How to Get Paid for the Research Portion of Your Writing Project

Hey guys!

So today I want to ask you a question about the research portion of your writing. This applies to anyone, whether you’re writing non-fiction as a freelancer or you’re writing fiction – or both! I write in both areas of the writing world, so I understand the challenges that come with both. Whether you’re researching all about the real estate market in Seattle because you’re working on content for a client, you’re trying to find out information on ancient Egyptian religion because you’re writing a book on the subject, or you’re researching plants that are native to the jungles of South America because you’re writing a novel set there research is simply unavoidable.

I happen to love research. But I also tend to come down with what I call Research Panic.

It’s not so much a panic about the actual research, but it’s a panic that sets in regarding the fact that I’m spending so much time researching and digging deep into my subject and I’m not “earning money” during that period of time.

This is the great dichotomy (or one of them) of writing. Writing anything of length – if you want to do a good job – is crazy hard work and it takes a long time, and there’s a lot of “not getting paid right now” stuff you have to do in order to make the outstanding novel, travel guide, textbook, or web copy that you’re working on. However, in order to create an end project that will earn you big bucks, you’ve really got to do an outstanding job and put in that time.

But it’s really hard to focus on researching when you have bills, obligations, and “no income” hanging over your head.

Good news! You really can get paid for the research portion of your project. 

No, nobody’s going to pay you an hourly rate to research for your freelance or independent project. (Although if you’re writing for clients this really should be worked into your overall service price.) But what you can do is get a little creative and start writing articles (and selling them) about the subjects you’re researching.

Here are 3 ways to get paid for what you’re researching. 

Constant Content

Yeah, I know, by this time you guys are really used to me singing the praises of Constant Content. But I have to say, I absolutely love it. No, it’s not necessarily “guaranteed” income in the sense that you can know everything will sell. But given the statistics of a large number of people I’ve talked to and read articles by, it’s pretty typical that about 50% of everything you write will sell, and that number increases greatly if you send articles in to public requests, get direct work, and get added to teams. But still. 50% ain’t bad.

Kindle Articles 

Say what? Yes, Kindle articles. A lot of people don’t know this, but you can actually publish articles on the Kindle. It’s just like publishing a short story. (I’ve published two – “Balance” and “The Interview”) Only you’re publishing an article. Kate Harper wrote an excellent article about how to sell Kindle articles, and you can get it here on Amazon. It’s worth every penny of the $2.99 it costs, and I use it almost daily as a reference for formatting, pricing, and so on.

You might not consider that Kindle articles are worth doing since Kindle pays out royalties 60 days after the month ends. (This doesn’t mean you get paid every two months, it just means that if you’re first starting out you’ll have to wait 60 days to get paid your royalties. For instance, if you earn $200 in royalties in February you’ll see it in April; if you earn $300 in March you’ll see it in June, etc.)

However, thinking short-term about finances will keep you small and limited. That kind of mindset comes from a lack mentality, and as long as you’re thinking paycheck to paycheck you’ll be living paycheck to paycheck. That might sound harsh, but it’s simply the truth. Reality as you know it is simply your internal beliefs reflected back at you. (Another, much longer conversation.) So start believing in what you do and you will see the benefit.

Another way to look at “But it takes 60 days to get my first check” is, “60 days from now I can still be where I’m at, or I can be earning royalties”.

Get. Going. The Kindle’s format is pretty simple – the more you write, the more you sell, same with Constant Content.

Pitch to Editors 

A lot of people don’t seem to realize that articles on really interesting subjects can be great fodder for magazines. If you’re researching something that you think is just the coolest thing ever, I suggest you sign up for ProfNet, get some experts to weigh in on your subject, and pitch away. ProfNet, if you don’t know, is an excellent site that allows you to connect with professionals and experts in a number of fields. It’s meant to connect journalists with experts for quotes, etc. The journalists (that’s you, embrace it) get their quotes, the experts get recognition and perhaps promotion for a new book, it’s a win-win. And it’s free!

Then head on over to Writer’s Market and start searching for publications that would be a good fit for your articles.

You might be saying, “But Courtney, that’s just more work on top of the work I’m doing!” But I disagree. 

In reality, it’s the same work you’re already doing, you’re just clarifying points, getting a much better grasp on the specifics, and becoming even more of an expert on the subject. If you’re writing nonfiction, this is going to help you speak with so much more authority and confidence than if you’d just left your research to the land of note cards and binders and books with highlights. And if you’re writing fiction, you’ll be so intimately familiar with everything you’ve researched that your writing will be even more compelling and easy to relate to.

Getting creative about making money can allow you to earn money on what you’re researching. And then when your finished project comes out, you’ve already established your authority, you’re earning money, and then you can reap the benefit of the money that comes in from your finished product, which will now be worlds better than it would have been if you rushed through editing for fear the lights were going to be shut off. Right?

Hopefully this helps you out when you’re writing.

And remember – the more you write, the more you sell, the more you make. Sometimes we can get caught up in the “self improvement” area of life by thinking about business growth, thinking about projects, thinking about whatever.

But life is not an academic exercise. Thinking about it isn’t going to get you there. Success is built with dirty hands, meaning you need to jump in and get going.

Have you ever had a time in life where you had to get real creative in order to earn the money you needed to fund your dreams? Tell us about it in the comments!

Until next time – happy writing!


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