What’s the best way for a Black writer to make a living writing?
That can be a difficult question to answer since there are so many types of writers — poets, essayists, journalists, business writers, bloggers…but the answer really centers in one area, and that area is growing as media and online communications blossom and mature.
If you want to make a living writing, it’s tempting to ask what you do well first and then try to figure out a way to sell it. I believe that’s a noble goal, and very attainable for some, but for many people it’s a mistake.
Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that if you want to work to make a full-time living as a poet that you shouldn’t do that. Not at all. What I am saying though, is that you shouldn’t look at a career like writing like it’s a job at the post office…the people and entities who pay writers are completely different than the ones that pay more stable forms of work (in multiple ways I won’t get into right now.)
What I’m saying, is that if you want to earn a living writing that in any way mirrors the earning potential, stability, and longevity of more conventional jobs, then you have to start following the money.
This didn’t click for me for years. I started my first writing business in 2001, before online business was anywhere near what it was today. It went nowhere, but I learned along the way, that when it comes to writing, you have multiple choices. You can
- Sell to consumers (you need crazy volume)
- Try to make money on advertising (which requires a large audience that takes time to build)
- Build your own publication and try to get that to catch hold (doable, but difficult, and a very large undertaking)
- Take the path of most writers and pitch ideas to publications in the hopes that your work will be selected
- Jockey and interview for an increasingly rare, full-time writing position
I’ve done all those things (save the full-time position) and want to tell you that there is a better way.
That way is called “content marketing”, but it’s really just using your communication skills to develop written (and sometimes visual) content that helps businesses meet their goals. That’s all.
It’s an area I believe Black bloggers especially can be dominant in with our applied understanding of community and communication combined with our connection to industries that have either been painfully mishandled by mainstream companies or haven’t started to fully take advantage of the power of online content (in particular hair and beauty, regional tourism/travel, food/culinary, education.)
The best part though is that you don’t have to be an exceptional writer to get started. You just need to know your audience and how to communicate with them. The strategic part, you can learn over time.
If you’re a blogger looking to start getting paid for your work or a writer who’s looking to diversify your income and stop relying on pitching and low-paying publications, a great place to start is the Writer Resources page. (It’s got a lot of info, so you’ll probably want to bookmark it.)
Content marketing is how I make my full-time living now and I suggest it as a skill for any writer looking to create a higher-dollar income from their work, or even for creatives looking for some income stability from side work. Thanks for reading, and if you’ve got any questions, drop ’em in the comments!