How to Actually Make Money Writing Online: A Passive Income Approach

Updated on September 29, 2018
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Jorge is a writer...who lives off his writing. He likes to collect different ways to earn income from his ramblings.

Making money writing online can take many forms; building your own website is just one of them.
Making money writing online can take many forms; building your own website is just one of them.

How to Make Money Writing - The Truth

You may have noticed that some people make a living blogging. You might have thought to yourself that you want to be one of them, but you're not sure how to make money writing, or even whether or not the market is "too saturated" for you to succeed.

There's a common narrative in our culture that writers can't make a lot of money. Actually, a lot of artistic types get this kind of abuse, and worst of all the stereotype isn't even true!

Writing is just like any other kind of work--and in fact, it's very in demand. If you hone your skills and you find a niche where people need those skills (and there are many), then you stand a good chance of being able to make a living writing.

You don't need to be the next Shakespeare. You don't even need to be that good in an artistic sense. You just need to be able to give people what they want. That's the secret to all business in a nutshell: give people what they want, and they will give you some money in return!

But you probably already knew this, didn't you? The problem is the details. Maybe there are just too many choices all around you, or you read too many articles filled with too much information, and you're not quite sure what approach to take.

I get it. Sometimes more information is not the solution. Sometimes that's actually more confusing. What can really be helpful, though, is to have someone who has been there lay it out for you and explain how it all fits together.

So that's what I'm going to attempt to do. You don't have to take any of my suggestions, of course, if they don't resonate with you, but I want to give you a general overview of what I did to get to the point where I was not only making money writing, but I was living off it.

First, let's keep two things in mind:

You Are Not Just a Writer, You're an Entrepreneur

Unless you get a job as a writer for some company (which I'm not going to discuss here), I'm assuming that one of the appeals for you when it comes to making money writing is that you can in theory generate income independently.

If this is your intention--to be your own boss--then you're an entrepreneur in a sense, not just a writer. You will have to learn other skills besides writing, such as how to market the things that you create, and even the technical aspects of the tools you will use to create your products.

Marking doesn't have to be sleazy. It's just an essential tool that you can add to your toolbox. After all, what's the point of writing if no one is going to read what you wrote?

So keep an open mind and consider that you may have to build many different skills to make this work.

Yes, you can make money writing. It will require an uncommon mindset, though.
Yes, you can make money writing. It will require an uncommon mindset, though.

The Importance of Scaling: Making Money Writing...Passively

Another thing to consider is passive income. I highly suggest that you prioritize this kind of income over so-called active income.

What's the difference? Passive income is money that you make by creating something once, but then delivering your creation to people over and over without much interference involved after the initial setup. It's income on "autopilot." For example, if you publish a book on Amazon, it could in theory continue making you money indefinitely, even while you sleep, even if you don't actively work on it.

Active income, on the other hand, requires you to be present to make the money. You have to constantly be doing something. When you have a job where you get paid by the hour, for instance, this is active income.

Why do I favor passive income? Is it so we can be lazy all day and rest on our laurels?

No, not at all. It really comes down to scale. Passive income can be scaled, and active income usually can't. You can write two books and make twice the money from royalties, but you can't clone yourself and work twice the hours at your job. Passive income is much easier to multiply with little added effort because you're creating systems instead of merely a one-off transaction.

That's how you make money writing in a sustainable way: You create material that people can consume over and over again, so that you can be paid over and over again.

Here are some suggestions on specific routes that you can take for this:

Nowadays, it's easy to self-publish both ebooks and print books for free.
Nowadays, it's easy to self-publish both ebooks and print books for free.

1) Self-Publishing Books

You might already know about people who publish books on Amazon Kindle and other self-publishing platforms. Can you make decent money from this? Actually yes. Plenty of people make a living doing this (and I actually did for awhile).

Is it easy money? No. But writing in general isn't easy, and finding your niche in self-publishing can take a lot of trial and error. You have to be tenacious and unwilling to give up.

However, some niches that are evergreen in self publishing are self-improvement, nutrition, and diet. If you can make a unique spin on the usual advice and market it well, you can stand to make quite a bit of cash.

These types of books work even better if you've already built up an audience before you launch the book. This is where combining methods can be helpful (see below for suggestions on building an authority site).

If you're into the more fictional side of things, romance is a very vibrant genre with a lot of hungry customers in it. In fact, a fairly significant percentage of the books sold on Amazon are romance novels. The trick is to find a niche within a niche that people will like. Maybe you can write about vampires falling in love, or put together a touching gay romance story--or even better, a story about gay vampires.

