The Truth About How Much Freelance Writers Make

rich freelancer, poor freelancerIt’s one of the most-asked questions I get: “Can you tell me how much I can expect to make as a freelance writer?”

Let’s face it — we’ve all got mouths to feed. So it’s important to get a sense of whether freelance writing can yield you a real, bill-paying level of income. It’s a good question to ask.

There are two steps to figuring out the answer to this question.

The first is to find survey data on what freelancers make. That gives you a sense of what’s possible, and what’s typical.

The second step is a bit harder, so let’s start with data.

Resources on freelance pay

There isn’t a ton of information out there on what freelance writers earn, but there is some.

Four resources I often refer writers to are:

  • Ed Gandia’s 2012 Freelance Industry Report covers more types of freelancing than just writing, but about 40 percent of responders were writers and editors. Three-quarters of respondents have been freelancing more than three years. The results will be eye-opening for many writers. To call out just one stat: About one-third of respondents reported they earned $70 an hour or more, and another 23 percent earned $50-$70 an hour.
  • Chris Marlow surveys copywriters on what they earn, and her study is the most comprehensive and detailed one I know. Not helpful if you’re writing for magazines, but if you write for businesses, this is highly useful info.
  • The Writer’s Market surveys writers and publishes a What to Charge guide in the front of each annual edition of their voluminous guide to writing markets. They offer rates for a wide variety of writing assignments.
  • It doesn’t have statistics, but a good book for helping you think about how to price your writing services is What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants, by Laurie Lewis.

I recommend writers give those a browse and get a sense of market rates and of good strategies for pricing (hint: by the project, not by the hour).

Now, back to our question — how much can you earn?

You now have a sense of what writers typically earn, and what top earners bring in. But like the car companies say about gas consumption, your mileage may vary.

Where you will fall on that freelance earning scale is going to depend a lot on you. Here are a couple of important questions to ask yourself:

1. How bad do you want this?

Many writers dream about having the freedom to be their own boss, set their own schedule, and make a living doing what they love.

But when it comes to getting off their cans and marketing the heck out of their services to find clients…many can’t seem to bring themselves to do it.

If it requires learning new skills — like, say, how to use WordPress — they balk.

When an editor tells them they need to improve their article, they’re resentful.

That’s when it begins to dawn: Freelance writing is a hard life.

You need tremendous self-discipline. And you have to hustle for gigs all the time, deal with rejection, and rewrite things to suit other people.

There are many factors that play into how much you will earn, and how long it will take you to reach the income level you want.

For instance, are you willing to write about difficult topics that tend to pay better, or do you only want to write from your own muse? Writing tough stuff is a great route to higher pay.

How much work are you willing to put into marketing? For instance, if you don’t put up a writer website, it’s pretty hard to impress prospects these days.

One other factor: Many writers prefer to kick back and enjoy life more now that they’re out of the cubicle, rather than working super-hard at building a top-earning business. Spend more time mountain-climbing or home-schooling the kids.

Go at it fewer hours, and that will reduce your income. Which brings us to…

2. What is your earning goal?

I discovered in my own freelancing that you rarely earn more than you imagine you can make.

When I started freelancing in 2005, my dream was to replace my $60,000-a-year staff writing job. Within a couple years, I did.

Then I had a big light bulb explode in my head.

I suddenly had this flash of insight that as a freelance writer, my earning potential wasn’t limited to what I used to make in a day job.

My earning potential wasn’t limited to $100,000.

My earning potential was unlimited.

After realizing I could earn much more, I upped my marketing and aimed higher. I stopped looking at Craigslist ads and proactively went after bigger clients — major corporations and national magazines. I wrote more on big projects and ongoing contracts, rather than having to prospect constantly for smaller gigs.

In 2011, I cracked six figures as a freelance writer. And since then, I’ve continued to grow my income from writing.

Expand your vision for your freelance writing business, and it will change how you pursue this career. And that’s how you change how much you make as a freelance writer.

How much do you aim to earn as a freelance writer? Leave a comment — share your goals and what you’re doing to get there.

Freelance Writers Den

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91 comments on “The Truth About How Much Freelance Writers Make
  1. One year I nearly hit six figures my work/life balance struggled a lot in the process (I just kept saying yes to project after project and not giving myself any break into between). Now my goal is to earn a comfortable living but not allow that to completely stress me out in the process!

    The Who Pays Writers? Tumblr blog is another good resource on freelance writer pay:
    Susan Johnston recently posted..How to Tell if an Online Publication Pays Well

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Susan — thanks for another good resource on pay!

    • Stuart Levacque says:

      I’m interested in getting into freelance writing, I don’t know too much though. What is mill pay?

      • Carol Tice says:

        Often, it can be as low as $1 or $5 per article, Stuart. If you’re lucky, maybe $25 a piece, but quickie-article work at these prices is rapidly disappearing, because of how Google is penalizing mass-content sites that don’t deliver much useful info to readers.

