How Much Money do Freelance Writers Make? Salaries Revealed

How Much Money do Freelance Writers Make? Salaries Revealed

By The Numbers

Since you’re most likely here seeking cold hard facts, let’s dive right in.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), writers and authors (as a general category) make, on average, $61,820 annually. This sum works out to a little less than $30/hour ($29.72 to be exact.)

The folks over at Glassdoor have the average for “freelance writer” down a bit to $42,120.

On PayScale.com, a part-time freelance writer salary is put somewhere in the range of $24,000 – $115,000.

As you can see, the numbers fluctuate quite a bit, which is to be expected due to the very nature of freelancing.

However, the data collectors at the BLS know the importance of niching down, as they’ve given specific sub-categories such as public relations and technical writers an individual data interpretation, which we’ll discuss more in a minute.

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Finding Unique Gigs on Craigslist

Another one of my go-to places when I was a beginner freelance writer was Craigslist.

Craigslist is a place you can find unique opportunities. There’s also the possibility of getting scammed on Craigslist so it’s important to do your due diligence and sign a contract before performing any work.

To find writing gigs on Craigslist simply search big cities (like New York or L.A. for example) and then go to the “Jobs” section and click “writing/editing.”

From here you’ll be able to look through the listings and find the work from home opportunities.

My favorite job from Craigslist was writing business descriptions for directories. I would write 100 word descriptions of various business (everything from AstroTurf companies to high-end hotels) which would be submitted to directories. I only received $2 per description, but since they were fairly easy to write the money added up quickly.

I usually netted at least $300 a week doing this in my spare time.

I had writing work coming to me

Soon after landing my first real blogging gig, I started receiving enquiries via my contact form on Innovative Ink.

Different companies were requesting my writing services. I was able to start negotiating a higher rate and as a result, I eventually replaced my full-time salary by working part-time as a freelance blogger.

Building my website and blog, guest posting on popular sites, getting noticed by influencers in my industry and having a strong social presence finally paid off.

I currently have a group of clients who require weekly content, and I also have a handful of clients who require content on demand. Also, I recently started blogging here on Blogging Wizard.

But, my biggest achievement so far is landing a financial writing gig for $250 a post.

Now, I am able to leverage these projects in my portfolio as social proof on my website. I also have a testimonials page proving to new clients I am credible, professional and sought after.

Make Money Writing Questions

Still unsure that you can really make money writing? I got you! Here are some important questions to ask about making money writing online.

1. How Can I Make Money With My Writing Skills?

The type of writing you do can determine how much money you will be making. In this post I mentioned ghostwriting, copywriting and finance writing as ways to make money writing. But, what about the writing skills needed?

From experience, businesses seek writers with these writing skills and will pay big bucks for them:

  • Use of copywriting such as a bucket brigade
  • Breaking down complex ideas into easy to understand steps
  • Formatting a blog post for easy online reading
  • Understanding of SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Cutting out the fluff in your writing

For more help, check out my guide to improving your writing skills.

2. How Can I Make $1,000 A Week?

There are a variety of ways to make $1,000 in a week. The easiest is to get paid for blog writing. You can write a blog post for $300 3x a week.

Or, if that seems too much writing to do in seven days, you can niche down to email campaigns. Perhaps you can create a 12 day welcome series for a business. This can pay you $1000 in a week.

Business will pay writers $1000 for long form writing, specialized writing like gift guides, sales page writing, Facebook ad copy and more. While a new freelance writer may not achieve this in their first month, it’s not unheard to make this in a few weeks.

Here’s my guide to help you make your first $1,000 fast.

3. Can You Make a Living as Writer?

The answer is YES! I’m proof as well as hundreds of my writing students.

With the Internet, the possibilities are endless. You can make money writing as a freelance writer, blogger, podcast writer, course creator and more.

How to Think About Your Freelance Writing Clients

As you dig into your niche, you also want to start thinking about your potential clients too. Here’s how to approach figuring out what clients you want to work with.

Step 4: Create a Target Client

When I say target client (or buyer persona or ideal client), I mean the ideal person or brand you want to work with. When you figure out who this is, it makes it a lot easier to find potential cleints.

If you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself these questions about them:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do?
  • What problems do they need help solving?

Buffer has a good intro post that goes a bit more in-depth on buyer personas. And HubSpot has a cool tool you can use to start building your own too.

Here’s an example in action:

You want to write about smart homes.

