There are no guarantees in life, and frankly, making money from writing takes a certain amount of luck. You can make some of that luck for yourself.
It appears that non-fiction writing has more of a general audience. With consistent persistence (how about that one???) and I mean lots of articles, blogs, and books, you will eventually see a livable income from it.
Fiction is much harder to break into, for a variety of reasons.
Making Money from Writing
From my experience, here is how I have seen writers make money in their profession:
1. Have something to say that is commercially viable so that you can be making money from it.
If you write fiction, you have to tell a story that is unique, interesting, and appeals to your audience. Some traditional publishers like you to write to formula. If you are willing to do that, you might find a market for your words.
If you write non-fiction, again consider your audience. Who is going to buy this/read this/use this?
Look for problems in your interest area and find solutions: leaky roof, buying real estate, etc. Teach people about particular interests: how to be an ex-pat, how to collect stamps, how to teach an autistic child, etc.
How-tos, trade journals, and inhouse publications are always looking for content.
2. Build a portfolio.
Write for everyone, even if they don’t pay you. Get that byline and collect the piece into your portfolio. Eventually, you will be able to receive payment for what you write because you have paid your dues and proven yourself as a competent, if not talented, writer.
3. Since you take yourself seriously as a writer, you have to be in the business of writing.
Treat writing as a real business and write a business plan for yourself. This should include a mission statement, product development (your writing and schedule), marketing, as well as developing a system for keeping track of income and expenses.
If you do not have a written business plan and deduct your writing expenses, it is very likely that the IRS will reject all of your business deductions because they will consider your writing a hobby. Be serious about this for it can cost you a lot of money.
Keep good records for what you are doing.
4. Marketing is absolutely critical for making money.
So often, I have seen authors present their books to their publisher and walk away. Then they wonder why their sales are flat. No one sells a book as well as the person who wrote the book.
If you are publishing traditionally, work with your publisher’s marketing department. Be sure to listen to their ideas, and never forget that they have a budget they have to subscribe to for your book. Offer your own ideas and be open to their suggestions.
If you are self-publishing, you are also the marketeer! Put great effort into all types of marketing for your book and get that snowball growing.
Most writers are smart; most writers can research. So, get online and read everything that you can that talks about marketing, especially book marketing, then start utilizing it.
Websites, Facebook, twitter, blog, guest blog—these are things that you can use in your marketing efforts, and best of all, these places are all FREE exposure.
Get your name out there—get your book titles out there. That’s how you sell writing.
Key to your marketing efforts is developing a Unique Selling Proposition. This is a fancy marketing phrase that means you define what is unique or special about what you are doing.
Why should people even consider your work? Once you find that hook, use it in everything that you do when marketing publicly. You may have to experiment with several ideas—do some testing here—but once you find a USP that people respond to, run with it!
5. Be true to yourself.
Don’t write about things that you don’t believe in, just for the paycheck. If you need the money that badly, go get a night job but don’t compromise your ideals. Do life right.
This is just an overview of some big concepts that you, as writer, need to think about, and perhaps act upon. I have plans (my schedule!) to write more about each, and then delve into possible marketing ideas for writers.