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Get Paid to Write

Many new writers wonder how long they will need to wait before they get paid to write. They ask if they should start by writing free articles or by submitting short stories to publications that don't pay. Sometimes I recommend that.

I started that way. I wrote a column for a weekly newspaper in my city, and I submitted short stories to a new literary magazine edited by students at my university. These credits looked good on my resume when I applied for work with a publisher. I believe they also helped me get accepted into my first writing program. But just because I did it that way doesn't mean you have to.

There have never been more opportunities for writers. You can make money online. Blog owners need short pieces of writing that will earn a small income. Web site owners need articles.

Your writing will speak for itself. If your stories are of publishable quality, and if you send them to well-researched markets, they will sell. If your writing portfolio is polished and shows that you understand how to interest readers, you will have the same chance of being accepted into a writing program as someone with publishing credits. If your work is not yet publishable, you'll do better to improve your skills.

In general, I think you should get paid to write from your first publication. Non-paying markets don't always reject work that's not ready. This can give the writer a false sense of accomplishment, and can stall progress.

Sometimes I talk to writers who want to know why paying markets aren't buying their work when they've been published by so many non-paying ones. Inevitably, it is because the writing is sloppy and shows less understanding of narrative than is required. I've worked with writers like this who have improved their skill and have gone on to sell articles or win contests.

Writing for money takes skill, but the skills are teachable. If you take the time to learn, get feedback, and hone your skills, you deserve to be paid. Submitting to non-paying markets takes as much time as submitting to paying markets, so look for the money.

Having said all that, you may occasionally want to submit work even if you won't get paid to write for the publication.

When to Write for Nothing

  • To support a charitable cause
  • For your own web site or blog
  • To help a school or organization to which you're affiliated
  • In exchange for advertising
  • For publicity
  • To share your knowledge with others

I don't get paid to write these articles unless viewers click on the ads, take a course, or buy a product, but I write them for many reasons. They help people. They make my life easier when I'm teaching, as I can refer students to them, and they're good publicity for my books and services.

I've also written articles for school newsletters, I've written copy for the web sites of good friends, and I've exchanged articles for advertising.

You don't always need to get paid, but don't sell yourself short, either. Aim for the money and you're likely to get it. If you receive repeated rejections, ask a professional for advice. It could be that you need to learn a few more writing skills, or it may be that the piece only needs a bit of tweaking to become saleable.

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