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Monday, January 9, 2012

Straight Talk about Money: What One Freelancer Made in 2011

How was 2011 for you, income-wise? Longtime readers of the blog will recall that I do an annual income survey for full-time freelancers, and the latest one is live. Please take the time (it should take less than five minutes!) to fill it out, and ask other freelancers to do the same. I'll report on results in a future post. (You can read more about the 2010 income survey results and the 2009 income survey results here.)

I can tell you that 2011 was a rough year for me. For the first time in more than a decade, I failed to meet my income goal of $60,000. Instead I grossed $51,818--and next post I'll explain why. For now, let's look at where my money came from. 
  • The majority, about $26,750, came from book income--primarily advances for books I wrote under my own name, and for ghostwriting/coauthoring for clients. This included work I did for a book packager, work for private clients, and the small advance to update a book I coauthored.
  • Another $2,842 came from royalties from traditionally published books, POD books, and ebooks. Royalties are my favorite kind of money to make, and a reason I continue to promote books like Goodbye Byline. Every time someone buys a copy, I make (a little) money. 
  • I made another $600 or so from "hand-sales" at writers' conferences and other speaking gigs. No, it's not a lot of money but people often want to buy your book after they've seen you speak, so if you're an author, you should plan to carry along a box of books whenever you do a public event. 
  • From speaking gigs, I netted another $5,150. This included speaking at writers' conferences, libraries, and other events. This isn't as much as I've made in other years, but it's better than what I made from speaking in 2010.
  • I also sold another $3,556 worth of reprints. Again, this isn't a huge amount of money, but the work involved is minimal, and another source of "free" money.
  • The rest of my income came from writing articles and consulting (primarily for would-be authors who need help considering their book publishing options). 
Even though books (both my own and those for clients) constitute most of my freelance income, you can see that I have other ways of making money, too. I've found a diversified approach works best for me, and helps me make money in a limited number of hours. Next post I'll tell you what I did wrong in 2010, and explain more about why having a variety of work helps you produce more money overall. 

**Didn't take the 2011 income survey yet? Please do it now, and ask others to do the same! Thank you! :)  


  1. Kelly, thank you very much for sharing this level of detail.
    Did you track how many hours you spent working? (And if so, do you break the time down into writing/marketing/speaking, etc.?)

  2. Great question, Greg. I do keep rough track of my hours, but I don't break the *time* down by activity. I should think about keeping track of my marketing time--that takes up a big chunk of time that doesn't necessarily translate into $$. Thanks for your comment! :)