Start out with short stories and see how your audience responds. You might even give these away for free at first, before you invest in writing a longer work that you can charge a fair price for. Once you hit on something that people really like, exploit it!

When it comes to self-publishing books, the sky really is the limit. There are tons of ways to make money and you just need to be a bit creative. Best of all, this method can be extremely passive. Naturally, if you actively market your product, then you'll make more money, but often you'll get a trickle of income even if you don't do anything, simply because people will find you in the search engines.

The platform that you choose to self-publish on doesn't really matter. You'll find out what works for you through experience. However, publishing a book on Amazon Kindle isn't a bad place to start and it's extremely easy to do.

Another common way to make money writing is to build a popular website.
Another common way to make money writing is to build a popular website.

2) Making Your Own Authority Site

There are bloggers out there who make buckets and buckets of money every month, and then bloggers who don't make anything at all.

Blogging is a very diverse activity, and so a lot of people might get the wrong impression when they hear that someone "makes money blogging." Yes, they might write stuff that goes onto a blog, but chances are they do it very differently from the average blogger.

In fact, forget about the word "blog." If you want to make money writing about something that interests you, what you need is an authority site (which might happen to be a blog). An "authority site" simply means that you've built up a website that has a huge wealth of information on your chosen niche. We're talking lots of content--hundreds of pages if you can manage it--because these are the sorts of sites that rank best on Google.

In other words, these aren't personal blogs about people's thoughts, feelings, and pet cats. Unless you are already popular for some other reason (you're a notable artist, musician, writer, Internet celebrity, whatever), then people don't care. They searched Google looking to find a solution to their problem, and you'll want to be the one who is there to deliver it in your niche.

If you rank well on Google, then you're basically getting traffic passively; and if your traffic is passive, then you can easily monetize your site (with ads, perhaps) and make passive income that way.

Authority sites can take a lot of time and effort to build, though. It takes a bit of technical know-how to build a site on your own, and a little bit of money to get a domain name and hosting.

Just making the website isn't enough, either. You'll have to build the articles a certain way and follow some search engine optimization techniques if you really want that "free" traffic to your site. You'll also have to research different monetization techniques and find out which method works best for making your website profitable.

All of this can be learned, though. If you go into it with an open mind and accept that you are more than just a writer, then the opportunities are practically endless.

Even if you're not totally sure if you want to build a profit-generating website, I still suggest that you start a blog simply as a writing exercise. In fact, stop what you're doing right now and start one! It's not that hard.

You'll just need:

  • A domain name. Technically, you could just sign up for a free blogging platform and use their subdomain (for instance, yoursite.example.com), but if you ever plan on building out the blog for profit, you definitely want your own .COM (or .ORG, .NET, etc) domain. Depending on the TLD that you use, these can range anywhere from $0.99 per year to $20. Personally, I register most of my domains using NameSilo, since they're cheap and include domain privacy. Use the coupon code "EXTRABUCK" for a dollar off. It doesn't really matter what registrar you use, though.
  • Hosting. Again, you can get free hosting, and this is fine to start, but free hosting often lacks the performance of paid hosting, and you usually have way less control over what you can put on your site or how you can tweak it. Hosting packages can be really cheap--just a few dollars a month--so I highly recommend going with a cheap, simple host to start with. It will save you some headaches, especially if you want to monetize your site.

Finding a Niche

As with any other money-making pursuit, you can't make money writing unless you've found a niche audience that you can appeal to. The niche can be large or small, but the point is that you're able to serve it so well that people are willing to visit your site again and again.

The right niche is a cross-section between the things that interest you and the things that interest people enough for them to invest money in. Remember that even if you don't sell anything directly on your site and merely make money through ads, at the end of the day someone has to be buying something somewhere for you to make money. (The advertisers want customers!)

Thankfully, though, many niches are lucrative enough to make you a living, even ones that you might not have expected. Try looking around for what is under-served. What do people want that they just don't seem to be getting?

Just don't make the mistake of trying write about stuff you don't care about just for the money. You'll burn out faster than you think!

How to Make Money Writing - Website Monetization

Once you've written articles, done some SEO, and built some traffic to your site, you might wonder how you can actually monetize your writing.

