For many people, being a freelance writer is a great way of earning valuable side income, while giving them the freedom to work from home.
This is great if you’re busy working on your physical product business, affiliate sites, digital product sites, or anything else for that matter.
Some people even do freelance writing as their full time profession.
One of my family members, who is at university, regularly makes over $50 per hour as a freelance writer, writing all sorts of things including descriptions of hotel rooms for hotel websites, dating and relationships articles, and more.
So, for today’s post, I’ve asked 6 successful freelance writers to reveal how much they make, and their top secrets to success.
Firstly, though here’s what freelance writing is all about…
Freelance writing is where you get paid, either on an hourly rate, or per page, or per word, for your writing.
There are a large number of niches out there that you can write for, and get paid varying amounts.
Others specialise in parenting, others in health niches, and many others have no specialty, and prefer to go for those random topics that they can do a little research on, and just get writing.
Just looking at this cross section of writers that I’ve interviewed, here’s a brief breakdown of who they are and what they’re making:
Sue – over $100,000
“About five years ago, I created a profile and began to apply for freelance jobs as a writer on O-Desk (now Upwork). Flash-forward to today… 2,764 recorded hours, 514 jobs, and over $100,000 in revenues later.
With a background in education and over 3 decades of teaching at all levels (K-12, college, and adults), I entered the world of freelancing to fulfill a life-long dream to write and to earn money in retirement.
Along the way, I have sharpened my writing/ editing skills, gained a ton of confidence, met wonderful clients, and felt great satisfaction in doing meaningful work. All in all, freelancing has afforded me a flexible way to work that gives me freedom and fun along the way – and some added funds help, too!”
Sue’s Top 2 Tips Are:
1. Create a strong profile
When making your profile, look at other freelancers’ profiles to get a feel of what is included and what attracts you as a reader. Be genuine and include your education and work experience that may be relevant to the types of freelancing jobs you seek. Be honest and describe the type of work you are interested in. If a resume is to be added, redo yours and make it relevant. Consider adding a portfolio to showcase a representation of your work. Overall, have a profile that is inviting, updated, condensed, yet complete.
2. Review the parameters of the online platform/other avenues
Spend some time looking at different online platforms/other avenues that generate job offerings. Read everything about the particular sources you want to engage with as a freelancer.
Look for costs involved and payment policies, participation requirements, rules for both freelancers and clients, quality assurances provided, mechanisms for feedback, etc. Once you understand how the platform/avenue works, you’re ready to create your profile and follow through on the necessary requirements to become a freelancer.
Penelope – $150,000 per year
“Freelancing has stretched my skills from journalism to copywriting and content writing on a wide range of topics and in a wide range of fields and industries. No week’s work is ever the same and I am continually learning.
Freelancing, and the internet, has also allowed me the freedom to live and work anywhere so I have been able to move to a beautiful coastal town and buy a lovely, spacious home with rural views that cost less than the price of a studio apartment in Sydney. I have a very low mortgage to pay off, less pressure to earn big money and a more relaxed lifestyle. “
Penelope’s Top Tips 2 Are:
1. Never put all your eggs in one basket
Several times, I have had just one or two clients who provided me with ample, regular work. Things change, however, and I have been left in the lurch when either the companies fold or change gears and no longer require my services.
This is like losing your full-time job with no severance pay. Finding new clients takes time and effort and in the meantime I have suffered financial difficulties. I now make sure I have a string of regular and semi-regular clients.
2. Cashflow is vital
Clients have different payment arrangements. Some pay immediately, some not for months. Not knowing when you will receive payments is living on the edge.
Regular clients who pay regularly (preferably weekly or fortnightly) are the lifeblood of your business. Actively seek out these clients and give them great service.
I keep a diary where I enter the amount of billable work I complete each day and keep track of when payments are due so I know my cashflow situation from week to week.
Paul – over $600,000
“I started freelance writing in August 2008 following a 16-year career with the BBC in London. Not only did I leave my TV producer job behind me, but I also waved goodbye to the UK for a new life in Spain.
Since then, I have built up a solid client base, but am always on the lookout for new opportunities. So far, my writing career is going well and I have earned more than $600,000.
