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How to Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer

These tips will help you earn a living as a freelance writer — or help you determine if you can earn a living as a freelance writer! Getting paid to write depends on many factors, including how you define “freelance writer” and what you’re willing to do to succeed!

Before the tips, a quip:

“The first step to making a lot of money as a freelance writer is to avoid the “poverty mentality” that so many writers have,” writes Robert Bly in Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $100,000 a Year or More. “This is the belief that (a) freelance writers earn very little money; (b) freelance writers deserve to earn very little money; (c) it’s impossible to make a lot of money as a freelance writer unless you hit with a bestseller or big movie script; and (d) therefore you will never make or have a lot of money as a freelance writer.” 

For more tips for successful writers from Bly, click Secrets of a Freelance Writer. And, read on for tips on earning a living as a freelance writer… 

How to Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer

1. Set your financial goals. Me, I’m happy to earn $40,000 my first year as a full-time freelance writer. I’ll no doubt increase my salary every year, but I’m good for now. But – Robert Bly has something to say about that: “Set your sights higher,” he writes in Secrets of a Freelance Writer. “Don’t aim for an income of $40,000 a year. Aim for $100,000 a year, or even $250,000 a year. But even if you only come halfway to achieving those high goals, you’ll be a lot better off than writers who deliberately aim low.” For more tips on earning more money, read Creating Multiple Income Streams for Writers.

2. Adjust your standard of living. Are you indulging in Starbucks lattes three times a day, the most expensive organic food, and the latest trendy fashions? Then you better analyze Bly’s book about succeeding as a freelancer from cover to cover! Earning a living writing may afford you all those luxuries eventually, after you’ve mucked through the trenches. However, when you’re first earning a living as a freelance writer, you might need to lower your standard of living so you can pay the bills. 

3. Define “freelance writer” for yourself. My definition of a successful freelance writer does not include corporate writing, technical writing, writing for brochures, textbook writing, or speech writing. What does being a freelance writer mean to you? How do you see yourself earning a living by freelance writing? Set your standard as early in your writing career as possible, and don’t get lost.

4. Diversify your writing opportunities. I love writing for numerous publications and outlets because it’s more interesting and because it makes me feel more secure as a freelancer. For instance, if Woman’s Day suddenly drops me, then I still have MSN Health or Reader’s Digest as possibilities. Spread your freelance writing gigs around, fellow scribes. Writing can be just as much an investment as investing in stocks (blogs and web writing, for instance, can be sources of long-term passive income). Read 7 Tips for Writing for Trade Magazines for more diversification tips!

5. Write part-time to start. After 1½  years of freelance writing part-time and working in an office part-time, I jumped into full-time freelance writing. I’ve exceeded my (rather modest) financial goals every month. Working part-time somewhere else not only gives you financial security, it also gets you out of yourself. A part-time job gives you writing ideas, boosts your self-confidence (those constant writing rejections can beat you down), and keeps you motivated to do what you really want: be a successful writer!  

A writing quip George Bernard Shaw: 

“I dread success,” said Shaw. “To have succeeded is to have finished one’s business on earth, like the male spider, who is killed by the female the moment he has succeeded in courtship.  I like a state of continual becoming, with a goal in front and not behind.” 

If you’re not a successful freelance writer, then you’re in good company. 🙂

What are your thoughts or questions on these tips for earning a living as a freelance writer? Please comment below…

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2 thoughts on “How to Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer”

  1. I dove into full-time writing pretty quickly. I was making a lot more doing something else, but I hated the something else I was doing. I came to a fork in the road- do the other thing forever and be successful at it or start something else entirely.

    Within two months I was making a full time living that I could actually get the bills paid with. To do that, though, takes a ridiculous amount of work, reading and lightning-speed learning about the potential markets. I wouldn’t recommend that.