  2. At the moment I don’t make much. My writing income is still solely from content mills, and I’m making a bit from editing for real clients. That is a start, and it’s taken me the longest time just to get a business and marketing plan in place! I’m hoping to be able to do more with writing in the coming months. It’s very exciting to look ahead! Thanks for the resources. I’ll look through them to see how my financial goals measure up!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’d love to hear your reaction. We get a lot of very shocked Den members who’re used to content mill pay, when we start talking about professional rates. It’s often on the order of 10x what they’ve been making, or more.

      • I have a general idea of the rates I should be charging. I haven’t really touched the content mills in about a month because I’ve been crazy busy with editing clients (real ones!) I really can’t wait to do more with writing. Roll on the Den! I’m still exploring the resources you have in there – the stuff you’ve posted here is added to that list.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Great to hear you’ve been able to sustain on your own clients…hopefully that’ll just keep rolling, Lindsay! Glad you’re finding the Den resources useful. ;-)

    • Tiffany says:

      I know what you mean. I spent years spinning my wheels trying to figure out how to make a decent living from writing online. I figured it out maybe a year and a half ago, and I spent another year trying to figure out how to go about it. I actually have professional clients now and Carol is right, it’s been a shock! I’ve labored a long time and I’m glad it’s finally paying off. So just remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

    • Earl Edmonds says:

      Lindsay, the name wilson sound familiar because my granddad’s last name was wilson. In freelance article writing, at least you have a place to start. Great articles like carol’s help other writers move forward being enlightened through a more experienced insight. I love to write and I’m working on getting my foot in the door before it closes and I have to try another one around another side. A home pc is what I’ll need to really market my material and go after bigger customers. In the meantime, I’m writing product reviews for free. This is to get myself on front lines more to be noticed. Hopefully, as I’m building material and writing for bigger companies, I’ll began to see residual income. I plan to write full time and make about fifty thousand. Starting out I’m looking at about twenty thousand. For me, writing is the easy part because it’s what I love. The marketing will be the more difficult challenge.

      • Carol Tice says:

        Earl, you want to limit how much writing for free you do. If you’ve got a few samples, it’s time to look for paying clients. You’ll definitely need a computer to pursue this, and a writer website so you can present yourself professionally to your prospective clients.

        • Earl Edmonds says:

          Okay, cause I don’t want to write for no pay for ever. In the major corporations or national magazines, what website do I find these paying clients on?

  3. Daryl says:

    I think a big part of the issue with the uncertainty as to how much freelance writers should make is the way that the internet has changed the barriers to entry for those who employ freelance writers.

    Whereas before you would need a significant investment to get into the media business, be it print, video or otherwise, now anyone can simply slap up a free site and call it a business. These people simply don’t have the cash to properly pay content providers, so they offer bottom of the barrel rates because it’s all they can afford.

    Complicating matters is that there are some “writers” (particularly those from low income countries) who are more than willing to take the 1 cent per word jobs.

    That being said I truly believe that if you offer quality content and market yourself properly, you can indeed make a livable wage just from freelance writing.
    Daryl recently posted..My Free Guest Post Experiment

    • Carol Tice says:

      Right on, Daryl — in the Den I talk a lot about qualifying prospects. There are so many fly-by-night bogus startups online, with a business model that is doomed to fail: slapping ads on mass SEO junk content. It’s not working, so they don’t have any money. And they don’t care about writing quality. These are NOT the clients you want!

      Once you learn to identify legitimate opportunities, pay can go up a lot.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I completely agree with your point about that a large portion depends on how bad you want to make money as a freelance writer. Many of my friends tell me that they tried and it didn’t work, but honestly, they barely gave it a shot. I honestly think that persistence and desire are the most important qualities in successful writers, even more than writing ability (assuming a base level of good writing).

    Your second point about what is your goal is even more important I think. My goal as a freelance writer was to be able to be available for my kids while still earning a good salary. I work 20-25 hours a week (and work about 5 hours a week during about 8 weeks when they are off) and should make right around 50K this year. My goal isn’t to earn 100K, but to earn a full time salary on part time hours while still being able to hang out with the kids on school holidays, pick them up when they are sick and hang out with them each day after school. I want to have something interesting to do that I enjoy while they are in school, retain the flexibility to be the kind of mom I want and be able to significantly contribute to my family income.
    Jennifer recently posted..Challenge: How many times this week can you say the words “content marketing”?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sounds like you’ve hit some awesome work/life balance with your freelancing!

      For me, this school year marks a return to stopping work at 3 when kids get home to help with homework, after a couple years of my hubby mostly handling that (not to my satisfaction!). We’ll see if I can work smarter and keep my income up, but if not it’ll have to scale back because right now I need to put more focus on my family.

