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12 Legit Websites Where Writers Can Earn Money


They say if you're good at something, never do it for free. For writers, artists and editors, this is especially true. Oftentimes, freelancers of an artistic persuasion are expected to work for exposure or to volunteer their services for friends and families. While these opportunities can be important stepping stones toward a professional career, there comes a time when writers need to be paid for their expertise. I spend a lot of time writing about resources for writers, how much they cost, what they offer and whether they are worth it for authors and editors. Today I want to talk about a few websites where a writer's investment in their abilities can (literally) begin to pay off.


Let's get this one out of the way. I work for Servicescape, and it's mostly excellent, at least as a supplementary income. The layout of the website is intuitive and clients come to the writer, rather than the author seeking them out. ServiceScape allows authors to set their own prices, and the amount of work they receive will be proportional to the quality of the service they provide as determined by the clients. Happy clients generate more clients, and consistently happy clients will produce a correlated increase in earning. Furthermore, credentials are confirmed by ServiceScape, so all of your writing and editing credentials, degrees or other certifications, can be displayed prominently. A university degree or an English as a second language teaching certificate will be a big draw for clients.


Upwork is a reasonable competitor to ServiceScape, but uses a more common project structure where writers seek out assignments and apply to them individually, rather than being sought out by clients. It takes a long time working with Upwork before clients begin to seek out the author, and this means that Upwork requires time dedicated to hunting down jobs. It can be frustrating to spend time searching for work, rather than working. That being said, once the application process becomes familiar and streamlined, Upwork can offer more opportunities than most freelancing websites. Unlike sites like ServiceScape, where there is little room to approach new clients within the structure of the site, Upwork allows writers to invest time seeking out new projects. Authors who value money over time will find Upwork is a good investment.


ClearVoice is similar to Upwork and to ServiceScape in many ways. Like ServiceScape, ClearVoice allows a freelancer to develop their online portfolio, set their own rates, and verify their credentials. Then, like Upwork, ClearVoice links freelancers with clients. Unlike Upwork however, which places the stress of finding clients on the shoulders of the freelancer, ClearVoice directs clients toward writers and editors who match their profile, and this results in less time spent seeking new clients, and more time spent writing, editing, and making money. Authors can pitch directly to clients, but won't have to rely solely on marketing themselves: theoretically ClearVoice is a happy medium between the ServiceScape and Upwork styles of matching clients to freelancers.


Upworthy deals with projects that address social justice and positive news, and if you have unpublished work on those topics, you could do worse than to pitch the article to Upworthy. Upworthy is unlike either ServiceScape or Upwork, which both support their authors and provide a variety of opportunities. Unlike Upwork and ServiceScape, Upworthy relies on pitches from authors, which only pay out if they are accepted. This is the norm for the industry, and ServiceScape and Upwork are (for the most part) the exceptions to the rule. For this reason, Upworthy is a better place to start publishing, or seek initial publishing credits. If your work is accepted, the payout will be around twenty-five cents a word. Rather than a consistent income, Upworthy is better considered a publishing opportunity.


The content on Listverse is exactly what you might imagine. Top-ten lists and other bite-sized content articles, a product of the clickbait Internet environment, are Listverse's primary product. While far from the most prestigious use of one's talent for writing, Listverse pays. For each article the payout is $100 sent directly to your PayPal. The site doesn't require any credentials or special qualifications, but articles may not be accepted if they don't hold up to a certain standard, or if they are humorless or boring. The only other benefit to Listverse is the opportunity to plug a personal project – they allow writers to tie a Twitter handle, blog or author interview to their submitted article.


Guideposts is a spiritual or inspirational online publisher. They seek out works of approximately 1,500 words, and they pay out a little over $100 for each accepted submission. Like Listverse and Upworthy, submission does not necessarily mean a payout is guaranteed, and in the case of Guideposts, the stories must be inspiring and true—this can be a hard niche to hit. The nice thing about the site is that they are very clear about what is required in a pitch, and following their formatting is likely to put you in a good position to see your work accepted.

The New York Times (Modern Love)

For a more prestigious example of paying work, freelancers can submit work to the New York Times' Modern Love column. For these submissions, works should be 1,500-1,700 words, should cover a true story, and should be previously unpublished. Successful submissions usually offer a higher payout than similar sites, though the exact payout varies. Along with the income from each successful submission, applying to organizations such as The New York Times will help authors build a portfolio of published work, and develop professional connections which can be useful in expanding freelancing opportunities.


The Smithsonian has one of the highest payouts for submitted articles, ranging from $300-$500 for accepted pieces. In this case, submissions must be from established freelance authors: you must be able to provide links to previously published works, with other reputable sites. This is where the publishing credits from The New York Times will come in handy. On top of this possibility to make a reasonable wage, the Smithsonian application process is streamlined and allows quick submissions via a well-designed web-app.


Vice offers excellent opportunities for hard-hitting articles, but are perhaps the least likely of websites on this list to accept a submission. What Vice looks for is a modern voice, telling a previously untold and unpublished story. If the article is dull, or uninspired, it quickly hits the slush pile. Vice's pay rates are varied, but they address all manner of topics: lifestyle, politics, and travel among them. The reward for the challenge of publishing with Vice is the writing credit that comes along with it, and the exposure that Vice articles tend to offer their authors.


FreedomWithWriting places emphasis on matching freelancers with paying clients. They offer $30-$100 for list articles, and $30-$150 for how-to articles, and other content. This is a huge variance, so writers submitting work here should be wary that they are paid the amount they deserve. In addition, FreedomWithWriting is one of the few websites that seeks novel-length submissions. Their query pages state that 10,000-word novels are usually valued at around $500, which can be an interesting opportunity for amateur novelists, or for a freelancer seeking a significant publishing credit.


Cosmopolitan is an established and well-regarded magazine, and like Vice, is valuable because it helps freelancers produce a professional portfolio and develop industry connections. Like the Smithsonian, Cosmopolitan has a streamlined and professional web application, which makes submitting articles quick and painless. Though their website claims to accept previously published material, it is unlikely that articles of that nature will be accepted under normal circumstances. Cosmopolitan pays about $100 for each submission and is currently seeking essays about experiences in college.

The Take Away

It is possible to make a living writing online, so long as freelancers leverage the skills which they have developed; and so long as they don't settle for low paying or unpaid gigs. The first three websites on this list are where aspiring freelancers should start, and where established freelancers should consider expanding. Upwork, ServiceScape and ClearVoice all offer extensive support for freelancers as they build a pool of clients.

The other sites on this list will help further develop a professional's portfolio as they grow a curriculum vitae of satisfied customers. Publishing with established media giants such as The New York Times, Vice, Cosmopolitan, and the Smithsonian, is essential to a freelancer hoping to demonstrate their value. Finally, there are the in-between jobs. Listverse, Guideposts, and other websites with pay on demand are often useful for filling in gaps each month, or when clients are sparse.

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