How I Quintupled My Freelance Writing Income in 1 Year

Earning 5X from Freelance Writing in Just One Year. Makealivingwriting.comOne of my goals as a freelance writer is to make good money.

I’m not quite to my freelance writing income goal yet, but 2015 was a very good year. To be precise, I quintupled what I made the year before. I went from four figures in 2014 to a much healthier five figures in 2015.

When I analyzed it, I found my success last year happened because I made some serious changes in the way I run my freelance writing business.

Here are the 10 key actions I took to turbo-charge my earnings:

1. Changed my mind

I stopped trying to be a purist who only writes about green business. I continue to pursue green business clients, but I also took assignments in the broader business realm.

One of these was financial writing. As an MBA, I’m comfortable with the subject. And the assignment – condensing rather dry insurance documents into something much more engaging for an online, consumer audience – kept my writing muscles strong.

2. Put rejection in perspective

After listening to far better writers talk about their rejections, it suddenly didn’t feel personal anymore. It’s like accepting that if you want to swim, you will get wet!

Am I now pitching ideas to anyone who breathes, never caring what they say? Nope. But rejection is not the show-stopping event it once was. I just move on to the next pitch.

3. Boosted my confidence

I attended Freelance Writer’s Den Webinars and the Authority Rainmaker conference in 2015. With this commitment to my own professional development, I know I’m staying on top of my game. And I share what I learn from these events with my clients, so they know it, too.

4. Charged more

The more I wrote, the more I learned about what a reasonable price for content writing really is.

In one case, a client asked for longer blog posts, but the offered price was below my (newly higher) range. So I said:

“You know, I’d love to keep writing for you, but my prices for blog posts have gone up. I can do one blog post for $X (my price) instead of two for the lower price.”

His response: “No problem.”

5. Set concrete goals

From checking the Freelance Writers Den job board twice a week to visiting LinkedIn regularly, I built prospecting into my week as a key task to accomplish.

I spent less time waiting and seeing how it goes with marketing already sent out, and more time contacting people directly. I found that was the most effective way of actually getting work.

6. Embraced my introverted spirit

The corporate world is all about competition.

“Let’s beat the other guy!”

“We gotta be Number #1!”

“It’s all about winning!”

Absolutely NONE of this resonates with me.

So I learned to avoid jobs that were described using sports analogies or other sorts of hyper win/lose terminology. And I succeeded in finding more of my best clients.

7. Worked full-time

I take writing as seriously as any corporate job I’ve held. But that wasn’t always the case.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t always giving my business a full-time focus. Now I spend less time sneaking off to read Facebook and more time searching LinkedIn for prospects.

I LOVE my work now in a way that I didn’t when I was working in a corporate job. I manage my time carefully, and I try to under-promise and over-deliver.

And because there’s no “Great Green Content” without me, I don’t feel guilty about booking time during the work week for priorities like my health and my family.

8. Learned from my mistakes

One of my assignments went south last year. I actually returned money to a client who was dissatisfied with my work. That wasn’t great for my bottom line, but far more painful was the embarrassment.

Instead of retreating under the covers for a week, I asked an expert for feedback. They were generous in explaining how I had missed the boat.

I also learned that I had not asked the client for what I really needed to do a bang-up job. I won’t make that mistake in 2016.

9. Moved on more quickly

They say, “Good things come to those who wait.” But that’s not true for writing jobs.

If a client is serious, they’ll get back to you — fast. For the finance website I landed, I heard back within 24 hours of replying to their job posting.

How much of my income came from that one client in 2015? Fifty percent!

I spent less time wondering about leads that hadn’t responded to me and focused on those who clearly were ready to hire a writer.

10. Measured my results regularly

One of my motivators was sitting down with Freshbooks (my accounting software) mid-year and seeing just how low my income was.

Instead of panicking, I became determined to change things. As my income grew month by month, visiting Freshbooks became a joy and a further motivator.

Increase your freelance writing income

Of all of these tactics, changing my mind was the most powerful. The difference in how I felt each day – in terms of confidence, determination, and energy – was immeasurable.

Give these tactics a try in your own freelance writing business and see how much you can increase your income.

How have you grown your freelance writing income? Tell us in the comments below.

Alison Lueders is the founder of Great Green Content. She helps companies share their green business success stories in ways that are truthful, useful, and fun.

