Woman in gold shirt writing - selling articles as a side business

I know a woman who makes money selling articles outright and licensing content rights.

I actually know about a dozen women who sell content (myself included). I’m talking about articles, blogs, books, information products, images, videos, infographics, and slideshow presentations. The goal is to focus on selling different types of content to companies that use it to market their wares. OR becoming an expert at one or two specific content formats.

This is a lot like the Foodie gig I talked about in an earlier post, but I’m zeroing in on written content for this one… writing and selling articles. (FYI, social media graphics are also a viable option.)

Okay, There Are a Few Nuances to Selling Articles

Think of this job as being a writer, but with a slightly different focus. While a traditional writer may focus on earning money for her writing (because she’s going to write anyway), someone who licenses content focuses on writing to earn money (because she needs an income stream and this is as good a stream as any).

Pinterest PIN- Easy Side Hustle: Selling Articles

She writes content specifically with marketers in mind because her goal is to create content that is so valuable, she can earn residual income by making multiple sales of each product she creates. 

As a creator of content, U.S. Copyright Law (I talk more about Copyright law in this post on Work-for-Hire agreements) gives you the legal right to do whatever you want with the content you create. That can even mean temporarily transferring some of your rights or even selling all of your rights to another person or entity. 

Here’s How This Whole Thing Could Play Out

Someone who sells and licenses content has to develop a keen understanding of what are called exclusive rights – the rights she gets about how to use the content she creates. These include the right to share, publish, make derivative works of (like modifying and remixing), sell, distribute copies, transfer ownership. A copyright owner could transfer, lease, or sell some of all or any of these rights.

For instance, she may give a website the right to publish her article for a competitive fee, BUT the website doesn’t own the piece outright, so the editors can’t turn around and re-sell her piece. They only have the right to publish the piece, not sell it… maybe even not modify it much.

Or she may allow Website A to publish the piece under a non-exclusive license. Three weeks later, she can still allow Website B to publish the same piece as well, for a separate fee.

Or she could write on a topic she knows is trending and sell the article outright to a blogger or a brand or a website. No strings attached.

Here are the three most common ways to license content you own:

  1. Pitch article ideas to local, regional and national publications then create the content once you have a contract from one of those publications.
  2. Create content on hot topics or controversial topics then market the content to publishers and content marketers, selling them either full rights or license usage (partial)  rights to your content
  3. Create white label / private label rights content then license that content to multiple publishers, giving them permission to publish the content as-is, change it, share it, display it or resell it as they wish.

If writing is not your strong suit, you can hire ghostwriters (or be hired as a ghostwriter yourself – I wrote an article on this, too) to create articles and content for you. You can usually get web-site ready ghostwritten articles of 800 to 1000 words for less than about $35 each. As long as you make it clear that the job is a work-for-hire and the ghostwriter retains no rights to the content, you can resell or license the content the ghostwriter created for you and earn residual income off the sales for years to come.

Skills Inventory for Selling Articles

Writing abilities, persistence, organization skills, a writing voice. One skill I’ve found that’s REALLY helpful is the ability to mimic the tone of whatever publication you’re targeting. So, how you write for Forbes is different than the tone you would use if you were contributing to The Shelf (my favorite blog – not just because I’m the editor) or Twins Mommy (one of my other favorite blogs).

Physical / Virtual Inventory

Computer, internet connection

Launch Cost

Okay. This varies. If you’re not a writer, you will need to hire someone to write the articles for you.  If you write, you’ll need to make a time investment.

Marketing Your Articles

Create your own writer website. Contact editors of publications that publish content in your niche… if you specialize in writing on a certain topic. Gonna be honest here – you’re actually better off sticking to a topic you know and have experience UNLESS you’re selling full rights to your articles.

Somewhat Important Aside: I say that because Google’s E-A-T update (not a new idea, but it has growing importance) focuses on showing results from creators who can demonstrate Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness in the topics they’re writing about. This means if you can build a reputation for creating bylined content about a specific thing (in my case it’s digital marketing and working from home – my two jams), that will probably benefit you when it comes to getting found on Google. There’s a great article about Google’s E-A-T update on Search Engine Journal, in case you’re interested

You can also use content-selling platforms like Upwork and PeoplePerHour (my two favorites) to find brands that are actively searching for content on specific topics. Constant-Content.com is the one platform I use to sell articles, and despite not posting content for the last two years or so, I occasionally sell one of those articles… or I get paid from someone licensing my content. That’s honestly the only platform I would recommend.

Here’s one that I also love – there are Facebook groups where you can sell articles. You, of course, have to apply to get into the groups, follow the rules and best practices, and read the room, so to speak, when you get in there so you know what KIND of content to sell – whether that’s an article on a new diet, or homeschooling, or recipes…

I can recommend a couple of active Facebook groups: Blog Content 4 Sale, Sell Your Content & Services, VA for Hire and Pinterest-Friendly Content for Bloggers.