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Want to Make $100k or More as a Freelance Writer? Successful Freelancers Share Their Advice

Updated on August 15, 2020
Mariah Bruce profile image

Mariah Bruce is a business student and freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon.

Success in the world of freelance writing depends on hours of hard work, and a little bit of luck.
Success in the world of freelance writing depends on hours of hard work, and a little bit of luck. | Source

As many freelance writers know, success doesn’t happen overnight. Success in the world of freelancing is the result of strategic positioning, hours of hard work, and good timing. The lucky few who stick with it and make a lucrative career out of freelance writing enjoy schedule flexibility, choosing their own clients, naming their own pay rate, and many other perks of the job. If you are ready to get serious about your freelance writing career, then follow the advice of these five freelance writers, who all raked in six figures last year.

Know the Value Of Your Time

Depending on the types of stories and projects you take on, getting from initial contact with a client to payment can be time-consuming. After you gather sources, perform research, conduct interviews, upload and optimize content for the web, and finish polishing and edits, you’ve likely spent 6 hours or more on a single article.

Ann Adams made $103,000 freelance writing in 2018 and says she is strategic about how much energy she is willing to exert per client. Ann was able to grow her business from $40,000 to six figures in the past nine years by being picky with which clients she agreed to work with, and being assertive when asking for a raise when warranted.

Ann says it is her goal to earn $100 per hour, so if she doesn’t think an assignment will net her at least that, she negotiates or simply doesn’t waste her time. She is unapologetically picky about who she works with.

Many new freelancers lack the confidence to be assertive in asking what they want from the client. The great thing about freelancing is that you have the power to choose which clients you want to work with. If clients are unclear about what they want or don’t provide clear directions, they will probably eat up your time and not pay for it. If the client will require multiple edits, Ann expects a higher payment. Either way, the payment for that time should be discussed before you agree to anything. Remember, you have the power to say no to clients that won’t help you grow or represent your image.

The graph shows gross revenue for freelance writers surveyed in 2018.
The graph shows gross revenue for freelance writers surveyed in 2018. | Source

Consider Freelancing a Full-Time Job

Another great thing about freelancing is that it provides you the flexibility to work when you want and create your own schedule. Some people think that means freelancing is “easy” work, but many successful freelancers know that is simply not the case.

Marygrace Taylor works as a freelance health and wellness writer and she treats freelancing like pretty much any other nine-to-five office job. She says that her strict schedule helps her get and keep regular clients, because freelancers have a reputation for being unreliable. This sets her apart from the rest of the crowd and she wastes less time writing pitches because clients come to her instead. The steady flow of incoming clients earned Marygrace a sum of $150,000 freelancing last year.

You will have a tough time being a successful freelancer is you can’t maintain a work-life balance. It’s important to have dedicated time each day to working on writing projects, and then know when to close your laptop and get some much-needed rest and relaxation. On a typical day, you should wake up early, spend time writing, answer emails, take brief breaks including one for lunch, then log off at a decent hour. You should take a day off at least one day a week and schedule a vacation often enough to stay refreshed, but plan it in advance just like you would at a regular office job.

Develop A Financial Plan

Dori Zinn started freelancing part-time several years ago while working other jobs. Last year, she decided to fully devote herself to freelance writing full-time and earned about $144,000. She found a lot of motivation after going through a series of layoffs, when she realized she already had all the tools she needed to succeed. So, she started pitching every editor she could find.

At first, she didn’t have the confidence to handle the ebbs and flows of self-employment, and she felt like she had failed. But once she outlined how much she actually needed to make to survive and make financial plans for the future, she saw some hope. Within six months of her second layoff, she earned nearly $16,000 in a month and she had earned her confidence back.