Earn Big with E-Learning: Break into this fast-growing market. 4-Week Bootcamp starts February 1. LEARN MORE. Presented by Vicki Kunkel of Digital Wits and Carol Tice, Den Mother

50 comments on “How I Quintupled My Freelance Writing Income in 1 Year
  1. Dave Lynch says:

    Moving on quickly I think is a “big thing”.

    I found that I was busying myself working and let my website flounder instead of using it to promote myself with content that showed off my skills.

    And I floundered too because I wasn’t measuring my income. Management by measurement is my 2016 NY Resolution!

    • Thanks, Dave! “Moving on” is a “big thing.” I can be rather literal when people tell me they’ll be in touch – and then they aren’t. Your time is too valuable to waste!

  2. jean compton says:

    #6 particularly resonates with me. I definitely consider myself more of an introvert–and not a sports fan!

  3. Like Dave Lynch I too had immersed myself in writing so much that I neglected every other aspect of my business. Then when I lost one client I felt the world crumbling around me.

    I learned pretty fast that I had to set aside time for prospecting every week and not just whenever I bothered to check the jobs boards.

    Great post and I think I’ll check out that Freshbooks software. Nothing like money (or lack of it) to motivate you 🙂

  4. I like #6 best too: you can tell quite a bit about a client’s potential “fit” by the tone of the writing in their posts. My favorite niche is holistic health, and my website’s home page now opens with the words:

    I create brand-building posts for organizations that guide their clients in overcoming emotional struggles and creating better lives. My primary focus, which also helps advance organizational missions by providing helpful advice to the public, is inspirational peer-to-peer writing that motivates individuals to become their own best selves.

    You care about your clients. You want to give them–and others like them–the best possible encouragement for overcoming their struggles.

    • #6 took me years to admit. One thing that made a big difference was reading Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” Her research helped me not just understand, but really embrace this aspect of myself.

  5. Vanessa says:

    Loved your analogy of how accepting rejection as a freelancer is like accepting that you’re going to get wet swimming- so true. And it helps to hear how you negotiated your rate with an existing client.

    Thanks for sharing the hiccups too- like I tell my children, all you can do is your best. We are always learning.

    Congrats on your income success!

  6. KAREN BRIGGS says:

    Way to go! All true change begins within and embracing who we really are is a huge step! When we embrace ourselves, the Universe is not confused about what goodies to send us! Kudos, also, for finding out where you went wrong, so you are less likely to repeat the mistake. We have to be about picking ourselves up, learning and growing. You are there! HAPPY PROSPEROUS 2016!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Angela Tague says:

    Such great, honest advice. When I started freelancing as a full-time job, I didn’t devote full-time hours to the craft because I was also planning a wedding and was easily distracted. But now that I do schedule set hours each day and make goals for each week, it’s making a huge difference. Write on!! ~Angela

  8. John Douglas Moroz says:

    All great posts and I enjoyed reading the article and again as already stated #6 does resonate with me. Here is the kicker. I am new to the writing environment after retiring from the Real Estate industry, both as a sales person and then as a Broker up here in the cold north (Canada). However, I do have an interest both in the R E industry as well as the past planning and design business prior. In both cases much of the work… least the way I practiced it, was in writing promotional materials as well as business valuations, the latter being somewhat dry but to the point. Would be interested in any advise from those who have been writing in the B to B areas.

    • Carol Tice says:

      John, I’m not sure real estate is considered a B2B niche, unless maybe it’s commercial real estate.

      But there’s certainly opportunity in this topic, from writing for Realtor trade publications to doing case studies for construction and engineering firms, and so on.

  9. Jorden Roper says:

    Love how you mentioned that one of your tactics was changing your mind about your niche! Last year, I started specializing in multiple niches instead of just one, and it helped me a lot too.

    Congrats on growing your freelance income so much, Alison! 🙂

    • Hi Jorden – that’s great news about your multiple niches. I know many people struggle with finding their niche, and if you do well with several, then more power to you!

  10. Willi M says:

    This is fabulous — I always tell people that even though I only write part-time, the rest of my full-time job is spent marketing. This is really encouraging as I hope to double my income this year.

  11. Abby says:

    Interesting read, as always. I am particularly interested in the idea of tracking my earnings and expenses so I can have a better idea of how I am doing on my income goals. Does anyone use a free version of a similar software that I can start using now while my earnings are still low?

  12. David Throop says:

    Thanks for the honest reflection on what you did to make positive changes in your freelance writing. It’s always refreshing to hear from others who are on the same journey how they are building themselves up.