Who is your ideal client?

  • Someone who has expendable income and loves technology. They want to be connected at all times to their homes through their smartwatch or phone. They love using voice technology to get answers to questions or help when they are cooking.

Ok, so what types of products do they use?

  • Smartwatches
  • Smart home speakers (Google Home, Alexa, etc. )
  • Apps
  • SmartThermometers
  • SmartLocks for their doors

Where do they get information online?

  • Smart home forums
  • Wired magazine, Cnet, TechHive
  • Chatting with friends
  • Tech events
  • Smart home brands websites

What problems do they need help solving?

  • What’s the best product out there?
  • What works with the operating systems/configurations I already have?
  • What has cool features that will impress my friends?

Where can I write about this?

  • Company blogs
  • Blogs within the industry that talk about this technology
  • Real estate blogs
  • Home design blogs
  • Trade magazines

What type of writing can I do for this?

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Thought pieces (these can often be ghostwritten for the CEO or other executives)
  • Guides on how to use the products
  • eBooks
  • Product descriptions
  • Website copy
  • Sales emails
  • Facebook ads
  • Video scripts

Action step: Start building an ideal customer persona

Do you see how you can start niching in multiple ways here?

You can niche within an industry, a product, and even a medium.

That can turn you into someone who says, “I write about tech.” to someone who says, “I write video scripts that sell smart home speakers.”

Now, if you were a company looking to hire someone to help sell more speakers, who sound like the person you’d want to hire?

The point of this exercise is to help you not only figure out potential clients that will be a good fit.

As you start building out your bullet points, it should start becoming a lot clearer about who your potential clients are and where you can write. That makes it so much easier to land a job and get paid as a freelance writer.

4. Create Writing Samples Around Your Niche Topics

I have to preface this tip by saying that when I first started a writing sample they did not relate to my niche topics. I was still able to land gigs.

So, even though I was able to land writing gigs, I still feel that it would’ve been a lot easier if I had  a writing sample based on my niche topics.

Quality freelance writing jobs nowadays really want a writer experienced in one niche topic.

But, you’re a new writer, and that means you really don’t know your writing niche and  you make need to improve your writing skill for that topic or industry.

That’s why I also tell new writers to pick a few writing niche topics to help you make money writing. As I mentioned before, I chose health and parenting as my niche topics.

But, what’s my paying niche? Digital marketing.

I had to discover this writing niche. For me, I enjoyed learning about marketing for my own freelance writing business. I was then approached to write about social media marketing, and I was hooked.

From there, I landed a blogging gig about…blogging.

And then email marketing.

Then lead generation.

I love this writing niche so much that I ended up pivoting my mom blog Twins Mommy from blogging about being a work at home mom to helping mom bloggers become mompreneurs.

My topics went from the challenges to working from home to how to make money using Pinterest or how to promote your new Facebook group.

Once you find your writing niche, start creating samples around that niche topic. Since it took me a while to figure out my paying niche, it took me a while to create samples in my niche topic!

So, the sooner you can figure that out, the sooner you can learn how to make money writing!

Realistic Expectations for a Freelance Writers Salary

Now that we’ve thrown some figures your way let’s get down to brass tacks.

While this probably isn’t what you want to hear, the official answer to “How much can I make as a freelancer?” is, “It depends.”

Means, medians, and averages don’t mean a darn thing if you’re not putting in the work in earnest. Freelancing is one of those careers where “You get what you put in” is entirely and unequivocally accurate.

It’s also prudent to note that especially if you’re just starting out, you probably won’t be pulling in mega-high rates. Even if only for a short time, newbie freelancers will have to “pay their due” while they build both their reputation and portfolio.

The goal should be for growth over time and year after year.

Thankfully, Contena can help you find higher paying clients with ease. Padding your portfolio with profitable clients can help boost your yearly salary by leaps and bounds.

The more you put into your business, the more you’ll get out of it. Plain and simple. Having these figures should be a point of reference, rather than a benchmark set in stone.

How I became a freelance writer

When I found out about freelance writing, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. I craved the freedom that writing could give me. Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure that I could make this dream a reality. After all, making a living from the comfort of my home with my old laptop seemed too good to be true.

But I decided to give it a try. I started out with job boards to get a few small gigs. However, I was discovering that many refuse to pay writers more than a penny per word. Needless to say, I was discouraged. That’s when I decided to take a freelance writing course.

