Exciting =/= profitable.

Photo from Andrea Picquardio via Pexels

I wish I could say that Instagram product sponsorships or my YouTube videos earn me the most money. Those are definitely the most fun and glamorous for me. But my Instagram following is humble, and my YouTube channel is small.

Instead, a large portion of my income comes from three boring writing income streams. Many writers will say they don’t want to give up on their writing dreams to make money. Many will say they don’t want to sell anything, they just want to write beautiful prose and earn money that way.

That’s very hard to do unless you’re Roxane Gay, and I suspect even she does work that just pays the bills sometimes.

True passive income for writers is rare, and even more rare is passive income for freelance writers. Most of our work is active.

Instead, I recommend you find boring but doable writing income streams and use the rest of your time on your unprofitable passion. These three writing income streams make me $5k/month, allowing me to make a living writing online.

Writing Income Stream 1: Content writing 🔗

What is content writing? It’s when you create content (or write it in my case) for a targeted audience online. Unlike copywriting, it’s not solely focused on sales and is usually a little more flowery.

How do you get content writing jobs? My clients come to me through my LinkedIn or Medium portfolios, but you can find your first ones on LinkedIn, Fiverr, Upwork, or any other job board if you don’t have a pre-existing audience right now.

How do you write content writing pieces? For this writing income stream, you need two things: a very clear idea of who your audience is, and a firm grasp on the goal of content marketing. You write a compelling story and find a way to organically mention your client. For instance, if your client is a cat food brand, the content they usually want is something that addresses their prospective customer’s needs. Options include:

  • 5 Ways to Make Sure Your Cat Is Eating Healthy
  • Is Your Cat Food Causing Your Cat’s Dental Hygiene to Suffer?
  • Three Easy Do-At-Home Recipes for Cat Treats

Want more examples? Check out pretty much any post on Forbes or Entrepreneur. You’ll see they almost always link to a product, service, or company. That’s content marketing.

How much money do I earn from content writing? This writing income stream usually earns about $1–2k per month. I have a recurring client and typically 1–2 one-off clients per month.

What are the challenges of content writing? It’s tough to create content that walks the line of raising awareness without being an ad. To make matters worse, you’ll have to fight with clients who will often want you to just write an ad for them, despite the fact that content will be less appealing to readers. You’ll have to write articles about things that aren’t interesting to you.

But if you learn to deal with these hurdles, this writing income stream will pay you well.

Writing Income Stream 2: SEO writing. 🔗

What is SEO writing? It’s when you create content for a search engine algorithm. (SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.) The main focus is to rank on a search engine like Google for a particular search term.

How do you get SEO writing jobs? Like my content writing clients, mine come to me through my LinkedIn or Medium portfolios. I’ve created a tutorial here that walks you through how to get your own clients actually using SEO.

Video (55:22 minutes) 🔗

FREE WORKSHOP: How to Get Your First Freelance Writing Client WITHOUT PITCHING

How do you create SEO writing pieces? This writing income stream requires that you understand how SEO works, which is easier than most people believe. What any search engine is trying to do, at the end of the day, is serve relevant content to the right reader. Then more people use that search engine, so they make money from selling ads and your personal data.

Once you understand that, it’s easy to create pieces of writing work that cater to an algorithm like that. By doing some keyword research and knowing where to put those keywords, you can earn real money with this writing income stream.

I created a tutorial to help learn the basics of SEO, which is all you need to get started ranking.

Video (25:41 minutes) 🔗


How much money do I earn from SEO writing? I usually earn about $2–3k per month from my SEO writing income stream. I have two recurring clients who give me a varying amount of work each month. I’ll occasionally get a single one-off client who contracts me for one specific job.

What are the challenges of SEO writing? Most writers have a good sense of who their audience is, and know how to write for them. Fewer writers have a good sense of what an algorithm wants from them. It’s hard, it can be extremely boring, and it’s a little intimidating to write for an engine instead of a person as most of us know how to do.

But once you master it, you can earn a lot more money from both freelance clients and your own blog using this writing income stream.

Writing Income Stream 3: Copywriting 🔗

What is copywriting? This writing is created explicitly to sell. Take a look at any website with something you can spend money on, an ad, or a product description. That’s copy.

How do you get copywriting jobs? You can find copywriting jobs for this writing income stream on any of the usual suspects — LinkedIn, Fiverr, etc — but I recommend you work on your own business first. You’ll have an advantage because you understand your own business best.

If you’re a writer, you will need to learn how to write to sell at least yourself if nothing else. While the other two writing income streams come from clients, most of my copywriting work is done for my own business.

I write:

  • emails (subject line and content)
  • bios
  • calls-to-action
  • sales pages
  • product descriptions

All for my own writing business.

Some of these are fun — I love writing my weekly emails to my email list, for example — but mostly, I don’t love copywriting. It’s boring work that has to be done, and done well. But it’s not my true passion.

How do you create copywriting? You need to be able to sell and understand the reasons (commonly called “pain points”) that brought a reader to your copy. Armed with this knowledge, you can lean on your love of words to craft a compelling message that persuades the right people to buy whatever you’re selling.

How much money do I earn from copywriting? I usually earn about $2k per month from my copywriting writing income stream. Most of it comes from selling my own stuff to my audience, but I do get an occasional client.

What are the challenges of copywriting? Selling is hard. Most writers aren’t comfortable with it, hence why many rely on revenue share models instead, like AdSense or Quora. But the ability to sell yourself is paramount, no matter if you are writing a LinkedIn bio, pitching yourself to a new client, or selling your services to an audience.

Video (11:43 minutes) 🔗

You Will Never Be “Discovered.” You Have to Sell Yourself | How to Make Money Blogging

If you get over the mental hurdles of learning to sell, copywriting can be very rewarding (if a little dull at times).

Boring writing income streams let me live my writing dreams. 🔗

Things I love include: hanging out with my cats, going on runs, reading fiction, talking to my friends, watching trash reality TV, and baking. None of these things pay me money, unfortunately.

I see so many writers struggle financially because they’re clinging to their desire of letting their passion writing pay the bills. Meanwhile, they eschew sales, popular writing like listicles, and don’t want to learn how to create content marketing pieces or understand how SEO works.

You want to know how to make a living writing fiction? The easiest way is to earn money with boring writing income streams, and write your fiction on the side.

I let go of my pride, learned how to earn money with these boring writing income streams, and now use the rest of my free time to do the things I love, create writing I know won’t pay the bills, and pursue my true passion of working as little as possible.

Spend some time learning the basics of these writing income streams, and you will see how happy and financially powerful you can become.

Huge hat tip to Christopher Kokoski who inspired this article with his own incredible story about how he makes up to $5,000 per month writing about boring topics. Make sure to check out his latest, where he goes more in-depth into his keyword farming strategies!