Dori says there are a few steps to making full-time freelancing a career reality:

  • Know how much you need to survive
  • Decide how to choose gigs that pay for the time they will require
  • Understand how and when to ask for a higher rate
  • Have a game plan for your business

Not only will you feel more comfortable and secure in your freelancing work, but it can help with your focus as a freelancer, too. One you know the initial figure needed to make ends meet, invest in the future, and save a little, you can then determine how much you should charge potential clients per hour, and start working your way up to six figures. Dori also encourages people to not be afraid of asking for more money – especially when you have proven yourself by delivering quality work on time. If an editor declines, ask what you can do in the future, and don’t be afraid to be assertive. If you’re working too much, consider dropping your lowest-paying client. It’s a crucial step to moving up financially, though it can be difficult.

The graph shows that freelancers with recurring clients earn more one average.
The graph shows that freelancers with recurring clients earn more one average. | Source

Don't Take It Personally

It’s a huge personal investment when writers decide to turn their passions into full-time writing careers. You’ll have to put yourself out there and face the fear of rejection over and over. Unfortunately, this problem is still one that many writers face even after they have years of experience under their belt.

Alexandra Sheehan made $175,000 as a B2B content writer. She says her success boils down to a few simple things: delivering quality work, and remaining professional (not taking things too personally). The thing about writing is that feels very personal. Even if you are a ghostwriter, it’s hard not to take things personally when your piece is edited beyond recognition.

But it’s important not to get discouraged, because it will only slow you down in the process of making a reliable income by freelance writing. In this field, your work will constantly be scrutinized and picked apart, so try not to get too attached to your work. It’s also hard to take constructive criticism or helpful feedback when you are too personally close or emotionally attached to your work. You’ll have to grow a thick skin and have a high level of self-confidence if you want to make a reliable income with freelance writing.

Always Be Reliable

When Wendy Rose Gould first started freelancing, she barely earned $25,000 a year. She says it took a lot of patience and hustle to get to where she is today, and now she can’t imagine working a 9 to 5 job. Wendy earned $115,000 last year as a freelance lifestyle reporter, and she projects even more next year.

Wendy says she adopted a “business mindset” when it comes to her freelance writing hustle. This mindset applies to the writing itself, pitching and bringing on new clients, administrative tasks, and having a productive daily routine. The best way to avoid time-consuming and costly edits? Take time to thoroughly read and review your stories so that they don’t require very many edits. That means finding excellent sources, thinking about the overall structure of the pieces (rather than just throwing sentences together) and going out of your way to make the editor’s job easier. Nurturing business relationships is a great way to ensure that clients keep coming back.

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    • sachnikh profile image

      Nikhil Sharma 

      10 months ago from India

      Hi, Mariah.

      This is such an eye-opening and truthful summary of the life of a freelancer. You've clearly described some of the common issues that writers face when starting their full-time freelance writing journey.

      I can relate myself to each and every circumstance you've shared here. Being a freelance writer is extremely easy for a few writers while extremely difficult for most of us.

      I also started my freelancing journey since January this year and I've gone through many ups and downs since then. I've experienced and learned a lot during these nine months.

      With the real-life stories of a few successful freelance writers, it makes this article more valuable!

      Congratulations and thanks for this amazing work!

    • Ben716 profile image

      Alianess Benny Njuguna 

      11 months ago from Kenya

      This is an inspiring article. It is a fact freelancing is not usually easy particularly the rate of rejection and some submissions going unanswered. Great article.

    • Drew Agravante profile image

      Drew Agravante 

      11 months ago from Philippines, Currently in Qatar

      It is of utmost importance to understand a lot of these things. Most of the new writers think that a few articles will get them the bucks. Strategizing and finding the right places as is just as important. Thanks for the awesome article.

    • talesofvikram profile image

      Vikram Brahma 

      11 months ago from Assam, India

      Whenever people share some real-life inspiring information I just love those articles. Your article motivated me to work even harder towards my goal. Thank you, Mariah, for sharing such an inspiring article.

    • powers41 profile image

      fran rooks 

      11 months ago from Toledo, Ohio

      Mariah, you sound so professional about the business of getting clients, self-confidence, billing, etc. But what if you're not a professional, how can you get clients, make money? If one only has office skills as an example, how can one earn anything? Tour articles are inspiring!

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