By investing in myself, I built my freelance writing career from a few hundred dollars a month to over $6,000 each month. With this new career, I’ve been able to put more money toward financial goals like retirement and our first home down payment. Plus, I have more control over my income and time. This career transformation is possible for anyone.

Believe me, if I can do it, so can you. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication, so it is possible if you can put in the work. If you are worried that you aren’t a good writer, don’t be! You’ll become a better writer with each article. The key is to open your laptop and get started. So, let’s get into how to start freelance writing with no experience.

My first writing gig

My first crack at paid writing was on iWriter, a site commonly referred to as a content mill.

I decided to give iWriter a try because you could start writing and earning money right away – and you could pick your choice of topic from a list. Plus, most article choices were short – under 500 words.

For someone new to online business, writing and using PayPal, I thought I’d see how this would fare out.

To be honest, I hated it. I spent far too much time writing a three hundred word post for pocket change.

I almost quit freelance writing. But, I didn’t.

I decided to move on to Guru, a freelance marketplace. I set up a profile and began pitching, but never landed a gig.

At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was cracked up to be a freelance writer.

But, I was persistent and kept visiting freelance writing sites like Be a Freelance Blogger – and I kept reading and learning about how many stay-at-home-moms built successful freelance writing businesses.

Many of these blogs had posts from guest contributors, so I switched focus and started building my portfolio by guest posting rather than landing paid work.

6. Charge a late payment fee

One way to deter clients from being lax about your payments is by charging a late payment fee.

Details of this fee should be incorporated into the contract or agreement you drew up at the beginning of the job, so the client can’t plead ignorance when it’s charged.

It’s up to you how much you’d like to charge for late payments. Most guidelines we’ve seen generally suggest around 1.5% to 2% ‘interest’ per month. This means that for each month past the payment’s due date, a percentage of the total payment is added on.

These numbers might seem quite low, especially for less expensive jobs. But you can decide to charge more if you like, and sometimes, even just the presence of a late fee clause in your agreement can be enough to spur on a dawdling client.

Image via Pexels
Image via Pexels

2. Request a deposit

One payment detail you might choose to include in your client’s contract is an upfront deposit.

Charging a deposit is a common practice for freelancers. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a portion of the total project cost at the outset, especially if you’re working with a new client. It shows that you’re serious about receiving payment for your work and provides some measure of security for both you and the client.

It’s up to you how much to charge as an upfront deposit. As Caitlin Pearce of the Freelancers Union points out:

A deposit of 30%–50% of your estimated fee is acceptable in many industries.”

Include details of the deposit and remainder payment in your contract and initial discussions with the client, and don’t start work until the deposit is received.

Image via Pexels
Image via Pexels

4. A text editing software

Microsoft Word, Notepad and NoteTab Lite are my favorites. You can find tons of free text editors online, too. Just pick the one that works best for you. But preferably, choose one that has spell check at the very least. If you can’t afford Microsoft Word, use the Mozilla Firefox browser and turn on the “Spell Check” option in the Options tab.

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Write What You Know: 19 Regional Magazines that Pay Writers

The truism ‘write what you know’ could have been talking about writing for city and regional magazines and publications. After all, who knows more about where you live and work than you do?  When you write what you know and pitch story ideas for publications…

There are large discrepancies between what print magazines pay and what those same digital outlets pay online

So let’s ignore digital natives for a moment. Although the print magazine business continues to contribute to a large portion of the overall revenue for outlets with print and digital sides, in some cases the digital side is catching up. There are examples of publications—even some of those mentioned by the freelancers I spoke to—where digital subscription growth is outpacing the print product.

When you’re wondering how much freelancers make writing for magazines, know that freelance rates are all over the map. One freelancer said she received 25 cents per word for an online freelance writing piece for Men’s Health. Another reported receiving $2 a word to write for the same print publication. According to the magazine’s media kit (which may not have been updated since Hearst bought the publication), the website MensHealth.com reaches 21 million people across all of its platforms and country editions. The print readership is said to be 12 million. Given shorter turnaround times for web and the heightening impact of the never-ending news cycle, the disconnect between print and web’s pricing is hard to explain. Aren’t the editorial standards the same?

“I’m just still always surprised at how—which is so unsurprising—but how much more I get paid for print than for online when I know that online it reaches so many more people,” Mallory Pickett, who has written for FiveThirtyEight and Bay Nature told me.