    • Tjarren says:

      Wow, you really have nailed EXACTLY what I want from my burgeoning foray into freelance writing. I have some charitable endeavors that are the most fulfilling part of my life but need to make a living too. I’m not greedy, so I too can live without working 50 hour weeks to make a six figure income.

      I really appreciate the life balance that you have achieved and really hope these initial efforts of mine will lead to similar results. I finally have better circumstances to get things started, just recently joined The Den and have tried to keep up with great tips from Carol Tice, Yuwanda Black and others. But I know I’m reading too much and need to get out there. Soon.

      Thanks again for the insightful inspiration.

      • Carol Tice says:

        Hi Tjarren —

        We try not to judge around here, why people set the earning goals they do.

        Some of us have debts, or other life issues that cause us to need to earn a high income. We live in different parts of the world where standards of living and costs differ, too.

        Some of our spouses have great careers, and others are still figuring out who they want to be when they grow up (guess which kind I have!). And some of us dream of saving for retirement and getting to kick back some day!

        I find one writer’s poverty wage is another’s fortune.

        I’m here to encourage writers to earn whatever it is they want in their lives.

        • Tjarren says:

          I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply any judgment on those that want (or need) to make as much money as possible. I at one time was making $50k+ a year with a corporate job and, for the lifestyle I lead back then, that allowed me to do what I wanted. After being laid off and going through a level of struggling that I had never experienced before, I arrived an a moment of clarity and realized I wanted different goals in my life.

          The challenge was trying to find something that I’m good at, enjoyed doing, allowed me the freedom of being location independent and the ability to make a decent living without dominating my time. And here I am.

          I only wish that I had come to this realization sooner and found resources like this earlier. But I can do nothing about that now except learn from it. Thanks for all of your encouragement and advice.

        • Randy says:

          HI Carol Happy New Year!!
          Say, I read everything on this page and thought; I wish I could write just like Carol… you rock…

          I thought, until I got to the Man Slam here. Now, I resemble that remark, and I’m going to stand up with other like minded men here,, they’re here someplace right? and repeat our Motto “Some day I will be something really good.”

          Well, as usual I forgot what I was going to say, because of you I guess.

          Mostlyyyy, thank you for the great info here, I’m going to see if I can break into the Den now.

          oh, and I had some problems with that trick math question coming in. Yea that “four + 5″ really threw me… cant add letters and numbers together! that’s like adding fractions and decimals.
          I love you Carol,, but not love love just the whatever love u know…

          Randy :-)

  5. Tiffany says:

    The last paragraph is a great reminder. My goal is to reach $50,000 by this time next year. I’m sending LOIs to marketing firms and potential blogging clients. I plan to add magazine writing to my repertoire as well. Although I’m not at my goal, I am much further along than I was just a few months ago.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Tiffany, I don’t know when I’ve actually MET a goal on the timeline I had in mind! Our reach does usually exceed our grasp, and I think the key thing is to be forgiving of yourself, if you are at least moving in the right direction. I like to look at the trends — is the trend positive? Income is going up? Quality of clients is getting better? Then things are going the right way.

      For instance, I figured out I should move to writing business books instead of articles in about 2008 or 9. Then I went on 3-4 different auditions for ghosting books, none of which worked out. Finally, in 2011, I got approached to co-write one and ended up with my first book byline in 2012.

      But if we have goals to steer us in the right direction, we will get there. ;-)

  6. Carol,
    First of all, I freaking love you. …for your honesty and for the things that you post about that are so important and relevant to us as writers.

    Thank you.

    I haven’t been able to get into your “Den” yet, but I am learning so much from you.

    For the last 2 years or so, I’ve been ghostwriting and have been woefully underpaid – my fault! But I’ve just branched out, written 3 ebooks under my own name, I’ve started writing on elance, which isn’t megabocks but will pay me more per month than I was making ghostwriting for one person. Out of 9 jobs I applied for, I’ve so far been invited to do four. I turned down 2 (from the same person) and accepted 2 – all within a week. What a boost to my self-confidence.

    Also, I have ideas for at least ten ebooks that I can’t wait to write for Amazon. These are not pipe dreams. I’m really qualified to write them. What a blast!

    Sometimes, I think it’s like the old song says, “You just have to reach way down to the bottom of your soul” and set yourself free.

    Carol, I sincerely wish you all the best. You have helped me.


    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Diane —

      Well mwah right back at ya! I’m so glad this blog is helping you.

      Be on the waiting list to get in the Den! Most times when I open now, I only tell that list, since we can only take on about 200 new members at a time, and I don’t want to disappoint people. We actually were open for 3 days last week — our only open of the summer. More opportunities will be coming up though!

      Hopefully next I can teach you to get off Elance and find your own clients, which will pay a lot better, generally.

      Tip for the future: Ghostwriting is supposed to pay great, since you can’t take credit for it. ;-)

    • Randy says:

      Carol, she loves you even more than I do.
      I think I need to find out how to write an EBOOK. And not just because Diane is doing it, or because it sounds like fun.

