Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Use Your Writing Skills to Pay for that SCBWI Membership

By Leslie Colin Tribble


The winner from last week's drawing for Kirsti Call's signed ARC of her forthcoming picture book, Mootilda's Bad Mood. . . is. . . KIM P

Kim, Congratulations! We'll get that advance copy out in the mail. Please send your mailing address to Krisit Call (her contact info is on last week's post). And enjoy the laughs as Mootilda gets you into a goooood moooood. 😁

Now, onto today's post.

Writers are generally an underpaid lot, even when times are good. But add in a global pandemic, and times can be especially tough for folks who make at least some of their income in the gig economy. Lots of people have been laid off, furloughed or lost jobs the past five months. If that's you, you might just be wondering how to afford to renew your SCBWI membership, or take some of those courses and classes that further your craft. Well, get out that lovely yellow pad and sharpen your pencil, writer, because maybe you'll find something in the following list that gets your writing to pay for your writing needs. 

1. Online Freelance Writing

There are several legitimate sites that offer freelance work and fairly decent pay. You can opt to write one article or blog post, work part-time or even find full-time writing work. Check out Carol Tice's Make A Living Writing for tips to get started plus lists of online companies that list job boards. Problogger and Be A Freelance Blogger are other trusted names that can get you in the business. These companies list bigger name organizations that are looking for someone to write content, and they pay accordingly. However, if you need to get some cash fast, you're a quick writer or editor, and have a broad knowledge on a lot of topics you can sign up to write for online companies like Textbroker. I wrote a lot of articles for them several years ago and actually really enjoyed the experience. I became a better writer, could request a payout weekly and made a few hundred bucks a month. Granted, that's not much, but I did it in my spare time and it was certainly enough to buy groceries for my family. There are other websites like TextBroker but do your research and find ones with decent reviews, ease of use, and lots of work to chose from. I think a lot of these companies have become more stable and legitimate since I was doing this kind of work, so you should be able to find one that meets your needs.

2. Writing for Magazines

Yes, we'd all like to get published in a magazine like Oprah, but set your sights a little lower and chances are you can get published in a regional magazine fairly easily. Your city is probably covered by at least a couple different local publishing firms that are always looking for good, solid content writers. Do you know how to keep a toddler occupied on a long car trip, or have a special recipe that utilizes regional produce? Pitch those ideas to the editor. Or ask what their publishing schedule is for the year and see if you can write a suitable article. Regional publishers are usually easy to work with and pay fairly quickly. If you have some in-depth knowledge about certain topics, go ahead and pitch national publications. Are you an expert rock hounder? Did you climb all of the Colorado 14,000 foot peaks in a season? Do you know a super successful way to teach a left-handed person how to knit? Take your passion, hobby, or career and write an article about it, then find a good match for it. Writing a killer query letter to a magazine editor isn't any different than crafting one for a book editor or agent, so put those talents to good use while you're waiting for that offer to come through.

3. Content Writing for Local Businesses

Look around at the businesses in your town. Nearly all businesses have websites and many of them are looking for some content that showcases what they have to offer. Your job is to convince the owner that you're the best writer for the job. Be creative here. Chances are, especially now, the business is really needing something to entice customers back to their store, but they may not have the ready cash to pay for that service. Now is the time to use your best bartering tactics. Offer to take gift cards in exchange for your word-smithing. Tire shops, clothing stores, book stores, outdoor adventure businesses, restaurants, dentists, yoga or dance studios and even hospitals all need written words to reach their clientele. You may not get paid with a check, but a gift certificate or free classes is just as good. I wrote about 60 articles for our local outdoor retailer and received a house account in exchange. I'll need a new down coat (soon!) to ward off the chill of Wyoming winter and I love knowing I can run down there and buy whatever coat I want, not to mention Christmas and birthday presents for my kids. 

4. Non-profit Agencies

Most non-profits cringe at paying someone for services, but maybe you can find a win-win for both of you. Ask the local animal shelter to pay you in vouchers for dog food. Your church might be able to provide day care for your children, or hook you up with piano lessons for the kids. Do you have legal or tax expertise? Write some blog posts for a non-profit in exchange for services in the future.

5. Writing for Greeting Cards

Fellow Grogger, Sherri Jones Rivers wrote this post about the greeting card industry. If you can write succinctly, wittily and with heart, give this a try.

6. Writing for the Testing Market

Remember all those standardized tests you've taken and the reading comprehension essays? Someone has to write those and it might as well be you. I haven't written for the large testing companies, but I did work for several months for a local company that teaches English to Korean students. They needed practice TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) essays and questions so that's what I wrote. It was fun and interesting - I got to chose the topics for the essays, then crafted comprehension questions based on that information. It was good money and something I could do as a side-hustle. 

There are a lot of ways of turning your writing skills in cash, or as good as cash. It does require some effort, searching, applications, and most of all, tenacity, but it's worth it. You'll become a better writer, bring in some extra income and probably learn some new and interesting information in the process. 


  1. Hi Leslie, a perfect post for our times & great suggestions.

  2. Thanks for this encouraging post. Great way to keep up your skills and earn a little money on the side.

  3. So many excellent writing opportunities.

    Thank you for sharing this informative post, Leslie.

  4. Great post, Leslie. I write occasional articles for our local weekly to fund my kid-lit writing. (In May I did a 4-part "Pandemic Series" - SCBWI dues covered!)

  5. These are great ideas, Leslie. And all writing tends to make us better writers! One of my favorite side gigs is working for an educational company to create ELA writing exercises.

    1. There's really no limit on outside work a writer could do.

  6. Terrific post Leslie! Thank you for sharing ideas to earn income on the side. You give hope!

  7. These grog posts never fail to inspire! Thank you for such fabulous information and another huge thanks for winning Mootilda's Bad Mood - I am beyond excited and will contact Kirsti!

  8. Great ideas & reminders. Thanks, Leslie!

  9. Great post! Thanks for sharing.