Not only can writing for a living pay off, writing for a living DOES pay off. I'm living proof of that.
I have provided a comfortable living for myself and for my family for the last several years solely by writing. You won't see my name in a magazine or a newspaper anywhere, and I don't have a book to sell you with my name on it.
You see, I have made this living by writing on the Internet.
I won't lie to you and tell you that I have an easy job. In fact, I work harder today than I ever did before. But I have the best job I've ever had. I am my own boss, I set my own hours, and I have a schedule flexible enough to go on a field trip to the Grossology Exhibit with my daughter if I want to.
It took me a while to get to this point. I didn't write for a living from day one. It has been a gradual process, with lots of uphill and downhill experiences, and tons of learning going on. However, it has finally paid off in the last couple of years.
How can I make a living writing? How does it pay off? I followed some very basic principles:
1) I write, everyday, whether or not I have a client order in front of me. The discipline of daily writing keeps me sharp, and it also gives me material for when those orders do come in.
2) I work, on average, 45 hours every week. That includes every week of the year, except for Christmas week. I even took my laptop with me out to the woods when we went camping in the summer. Working for myself isn't less time-consuming than working for someone else, but I put in those long hours in order to gain flexibility with my schedule.
3) I follow up on every possible lead. If I haven't had work from a particular client in a couple of weeks, I will email them. If I don't hear back, I will call them on the phone. My persistence pays off; more often than not, I end that phone call with an order for a batch of articles.
4) I don't rely solely on my existing client base. I expand, at every opportunity. This was especially good, as some of my most lucrative assignments early on came from clients who no longer require writing services. I pound on doors, and I cold call potential customers.
5) I branch out in the content areas I am writing, as well as in the types of writing that I am doing. I've written fiction, how-to's, blog entries, and written on articles on topics from pregnancy to roleplaying games to satellite television.
There's no magic here. There isn't anything special about me. I haven't been especially lucky. I've just put in my time, paid my dues, pounded pavement, and written like my life depended on it. THAT is how you make writing for a living pay off.