      Oh, and I like your sense of humor CAROL thanks for make the security question easier for me this time “one + 1″

      ha ha real funny


  7. Another great, “cut to the chase” piece, Carol! I’ve increased my earning power considerably since taking a couple of classes with you and Linda and learning more about the most efficient, effective ways to pursue a career in freelancing. You are right–there’s no substitute for hard work and ‘stick-to-it-ness.’ As you say, ‘Ya gotta want it–bad.’ Thanks for the continuing inspiration and candid shares. :-)

  8. Thomas Hill says:


    Learning a new skill definitely helps out!

    I am constantly learning the nuances of AP style — it has increased my pay per article, given me a byline on a heavily trafficked website, gotten articles syndicated, have gotten jobs passively (through my profile e-mail) and gives me a quick and easy link to show editors for even more jobs!

    A little bit of effort has given me a mountain of results!

    Thanks for the connect on LinkedIn too!

    • Carol Tice says:

      No prob, Tom!

      You know, one night I was hanging out with the hubby and I started to rattle off all the different programs and platforms I’ve learned over the past 7 years — Camtasia, WordPress, Blogger, Movable Type, Twitter, and on and on. Couldn’t believe how long a list it was!

      And of course learning those helped me get MANY great blogging and writing gigs. At the speed technology moves today you have got to keep up on the tech side. And if you’re not earning well, learn new writing niches. I’d have never made what I did if I didn’t start exploring business writing and learning white papers, annual reports and other better-paying formats.

  9. Jenna Tyger says:


    Thanks for the resources. I read a book by a freelancer a few years ago for my master’s program – I wish I could remember the name of the book/author but it’s escaping me right now – and the author made it sound incredibly easy to earn $100,000/year working very few hours per week. This is not the reality for any freelancers I’ve seen. The author wrote the book before the recession, and I wonder if he continued to make the same amount after. It seems that all I see now in freelance discussions are writers/editors who can’t make the same amount of money they once did because of the recession and the competition among freelancers. It’s comforting to see that it’s still possible, but probably just takes a lot more work than it once did!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t know if it takes more work…it’s that great gigs aren’t growing on trees anymore. You have to know how to avoid all the wannabes online and find real clients. And you do have to be willing to do marketing. I think there are more options out there, and more scams and more confusion, and you need a real road map to avoid wasting time in low pay gigs. Most of the ones you see today didn’t exist before 1999.

      And really, I rarely meet anyone earning six figures or more in active employment who doesn’t put in serious hours. I think it’s really irresponsible when people make that pitch — “you’ll hardly have to work!”

      I know top bloggers who haven’t taken a vacation in 2 years…that’s more the norm at the high end of earnings.

  10. Josh Brancek says:

    Wow Carol, this is an awesome resource!!! I, for example, I would be really happy with my target goal 100 K per year. I know it is probably unreal, but this is the amount I would really aspire to earn one day. Maybe I am a dreamer, but who knows. They say, you have to want it really baaaaaaaaaad and things will happen one day.
    Josh Brancek recently posted..The Tao of Badass REVIEW: Does The Attraction System Really Work?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, one thing’s for sure…if you DON’T have a goal of earning $100K, it’s highly unlikely you will. ;-) If you don’t believe it’s possible — and I get a lot of comments from people who tell me I’m making it up that you could ever do it — then it won’t be.

  11. Meg Ashfield says:

    I walked away from all income unrelated to writing in 2006. Since that time I built my income and it is still growing. I would say in the first few months I made around $1500 a month from very limited part time writing work. I worked for content creation sites and the typical “foot in the door” sites. Over the last year, I have steadily cleared roughly $70 an hour. My goals now are to market within the niches I enjoy, work towards developing several Ebook projects, and marketing myself to higher paying clients. It’s time and I know it is possible. Like you, my earning potential is unlimited. I just have to tap into it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Awesome, Meg! Love to hear you’ve moved up to earning good rates.

      I did it gradually…just kept dropping my lowest payer and replacing them with someone better, until one day, I was earning a lot more.

  12. Erica says:

    Carol, once again, thank you for the excellent resources. As a cube-dwelling corporate copywriter, I make between $30-$40 an hour, depending on the gig. I’ve also had to work my way up to get here, so now that I’ve actually been at professional for several years, getting that rate isn’t that hard.

    When I first started freelancing, I was fresh out of a corporate copywriting lifestyle (laid off) and priced my services at $50 an hour. Way. Too. Low. Especially since I was no longer working a set 40 hours a week. Now my freelance services, which I offer on the side of my daytime copywriting job, are priced per project (including number of estimated hours; $100 an hour). And I can turn a much better profit.
    Erica recently posted..What do you feed your Cowardly Lion?

  13. Sheri says:

    Right now I still work a day job that is completely unrelated to writing. I write for content mills on the side but the pay, as you well know, is peanuts. That type of writing I do more for the simple enjoyment of writing than to earn money.

