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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Can you Still Make a Six-Figure Living as a Freelancer? And Another Giveaway

I just had a reader of Six-Figure Freelancing contact me last week, asking if I still thought that freelancers could make a six-figure living writing articles. Five or six years ago, I would have said "of course."  

Today, I still think it's possible to make a six-figure living (or close) writing articles for print and online publications. But it's definitely harder to do than before, for a variety of reasons. Print magazines are assigning shorter articles than they did before, yet per-word rates are pretty close to what they were in the 1960s. And as ad revenue has dropped, magazines are smaller, which means they're assigning fewer articles overall. Add in the fact that competition for high-paying features is fierce. Unless you've already established yourself with a number of magazines as one of their "go-to" writers, I think it's tough to make six figures from articles alone. 

However, let's remember that there are countless other ways to make money from your words. There are more online publications and blogs that pay for content than ever before, so if you're not writing for online markets, you should be. There's copywriting. There's writing for corporate clients. There's ghostwriting. There's editing. There's writing books for traditional publishers. And what about publishing your own ebooks on a particular subject and making money from that? Or investing in a POD book to produce another source of income? 

My point is this--what worked for me (and many other freelancers) ten years, five years, even two years ago doesn't work as well anymore. I've found that diversifying my business has helped me survive in a tough economy. Yes, I still write articles, but I also write books and ghostwrite books and other projects for clients. I do some public speaking, edit occasionally, and do some consulting work with freelancers and budding authors. And I'm in the middle of a big new project I'll announce soon. 

But other successful freelancers have taken a different approach. Instead of diversifying, they choose to focus on specific lucrative areas like corporate writing, copywriting, or medical writing. Right now, I'm not interested in doing that--I like a variety of work. But in the future, who knows? 

***I promised a giveaway to celebrate 400 followers, didn't I? So to win a free copy of Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success (and possibly a bonus prize I'll announce), please make a comment below. If you're a new writer, tell me what you'd like to know starting out. If you have some experience under your belt, tell me what you would have liked to know as a newbie. Feel free to pass this link along to other writers, and THANK YOU! 


  1. Hi - great blog. You are absolutely right. I am a old-new writer. Having done bits and pieces for a number of years and now just starting to get really, really, serious.My biggest problem is finding markets, I have an idea and poof, can't find a market. But I shall forge ahead. - Mary Ellen Carmody

  2. Reading this post a year ago would have sent me straight int a dark chocolate induced coma. Today, it makes me smile. I like a variety in my work as well. I work hard; I work all the time and each new project I take on reaffirms one fact to me; I am a writer and I can do this. When you make a living from the words you write using your own creativity and perseverance to meet whatever challenges come up next reaffirms that you're made of the hearty stuff it takes to make it. Great article, Kelly. Thanks so much!

  3. Hi Kelly. Congrats on reaching 400 followers (and on your upcoming big project - sounds intriguing!). I'm a freelancer with some experience, and I think in the beginning I would have liked to know how to write queries to appeal to the higher paying markets. I knew how to write a query, but I spent about two years writing for magazines that paid $10-550 per article - a lot of effort for not much reward! I wasn't using many expert sources and it was learning to find sources, interview and pitch these types of articles that resulted in a serious leap in income.

  4. As a newbie, I would have liked to know how to deal with magazine editors. It seems the ones in my niche have a set time of year for purchasing articles and planning their next publishing year. Had this been explained to me from the get go, I would not have frustrated myself over them sitting on my submissions.

  5. Good straight forward advice as always, Kelly. For a future post could you discuss the pay rates of online markets? There seems to be incredible upside there, but I'm not sure where to focus.

  6. I would also love to hear about online markets. I see lots of requests for blog content and SEO writers, but the pay seems abysmal. I must be missing something!

  7. Hi Kelly,
    The majority of questions that I had as a complete newbie were answered by a couple of 'idiot guide' books that I purchased. Even though I felt that I could write (and did put fingers to keyboard) I never had much faith in my abilities and so gave up on the idea. That was back in 2008.
    Fast forward to this year, when a chance conversation at a trucking trade show changed everything. The guy that I was talking to was not only a magazine editor, but also a university lecturer and told me there and then that he thought that I could write a respectable piece.
    After accepting an invitation to pen an article as a guest columnist, I am now blogging for them and am about to have my second article published in Today's Trucking.
    Despite this good fortune, my experience has not been without it's frustrations. I have a bookshelf full of writing related books, including titles on copywriting and also the de-rigeur Writers Market. I have also subscribed to the two main writers magazines (where, I might add, I found your blogspot address) and have a folder full of articles and query letters, yet have been unable to get my work published elsewhere.
    So where am I going with this tale?
    Well, this is the age of the information super-highway, and if you look hard enough you can find the answer to all of your writing related questions, but sometimes all you need is patience, and someone to tell you that you can actually write.
    For me at least, the faith of one man has been my inspiration and motivation. (Thanks Pete!)

  8. Great post. I'd like to know your advice to writers who are embarking on a freelance career. What are the first five things they would need to do before seeking clients?


  9. Congratulations on reaching 400 followers! Your advice is relevant and direct which I appreciate. Your blogs are a quick reminder of what is important in this business. Thank you!

  10. Congratulations on 400 followers! When I started freelancing, I didn't know any better (which was a good thing, in retrospect), so I started pitching right at the top of my list depending on the topic. Within months I was published in national and local newspapers and getting paid for my writing. Today, I'm still sort of stuck writing for those same publications and I'd like to make the move to online markets for all their benefits. Your blog helps tremendously with the LOIs and all the advice you give, so thank you for the push, Kelly!

  11. I think the hardest thing for me is networking. Like many writers, I prefer to remain in the background, sitting behind my computer and bringing copy to life for clients. Attending networking events, cold-calling, getting out and about to meet people take me out of my comfort zone when it comes to plugging my business. I've managed to make a decent living for 10 years at it, but it is getting more and more difficult these days--and I now realize I don't have the skills I need to grow my business. I wish I had heeded all the advice to devote time to marketing early on! I hope it's not too late to learn! You are an inspiration to writers. Keep the good work up!

  12. When I was starting out, I'd have liked to know the work cycle that goes on in an editor's office. That would've helped me to know, for example, that third week of the month is a bad time to send out pitches to a monthly, as the editor is likely to be busy with closing the issue. First week, by the same logic, is a good time.