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Sunday, April 7, 2013

5 Tips for Writing for Online Markets--and 8 Sources of Markets

When I surveyed freelancers last year about the types of work they were doing, more than three in four said they write for online markets. Yet some writers mistakenly think that there's no money to made writing for the Web, assuming that most online work is for “content mills” that pay a pittance (say, $5 for an article or blog post). 
Actually there are thousands of online writing opportunities for freelancers, many of which pay well. Want proof? More than half of the six-figure freelancers I recently interviewed for Six-Figure Freelancing said that the majority of the work now comes from online markets instead of print. If you want to add online writing to your freelance mix or want to do more of it, follow these five simple steps: 
Step 1: Locate Markets
Looking for online markets? Look for the electronic versions of your favorite print magazines, and check out company's websites, which often use freelance work. And check out free websites including: 
Fee-based websites that provide online market information include: 
      Step 2: Analyze your Target 
      Just as you would with a print magazine, analyze your potential market before you query. What types of subject does the site cover? How long are the articles or blog posts? How often are different sections of the site updated? Which sections seem to use the most freelance material? And of course, read the writers' guidelines if they're available online. 
    Rates vary widely, but promising online markets pay anywhere from $50 to about $500 for a blog post of 500-800 words and $0.25 to $1-2/word for articles. If you can't tell what a market pays, don't hesitate to email and ask. 
      Step 3: Pitch the Market 
     Next up, send a query letter or LOI to pitch the online market. Make sure you play up your online writing experience in your pitch. If you have zero e-clips, consider creating a blog to get some practice with the online form as it's a bit different than writing for print.  
     Step 4: Write your Piece  
    Researching an online piece is no different than researching one for a print market, but there are some significant differences between writing for online versus an online market. In general, online articles tend to be shorter, more timely, and more "chunky" than print stories on the same topic. Online stories tend to include more subheads, bullets, and numbered lists than print articles might, and their visual impact (how they'll appear on the page) should always be kept in mind. Another critical factor is a compelling headline, which draws readers--make it as attention-getting as possible. The same goes with the lead--it should grab readers and make them want to stay on the page.
    As you’re writing, model your work after the site's style and tone. You may also want to consider including certain SEO, or search engine optimization, words as you're writing. Not every editor expects this, but offering to include SEO keywords in your piece, if desired, may endear you to yours.  
     Step 5: Turn the Piece in--and Pitch Again 
    Just as you would with a print story, turn the piece in on time and with any necessary backup, or fact-checking information. Offer to promote the story through social media when it appears, and answer your editor's questions promptly. And be sure to pitch another idea when your editor lets you know he has approved your piece--it will help you create an ongoing relationship with him.  
    ***Want to launch your freelance career--or make more money as a freelancer? Check out Improvise Press' first two books: Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, and Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition. You can order them through any bricks-and-mortar or online bookstore, or directly through
          Use the discount code, IMPROVISEPRESS (all caps, no breaks) for 20 percent off of your order--and please let your friends who would like to make money writing know about Improvise Press and our new line of books. 


  1. Hi Kelly! Thanks for the great tips and info. I'm finding that the majority of websites don't seem to have writer's guidelines, or if they do they state to submit a query to a general editorial email address. This makes it a little bit harder to figure out the precise editor's name and contact info. for pitching to an online market versus a print magazine. I'd love to hear any suggestions you may have to offer on this. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Ali--

      Send an email to the general contact email address and ask who the appropriate editor is, or the one who edits the section you're pitching a story for. That way you have the right person. Good luck! :)