    My personal biggest challenge is figuring out how to sell myself without coming off like a phony used car salesman. I have always been a mediocre (at best) sales person. It isn’t so much that I don’t have the self-confidence, but instead, I put myself in the shoes of the other person… in the wrong manner. I always cringe when *I* get cornered by someone wanting to sell me something. That applies to the door-to-door salesman who wants to sell me siding for my home, the person in a clothing store that wants to help me find the perfect accessory to go with my selection, and even the girl scouts that accost me at Walmart to buy cookies. Even when I know that I have a great “product” to offer that the other person would benefit from purchasing, I have a hard time getting past my own hang-ups so that I can stop feeling like I am wasting their time or that I am just an annoyance.

    My “dream” is to one day be able to do as Jennifer is now able to do. I want to be able to work from home and contribute significantly to the finances and still be at my kids’ disposal. However, with my virtual paralysis when it comes to selling myself, I’m fearful that my dream has no hope of becoming reality.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, a miracle could always happen and a client could fall from the sky…but yes, usually marketing is involved if you want to earn a real income as a freelancer.

      HOWEVER…marketing doesn’t have to feel spammy! It can be honest and straightforward, and even fun. I personally had a blast reconnecting with people on LinkedIn from my past and letting them know I was now freelancing…and one of them referred me an awesome, $.50-a-word global client with tons of work.

      Everyone needs to market in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

    • Sheri,

      Networking and marketing doesn’t have to be sleazy. You’ve been exposed to sales people that have pressured you but there is a way to promote yourself without acting desperate and cornering clients. A lot of it is about changing your mindset about selling but it can be done.

      Find a way that is natural to you. Use your own words. Find what works for you.

      The truth is that we are selling ourselves all day long to potential dates and even to our current mates. There is a reason why couples split up, at some point someone feels unappreciated, taken for granted, and things escalate to the breaking point.

      The relationships that last do so because the couples are proving themselves every single day to each other. Think about the friendships you’ve had that have lasted. Why did they last? My friendships last because my friends and I make attempts to contact each other and get together and because we don’t do things that would harm our friendship.

      A lot of people may not think so but that is selling yourself. You are selling your character and your personality. Think about the jobs you’ve had. You had to impress your manager before you got hired. That is selling yourself, your skills, your potential, etc.

      Whether we realize it or not, we are selling ourselves every single day to everyone in our lives. Please don’t give up. You can do it!

      P.S. I used to work at call center, where we had to call up former hospital patients and ask them about their hospital stays. Even though I wasn’t technically selling any services, there were people who refused to do the surveys either because they didn’t have the time or had a poor hospital service.

      Rejection was a huge part of the job. I had to sell my voice, my personality, and how doing the survey would be beneficial to changing things at the hospital. I found out most people are pretty friendly/civil but some people really took out their anger for the hospital out on me.

      I once got cursed at, another time I got told my voice was horrible to listen to, other people would hear my introduction and just outright scream at me. It didn’t happen too often, but it did happen now and then.

      I stayed at that job for two years. I learned a lot about tenacity and to not take rejection too personally. Oh there were times where I went home crying and felt rejected, but I think it made me stronger.

      A lot of writers and creative people get discouraged by the rejection part of the business. When you join the creative class, rejection is the norm. I think that call center job prepared me and made me stronger.

      Now if I get rejected I just think, “well that is just part of the job, next!”

  14. Chris says:

    Hi – very good info here. first time on this site/blog.
    I have a general question; any/all feedback appreciated. It sort of identifies with income, as I have no idea what to charge for this, and have not found much (any) info online, either about pricing or the skill itself, beyond its use in seeking employment.

    My background is, weirdly enough, journalism and real estate brokerage, with some scant publishing outside newspapers. Consequently I have gotten very very good at interviewing and getting to the deeper issues/challenges that people hold close. I also write about people’s stories fictionally, and enjoy editing other people’s work.

    I never thought interviewing could be turned into a business until I learned about case studies. So I held a two-session teleseminar for a few writer friends and they said they learned a lot about the interviewing process, types, legalities, etc. I am now wondering if – for someone who is not a radio/tv celeb – if interviewing could become a kind of augmentation/adaptation to a literary career. Would anyone on this site find those skills of use? Or are they so commonplace no info/education is needed? Any thoughts? Thanx!

  15. Jon Patrick says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve got a clear plan of the next 2 years jelling in my mind. In my first week, I wasted a lot of time, but was fortunate to have done enough research to know the $1 articles aren’t the “norm”, and knew I wrote at least well enough to get substantially more than that. I’ve also been fortunate that a few sites, as well as craigslist, has provided work that pays well enough while I’m building my skills and portfolio.
    Jon Patrick recently posted..How to Waste Your First Week of Freelance Writing

    • Doug DiZoglio says:

      You have a plan Jelling in your mind and it has been there for 2 yrs! hmm,It sounds more to me that your mind is, DUE TO LACK OF WORK/USE; turning to Jello. Open that mind and put it back to work,; Think, think, THINK! Solve brain teasers, push ups for the brain.Jelling for 2 yrs?, My x wifes grandmother would have called that ‘CANNED BRAIN’, and oh ya, thick skin, you have to be able to take some teasing, constructive teasing!