    For me, your point #5 – about setting concrete goals was an important one, and one that I think we freelancers often overlook. I’ve been working on building a foundation of who, where and how often I reach out to others for freelance work as one of my goals. I guess that ties in nicely with #7 – work full time! – even when it’s a part-time career path like it is for me.

    Thanks again for sharing your experience.

  13. Katie O'Hara says:

    Awesome post! Very helpful and relevant tips. And I love your niche; I’m big on sustainability stuff, so that’s one of the areas I’m trying to aim for in my own revamped marketing attempts. Checking out your site now!

  14. Linda says:

    What you did in 2015 I started for 2016 in December. But while reading your post I realized that in reality I’m probably a #6.

    Reviewing your steps confirmed that I’ve begun going the right direction. It’s exciting to see how you benefited and increased your income. Thanks for sharing this. I’ll review your post often as a reminder and keep me on track for what’s needed to quadruple my income.

    Plus, I’ve recognized I have 2-3 niche markets giving me multiple options so not all my eggs are in one basket, as they say. I’ve always preferred that, now I’ve regained that goal. Sweet.

    Thanks again for sharing. Valuable to many in a variety of ways.

  15. Peter DeHaan says:

    I have often been surprised at the “no problem” response to a quote. Then I kick myself for not quoting the higher number I first considered but was afraid to give.

    • Linda says:

      I do the same thing Peter. But after a few of those you start quoting the higher price and when they say “No Problem” you dance all the way to the bank.

      • Carol Tice says:

        I saw a great training from Derek Halpern at Social Triggers recently, that it’s INCUMBENT on all freelancers and coaches to KEEP RAISING PRICES until you make less money — you get fewer or no buyers. Keep on naming bigger numbers, as long as you keep getting the ‘no problem’ response! See how high you can go.

        Most freelance writers I meet are radically underpricing themselves, and there’s a lot of upside potential.

  16. Excellent advice! When I first started writing, #2, dealing with rejection was a problem. Today, I don’t take it personal. After a couple or three queries, if I don’t hear from the editor, I move on. There are many magazines that need writers who have creative ideas, meet deadlines and are easy to work with!
    Thanks for sharing what works for you.

  17. Hi Alison (and Carol),

    Congrats on quintupling your income! That’s amazing. All your points are good ones, but the two that had me nodding in approval when I read them were putting rejections in perspective and charging more.

    In regards to the latter, it’s a common mistake with writers. We want the job, so we accept less than we’re really worth. (Sometimes, a LOT less.)

    And as for rejections, they’re something we all have to endure from time to time. No one is told “yes” by everyone they meet. How you deal with those “nos” will go a long way in determining how far you go as a writer (and person).

    Congrats again, Alison. I’ll be tweeting this for sure.

    – @kevinjduncan

  18. Terence says:

    Congrats on all your success Carol! Thanks for sharing your tips and techniques with us over the years! 🙂

  19. Roland says:

    Hi Carol Tice,

    I’ve already read many of your posts, and this one, like all the other inspires me, to work to become, one day a Freelance Writer myselft.
    Oh, of course, the path won’t be easy… first, I’m an ESL… No, not an E.T. like the internationally extraterrestrial american actor, just an English Second Language person, my first langague being French.
    I know my Englsh isn’t perfect, despite five years in Australia which gave me an advantage in English, compared many other French.
    I’m conscious about the fact that I’ll have to use the help of an american editor I’ve found on fiverr, to correct my articles.
    I also know that, being a Dad with long hours of work, almost 3 hours to go to it and back, I’ll only be able to write a few hundred words of articles each day.
    And of course, I’ll have to work my marketing and send queries to potential markets every day…
    But I hope that with the generous advice of people like you, and within a year, I’ll be able to escape my boring Day Job, and feed my family with my writing… with the only thing I love to do nowadays !
    I don’t especially want to gain $10 000 (or 10 000 euros) per month, the quarter of that would suffice…
    Do you think my hope is worthless, or do I have my chances, Carol ?

    Impatient to read you, I wish you a great day, Carol.

    As we say here, ‘Bonne Journée’

    Roland P. (writer pseudonym, Lawrence Herbert Tide)

  20. Roland says:

    Hello again, Carol,

    Reading the comment I just put on your website, a few minutes ago, I found many spelling errors in it… that should be a lesson for me : I should not write messages when it’s late (past midnight, in local European Time), and especially not when, in the near future, I will send my articles to markets…

    Sorry for the errors, and many thanks again for sharing your experience with all of us.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Roland, like all my blog commenters, you’re covered under my Universal Blog Comment Typo Insurance policy. It’s just comments…and we know what you meant. 😉

      I think your plan to hire an editor to go over your articles is a good one — I know quite a few ESL writers who do that.

