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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Talk about Money...How Much are you Making?

Let’s talk money some more. How much are you making this year? How does it compare to last year?

Here’s the thing—I talk about money. Maybe it's a character flaw, but I think other writers should, too. There’s a perception (a misconception, in my opinion) that freelancing is a good way to starve. But for me, and thousands of other successful self-employed writers, freelancing more than pays the bills. So why isn’t that info getting out there?

Sure, plenty of writers are making little money. But are they going where the money is—in other words, writing for clients who pay reasonably well? Are they writing what people want to pay for, not what they particularly feel like writing that day? Hey, I would love to be a fulltime novelist—and I already have two published novels under my belt. But I can’t make a living writing fiction…unless I can figure out how to live on $7,500/year, which is what I got as the advance for each of those novels. (Insert dejected sigh here.)

Anyway, there isn’t a lot of info out there about what freelancers are making money-wise today. Writer’s Market includes an annual roundup of going rates for different kinds of work, and if you’re a member of ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors), you have access to Paycheck, where members anonymously report what they’re paid by different publishers. But what are we making annually these days?

When I was working on Six-Figure Freelancing, I found only two surveys about freelancer's income. One was a 2003 survey of 369 ASJA members. At that time, 41% made more than $50,000 a year, including 12% grossing more than $100,000 annually. Another survey of nearly 500 freelancers conducted by Doreesa Banning in 2004 found that while nearly 68.9% of respondents made less than $50,000 a year, more than 30% made more than that, including 7% who made more than $100,000 annually. (Visit for more about the survey.)

What about you? Where do you fall on the income bell curve? I’ll tell you that in 2009, I grossed about $52,000 last year, working an average of 15 hours/week. In 2008, I made $57,500, working about 18 hours/week. However, this year I’m on target to make significantly less than that, which means it’s time for me to market myself much more aggressively.

Still, I’m curious about what other freelancers are making and thought about asking for feedback here. Then reality interceded; after all, I do realize not everyone is as willing to share their annual income in a public forum. So I’ve set up an anonymous survey to report on the current state of what we're making as freelancers. Please visit to participate in the survey (it will take you 3 minutes or less!) and I’ll report on the results by the end of June. After all, more information about money=more power for freelancers. And that is an excellent thing.


  1. Nice of you to post numbers Kelly. John Scalzi ( is another writer who has shared what he makes and the information is quite useful. You're right though - more people giving out information would make things easier for all freelancers. Off to finish your survey now :-)

  2. Kelly, love it! I, too, like to talk money, In fact, on my blog this week, during a rant on coaches who promise you can make millions -- without divulging how much THEY make -- I spilled the beans about how much I earn. Thanks for sharing your numbers. More proof that freelance writers CAN earn a decent income if they pitch clients who pay well instead of bottom-feeding on content mills.