      • Doug DiZoglio says:

        Hello, Does anyone have any leftover crow I can eat, I am fresh out and it em it is my turn. Yes,I went back and re-read the comment I made just before this one, AFTER I posted that one. I think that putting the cart before the Horse is the one that hit me over the head, except in this one I believe it should be putting the cart over the Horses’ Ass. My apologies.

  16. Christina says:

    I have recently started trying to focus on writing. I am currently falling into that trap of under bidding myself. I feel like, since I’m new, I have to to get any work. Where does the line of “willing to work and do whatever it takes” become “starving artist?”

    • Carol Tice says:

      Once you’ve got about 4-6 samples, Christina, it’s time to be done taking any gig at any price just for the sample.

      If you keep going on and on at hourly rates that you know won’t pay your bills, you end up going bust and having to go back to a day job. Just simple math.

  17. CindieLouWho says:

    I write poetry occasionally and my family tells me how great I am at it, and how I should pursue a career in writing. I personally think I’m just okay, but I love writing. I want to try it but I don’t know where to start and I often hear how freelance writers have a low income. Being that I’m moving to NYC next summer I don’t want to take my chances on something that may not pan out. I’m not sure whether I need the confidence to just go for it or if I should hold back and do something else. Any thoughts?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Cindie, it’s tough to earn any kind of regular income from poetry — most poets I know have another writing gig for money, like how Robert Lee Brewer edits The Writer’s Market, but also writes his own poetry.

      If you don’t want to take any chances on something that may not pan out…being a writer may not be for you. To write is to take a risk.

  18. Anna says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. It can be so difficult to estimate for work and it helps to know what others are charging in the marketplace. It speaks volumes that as writers we feel a pang of insecurity in charging what we deserve since many don’t make a living wage. I have managed to diversify my writing enough that my freelance schedule is well-balanced and it’s inspiring to know that you salary potential is infinite.

  19. I have been working as a content writer for quite sometime now but I never managed to break the six figure mark yet.

    I usually use forums like The Warrior Forum and Digital Point to find clients but I am sure contacting established firms with article ideas would be much more profitable. I got my website set up recently and it is helping to attract more clients.

    Thanks for the article!
    Timothy Content Writer recently posted..The Top 5 Reasons to Write a Top 5 Reasons Article

    • Carol Tice says:

      You’re on the right track Timothy — cut out the middleman and you have an opportunity to earn more.

      • I hope so!

        I am focusing on improving my website and increasing traffic but it seems like most people are not interested in hiring me through my website. Not sure why…

        Maybe you have some tips for that?
        Timothy Torrents recently posted..How a Girl Made $3,200 From Article Marketing in Just Three Months

        • Carol Tice says:

          Probably because your website isn’t set up to get you clients — I find most writers don’t seem to know how to create a website that gets them quality prospects calling and wanting to hire them.

          I did hundreds of websites reviews for my community to help writers convert better from their sites, and finally I created a whole 4-week bootcamp that teaches you how to do it — Build a Writer Website That Works. It’s inside my Freelance Writers Den community — feel free to check out all the other Den benefits here and get on the waiting list if you want to join — I often only tell that list when we’re open.

  20. Akira says:

    Hi there! I noticed that you said you offered your writing services to websites needing updated content and editing. How did you go about introducing your expertise and getting them to say, “Yes! Please write for me!” I’m looking at a foreign company that I patronized in the past and I want to use my freelance writing skills to fix the grammatical errors on their page.

    Thanks for your time! Hope to hear from you soon!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Akira, there are many ways to connect with businesses — in-person networking, getting referrals, writing a strong letter of introduction that pitches your relevant expertise, cold calling.

      If you need to learn how to do these things, you might want to check out my Freelance Writers Den community — we have a forum where we critique LOIs to help improve them before you send, and have recordings on how to do nearly every type of marketing.

  21. Zimmy says:

    Some excellent information. I currently only write for my blog (and a side hustle) but freelance writing is something that I have always dreamed of branching off into. I know that getting up to the level of making more than $50 an hour is going to take a long time but, who knows, maybe I can reach that level in the future.
    Zimmy recently posted..Freelance Writer? Earn Some Extra Money With Devtome

    • Carol Tice says:

      Zimmy, I actually recommend new freelance writers shoot for $35-$50 an hour as a starting rate. You have many more expenses as a freelancer than you do as an employee, so you can’t make it as a freelance writer in any developed country earning much below that. Remember that every hour is not a billable hour, too. If you take a long time to get up to $50 an hour, you may well run out of money before you get there!