Well, there are several ways, but some of the more obvious ones are:

  • Run ads on the site. This is one of the easiest approaches because literally all you have to do is copy and paste some code on your site and you're good to go. You can try Adsense and other similar ad services, or you can sell ad space directly.
  • Pitch Products. If you tend to mention products on your website, you can serve as the middle man and refer your visitors to stores that sell them. If you sign up as an affiliate with Amazon or some other retailer, you can get a cut of the sales. Affiliate marketing is probably one of the easiest ways to sell other people's products on your site.
  • Sell your own product. One of the methods with the biggest potential is to sell your own product. For example, you might have a site where you write all about origami, give people instructions, and try out new designs. Maybe eventually you decide to write a book filled with your more crazy and advanced designs and offer that to your audience. (You can combine the self-publishing approach and the authority site approach.)

The monetization strategy that works best for you will depend on a lot of things, including your niche. Certain approaches simply aren't suitable for some niches. For example, if your website has adult material on it, you can forget about using Google's ad services!

There are many more ways to draw income from a site than the ones listed above, though. The best strategies are the ones that you come up with yourself, since they will fit your situation the best, so take these simply as points to start with. Get creative!

Building a Site Takes Time

Of course, building a site to the point where it makes you income is not something that happens overnight. It can take months for a site to rank, and realistically, you'll want to give yourself half a year or so for decent money to really start rolling in--assuming you did everything right. (I suggest taking a course on building an authority site if you haven't before.)

If you'd like a slightly faster approach that can get your feet wet when it comes to making revenue off a site, then a suggest giving the strategy below a try:

Writing articles for a revenue sharing site is kind of like planting seeds in someone else's soil. They did a lot of the hard work for you by maintaining the land and laying out all of the manure, so you'll have to give them some of your harvest.
Writing articles for a revenue sharing site is kind of like planting seeds in someone else's soil. They did a lot of the hard work for you by maintaining the land and laying out all of the manure, so you'll have to give them some of your harvest.

3) Online Content Writing With Revenue Share

How do you make money writing if you're an absolute beginner? Here's an approach that may be suitable for a noob: team up with a website and write articles for them in exchange for part of the ad revenue.

This is a good approach if you don't yet have the skills to build up your own property, but you want the benefits of high-traffic site when it comes to exposure. You can also learn more about what it takes to build up a site that gets lots of visitors every day.

Now, you could simply get into freelancing and sell your articles directly to people who need content for their sites (there are many ways to do this), but since we're talking about passive income, I'm encouraging you to take the revenue sharing approach. In theory, as long as the articles are still online, you'll continue to get paid. In fact, this article that you're reading right now is an example of the revenue-sharing approach!

How do you do this, though? Most random blogs will not want to share revenue with you, but there are indeed some sites that specialize in this. For example, the Hubpages Network (which this article was written for), is a great place to start. They've been around for years and they have a decent 60/40 split. (You get 60% of the ad impressions.)

There are others out there, so experiment and find what works for you.

Warning: Don't Fall for Money-Making Scams

While it's important to learn new skills, often these basic skills can be learned for free and you don't necessarily need to buy anything. You may need to grab a course or take a class to learn something specific, such as how to build a website or how to market your book, but ultimately the general idea of how your business will take shape and what niche you will dive into should be your own.

There's only so much that you can learn from others; most of what you will be facing is trial and error by yourself.

So I will warn you about something: Don't buy into "business formula" schemes. They don't work and they're a waste of money. These are the types of "courses" that claim to teach you some secret, foolproof step-by-step method for making thousands of dollars per month. There is no such method--at least, not for any reasonable price.

Every business is different and requires some degree of creative thinking. You cannot copy and paste another person's business anymore than you can copy and paste their life. In the end, it will be unsustainable.

Instead, focus on creating your own unique book, website, or articles. People want to see new and fresh ideas, not the same old crap, so write things that your audience has never seen before and you'll attract money soon enough.

In the creative writing sphere in particular, watch out for publishing companies that make you pay to publish your book. These are not really publishing companies; they're just vanity presses. In reality, they don't care about selling your book to a wider audience; it's you who is the customer to them!

There's no reason to go with a vanity press when you can just self-publish for free. For example, Amazon has a great self-publishing program that will allow you to make royalties from Day 1.

Never pay someone to make money writing online (or anywhere else). If they are making you pay upfront, you can be almost sure it's a scam.

If that new business idea that your friend pitched to you is shaped like a triangle...then guess what? You already know what.
If that new business idea that your friend pitched to you is shaped like a triangle...then guess what? You already know what.

Making Money Writing - A World of Possibilities

This article is just an overview, and in a lot of ways, a vast oversimplification. There's a lot more to learning how to make money writing online, but these are things you'll just have to learn through experience, bit by bit.

The important thing is to be creative. Remember that every time you come up with a unique solution on your own, that's one less bit of competition that you'll have to deal with.

So get out there and start writing!

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    © 2018 Jorge Vamos

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