[Ready to increase your freelance writing rates and find higher-paying clients? Learn more about freelance coaching services.]

How to be a freelance writer and make money

But here’s an often overlooked scary thought that might happen on your way to earning money freelance writing:

What if your content marketing actually works? What if you get all of the clients you want? Will you be able to handle them?

Every service provider needs to answer those questions honestly because there is often a disconnect between what we say we want and the actions we take.

Fear of success can prevent us from crafting the bold, strategic plans that will truly teach us how to make money as a freelance writer.

Without realizing it, self-doubt causes us to make weak and safe moves that limit our potential — because we’re unsure if we’re capable of building relationships with prospects and managing a full roster of clients.

Freelance Writing Payment PayPal or Paper?

At this point, the client then pays me. Again, I would say that about 90% of my current client load pays via PayPal, but that changes based on the client. Websites, individual authors, online magazines, and smaller clients tend to use PayPal. Established print magazines, publishers, and large companies generally use paper checks. This is because they have an accounting or finance department that has its records and its processes well ensconced.

So, how does PayPal work? I've had a PayPal account for close to 10 years now. It probably got started via Ebaying! You sign up using your unique email account. You then connect your PayPal account to a bank account using all your personal numbers. So, my student's first concern is- Is it safe? Yes. PayPal is an accepted, secure, legitimate website. I've never had an issue with my PayPal account in the ten years of using it.

Now, there are fees. And if you're accepting payments in the thousands of dollars, they can certainly add up. Keep this in mind when you choose a payment method with your client. United States-based readers should note that you could write off those fees from your taxes, though.

Once your client's payment shows up in your PayPal account (you will get an email), you can go to the site and ask for a withdrawal. I then transfer the amount into my business bank account.

How to make money freelancing

There are many reasons businesses hire freelancers. Search engines, especially Google, have changed the economics of advertising online. If you are interested in freelance writing, it’s essential to educate yourself on search engine optimization (SEOs), keywords and link building. 

[If you’re freelancing learn how to accept credit card payments, and start to build your business.]

Depending on your skill set, some companies may pay in excess of $100 per hour for legal writing, copywriting and tech writing.

Scott Galit, CEO of Payoneer, echoed what many freelancers have discovered in recent years: Today’s hyperconnected, “borderless world” has created unprecedented work opportunities for talented professionals, no matter where they’re located.

“There’s an obvious appeal to freelancing — businesses worldwide can tap into a larger and more diverse talent pool than ever before, and … freelancers and service providers [can] secure work with international companies,” Galit said in a statement. “Freelancing offers smart, talented, hardworking professionals and business owners in emerging economies such as Argentina, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and Serbia a major breakthrough in job prospects and earning potential that they would have never thought possible a few years ago.”

For freelancers who want to market themselves better and earn more money, Steel advised creating a presence across multiple freelancing networks and asking clients to leave reviews on those sites. He also noted that branding yourself and promoting your work through a blog and social media channels can help you gain exposure, credibility and, ultimately, business growth.

“If you’re good at your job, there really is no limit to how much you can grow your business,” Steel said. “Many of the most successful entrepreneurs we come across just keep growing, and it’s because they’re bold and eager to promote themselves. Companies will be more drawn to you — and be willing to pay more — when they see you’re serious.”

To view the full Payoneer Freelancer Income Survey 2015 report, visit Payoneer’s download page.

Work With Me

Diana can help with:

  • Writing content
  • Content marketing writing
  • Content strategy
  • Editing
  • Reporting
  • Magazine writing and editing
  • Website writing
  • SEO writing and strategy
  • Branded content writing and editing
  • Thought leadership content
  • Copywriting
  • Whitepapers
  • SEO writing
  • Launching editorial websites
  • Audience development
  • Blogging
  • Ghostwriting
  • Social media strategy
  • Development of voice and tone
  • Book projects

Email Diana about opportunities: Diana(at)DianaKelly.com.

Paying Yourself

Of course, you then want some of that profit to go into your personal account, so you can buy shoes or purses, or whatever it is that men buy. Or pay your mortgage. Some banks will allow you to set up an electronic transfer system between them. I generally will simply write myself a paper check from my office account to my personal account. Once your business gets going, and you have some positive cash flow, you can get to the point where you pay yourself a set salary on a set day. It helps with budgeting and saving.

As you can see, payment systems are simple. Finding the processes that work for you may take some time or some trial and error, but once they are established, they tend to be somewhat automatic.

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