Freelance Writing Week II: How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?

Welcome to Freelance Writing Week II!

If you’re just joining us, be sure to go back and check out the first Freelance Writing Week during which we discussed:

Eat Money by wai.ti on FlickrAll this week we’re going to talk about money. Coincidentally, the subject of the April newsletter of WOW is Money Matters so be sure to check it out for more great information on financial mistakes writers make, planning for retirement, surviving a recession as a freelance writer, and more.

First, the most important thing to remember is that freelance writing is a business, so be sure to treat it that way.

Your clients depend on you and expect you to deliver your assignments on time; you should expect to be treated fairly and paid on time as well. Just because you’re not sitting in an office doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for your work product or that a client doesn’t have to treat you with respect.

So, keeping in mind that freelance writing is a business, later in the week we’ll also talk about

  • Whether you should ever write for free;
  • The “right” pay for freelance writing jobs;
  • How and when you can expect to be paid;
  • How to tell if a freelance writing job offer is legitimate.

Today, though, I want to address something upfront. Although freelance writing has many advantages (e.g., working from home, the freedom to scheduling your own hours, choosing assignments that interest you), if you’re aiming to be a millionaire, well….

How much do freelance writers make?

Giving an “average” salary of a freelance writer is difficult, although there’s a great interview with Deb Ng of Freelance Writing Jobs at in which she discusses the issue. Deb quotes $1,000 to $2,000 a month as a common wage of many freelance web writers she knows; that’s about what I would think as well (keeping in mind, as Deb notes in the comments, that this interview was a few years ago so average wages may be a bit higher now).

So will I get rich freelance writing?

Six-Figure Freelancing by Kelly James-EngerUm, probably not. I’m a firm believer that anything is possible, but quite simply, a freelance writer making six figures is rather rare; some freelancers are in that income bracket, but they are the exception.

Now don’t get me wrong: you can make a good living doing freelance writing and even support a family on it, but it takes a lot of work, commitment, dedication, and patience. And for many of us, the quality of life that freelance writing allows and the satisfaction of doing what we love and getting paid for it helps make up for the pay.

Can I expect that $1,000 to $2,000 a month from the get-go?

Unless you’re *extremely* fortunate, probably not. It can take years (that’s plural!) to build up to earning that amount per month depending on the kinds of credentials you have, so if you’re planning on eventually freelancing full-time, most people will recommend you keep your day job while you’re starting out and establishing contacts. Or, of course, have a generous savings account.

When I was testing the freelance waters 6 years ago, I did legal research and writing work in the meantime. I didn’t keep my day job per se, but I did continue doing similar work, only as a freelancer instead of an employee. To be clear, though, I’d *really* rather not relive those years again from a financial standpoint, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I had to support anyone in addition to myself.

I definitely would’ve had less stress had I just gotten a “regular” job and dabbled in freelancing, but for me personally, I didn’t want to waste any more time. I was ready to jump in and sink or swim. It took a while for me to swim, but overall I’m happy I did it this way.

Your road, of course, may look very different, so you’ll have to decide for yourself how to proceed.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for:

Should Freelance Writers Ever Write for Free?

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe through an RSS feed so you don’t miss a single Freelance Writing Week II post.

Also free free to bookmark, Stumble, and share these posts with friends via email, your blog, and Twitter. The more people we have reading them, the more ideas and suggestions we can come up with in the comments. We freelance writers have to stick together!

If you have money-related freelance writing questions, please leave them in the comments!

24 Beans of Wisdom to “Freelance Writing Week II: How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?”
  1. Gil

    Good luck attaining $IX figures with your freelancing!

    Hee hee, thanks Gil!

  2. joanne at frutto della passione

    As a fellow expat I’m curious about the tax issue. Do you have a partita iva? How do you handle the tax issue with regards to the Italian fiscal system?

