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Freelance Writing Jobs Advice: How Much Should You Pay Yourself as a Freelance Writer

Updated on October 5, 2010

Freelance writing is one of those careers where salaries can vary widely from month to month. Recently, a freelance writer wrote in to me asking the following: In part she wrote:

. . . I would like to know how much should we pay ourselves as freelance writers. I know the basics that we have to take into account our business expenses and personal expenses. But my goal is to make $5,000 a month, that's the salary I would like to pay myself. … if I pay myself $5,000 a month, don't I have to generate at least $10,000 in revenue?

Before I answer this, let me back up and give you a look at freelance writer salaries from an industry standpoint so you won’t be looking at numbers in a vacuum.

How Much Do Freelance Writers Make: What is the Average Salary of a Freelance Writer?

Freelance writing is such a wide field that asking how much to pay yourself is like asking how long should a piece of string be. For example, there’s SEO content writing, press release writing, medical writing, sales letter writing, etc. And, then there are subspecialists within these specialties.

To further complicate the equation, there’s the matter of freelance writing rates, which determines salary. What to charge is a perennial question for freelance writers and rates are all over the place. If you factor geography into the equation, what you have is a royal, not-so-straightforward answer.

So as I know this freelancer is a web writer, I’m assuming she meant how much web writers make. I went to and found that the U.S. national average for web (online) writing, ranges from about $37,500 to a bit more than $51,500.

Based on my experience, this is dead on. Of course, the more experienced you are and the longer you’re in the game, the more money you make. This I know from personal experience, of course.

How Salaries for Freelance Writes Compare with Overall Median Household Income in the U.S.

According to a press release put out by the Census Bureau in September 2010, the real median household income in the United States in 2009 was almost $50,000. To be exact, it was $49,777.

So as far as freelance writer salaries go, we’re in the ballpark and are not exactly starving artists like a lot of people think. If you ask me, this makes it a great career for anyone to start because it’s low overhead as far as starting. And, within a few months, you could be bringing in $1,000-$3,000 pretty easily. This is especially true if you get into Seo copywriting.

How I Determine What My Salary Is as a Freelance Writer

My income can vary by as much as 30% from month to month. This is because I own an SEO copywriting services firm with standing content orders. These are my bread and butter clients. Then, if special orders come in, eg, a case study or two for $750 a pop, my income can jump by 25% or 35% or more.

I’ve been freelancing since 1993, and I basically pay myself what I need to live on. As a prolific saver, I sock away the balance. I don’t recommend this method for newbies and/or those who aren’t accustomed to the freelance writing life because you have to be very judicious about not overspending, for example, when you get a big lump sum payment.

You have to consistently save to even out the dry spells (which happens to every freelance writer).

If you’re new to freelance writing, read about the 60-20-20 rule for how to structure your freelance writing salary so you save enough, pay yourself enough and have enough to cover business expenses and taxes.


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    • georgescifo profile image

      georgescifo 5 years ago from India

      The figures of freelance writing jobs are quite impressive as per the hub. But in India, the figures are too low :(

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Excellent job which allows me to structure my, "I wanna be a writer" fantasy within the framework of actual information. Thank you...I look forward to reading your other articles!


    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      Thanks researching the info of the national average salary numbers for web writers. Very interesting.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very interesting and informative. Your crredentials and experience are impressive. SHARING