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Freelance Writing Advice: How to Make Between $35,000 and $50,000 Your First Year

Updated on April 9, 2010

Freelance writing is a work-from-home career where you can easily earn between $35,000 to $50,000 your first year – with no experience. As a freelance writer since 1993, I’ve seen the market evolve to this point; it’s much easier to start making a full-time salary in this range now than it was when I first started.

If you’re shaking your head thinking, “That’s a crock; it’s not possible.” Then let me explain to you exactly how it is – in three simple steps.

1. Choose a Niche: In my opinion, this is the first key to making $35,000 to $50,000 your first year. To illustrate why, let me pull on past experience and tell you a little story.

I owned/operated an editorial staffing agency in New York City from 1996-2004. My firm recruited all kinds of editorial talent, eg, copy editors, editors, proofreaders, indexers (does anybody use these anymore?), illustrators, etc., for large companies like McGraw-Hill and Random House.

And you know what? When an editor or the HR department would call seeking talent, they always requested that the temp have experience in the discipline (the niche) they were hiring for. For example, if it was legal copy, they wanted a legal copy editor.

I recount this to highlight a belief I hold strongly – in order to succeed quickly as a freelance writer, you should specialize. Too many freelancers – especially newbies – make the mistake of trying to be a jack of all trades. And while you may get work – in my opinion it takes longer to become successful going this route.

Cultivating a specialty makes it easier to market for work as well, which brings us to the next point.

2. Market Consistently: Many freelancers – especially newbies – stop marketing once they get a job. Then, they start again once they complete a project and turn it in.

This is a mistake, because it sets you up for living a feast or famine existence. You should market all the time, not just when you need work. The easiest way to do this is to make it a habit. Set up a marketing calendar so that you make a certain number of contacts each day/week. For example, send out 10 emails to new prospects every day. Or, 5 to new prospects and 5 to clients you already have asking if they have additional work.

FYI, marketing experts estimate that it costs 7 times more to obtain a new client as to market to old ones. So, once you land a client, don’t forget to follow up with them on a regular schedule.

If you do this, before you know it, you will have clients coming out of your ears – and I speak from first-hand experience, of course.

One other thing, when you specialize, you find contacts easier (because you’re focusing on one type of client instead of “any client who may need writing work). When you land clients, it cuts down on research time as well, because you’re focusing on one type of content. So if you’re writing SEO content, for example, the research you do for Client A could very well be used for Client B.

This is what I mean when I say that cultivating a specialty makes it easier to market for work.

Crunching the Numbers: Here’s What It Takes to Make $50,000 Per Year as a Freelance Writer

Let’s crunchy some numbers for fun. To make $50,000 per year, you’d need to pull in $4,166 per month. If you work M-F each week, that’s 20 work days per month, or $208 per work day. This is relatively easy to achieve if you . . .

3. Price Your Services Right: This is one of the biggest mistakes most new freelance writers make . . . they charge too little for their services. And, this is why so many struggle to make a living wage.

Using my SEO writing company’s current pricing, let me illustrate how easy $208 per work day is to achieve.

New Media Words charges $25 to $35 for blog posts (250 words). We charge $35 to $60 per SEO article (350-500 words).

On any given day, we’re turning out copy for 3, 4 or five clients, which can be up to 20 pieces of content per day. On the low end (eg, 20 blog posts at $25, that’s $500 per day). On the high end, that’s $1,200 --- again, that’s per day.

And we charge a LOT less than many other SEO content firms.

One Final Tip for Making $35,000 to $50,000 Per Year

SEO writing is a fast-growing, well-paying freelance writing niche. And, there’s much less competition for this type of writing because many freelance writers haven’t taken the time to learn how to do this type of writing.

When I started providing SEO content to clients in 2007, I got so busy within a couple of months that I had to hire other SEO writers to help me meet deadlines. I’ve found this to be common for other SEO article writers as well.

Now that you see how easy it is to make $50,000 per year your first year as a freelance writer, what are you waiting for?

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