In addition to a reasonable living, I am my own boss, can pick and choose my clients and have a greater work-life harmony than I did when I was a salaried employee.”
Paul’s Top 2 Tips Are:
1. Never negotiate your writing rates
Once you have set your rates, stick to them. Never compromise. If you don’t fix your rates, your clients will, and it is never a good idea to have them dictate what you should earn. Lawyers and doctors don’t negotiate their rates, so why should you?
2. Look for work while you’re busy
If you wait for your workload to slow down before looking for new jobs, you will soon run into problems, because there are no guarantees you’ll pick up anything. Devote time every day to searching for work. That way, you increase your chances of a continual flow of projects.
Nicola – over $35,000
“I work as a freelance writer, mainly specialising in travel, health & beauty, and self-help topics, and I work remotely, i.e. I travel and work at the same time.
This freedom has allowed me to experience so much more than I would have done had I stuck with my regular 9-5 job as a clinical typist within a large hospital in the UK – all thanks to the wonder of the Internet!
Over the last seven years I have earned just over $35,000, funding my travel lifestyle and giving me the time to continue to build up clients and contracts on the go. “
Nicola’s Top 2 Tips Are:
1. Treat it as a Job
It’s very easy to be distracted when you are working from home or from somewhere which isn’t a literal workplace, and at the start I was very easily led in terms of ‘let’s go out for a coffee’, instead of working.
Nowadays I plan my work for the week, tweaking if necessary, and I give myself one day off per week. I also work set hours, from 10am to 6pm, to give me spare time to do the things I enjoy.
2. Pick Your Clients Carefully
At the beginning it’s worth taking lower paid contracts, to build up your portfolio, but never do any work without a contract. I did make this rookie mistake right at the start of my career, but I’ve learnt from it since.
There are many unscrupulous folks out there who like to take credit for work without paying the fee, so always protect yourself in writing. I also learnt not to overload myself with low paid contracts, and miss out on the bigger ones.
Natalie – over $163,000
“Freelancing as a writer is a “second career” choice for me; a choice made in part because of the need for extra income and in part because of the desire to do something that fulfilled my passion for the written word.
The past decade has been an incredible experience of personal satisfaction and financial reward and over the next few paragraphs, I’d like to share with you 2 of my secrets for building a successful career as a freelance writer.”
Natalie’s Top Tip is:
Choose Your Niche Wisely
If you’re going to pursue a career in freelance writing, it’s an art you will work every day to perfect. Find a topic that you can be passionate about. Find something that you never tire of reading, writing or talking about.
instance, I typically provide work for the business and personal finance niche. But more specifically, business and personal finance topics focused on Millennials, Gen Z, and currently evolving financial technology.
The more specific you are in your arena, the more valuable your knowledge becomes to clients and readers.
Laura Pennington – over $163,000 per year
“I broke away from a dead-end job thanks to freelancing and my income has increased every year since. I love what I do and I enjoy doing something different each day. Working with my clients gives me maximum freedom and flexibility. I get to use my mind and get creative figuring out the best solutions for clients.
For five years, I’ve been able to work on my time and my own terms and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Laura’s Top 2 Tips Are:
1. Don’t be afraid to turn people down or fire clients who are no longer right for you. By keeping your time, energy, and brainpower open only for the ideal fit, you’ll love what you do and avoid burnout.
2. Work on landing retainers- planning your income every month is the most important thing you can do to ease your fears as you break into freelancing. Focus on clients who want to work with you month in and month out over one-off projects that require you to hit the marketing drawing board all over again when you’re done.
Also… Read, Research, Repeat
Once you’ve evaluated your interests and passions and determined what you truly want to write about – educate yourself. Research and learning in your chosen arena never ends.
Each day, I find there are developments in the world of financial technology that requires me to study and read to stay abreast of all that is happening. I must remain relevant with my writing to provide value to my clients.
If you’ve considering becoming a freelance writer but aren’t sure where or how to start then I highly recommend that you check out this awesome new program by Laura Pennington.
Inside you’ll discover how to get started, how to land clients, how to go about your writing, great networks for freelancers to get paid, and much more.
Check out this video here from Laura: