Landing a book deal and getting published isn’t a guaranteed paycheck. And frankly, there isn’t a ton of money in book sales. Often, the bulk of a writer’s income will come from speaking and teaching.
Fortunately, you don’t need a publisher, literary agent or a book contract to make an impact and earn money from your writing. If you have a social media presence and a following online, you already have an audience that wants more of what you have to give.
While most writers know it’s possible to make money on social media, it seems like something an influencer would do–not a “real” writer. I’m here to change your mind about that.
Can a writer really make money off social media?
The answer is yes—and it’s probably easier than you think.
You don’t need to be a tech guru, have a fancy payment system, or use a pricey platform to host your content, courses, or teaching materials.
You don’t even need to have a website.
All you really need is an Instagram account, a PayPal link, and something to offer your audience. (Spoiler: if you are a writer, you already have something to offer.)
Here are six simple ways to start making money with social media.
1. Crosspost your videos
To compete with TikTok, Facebook is encouraging creators to post videos through the Facebook Reels Bonus Play program. (Instagram is offering Reels bonuses, too, but Facebook is pushing out video content in a bigger way to make up for being very late to the video party.)
Facebook pays about $1.80 per one thousand views, which may not seem like much, but if you’ve spent any time creating videos for Instagram it’s worth crossposting them in bulk just to see what happens. My first month netted $16,000 and a client with a smaller but fabulous video library made $4,000.
Right now, it’s invite-only, but the bulk upload trick seems to trigger the invite with a high level of consistency. It’s as if the platform says, “Whoa, someone who’s never posted videos here just uploaded twenty. They must be regular creators on TikTok. If we throw money at them, maybe we’ll become their favorite platform!”
Don’t tell Facebook, but you don’t need to create anything on TikTok. I recommend using Instagram to make video content, because you can easily create a great video with their superior editing tools, save it, and crosspost it to your personal Facebook profile and Author Page (and even TikTok, if you wish).
Side note about Instagram: There are a ton of social media platforms out there, but Instagram is my one-stop shop for a multitude of reasons, starting with its great editing tools. By creating all of your content on Instagram, you’re creating a catalog of your work that you can refer back to and repurpose down the road. Plus, it’s easier than ever to share your content directly from Instagram to other platforms, which takes the stress out of keeping your social media up-to-date, aligned, and impactful.
2. Recommend a product or service that you love
Is Scrivener your go-to writing app? Does Substack take the hassle out of your email marketing?
Reach out to the companies behind your favorite things, or shout out a teacher or another writer who inspires you, and let them know why you love them. Then ask if they have an affiliate program you can sign up for.
You might be surprised at how many people say yes.
Alternatively: An easy way to start making some extra cash today is to set up your Amazon and Bookshop affiliate accounts. Once you’ve activated your accounts, use those links anytime you recommend a book online, or even when you buy books yourself, and enjoy a little kickback from your reading list.
3. Provide a done-for-you service
What comes easily to you? What do you love doing that other people prefer to avoid?
Could you help other writers by editing their pitches and recommending ideal publications for their work? I’d love to pay someone to make my essay pitch super sharp and tell me the five best places to submit.
Are you a Canva whiz, killer with Quickbooks, or highly effective with Evernote? There are a lot of people who would happily pay you just to set up templates for them.
Think about how you can leverage your skills to help your people, and then spread the word. Pick one thing and run with it.
4. Offer coaching or teach a course
Maybe you’re an efficiency pro who could offer one-on-one coaching sessions around time management, or a virtual how-to webinar to maximize productivity for writers working from home. Or you’re an author with a number of interviews and publications under your belt who could teach best interviewing practices for new writers.
Think about what you do really well and how you might be able to solve a problem for your people by sharing your practices and know-how.
5. Create a membership or subscription community
I subscribed to Jane’s publishing industry newsletter, The Hot Sheet, because I want to stay up-to-date on industry news—and I will happily pay so that I don’t have to worry that I’m missing something crucial if I am not constantly keeping on top of it myself.
What research are you already doing that might benefit your audience? What tools, support, or resources can you offer your community?
6. Sell a product
Your product could be as simple as creating a printable PDF that applies to your area of expertise and will solve a problem for your audience. If you work with other writers, you might offer “10 Tips to Stop Procrastinating and Start Writing,” or “5 Simple Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block,” or “How to Set Up Your Author Website in One Hour or Less.”
Your PDF doesn’t have to be all-encompassing. It just needs to be effective. (And if you charge $4.99 per download, you could wind up making more money from your PDF than you would from book royalties.)
Make it easy for your audience, and yourself
After you get clear on what you can offer, writing and using a clear Call to Action (CTA) is essential to monetizing your social media. The easier you make it for your audience to find your offers and opt-in, the easier it is for you to get paid.
Whether you’re sharing a phenomenal freebie, promoting your book, or sharing your latest offering, “Get XYZ at link in bio” is the most actively, and successfully, used CTA on Instagram. Use it whenever you post related to your teaching or product. Your audience needs more reminders than you would think in order to see and engage with your offers.
You have to start somewhere
A lot of times, we hesitate over our offers, telling ourselves an idea isn’t “good enough” or that we “just aren’t ready yet.” The problem is that then we don’t start at all.
Instead of stalling, give yourself permission to start small. Set aside some time to batch load your IG Reels onto your Facebook.
Send a few emails to your favorite authors or the creators of your favorite products and find out if they have an affiliate program.
Consider the questions your audience asks most often and brainstorm ways to turn the answers into a printable PDF or an ebook.
Yes, you’re a writer—and a damn good one at that. Still, the wisdom and knowledge you have to share extend far beyond what can be offered to you in any book deal, grant, or residency. You have something to offer the world today and every day, and it’s perfectly okay for your bank account to reflect that.
Ashleigh Renard is a former figure skating coach and choreographer who coaches writers on building platform and connecting with their readers. She is the co-host of the biweekly Zoom platform chat The Writers’ Bridge.