Hackernoon logoHow to Write for Money: From Clickbait Listicles to Full-Time Gigs by@Limarc

How to Write for Money: From Clickbait Listicles to Full-Time Gigs

Limarc Ambalina Hacker Noon profile picture

@LimarcLimarc Ambalina

Hacker Noon's VP of Growth by day, VR Gamer and Anime Binger by night

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Hey everyone! I'm sure many of you have spoken to me or seen my name poking around by now.

My name is Limarc (lee-mark) Ambalina and I started my professional writing career in 2015 with Valnet, a HUGE media company that owns: Screenrant, Gamerant, CBR, The Gamer, Review This, and more.

My most successful article received 1.8 million views in 1 month. 🎮

In 2016 I moved to Japan 🏯 to teach English and started freelance writing for http://blog.gaijinpot.com and http://keengamer.com and eventually found a full-time content writing gig on a marketing team for https://lionbridge.ai/.

During that time, I continued to write freelance and contribute to many publications including: https://zenmarket.jp/en/, http://kdnuggets.com, and of course http://hackernoon.com, all while maintaining my own blog about Japan on the side: http://jpbound.com.

Currently, I'm the VP of Growth at Hacker Noon and our Editor in charge of Gaming and AI.

You can ask me anything about:

✍content writing
💰finding writing gigs
📰starting your own blog
✍Writing for Hacker Noon

I'll be answering questions all week so don't be shy!

anthony watsonMar 29, 2021, 9:06 PM
Writing for Hacker Noon - what was the first story you wrote for Hacker Noon?
Limarc AmbalinaMar 29, 2021, 9:34 PM
anthony watson Great question. The article was this one about the difference between AR, VR, and MR and my answer has changed slightly from then until now:

https://hackernoon.com/augmented-reality-vs-mixed-reality-vs-virtual-reality-ik8730gv

I was working content marketing for Lionbridge AI at the time and wanted to get a feel of the Hacker Noon platform and wrote about something I was passionate about. A couple weeks after that post a company called https://hackernoon.com/telepresence-robots-are-the-future-for-remote-workers-an-interview-with-double-robotics-0t7b30iw messaged me on LinkedIn referencing the post and asked me if I'd write about them. (showing the power of getting published on Hacker Noon).

I still remember that article fondly because it led to my full-time position on Hacker Noon today! It's funny how one article can change the course of your life! Write everything with care.
Mar 29, 2021, 10:06 PM
How do you think one can land a technical content writing gig?
Limarc AmbalinaMar 30, 2021, 2:38 AM
So here is how in a nutshell:

1. Choose a niche or niches and write quality content within it. Write a variety of content: news pieces, reviews, guides, opinion pieces, interviews

2. Get published on as many tech blogs/pubs as you can

3. Learn SEO and social media marketing/promotion

4. Constantly search for jobs via as many platforms as you can: LinkedIn, Glassdoor, local job boards, etc.

5. Apply and wait

Rinse and repeat. I used to think finding jobs in writing is about knowing the right people, but it's not. It's about honing your craft, consistency, hard work, and constant searching. Luck comes to those who are prepared.

I'd also recommend working on selling yourself and your skills well. Some writers can write but they can't talk about their value in an interview or even in a cover letter.

Focus on accomplishments and numbers, not on your willingness to work hard.
anthony watsonMar 29, 2021, 10:20 PM
Limarc Ambalina it is tough to write in tech since the content is not quite as evergreen as one would like.
Limarc AmbalinaMar 30, 2021, 2:54 AM
anthony watson I'm not sure that is true. When I talk about evergreen content I do expect most pieces need to be updated yearly to stay relevant. The best python libraries in 2020 might not be the best in 2021.

The dangers of deepfakes may have been a big deal in 2019 but maybe we will see advancements in 2021 that combat this threats. The fact that tech is changing makes it all the more interesting to write about and talk about.
David SmookeMar 30, 2021, 3:24 PM
How have you optimized your routine to write more words per day?
anthony watsonMar 30, 2021, 10:25 PM
💰finding writing gigs I am curious about this. How does one scare up a full time income as a wordsmith?
Limarc AmbalinaMar 30, 2021, 10:38 PM
I must admit David Smooke with my new role I'm spending much more time editing than I am writing original content and I miss that part of my job for sure.

At my peak when I was writing full-time and managing 4 other freelance writing gigs on the side, optimizing your routine is paramount to maintaining a high output and a healthy lifestyle.

One major thing that increased my output while maintaining quality was creating templates for every article I wrote and following that template every time I wrote a similar article. A lot of my articles did well because they followed simple structures that provided people with a good user experience and ticked all the write on-page SEO boxes that allowed them to rank well on Google.

One of my favorite gigs was writing anime listicles for a Japanese publication:
Limarc AmbalinaMar 30, 2021, 10:38 PM
You'll notice that they follow pretty much the same structure.
Limarc AmbalinaMar 30, 2021, 10:43 PM
anthony watson that's the million dollar question right. Making a living writing isn't easy. Once you get enough clients you could make a living freelancing alone, but that comes with a lot of headaches and requires you to manage yourself, your taxes, your invoices, etc.

When I started, I was a full-time English teacher in Tokyo with 2-3 writing gigs on the side. If you want to find a stable writing job, you should build up a portfolio of articles in a niche you're interested in and then look for marketing content writing positions in that industry.

