7 Ways to Make Money Storytelling
30 years ago, a copywriter turned screenwriter was dealing with a small domestic problem …
He was going away on vacation and making a list of everything he didn’t want to forget. He thought, “Well, I’d better not forget my kids.”
Then he thought, “What if I left my 10-year-old at home? What would he do?”
As one what-if led to another, the man took a break from packing, and wrote eight pages of notes … which were developed into his screenplay for the movie Home Alone.
The holiday classic by writer-producer John Hughes is so popular, TIME has called it “the undisputed conqueror of the Christmas movie season.” Home Alone even held the Guinness World Record as the highest-grossing live action comedy in the United States for more than 25 years.
The tale of 8-year-old Kevin McCallister and his efforts to protect his home from two burglars after he’s accidentally left home alone while his family goes on vacation has made over $476 million. And, it led to four Home Alone sequels, three video games, two board games, and the recent rumor of a Disney reboot.
That’s the power of good storytelling.
But stories do much more than simply entertain us. They also influence the way we think, and even what we feel. Stories have the power to sway the way we see the world … not to mention our decision-making processes.
That’s why telling a good story is one of the most powerful skills you can have as a writer. And it’s an easy way to make your copy memorable — as well as profitable.
So today, I’m going to show you how you can use your story-writing skills to boost your income, and where to find the most lucrative story-based writing jobs.
But first, let’s dig a little more into the science of why good stories are so valuable to businesses … and why they’ll gladly pay you to write them!
Let’s say a company puts out a brochure with a list of facts and statistics. Your brain processes that information as an intellectual experience. Interesting and educational, but not necessarily memorable.
You might be able to recall a few of the facts, but probably not all. That because informative writing only taps into your cerebral cortex, which is the part of your brain that decodes words into meaning.
A well-told story, on the other hand, takes the reader on an emotional adventure. It involves the language-processing areas of your brain along with many other areas — including your sensory cortex.
The sensory cortex is the part of your brain you’d use if you were actually experiencing the events of a story. It’s the area where you detect sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.
When you’re involved at a sensory level, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the story, which is the reason you remember stories more so than statistics.
And when stories are used in persuasive writing, the story becomes representative of what’s being sold or presented.
Persuasive writers who know how to tell a good story use it to move people to action, whether that means buying a product or service, making a donation, signing up for a free newsletter, or picking up the phone to talk to a member of the company’s customer service team.
And THAT is why good storytellers stand to make a great deal of money.
This quote from AWAI Founder Mark Morgan Ford sums it up perfectly …
“You’re a good writer if you can write a story that can make people cry …
“You’re a better writer if your writing can make people laugh …
“But, if your writing can persuade people to take action — that’s when you know you can be a very wealthy writer.”
So now that you understand why storytelling is important in good copy and content, let’s look at some of the projects where you can use that skill and how much copywriters can earn …
7 Paid Writing Projects that Benefit From Good Storytelling
1. Case Studies
Case studies are success stories that detail a customer’s experience with a company’s products or services.
Their goal is to tell the story of how a company or individual solved a challenge using a product or service. In other words, a “before-and-after” story.
If you have a journalistic background or mindset … this project is ideal for you!
Fees: $150-$500 (and upwards of $1,250 in B2B, or for more experienced writers)
Companies email prospects and customers on a regular basis — often daily. Stories keep their emails interesting, and encourage readers to engage in a real conversation.
If you like writing short, conversational copy, this is a great opportunity. Along with fitting your style, the frequency of writing emails is very high — so you can make a lot from just a few clients.
3. Long-Form Sales Letters
Fees: $2,000 to $10,000 plus royalties
Story-based leads often outperform all others when it comes to long-form sales letters …
The story draws the reader in while breaking down their resistance to “being sold,” and engages them for the entire letter.
4. Social Media Campaigns
Fees: Upwards of $2,000/Month
Social media platforms were built to share stories …
And it’s where companies’ customers and prospects are connecting, researching, and making buying decisions.
As a social media writer, you’ll use stories to grab their attention, and connect on a personal level … to start and then further develop a relationship with the client.
5. Video Marketing
Fee: Upwards of $200 per video minute
Videos are an effective way to connect with any online audience and allow you to tell your story visually.
If you have any desire to teach … or you come from the screenwriting world … this is definitely for you.
Fee: $100 to $500 per post
Like social media, the blog was created to share a story! They often have an ongoing theme, and your job is to discover and write new stories that are related to the theme.
Fee: $1,500 to $3,500 for a small website (5-7 pages)
Whether you’re telling the story of how a company first came to be or you’re telling the stories of many satisfied customers, website pages often house a variety of short stories interlaced with a common theme.
As you can see, stories can play a role in every form of copy and content …
Compelling stories entertain, inform, and offer value to readers. Which makes them more likely to connect with your clients and their products and services.
They also cut through the noise, grab people’s attention, and make the messaging more “real.”
So put your storytelling skills to use! Decide which project types interest you most, and get going.
And while your stories many not win any literary or box office awards … your clients will certainly value every word you write. And that’s when you’ll see your freelance writing income soar.
Ready to put your storytelling skills into practice? Which type of storytelling appeals to you? Do you have any questions about getting started? Please share with us in the comments.
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This was a very good article. I learned something about how the brain functions with stories.
I wrote an article (unpublished) on the "Magic of Story." I talk about how we are drawn into the story as if by magic. Many stories have hidden themes that teach us about life in a more meaningful way, than if presented in an intellectual dissertation.
Hi, Interesting piece but where do you get these fee figures from? I'm an experienced copywriter and I find it virtually impossible to find clients who will pay these fees, especially now there are so many bidding sites around, which are killing this business.
Guest (Billy) –
@FDavidPowers - thank you for the feedback! Love the title and premise of your article. I agree - stories can be far more impactful. Best, Rebecca
Rebecca Matter –
@Billy - we publish an annual pricing guide based on what companies and the industry experts tell us the going rates are: https://www.awai.com/copywriter-rates/
So much of it depends on the niche though and types of clients you're working with. You definitely want a mid-size company (think local yoga studio vs. franchise).
You might check out some of our webinars on promoting yourself and getting clients to ensure you're attracting the right types of clients. www.awai.com/inside-awai
And remember, companies get what they pay for. Don't work for the ones who are looking to pay pennies for a writer. They don't value the copy nor understand what it can do for their bottomline. It's a lose/lose.
Hope that helps! Rebecca
Rebecca Matter –
Great article for those of us who are professional writers, corporate brand strategists. And for businesses to understand a little more about how important their Corporate Story is - and why. Many people baulk at the digital world - but there is a real human on the other side of the screen. And as humans, we appreciate good copy/ storytelling as much as ever. Thanks!
Guest (Susan Wanmer) –