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Writers@Work: Five Reasons to Start Writing Articles (if You’re Not Already!) by Kelly James-Enger

Today I’m delighted to welcome Kelly James-Enger to the blog. Read on for just a taste of the great information you’ll learn about making money from writing articles when she speaks to our Write Now! Mastermind class on Wednesday. Kelly will be teaching us how to pitch and sell articles to a variety of freelance markets. The class will be held March 27, 2013 at 12:00 PM CDT and, if you’re not already a Mastermind member, you can sign up here.

And, Kelly has generously offered to give away a signed copy of her brand-new book, Dollars and Deadlines! Check out the information at the end of the article to learn how you can enter.

KellyJamesEngerWriters@Work: Five Reasons to Start Writing Articles (if You’re Not Already!) by Kelly James-Enger

I launched my freelance writing career more than 16 years ago, writing for print and online publications. Eventually I segued into writing books, ghostwriting, speaking, and consulting, but even today I continue to write articles for a handful of publications. And I have good reasons to do so—writing articles keeps my research skills sharp, helps promote my books, and produces income.

Regardless of your writing goals, I suggest you consider adding article writing to your freelance repertoire. Here are five solid reasons to do so:

Multiple Markets

There are tens of thousands of markets, both print and online, that pay for freelance articles. On the print side, you have consumer magazines including national, regional, and local publications; trade magazines that are devoted to a particular industry or profession; and custom magazines aimed a specific readerships. Online markets include websites; online magazines, or e-zines; and blogs. The number of markets looking for nonfiction articles dwarfs any other type of writing, so even if you prefer to write, say, essays or short fiction, consider taking advantage of the ongoing need for writers who pen articles.


You’re working on a book? That’s great, but the payoffs may be few and far between. When you write articles, you spend a few days (as opposed to months) researching and crafting a piece to meet your editor’s specifications. It’s nice to have an immediate return for your work.


Many writers want to become book authors, but to sell a book to a traditional publisher, you need to have what’s called “platform,” your ability to connect with potential book buyers. Publishing articles and blog posts is an easy way to build your platform as a new writer, and to make connections that will help you sell your book when it’s published. Even if you plan to self-publish with a print-on-demand company or to create an e-book, you’ll still need a way to reach readers, and bylined articles can help you do that—and sell books down the line.


Many new writers struggle with confidence, especially when they’re working on book-length projects. Publishing an article proves that you can write well, and can help keep you motivated to keep going on longer works. You also gain experience researching and writing about a specific subject, which you may be able to use in other work as well. For example, I’ve written a lot about health and fitness, so when my character in a novel I was working on had back problems, I just went back to my notes on a story on back pain to fill in relevant details.


Finally, there’s what I consider the biggest benefit of writing articles—you can get paid to do so. While there are markets that pay only pennies (say, $3 to $10 for an 800-word article), there are plenty of markets that pay well. National consumer magazines typically pay $1/word and up while local and regional publications pay, on average, $0.10-0.50/word. Trade magazines pay around $0.25-0.50/word and custom magazines pay around $0.50-$1/word. Online markets have a wider range in pay rates, but may start at about $0.10/word and up. Blogs that pay usually pay per-post (about $50 and up) as opposed to per-word.

Writing even a few articles a month can help you produce income as a writer and support your other writing goals. And I can tell you there’s nothing better than getting paid to do something you love!

About the author. Kelly James-Enger is the author of books including 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. She blogs about making more money as a freelancer at

Your turn: What questions do you have for Kelly about writing articles?

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9 Responses

  1. Pingback : The Curiosity List by Rochelle Melander | Write Now Coach! Blog

  2. Love this – I make a living writing articles and other content for clients, both commercial and editorial.

    My problem, though, is that I find I only have so much creative energy, and when it’s sucked up on client work, I have very little creative energy left for my book projects or other personal writing projects.

    It’s difficult to write full-time for clients, then write some more while working on my book.

    Do you find you have the same problem? And if so, do you have any tips on how to balance freelance writing with working on a novel?

  3. Hi, Marissa–

    I struggle with the same thing–though I’m not working on a novel at the moment, I’ve published two with traditional publishers and one on my own last year. For me, what helps is to write every day–even if it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes–and not worry about the quality of the draft. Then once I have the “shitty first draft,” as Anne LaMott would say, down, I take a few weeks off–and then schedule editing/reworking time into my work day the way I would with any other project. It is a challenge, though, especially when I’m busy. The other thing that works for me is to eliminate the ugliest–in other words, do the thing I most don’t want to do first thing. Sometimes that is my “own” project, but I find that doing it first and getting it out of the way starts my day on a high note.

    Hope this helps and thanks for your comment–hope to “see” you on the call tomorrow! 🙂


  4. Dan Deschambault

    This is great advice, thanks so much for this article. I know a portfolio of written articles can be a supreme help in landing a freelance gig, do you have any tips for someone attempting to get started in Freelance writing that does not have an existing portfolio?

  5. My problem is similar to Dan’s, but perhaps the opposite. I wrote a bunch of articles for local and national markets in the ’90s, but since signing my first book contract in 1999, you can count my paid clips on your fingers. For all the reasons mentioned, I’d like to return to article writing, but fear I don’t have much to show an editor. Any thoughts appreciated.

  6. Hi, Dan–
    Thanks for your comment. As I said today, your best bet for your first assignment is to pitch an idea for an article that you have experience with/specialized knowledge of, to a market that you know and ideally can write for more than once. You don’t have clips, so play up what you bring to the editor–something special, namely your idea and yourself.

    Mike, same comment as Dan, except that I would mention your experience in your ISG, or “I’m-s0-great” paragraph of your query, as I discussed today. Your prior experience may not reflect your current writing abilities (I’m assuming you’ve grown as a writer since then) but it is evidence of your background/knowledge.

    Ali, so glad to hear that you found it helpful! I hope you check out my blog, and my books, if you’re so inclined. I’ve heard from hundreds of writers that they are extremely helpful. 🙂

    Thanks again!

  7. A great blog and even better podcast interview. I’ve been very lucky to get quite a bit of freelance work but you’ve shown me I need to treat my evening/weekend job more like a 9 to 5. I’d like to someday quit my “day job” and there was something you said in the podcast about being more serious that flipped on a switch.

    If I don’t win your boom, I’m going to buy it …and all your past work. I’m totally inspired.

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