Writing for Money on the Interwebs


A while back, a girlfriend of mine forced me to watch a chick flick that she felt I would find inspiring. It was called The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio.

Now, I think Julianne Moore is a good actress (and I have a thing for redheads) so this didn't take that much arm-twisting. And it wasn't an altogether bad movie. But what I remember most, rather than actual plot or characters, is the idea that people used to be able to make money writing jingles and entering them in national contests.

Specifically, women used to do this. At least, according to the movie. The premise of the movie is that, back in the 1950s, companies didn't want to spend money on advertising, so they would hold contests in which housewives (who had lots of pent-up energy and creativity to burn) would submit jingles for specific products. The best ones would earn cash or some pretty serious prizes.

Julianne Moore's character, a mother of something like 8 kids (or was it 11?), keeps herself sane and her family afloat by winning these contests, seeing as how her husband, played by Woody Harrelson, is pretty useless when it comes to breadwinning. Oh, and he's a drunk.

Also interesting, from a modern perspective, is how much advertising has changed since the 1950s, and how the pendulum swings between ads that are created by advertising firms (who get paid millions of dollars to create campaigns), and customers, who are asked to enter advertising contests and win... well, not millions, exactly. There's a trend these days in which customers are encouraged to express their creativity in the form of product ads - some of this works out pretty well, some of it, not so well.

The cause of this re-emerging trend is probably laziness on the part of advertisers, and cheapness on the part of companies, but the end result, we have yet to see, since having the tools to create our OWN media is still a relatively new and fresh idea.

But I really, really liked the idea of sitting around and writing things at home, and getting paid for it. Kind of like what I do for Wise Bread, but, you know, with actual cash returns. I love writing as a money-making idea.

I've been looking around the web for writing gigs and contests that actually pay you if you win, and here's the list I cam up with. I thought some of you might be interested in it. Please note that not all writing contests are legit. I can't personally vouch for the ones below, but I've regularly read and even written for some of them, so I think most of them are OK. I personally don't enter contests with an entry fee unless I know someone involved with the organization (and then I enter under a pseudonymn).

Also, there might be some overlap between the contest lists.

Anyway, without further ado:

Common Ties holds frequent non-fiction, themed writing contests. Pay is varied, but the best stories can win hundreds.

Demockeracy holds contests for Onion-like satire. Winners get $50, which isn't a lot, but if you are good with satire, probably easy.

Helium is a bit like a giant blog, where you can write and get your writing rated, and suppsedly earn money. Helium is always peppering craigslist with ads, but I've never met anyone who has written for them.

About.com has a list of fiction writing contests organized by due date.

There's another all-around good-sized list at the Open Directory Project. Writers' Cafe has another set of deadline-based contests.

Willamette Writers hold a contest with many categories every year. Grand prize is $300, and second place is $150.

Firstwriter.com has a list of free and non-free writing contests from around the world.

If you've got the time, and you like to rhyme (oh yeah, I'm that good), Winning Writers will show you some free poetry contests (registration required).

It ain't free, but we're free to be you and me (and write some song lyrics and send them in to the ISC).

Hazel Street would like you to use one of their posted photos as a theme for your poem or short story ($5 entry fee). They also have a list of lists if you scroll down the screen a bit.

Amazon Shorts lets you compete to get published.

I used to read Reader's Digest at my grandma's place during the summer, and wondered if they really gave away all that money to people who sent in cliched and tired old jokes. They do.

Freelancewriting.com has catalogued a nice list of contests, too - I particularly like the idea of a "Migraine and Headache Poetry Contest", even though it doesn't have a real monetary prize.

This contest makes me want to be a Christian woman, because I could win a signed picture of Candace Cameron in addition to prize money.

Insight Magazine also appears to have a faith-themed contest.

Poets and Writers online has everything, from jobs to contests, on their calendar. An alphabetical list is to be had here.

Heck, Google has a directory for writing contests. I don't know how many of those are PAYING contests.

Humorpress requires an entry fee, and their cheesy web site makes them seem suspect, but I've heard (online, so it might not be true) that they aren't bad.

Whim's Place only asks $5 for an entry fee, and first prize is $250!

Contests for Moms actually reeks a bit of the aforementioned Julianne Moore movie, but includes Helium and lists free contests with a wide variety of prizes.

Has anyone else entered writing contests that they really enjoyed and want to share with Wise Bread readers?

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Guest's picture

Is this the link you meant to post for submissions to Reader's Digest? http://www.rd.com/submitjoke.do?lid=12&wtGroup=RDCOM_NAV&wtID=SUBMIT_JOKE

The current link goes to a site for something called Writer's Digest instead.

Andrea Karim's picture

We'll get that fixed ASAP!

Guest's picture


That was a lot of help!

Guest's picture

Create a homepage on http://www.infositepage.com and earn money from visitors clicking adds on your homepage. The adds are automatically placed on your site and you get the earnings through a PayPal payment.


Guest's picture

I am a prize winning short story and poet since age 13 and author of four books.

May I add that for those who are from Africa, the Caine Prize for African Writing is a free short story contest and the best so far with a cash prize of $15, 000 and the first five short listed writers get all expenses paid trip to a writers workshop.

I have a free short story contest and the winner takes all the cash prize of $100. But I won't post the link here so that it will not be mistaken for spam.

Cheers and God bless.

Guest's picture


Very interesting information! Thanks!


Guest's picture

I'm surprised you didn't also mention associated content, to which it seems a lot of bloggers contribute. Which makes sense, since they are complimentary income streams - you can use your blog to direct traffic to your AC content, and your AC content/profile to direct traffic to your blog. It's not a contest, per se, but you are 'competing for traffice', I suppose!

Guest's picture

Hi, just started reading this website, although I've heard a lot about it on msn money, and really enjoying yours and others' articles. I don't know if this fits here since it seems like you're detailing more writing contests then just getting paid to write. But I thought I'd go ahead and mention this to you and your readers.

There is a place called reviewstream.com. I've been writing for it only a few days now, but I like how it's set up. You don't have to do any complicated registering...they really only ask that you have a gmail account and a paypal account...you can review ANYTHING you want: books, cosmetics, travel, pets, casino, ect...and if they like what you write, as in it's informative and not vague and so forth, they'll pay you 2 dollars an article at this moment in time. I'm sure they will raise or lower it as time goes by, but right now, it's 2 dollars an article for the ones they'll accept, and if they refuse for any reason, they have another option called 'the bulk rate' which they'll pay 1/5th of the 2 bucks (40 cents), for the article.

People can also read it and if they like it, they can vote YES to it, and you'll get an additional 10 cents per vote. So if you have a small fan base already, it can quickly add up. You need to have a total of 50 bucks to cash out of the account, but from what I read from other writers, it's done very quickly once you are ready to request payment. I'm still only at 20 bucks or so, but have submitted a lot of reviews which hopefully will be only a few more days before I can cash out.

Anyhoo, thought you guys might be interested in checking it out and getting paid for your opinion on kitty litter and trashbags (which I have also reviewed, lol)

By the bye, great article!

Guest's picture
Boris G jennings

My name is Boris G Jennings and I'm Artist,Song writer.I've lived in europe for many years,I've worked with the largest companys such as B.M.G,SONY,E.M.I,M.C.A and many more written songs 4 myself and others.I have a large collection of songs in every style.I'm interested in selling my work 4 use in jingles,movies,commercials.. 2 know more about me,myspace,youtube or just google boris g jennings..My num.is 914-616-1181 I would love 2 hear from u ASAP !Thank U... Boris