After deciding that it was time to withdraw from the PhD program, I realized that I needed to start making money – and fast. One of my biggest hesitancies with pulling out of the PhD program (where I received a living stipend) was finding another way to pay my bills.

As a proud product of our generation’s educational system, I am over-educated and under-experienced for the vast majority of jobs. With an MBA and minimal work experience, I knew that few people would be enthusiastically throwing job offers my direction.

Therefore, I could either be one of the 48% of college graduates who pick up a job that doesn’t require a college degree, or I could sit and wait, unemployed, until a decent match came along – leaving me in a financial disaster. Which option should I chose?

Well, I decided to chose option #3! Instead of waiting for someone else to hire me, I would hire myself.

Think about it: if you can’t find someone to hire you for your dream job, then why not hire yourself?! You already know how magnificent your resume and references are. In fact, you’re at the top of your list!

How I Started Making $50 an Hour, and How You Can Too (Even Without a College Degree)

After spending a few weeks frantically searching and praying for work, I realized that a worthwhile job is not going to pop up over night. Furthermore, if I unproductively sit and do nothing for several months, it will be even more difficult for me to successfully land a job that interests me.

So I began brainstorming. Starting a business is always fun, but the startup costs and risks make it difficult for those who need to pay bills now. Therefore, I conclude to resort back to writing.

Throughout college and my masters program I had earned a total of about $1000 writing online as a hobby – mostly through the revenue sharing site, HubPages, and the $5 micro jobs site, Fiverr. Although this was a fun way to earn extra money while in college, I was really only making $5-$10 per hour from my writing on these sites – not making it a feasible option for my current position.

But out of necessity and desperation, creativity and hard work are born. I’m currently earning between $25-$60/hour by writing for a variety of clients online – and I see it only increasing from here. This is how I do it – and how you can too.

Step 1: Develop Your Online Writing Abilities

Before you can make money writing online, it is essential to have an understanding of how online content works. Blogs and online articles are significantly different than academic, business, or traditional newspaper writing. In other words, besides for the grammar tips, most of what you learned in college will not be relevant for online content writing.

To learn more about how to write for the web, look at other articles here on my blog, on my HubPages account, and across the internet. Some of the basic tips to keep in mind include:

  1. Make Your Titles Search-Friendly: Website content is unlike a book in the store or article in a magazine – where people will see it on the newsstands or in the bookstore. Online content is found through search. Therefore, include common search terms in your title. Many of the most read articles online have terribly boring titles – but that’s because they use words that people include in their searches.
  2. Make Your Content “Skimmable” with Section Headings: Internet readers skim (as you may be doing with this article). Therefore, make it easy for someone to get a general understanding of your article with the titles and section headings. This makes it easy for someone to skip what they know and only read what is useful to them.
  3. Use Lists: Just like with section headings, lists provide an easy way for people to grasp the core of an article without reading everything.
  4. Make the Writing Friendly: Academic writing has the sole purpose of putting people to sleep – don’t do that with internet content. Write something that you would want to read.

I recommend that you go to the library and check out a book or two on writing. Make sure that your grammar and sentence structure is decent, and then spend some time analyzing your favorite blog posts and online articles to see what you enjoy about their format and style. This will help you develop your own writing abilities.

Step 2: Become an Expert in a High-Paying Niche

Not all online writing jobs are created equal. Although you can find many writing jobs for celebrity reviews, music news, and travel topics, most of these jobs will offer a much lower payout per article for an inexperienced writer (as little as $5 per article).

If you want to find writing jobs that pay $25-$100 per post, you will need to become an expert in lucrative niche (which is easier than it sounds).

To find a high-paying niche you will need to find businesses that are highly-competitive, but make good money. One great way to find expensive topics is through using the Google Keyword tool – the tool businesses use to see the cost of buying ads on Google. Every time that you click on a Google ad, a business pays between twenty cents and $200 for that click. For business who pay $50+ per click, it is more useful for them to pay someone that amount for a blog post that will appear in search results then for a single click on Google.

A great market is professionals. Lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, and air-conditioning installation experts all make a lot of money from their services. Therefore, they are willing to pay a lot for someone to provide useful content to their website that will attract potential clients.

Some high-paying niches and clients include:

  • Lawyers (business, divorce, litigation, real estate, etc.)
  • Consultants and Coaches (business, health, lifestyle, etc.)
  • Medical doctors (particularly Lasik and plastic surgery specialists)
  • Real estate agents and brokers (these do not pay as much as some, but the articles can be relatively easy to write and easily reworded for additional clients)
  • Press release writing for new business products and announcements
  • Professional home installation, repair, and cleaning services
  • Personal finance, banking, and investing services
  • Photography and videography services and equipment
  • Blogging and writing services

Ultimately, the key is to find a niche that is not overly saturated (which usually means not many people know a lot about the subject) and offers a service or equipment that costs a significant amount. Experts in these fields would rather offer their service than spend an hour or two writing a blog post for their website. Therefore, they will pay you handsomely for a well written and researched article.

To become an expert in a field is a lot easier than it may sound. If you are thinking, “I don’t know anything about Lasik eye surgeries”, then you are in the same boat as 99.9% of Americans. However, if you spend one hour reading articles online about this subject, you will already know more than most people.

Although the internet makes it easy to find enough information to become an expert on a topic, I also recommend going to the library and checking out a few books on the subject. Generally speaking, if you read 3-5 books on any subject you will know more about it than the majority of the population.

It is true that many of the highest paying niche’s are not the most interesting. Therefore, I recommend selecting a few areas to become an expert in – some that you do for your own pleasure (and maybe writing about on your own blog), and some that you learn about primarily for the financial return. Who knows, you may discover a new fascination with surgery, real estate, or law.

Step 3: Find Clients Who Need Content

Finding potential clients is actually much easier than it may seem. There are three methods I use for finding businesses and professionals to write for:

  1. Join Online Freelance Websites: I still find the majority of my writing work through one website: Upwork.com. These websites allow anyone to post projects that they want completed (along with a desired rate). I have found both long-term article writing jobs and short 5-10 page ebook writing jobs on these two sites.
  2. Contact Potential Clients Directly: Because I am a leadership and business enthusiast, I’ve discovered that a fantastic way to use my knowledge and gain additional experience is to write for executive coaches and consultants. I email coaches and consultants with an offer for a discounted first article. It’s challenging to write executive consultant-level content, but I enjoy putting in the time. To set up your own personal website, I recommend using WordPress and hosting with iPage – where they will include $100 of Google advertising with your purchase.
  3. Find Websites That Pay for Content: There are many websites that will pay $25-$50 per accepted article – and they state this on their website. Although they generally require higher-quality content then a casual blog, the status of being published on one of these website can make finding additional jobs much easier.

Important note: Getting started in online writing can be the most difficult step – especially as many of your jobs will be as a ghost writer (meaning that your name is not visible in the article). Therefore, I recommend that you create a portfolio of articles to show clients – either through your own website or with a site like HubPages. Additionally, you may have to write a few $10 articles until you build up your reputation.

Go Start Writing!

There you have it – this is how I am earning $25-$60+/hour by writing online. Although my MBA has helped me gain credibility for some projects, I have written about eye-care, legal proceedings, travel, and a plethora of other subjects that have nothing to do with my degree. Therefore, I am confident that anyone can start earning an impressive income by writing – either as a fulltime job or as a part-time hobby.

I attempted to make this article as thorough as possible, but I know that I did not cover everything. Feel free to ask questions or add your own input in the comments below. I will certainly reply.