  22. Nabankita R. Chowdhury says:

    Hello Ms. Carol,

    Thanks for sharing such an informative article. I am dental student and a freelance writer writing in dental, health, fashion and beauty niches,, dental being my main niche. I am a non- native English writer. I mainly write via Fiverr and I charge $10 for every 500 words. I know this rate is too low but I am not getting any way to find high paying clients despite of regular marketing. I want to make more money to meet my education expenses to some extent. I find many non-native successful writers on the internet who make thousands of dollars every month. Can you please suggest some good ways by which I can market my Fiverr gig. Or should I increase my rates on Fiverr itself. Also as I dont make much money, I am not willing to invest in a proper website. Please suggest me some solution to my situation. Thanks a ton!

  23. sam says:

    I am new to writing online. I have written before but never online. I have numerous ideas for books, I have published poems and I recently published 2 articles as a yahoo contributor. I know, you’re thinking tis guy is a huge rookie. Thats ok, I’ve always had a passion for writing and recently find out about so I wanted to ask if anyone here has written for anyone their and been paid. I started an account but haven’t taken any jobs yet. some of the pay seems to good to be true and other rates are so low. Seems like right now all I can do is the low rate ones because any employer (I guess is the term) on there that pays ok or well wants you to have a proven track record. Which makes since but if these smaller ones are scams then how do I prove my track record? Is it all a scam? I just don’t know what to think.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sam, stay tuned for Sunday — got a post coming that I think will help you understand the freelance marketplace better. Unfortunately, poems and ideas for books don’t help you establish yourself as a freelance writer, as I think you’re finding out. It’s about serving client needs.

      All mass platforms such as are a race to the bottom on price. I have an ebook coming out Sunday that will give you a guide to how to get out of this world, find real clients, build a legit portfolio quickly, and start getting paid decent rates — be sure to be a subscriber so that you get the presale price on it.

      Finally, the numerous grammar errors in what you’ve written above make me wonder if part of the problem you’re encountering is that you need to improve your English skills. I can recommend the book “How to Not Write Bad” by Ben Yagoda for that. He spotlights how to correct many of the common errors I see above.

  24. Mandy says:

    Hey Hi,
    I’m currently working as a freelancer for some contractor but I guess it pays me quite less. Like $4-5 for a page.
    I’d like to know if there’s any other way to earn more?
    Considering that I live in Pakistan and can only work through online journals and internet resources.
    Your help would be appreciated more than ever.
    Thank you!

  25. Beth says:

    I want to make $1500/month. But I’m having trouble getting started! I started offering freelance services to supplement a fiction idea and am wondering if it will help!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, it’s extremely difficult to make $1500 a month off a “fiction idea,” in my experience. Nonfiction articles and writing for business are the reliable ways to earn a regular monthly income.

  26. Brandon Baer says:

    In between working two part time jobs, dabbling with screenwriting, and teaching myself certain front-end tech skills, I’ve been prodding freelance writing again in order to capitalize on my writing and editing finesse, but also to build up a strong enough portfolio to suffice for the very type of job you walked away from. $60k/yr in a staff position with no college degree has devolved into a pipe dream for me, as, in Austin, not even the most elementary startups in the media industry will even talk to applicants without degrees. Any advice you could offer in that area?

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think it’s tougher these days to get a staff writing job period, much less lacking a writing degree. I always felt like I was the last one they let in the door without a journalism degree from Columbia or Medill. With so few staff positions now, requiring the B.A. is an easy way to screen down the very crowded field of former beat reporters from dailies who are looking for another full-time gig.

      Unfortunately, dabbling in screenwriting doesn’t set you up well to get a staff writing job, either. I wrote my way in writing for the alternative press, doing 3000-word investigative cover features — those were the clips that got my editor’s attention. So look for where you can write impressive stuff that involves reporting. Journalism chops are important for staff gigs.

      • Brandon Baer says:

        That certainly clears the air in my uncertainty over the likelihood of tapping into a staff position, and I wouldn’t doubt that print publications being supplanted by their online counterparts has played a significant role in how much more difficult that path has become, especially for the tyroni journalist, but thank you for the thorough response.

        As for screenwriting aspirations, that’s an altogether different path, just as web and graphic design and front-end web development comprise a separate path–I also intend on finally getting at least one work of literary/speculative fiction published at some point in the future–but for now, I’d really like to focus on monetizing my writing skills for businesses, marketing, advertising, some long form journalism, and the like, and hopefully joining the Writers’ Den soon can help me get oriented on that path. It just seems like such a convoluted path.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Sounds like you’re going an awful lot of different directions! It’s hard to get traction that way. Hope to see you in the Den soon — there’ll be an opportunity to join coming up in a few weeks, ahead of our next bootcamp on self-publishing.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Also, have to warn you few staff writing jobs START at $60K. That was after 6-7 years at a pub.