Unsurprisingly (since we're having this discussion on Hacker Noon), tech is one where you'll see lots of money and good writers are in demand because writers bring in money. Articles bring in potential users, which become leads, and eventually paying customers.
anthony watsonMar 30, 2021, 11:20 PM
Limarc Ambalina My big problem is I will not write for money. I really only write ummm....because I might die if I do not. People come to me and ask me to write things and this is the ridiculous thing I have been saying. "I write what I WANT to write. I am not really for hire. I just write stuff because I want to write it and I believe it, so I am going to pass."
Obviously not the purest capitalist response. I am really really struggling with it. I feel I am acting the fool. Why am I such a purist who won't write something I do not want to write for any amount of money? If I want to write it, I will. If I don't, NO AMOUNT of money has gotten me to do anything but write code. It is art for me. I do not want to prostitute it. I am a dummy:zany_face:
anthony watsonMar 30, 2021, 11:25 PM
Limarc Ambalina "Unsurprisingly (since we're having this discussion on Hacker Noon), tech is one where you'll see lots of money and good writers are in demand because writers bring in money. Articles bring in potential users, which become leads, and eventually paying customers." But I will write code for money. I will write some code for some money...💻💵😀
Limarc AmbalinaMar 30, 2021, 11:56 PM
I know this is my AMA haha but I wanna ask you a question because that interests me. Why can you write code for money but not words? anthony watson
anthony watsonMar 31, 2021, 12:08 AM
Limarc Ambalina yeah...tough one🤔 I cannot write just ANY code. I have turned down many recruiters sending me to Boeing or Raytheon or...any of the big defense contractors. I have to KNOW the code is meant to make money. If all the code is meant to do is make money then I can write it. I am completely and utterly mercenary about it. A hired brain to solve your problems. Plus being a neo-luddite and all...bossing the machines is the kind of heady stuff which dreams are made of! LOL SO yeah, I will boss that machine for you "mister rich dude" who cannot code, but don't tell me what to think!😀
anthony watsonMar 31, 2021, 12:11 AM
Limarc Ambalina BTW - I was going to ask you if you thought it was a reasonable AMA -> "how a neo-luddite became a coder"
anthony watsonMar 31, 2021, 12:14 AM
Limarc Ambalina I just noticed one of the writing gigs you had was at the gaijinpot. Does not gaijin mean round-eye? I used to refer to myself as a gaijin but then I thought it might be construed as racist to be calling out my round eyes. I don't know anymore. I stopped doing it. So enlighten me. What does Gaijin REALLY mean?
Limarc AmbalinaMar 31, 2021, 12:20 AM
I think you should definitely host an AMA!! And I'm not fluent in Japanese but the gai in gaijin means outside or overseas and jin means person so I don't know where you got round eyes from??
anthony watsonMar 31, 2021, 12:34 AM
Limarc Ambalina a Mormon coder who worked for me way back when and had done his mission in Japan. He spoke fluent Japanese. I was never sure if he was pulling my leg or not. He always liked to give this "pagan" a hard time, though it was always good-natured.
Muhammad BilalMar 31, 2021, 11:58 AM
Very straightforward question, what made you a writer and how do you define that drive that is to write?
Limarc AmbalinaMar 31, 2021, 3:17 PM
Great question Muhammad Bilal so from a young age I was always interested in media. I remember when we got our first computer I made my own desktop folder with my name on it and I thought it was super cool. I would save dragon ball z GIFs to my folder and even saving words in notepad was mindblowing to me.

That passion for media or tech transferred to video games when my father bought me a PlayStation 1 when I was 6 years old and the games I played there began to foster my love for stories.

Interestingly, I think a huge defining moment for me was in second grade. The teacher gave us the assignment of writing a short story. We were 6 and 7 year olds, so I don't know what she was expecting. But I took the assignment seriously. I went to the library and rented 8 children's books to get ideas from. That's where I discovered plagiarism. I thought "This is a good story. Why don't I just write this story down and read this to the class?"

So that's what I did. And after I read my story aloud, for the first time in my life I heard applause for something I'd written and my teacher said "I think we have a future writer on our hands!". But when I sat down at my desk I felt guilt, because I knew the story wasn't mine 😔. I made a silent vow to myself that the next time I read something aloud to the class, it would be something I'd written 21 years later....And here we are!
Limarc AmbalinaMar 31, 2021, 3:19 PM
For me there are 2 drives to write: one is validation. I think I'm a decently vain person and I deal with that by getting validation through my writing. Secondly, and more importantly, is the drive to tell an important story or the drive to share something you think is important. I can point to many stories that changed my life. If one of my stories change someone else's life in a small or large way, that's enough for me.
anthony watsonMar 31, 2021, 6:05 PM
Limarc Ambalina I should add hackernoon's superpeer invite made me think more "creatively" about how to monetize what I write. I mean if I am going to write it anyway, then.💵
Limarc AmbalinaApr 1, 2021, 2:44 AM
Monetization is a whole other huge topic. For someone as experienced as yourself, I'm sure there are ways you can monetize your own work.
anthony watsonApr 1, 2021, 1:58 PM
Limarc Ambalina but I was not thinking truly "creatively" until I thought about building out the superpeer profile. It triggered a deeper think about things
shahmeer khanApr 4, 2021, 6:41 PM
Limarc Ambalina What's the connection between journalism and content writing? Is it true that you need to take journalism courses to be a good writer?
Limarc AmbalinaApr 5, 2021, 6:28 PM
So I have never taken a journalism course, and do not have a journalism degree. Thus, I may be the best one to ask this question

But journalism is typically news, op-eds, investigative pieces. Content writing could include those topics, but more. Like if I'm writing guides on "How to Set Up Your WordPress Account" I don't think I'd call that journalism. But I would call it content writing.

Do you need to take journalism courses to be a good writer?

No. But I'm sure they would make you a better writer. I took creative writing courses and wrote mostly fiction during my college life, but those courses still helped me become a content writer and improved my reading and writing abilities.

Lead image via: Florian Klauer on Unsplash

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