TL;DR: Got decent grades in English? Are friends commenting with emoji snaps under your strongly worded IG captions? You could make money by taking on copywriting, content writing, editing, and proofreading jobs online. As a bonus, the more writing gigs you do, the better you get at writing — which will only lead to more jobs.
It's easy to be worried about ChatGPT, Jasper, and GPT-3 taking all of the jobs involving the written, spoken, or composed word. But text AIs still have huge gaps in their ability and very few companies are taking text from ChatGPT and posting it. The world still needs editors, writers, copy creators, and content asset managers, for a little while longer anyway. And while that work is needed, the pay for it is also real.
Real online writing jobs? How much do they pay?
Writing intimidates a lot of people. So if you’re skilled at putting words in the right order — and can even be witty at the right moments — there’s an abundance of online gigs that will pay you to write, edit, and proofread. Reputable jobs start around $25 to $30 an hour and can easily surpass $45 an hour for a more seasoned writer/editor.
First, you should figure out the best lane for your skills, and understand the key differences between some similar-sounding writing gigs. Here are some of the most common writing and editing jobs you’ll find online, and the skills you’ll need to snag clients:
- Content writing: writing for websites and blogs. This often means writing blog posts and SEO articles for companies, with the goal of informing readers and potential customers, and helping an organization show up higher in search results.
To be an effective content writer, you should know how to distill complicated topics into easy-to-read articles and blog posts. You should also: (1) be an efficient researcher who doesn’t get lost in rabbit holes and (2) know how to replace low-energy words using a Power Thesaurus without going overboard.
- Copywriting or copy writing: advertising and marketing-related writing. Copywriters write with the purpose of selling products. So the copy you’d write could include emails with attention-grabbing headlines, social media posts, landing pages persuading customers to add to cart, brochures, mailers, flyers, and irresistible product descriptions for e-commerce.
The most in-demand copywriters can talk a dog off a meat truck — that’s how good they are at selling through words. You might also need to be funny. Because who doesn’t love an ad with jokes? Copywriting can be particularly lucrative, with more senior writers demanding $50 to $75 an hour and up.
- Technical writing: you guessed it, writing about technical topics. Technical writers create clear and concise user manuals, assembly instructions, scientific articles, and other documentation that might be used B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer). This highly specialized job is ideal for someone with some niche expertise — for example, an electrician or engineer who can also write. These gigs easily lead to big paychecks and full-time in-house employment.
- Editing or copy editing/copyediting: cutting, rewording, and reworking something that’s already been written. In addition to proofreading (see below), you’re actively suggesting the clearest, more powerful, wittiest (if needed) ways of phrasing things, and cutting unnecessary words and sentences.
You’ll need to have a better-than-native level of English fluency to succeed at an editing job. Pro tip: When you’re approaching a potential client, frame your skills as a way to solve a problem — and not just as hourly assistance.
- Proofreading: correcting spelling and grammar errors and typos. Like editing, you’ll have to be in the top 5% of native-level English speakers to succeed at this gig. That includes knowing super in-the-weeds stuff, like the difference between en dashes and em dashes, title case versus sentence case, and how to use them.
Where do I find writing and editing gigs online?
First, you’ll need to build a portfolio of writing you’ve done. If you don’t have formally published writing “clips,” you can use your relevant blog posts, popular social media posts, school newspaper articles, and even ads that you’ve written “on spec.” After you’ve completed some gigs, add your professional work to your portfolio too. Your portfolio can be a PDF document, a website, or a collection of links.
Writing and editing are classic WFH jobs — so you’ll find lots of potential well-paid gigs on general remote-job websites like Remoters, Remote.co, and We Work Remotely. You’ll also find remote writing jobs on more specialized sites like Mediabistro. These sites feature employers looking to both: (1) fill particular roles and (2) build up stables of freelancers. They’ll have a set rate they want to pay, but you can always try to negotiate.
On the lower end of the payscale are freelance “marketplaces” like Upwork and Fiverr. Writers and editors create their own profiles to attract “clients” — who are often individuals looking for cheap help with their businesses. With competition offering rates as low as $10 for 500 words, you’re probably going to get underbid. And frustrated.
What are some red flags to look for?
Some jobs might ask you to write for free, in exchange for “exposure.” This practice is exploitative; if an employer has money to operate and post an ad, they have money to pay a writer. Also, writers who work for free lower wages for all writers across the board.
Meanwhile, “business writing” sounds innocuous but can involve writing questionable business plans and even spam emails and LinkedIn comments for very little money.
How do I stay booked and busy as a writer?
Even though Upwork and Fiverr gigs typically don’t pay well, you might still find that client in the rough willing to pay fair wages. Like we mentioned in our virtual assistant article, you should still create a stellar, persuasive (and well-written, obvi) profile laying out what services you offer. Say why you’re the best person for a range of writing/editing jobs. You might get some surprising leads.
At the same time, search daily for roles on the more lucrative remote work and media jobs websites we mentioned above. Apply to a variety of full-time (if you’re into that), part-time, and freelance gigs.
Of course, full-time and part-time roles offer steadier paychecks than “hey, freelance for us sometime” roles. But if you cast a wide net you might end up with an ideal mix of occasional, semi-regular, and regular well-paid writing gigs.