  27. Susan says:

    I too am new at writing online. I have worked on my personal blog for a few months but I have discovered that writing a personal blog is much different that writing blog content for others. My only background is procedural writing for my old job, writing sermons, writing poems and blogging. My dream is to be a published writer, any kind. I don’t know if I will ever write a book, but I like to write stories and I like to write about things that I know. I also like to learn about new things, then write about them. I would love to someday be able to earn enough to support myself without other work and I realize this is going to be hard. Any encouragement and pointers, leads to find assignments will be appreciated!
    Susan recently posted..One Woman Still Under Construction

    • Carol Tice says:

      You’re right that personal blogging is quite different from blogging for clients…but you might check out my e-book How to Be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger, which is all about how to leverage your own blog to get paid blogging gigs.

      It sounds like you’ve written a decent variety of things — hopefully you’re a subscriber and getting the Marketing 101 series. It will help you start learning about how to connect with clients.

      • Brandon Baer says:

        Marketing 101 series? Is this something available from this site or exclusively from the WD?

        • Carol Tice says:

          Brandon, right now it’s the free course you get for subscribing to my blog. See that big signup box in the sidebar? If you want that course free, subscribe now — I’m relaunching the blog soon and the freebie is going to change when I do. ;-)

          Marketing 101 will still be available and offered to my subscribers, but not as the signup bonus.

  28. Saif Illahi says:

    Firstly, great article. Immensely informative AND entertaining. No wonder you have done so well for yourself.

    Anyhow, I am a freelance writer stuck in the content mill that is oDesk. The rates are extremely low, with the best being $10 per article. What I need to know from you is how to leave these peanut-rates behind and start to make real bucks. Will take hard work? No problemo. But, I need someone to tell me how to get real clients online and write content that actually pays me for the quality I am offering.

    Looking forward to your response.

  29. Rod says:

    I’m a screenwriter that currently works full time for a major corporation. I recently landed a manager in LA that is shopping one of my scripts around. In the meantime I’ve started to freelance writer, and mainly focusing on getting writing gigs rather than going straight for the Content Mills. It’s a confusing landscape, but I’m finding articles such as these very helpful!

  30. Kim says:

    I am interested in doing freelance writing part-time. I’m an attorney by trade but I have published a few articles and worked as an editor several years ago. I signed up on E-lance, but I’m finding it difficult to gain work. Also, the prices offered? Well, they leave a lot to be desired. Any tips?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Certainly — get off Elance and find your own clients. My Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success ebook goes over exactly how to start building a portfolio and finding first clients on your own.

      As an attorney you have a great area of expertise that should help you find legal-related gigs such as blogging for lawyers.

  31. Shane Hall says:

    I’ve only been in freelance for a few months and I think I’ll stop trying to hit a certain target for earnings. From now on I’ll just continuously reach for better work and better pay with no place to stop. It’s gotta take some time and consistency, I’m sure. After a while hopefully I’ll have something livable, and transition into something really good.

  32. Kendra says:

    I keep thinking there’s no way I’d ever be able to survive as a freelance writer since I keep reading “they” don’t make much. Then I start reading about actual numbers and (:::insert sobbing noises here:::) even the low end of what a lot of freelancers earn is almost twice what I make now at a job I despise.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, the ironic advantage when you have a really low-paid day job, is that it’s a great time to take a risk and try to launch your own business. It’s tougher for people looking to replace a $50K-$100K professional income.

  33. S.Marathe says:

    I intend to make a career in the environment and wildlife writing field. I have a couple of published articles but has been unpaid work. Where can I possibly start to earn by using my writing skills?

  34. Hi Carol
    Am writing from Africa, Kenya. Am in deed glad for your sincere tips on writing. I am an upcoming writer, specializing in academic research writing. Unfortunately, this is a seasonal activity, hence not promising. I write for the US and UK students and other research bodies. I just could wish to be guided on freelance writing, since i understand that it is readily available. Can my experience in academic writing be applicable in freelance writing? Again, how can i improve the quality of my writing so as to retail more clients. Finally, I could wish to be a full-time writer and operate from home. I shall be glad if given the direction forward since at the moment I am not not linked with any freelance writing company. Thanks Carol

    • Carol Tice says:

      There are no ‘freelance writing companies,’ Raphael — you pitch and find your own clients.

      Unfortunately, academic writing is unethical, and not readily transferable to a mainstream, good-paying freelance writing career. The students who use the essays you write get expelled when it’s discovered that they plagiarized.

  35. Volodymyr Protsenko says:

    I want to make $1 000 000 as a freelance writer.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Truth About How Much Freelance Writers Make"
  1. […] or quite particular. This field includes bloggers, journalists, or anyone who writes for pay, but works as an independent contractor on a project-to-project […]

  2. […] Make A Living Writing has even more resources on blogger pay, but you need to remember that while the internet is filled with people bragging about six figure incomes, successful blogging requires a lot of hard work. […]

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