating content for product introduction videos, and more. Many agencies are specializing in video production now, and can be a place to get started.
- Video sales letters* — Google ‘video sales letter‘ and you’ll see examples of one of the hottest types of writing in the exploding video sales revolution. Sort of a cross between an infomercial and subtitles, VSLs are hypnotic, addictive, and they need good writers — think multi-thousands per project. This is like a direct-response letter that you talk customers through, instead of popping it in the mail.
- Website content/rewrites* — I’m not talking $200 Craigslist offers here, but opportunities to write or revamp big websites with 50-100 pages and more. These often easily run into the thousands on price for big-site revamps. Pro rates run from $100-$350 per page, depending on the material’s complexity.
- White papers* — Companies looking for a more sophisticated form of content marketing than blog posts are all over white papers. These typically take a position on an industry issue, compare solutions, or map an industry trend. White papers usually run 5-10 pages — and pay $2,500-$5,000 and up.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to writing for businesses than cheap blog posts! The more sophisticated a writing type you master, the better rates you can command. A theme I notice is that the closer your writing type is to directly making sales, the more it pays.
I hope the rates mentioned here open the eyes of writers who’re trolling Craigslist ads for gigs. There’s a whole world of professional pay out there, once you start doing your own proactive marketing and finding better clients.
Making the leap to better pay
*Did you notice the asterisk by many of these writing niches? All of the starred niches are ones I have training on inside my Freelance Writers Den community.
One powerful strategy to earn more is to learn how to do more sophisticated types of writing. If any of these writing niches intrigue you, look into how you could learn the format, get a first clip, and get rolling in a better-paid writing niche. I’ve seen that make a huge difference for many, many writers.
You can be one of untold thousands of writers trying to scratch out a living with low-paid gigs you find on mass job boards, or you can invest a little time acquiring better skills that set your writing apart. Your choice.
What’s the best-paid type of freelance writing gig you’ve done? Tell us about it in the comments.