For centuries (and perhaps longer), writing poetry was seen as a skill practiced by scholars, philosophers, and later by ladies and gentlemen of breeding who might view poetry as an essential skill that rounded off both their education and cemented their social standing.
It might have been distinctly “lower” class to expect to be paid any great amount for their works – and actually making a steady income from poetry would be frowned upon by polite society.
Thankfully over time, attitudes changed. But even today, people ask if it is possible to make a living from writing poetry.
It is true that poetry is nowhere as lucrative as fiction.
There are very few poets who will attain the wealth of a J.K Rowling of Harry Potter fame or Of George R.R. Martin with his “Song of Ice and Fire” series (and of course, big-budget movies and television series do help), but it is possible to supplement your income by writing poetry – and in some instances actually make a full-time job of it.
It takes some research and perseverance. Here are some factors to take into account if you are contemplating a career as a poet.
What Do You Need To Get Started?
They say that inspiration is 99% perspiration. You are going to have to put in the hours in order to hone your approach to poetry – and develop your unique voice.
One of the first steps to being a successful poet is to read the works of others. Study just how they used words and how they tell a story – and the various forms of poetry and the rules that govern them.
Even free verse has its rules. Know forms like rhythmic poetry, epics, sonnets, and many others. You will find your unique style, but you have to know the rules before you can break them.
Attend poetry recitations. Writing poetry may rely to a certain extent on knowing your parts of speech, such as alliteration. But there is a sort of music to poetry when it is read aloud, a cadence, structure, and flow.
The more you hear that, the better you will be able to produce poetry that provides a living experience to those who are reading it. Most bookstores will have poetry reading functions – and many live venues will welcome up-and-coming poets. Make sure that you are in attendance.
Manage your own expectations. Just as many famous authors started off with short stories, don’t dive into an epic. Haikus and short rhythmic pieces can help you to hone your skills. It’s a truism that quantity does not equal quality.
A tight seven lines are much more attractive to the reader than page upon page of rambling epic style poetry. There’s a reason that traveling poets and bards were so well respected in cultures across the globe – they had honed their skills over many, many years.
Any good tradesman needs to have the right tools. Don’t shun the thesaurus (use them with care – some synonyms may not match what you are trying to say) or dictionary.
There are also a number of other guides that can help you with anything from finding the right rhyming words to tools like writers wheels that allow you to match particular words with particular emotions.
Some tools can even help you to craft metaphors. There are a wealth of these sorts of tools on the Internet – and many of them are free to use.
It may be helpful be think of your poem as a painting; after all, what you are trying to do is evoke emotion and imagery. Always keep in mind that what you are doing is telling a story.
A great example is “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. This is a poem that contains just as much mortal dread and downright fear as any big-budget horror movie. It paints a picture, it uses sound, and it is a perfect example is just how effective poetry can be at conveying strong emotion.
It’s worth repeating – delve into the classics; they have an incredible amount to offer.
This one is important. Anyone starting on their journey to a career as a poet should take every available opportunity to reach out to other poets. We have already mentioned poetry recitations, but there are plenty of other opportunities to interface with like-minded people.
For instance, social media has opened up whole new vistas when it comes to discussion of various art forms – and poverty is no exception. Join a Facebook group or a Reddit forum. You will be pleasantly surprised at how eager other poets are to discuss their thoughts and work.
There’s also the fact that when the going gets tough, those people can be incredibly supportive.
What Is The Easiest Way To Make Money From Writing Poetry?
Someone cynical might say that there is no “easy” way to make money writing poetry. However, make no mistake, the power of the Internet has made it far easier to break into the poetry scene – and start to make money from your passion.
There are some tried and proven methods of marketing yourself – and perhaps adding a little to your bank balance. Start slowly and persevere.
First and foremost, identify the audience that you will write for – it’ll help you with the subject matter and, in some instances, the form of poetry that is most suitable for particular readers.
There are many potential buyers of the poetry that you produce. These include those who want a poem for a special occasion such as a wedding or an anniversary (Valentine’s Day presents a great opportunity).
Casual readers who simply enjoy poetry for its own sake, those who want a unique expression to use in home decor (this is more popular than you might think), and people who are looking for that unique gift. Even ad and marketing agencies and human resources departments make use of poetry.
You are going to have to learn to sell – that is an unfortunate reality in any business. Focus on the pitches that you make and emphasize the unique nature of your offering and the ways that it could be used.
People are by nature curious about unusual approaches – you never know when that cold call might pay very real dividends.
Ways To Earn From Your Poetry Online
Let’s take a closer look at online opportunities.
Fiverr is a fabulous website. The idea behind it is that people hire others to do a particular job for $5. In reality, the fees are usually more than that.
Offer to write a custom poem for an amount that makes you comfortable – and be sure to include examples of your work (with images) – you want to make a great impression. Bonus: it is incredibly easy to create a profile and set up a portfolio.
Another online option is Etsy. It has a huge fan base, which improves your chances of making a sale.
Your Own Website
Having your own website is an absolute necessity. It allows you to showcase your work – and it’s a web address you are going to want on your business cards (and yes, you do need business cards). Get enough visitors to the site, and you can start searching for ways to make advertising revenue.
Make use of social media to promote the site. There are several free website builders out there that are easy to use, but you may want to get the advice of a professional web designer.
Remember, with a website, you can also sell “on-demand” items like greeting cards, caps, posters, coffee mugs, and t-shirts. You may have to invest in editing and design software – but there are some great options that you can try out for free and then pay a low monthly fee for use.
Those designs are also perfect for use on Etsy.
Then there is the option of self-publishing. This is not a simple vanity project. It’s a great way to get your name and your work out here. The increasing popularity of e-Readers also means that self-publishing is no longer the expensive option that it was not so long ago.
How Much Money Can You Make From Poetry?
That’s an extremely difficult question to answer. Tastes change and what was once popular may not appeal to readers in another season.
If you can keep your finger on the pulse of trends, continue to post your work on a variety of sites – and think carefully about products that leverage your written words (like ‘on-demand merchandise). You could make a comfortable living.
Poets do not tend to be ultra-wealthy – but they do command respect – and they are doing something they love.
For more information, read our ultimate guide to making money from your hobbies here.
Can You Make Poetry A Career?
Yes, you can. But you will need to master your craft and find your unique voice first. And persevere. Never stop looking for opportunities. And go that extra mile to leverage those opportunities.
Can You Make Money As A Beginner?
Yes, you can – but there are caveats. You need to know your audience and cater to their needs. It may also take some time, and the going may be slow in the beginning. But once you have built a portfolio of work, your income should grow exponentially.