      • Roland says:

        Hi Carol,

        Thank you, your confirmation of the good idea of hiring an american editor reassures me, for the future…
        I go to my work, in part, in a boat (I’m writing to you while it’s quitting the port of Toulon, by the way). It’s stable ride of 2 x 20 minutes each day… enough, I hope, to produce a few hundred words of new text for articles each day.
        And by the way, I imagine I should read a few articles of the magazines and web sites for which I want to write ?

        Thank you again and have a nice day.


        • Carol Tice says:

          LOL, I have a boat commute twice a week myself — I know people who’ve written novels on their boat cmmute.

          And not a few articles, Roland, from the sites and publications you’re targeting — LOTS of them. 😉

          Also, in general you don’t write articles without an assignment. You write a query and GET an assignment. The odds that what you write on your own will please an editor otherwise are small.

          • Puget Sound ferry, I assume; I never miss going out at least once when in the area. Definitely easier than writing on a bouncy land-bus commute!

          • Roland says:

            I use the RMTT commute, using one of its buses, and then one of its boats, to go from the port of Toulon (at the French Riviera) to the port of the half-island Saint-Mandrier, where I work. And you, in which part of your country do you use a boat?
            You’re right, writing in a boat is much easier than in a bus.
            Concerning the queries, I’ve heard, yes, that’s it’s preferable to propose some, before writing the corresponding articles… the question is, will someone hire me, if I don’t have a few articles to show?
            Perhaps should I write some content or articles for free for a few Non Governmental Organizations? The reference to the articles, and the thanks written on the NGO’s sites could be a plus, perhaps, which could encourage a future paying Customer?
            I’m writing answering you while surveying my kids, who are playing in the playing area of a MacDonald, near Toulon. After all, even Dads and Moms can try, one day, the adventure path of Freelace writing?

            I wish you a good day, Carol.


            • Carol Tice says:

              Roland, my commute is into Seattle from one of the islands near downtown. 😉

              Writing for an NGO can be a GREAT way to get some initial article clips! When I first moved to this city and wanted some local clips to show, I wrote author profiles as a volunteer, for the newspaper put out by my regional library system. 😉

  21. Janet Hunter says:

    Hi Roland,

    It’s excellent that you have a dream and that you’re trying to follow it. I also think it’s great that you want to write in English, and just as you would expect to be fairly paid for your work I hope that the arrangement you have made with the American editor is a fair one.

    If the compensation is too little, you may find that while anyone can offer their services in markeplaces like Fiverr, not everyone has the skills to support that offering.

    I wish you all the best in your writing endeavour.


    • Roland says:

      Hello Janet,

      Thank you for your encouragement and your support.
      I’ve been living in Australia, during my childhood, from my fifth to my tenth year. Despite that fact, I know that, dozens of years later, I can’t compare the quality of my writing with the one by an educated english or american writer. If I want to propose articles of eBooks of sufficient quality, the help of an American editor seems to be logical for me.
      Luckily, the editing costs much less than any kind of translation. I write directly in English, so I short-circuit the translation costs.
      Of course, I must find someone who wants to buy my articles, and Carol is write : it’s important for me to propose queries to the potential clients of some sites.
      The questioni is: which sites? Must I go to the job boards, at least for my beginnings?

      I wish you a nice day.


  22. Ivan Jordon says:

    That’s right. Make sure to charge what you and your skills are worth. Don’t settle for less!

    • Roland says:

      Hi Jordon,

      You’re right, I must be careful about the price I will ask for my jobs.
      Economically speaking, it’s important, especially since I have some editing costs to amortize.
      Where do you find your jobs, by the way?

      As we say here, Bonne soirée.


  23. Deepak Rana says:

    You’re an inspiration. According to me, Being a freelance writer, is not a cup of tea for everyone.
    Writing hard throughout the day only champs like you can do. You’ve mentioned excellent tips and your writing style is definitely amazing.
    You’ve got decent skills in writing. Thank you for this amazing post. It will definitely help me out 🙂

    -Deepak Rana

  24. Rob Francis says:

    You hit the nail on the head with #6; and learning the importance of that not just with my writing career, as well. Thanks for dropping that nugget of wisdom on us introverts as a friendly reminded. 🙂