How to Make a Living as a Writer by Stacy Mantle

Author and Freelancer Stacy Mantle
Author and Freelancer Stacy Mantle
Author and Freelancer Stacy Mantle

I’ve got good news. It is possible to make a living as a writer. I’ve done it for nearly 20 years and while it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows, I have managed to eke out a fairly comfortable life, keep my animals fed, and once in a long while, save up enough to go on vacation for a few days. So, how do I accomplish this amazing feat? I operate on a simple premise:

Writing is a numbers game.

Making a living as a writer is not about how good you are. It’s not about how much raw talent you have. It’s about getting your name out there enough times that people start to take note of you – even if it’s only on a subconscious level.

In order to succeed, writers must operate on the same principles as a company launching a new product: Get it out, get it seen, and get it sold.

There is an old marketing adage called “The Rule of 7.” The theory behind this rule is that the average consumer needs to see a product seven times before they consider purchasing. The actual number may vary according to which article you read, and I’ve seen it range from anywhere between 7-20. But, the principle remains the same: Visibility means (eventual) sales.

Here are a few surefire ways to survive as a freelance writer:

Become an expert

Choose something you love, really love, and become an expert. For example, I’m considered an expert in pet products (or a “pet lifestyle specialist”). My website is PetsWeekly and we do product reviews for “multi-species” households. Because I’ve spent many years building this site, I pick up freelance work from industry publications, animal publications, and people in the industry trying to get their name out. That’s one aspect of my freelance portfolio. I’m also a curriculum developer, which means I pick up the occasional book project (such as Teaching The Odyssey In the Classroom). Most of my freelance survival income is from curriculum developer/instructional design gigs.

Build a portfolio

There’s more to landing a paid gig than searching through want ads and online postings or writing for pennies on content farms. If you decide to write for those sites, fine – but understand that they will never make you enough money to justify you writing for them. They are only effective for two things: Expanding your profile and increasing reciprocal links.

Think outside the box

Writer is a very general term. It can refer to a technical writer, a marketing writer, a novelist, a blogger, a curriculum specialist, or a sales ticket writer. There is absolutely no limit to what you can do as a writer. Start thinking about how you can offer services as a social marketing developer, instructor, food label writer, marketing assistant, or anything else.

Use the social networks

We live in an age where 140-character tweet can start a revolution. We can reach millions of people in just a few keystrokes. With that power comes responsibility. If you need something, ask. If you can help someone, offer. Creating a strong freelance community is one of the first steps in finding work. Watch how the successful freelancers handle themselves online – they are responsible, they use complete sentences, they spell words out, and they are professional in all aspects of online networking. Do the same and people will feel comfortable enough to hire you on.

Utilize downtime

Writing is “feast or famine” work – use your downtime to hone and market your skills: develop an online course, work on your website, create a press release, write a review for a book you’ve read, help someone else with their writing – I promise that karma is an effective principle in writing – people remember those who helped them along the way. You can’t work for free all the time, and you can’t answer every question that comes your way, but you can choose to share your knowledge.

What are some ways that you make a living while working on your novel? Any other suggestions for the struggling freelance writers out there?


Stacy Mantle is the award-winning author of Shepherd’s Moon. She is also the founder of and wife to a charming man, pack leader to three dogs, cat herder to a few cats, and resident of the Southwest. She loves hearing from her readers and encourages you to visit her at,, or on any of the social networks.

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6 thoughts on “How to Make a Living as a Writer by Stacy Mantle”

  1. Hi Elissa! It is indeed me! How are you? I was hoping to see you at the RWA convention in Phx last month. Shoot me an email soon and thank so much to everyone for the tweets and reposts!

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