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..Forte e gentile, tu sei abruzzese

    Ew tax stuff. I’m passing the buck, OK? My best advice there is to talk to a commercialista who can advise as to your particular situation 🙂

  3. I wonder where this idea that freelancing is a lucrative thing to do came from?

    Writers in general do not make a lot of money. The reason there is press about big book advances is because they are so rare.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..“Pandamonium” in Piazza del Popolo

    I actually just read an article, Is Writing for the Rich? by Francis Wilkinson about how writing is quickly becoming only for the wealthy because the rest of us non-trustfunded people really struggle with current pathetic pay rates….

  4. 04.20.2009

    A big plus is that your sweats can have holes in them and no one cares. It’s not so hard to make six figures if you include the ones after the decimal. Hey, it could make someone feel better!

    Hee hee hee….

  5. Richard

    why is it always about money? What price did the author of Genesis make? Did he starve as a result of no pay?

    For me and me alone, writing began with a need for me to heal, then those writings began to help others heal, then all of a sudden “manna” was provided to enable the healing ‘ie writing” process to continue…Wayer Dyer is a perfect example of this process, check his bio.

    Of course that is from someone who is published in the local church newsletter, well and a couple more….love and light, richard from Punta Gorda

    I know you’re being a bit tongue in cheek, but no one faults anyone else for desiring to earn a living as they’re earning a living…or, put another way, it’s not *all* about the money, of course, otherwise many of us would be doing other things that are far more lucrative and secure, like say lawyering. Blech. 😉

  6. Richard

    sigh, does anyone want a job as a “spellchecker” or proofreader? It would appear that I would starve…
    Love and Light, richard

    Hee hee….

  7. 04.20.2009

    This is a great series – and yes, you’re right (or is that write…) one’s not likely to make millions freelancing, but at least one can stay in bed all day! 😉

  8. 04.20.2009

    My room mate is a freelance writer. He basically makes the same amount as me, sometimes less when he can’t find work. I’d say it averages out to be a normal 40k/year job (maybe a bit less). Regards!

    Polish beer’s last blog post..Beer News @ All Beer Blog

    I’d say your roommate is doing pretty darn well for a freelancer–congrats to him! And thank you for stopping by 🙂

  9. 04.21.2009

    Another thing is that freelance writers often do other related (or non-related) things to make ends meet. I do a lot of translations, and it’s something I really enjoy and something I think makes me a better writer. As for how much you can make, that’s hard especially in this economy. I’m finding that clients with whom I’ve had a longstanding relationship before just trusted that I was giving them a fair price but now (in the current economy) want a breakdown of every comma and ampersand and how much a project is going to cost. It’s not an easy time to be self-employed, but it is also not impossible.

    Michelle’s last blog post..L’Era Glaciale

    Agreed, Michelle; definitely not an easy time to be self-employed, especially with a weak dollar and so many stateside clients (at least for me). That’s too bad about your existing clients; I’ve been lucky in that respect, it seems.

  10. 04.21.2009

    Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for including my quote. To be fair, that quote from PayScale is from several years ago. Many writers average well above that – between $2,000 and $4,000. It’s really hard to average it out because there are so many different types of writers and so many different types of writing.

    Like any freelance job it’s what you make of it, what you put into it, and where you look for work.

    Thanks for including me in your discussion!


    Deb Ng’s last blog post..Monday Markets for April 20, 2009

    Great to “see” you Deb! It’s so difficult to figure out an average, isn’t it? I think the more established writers you know, the higher you’ll estimate the average and vice versa. So maybe anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 a month, I would say, is safely in the median range…but what’s most important, IMHO, is that you’re making more each year as a freelancer, i.e., lesser experienced freelancers will likely be at the lower end and more experienced at the higher end. At least that’s what I’m hoping 😉

  11. 04.22.2009

    As a former advertising project manager there was nothing more frustrating then a freelance writer asking me how much they should charge. It gives a sense that you don’t know the business or what you are worth. Price is usually not the main factor. Quality and reliability were the two biggest factors I looked for. If I have to run all over town to get your words no matter how little you charge its not worth it to me. There is always room for negotiation when it come to money. If your rate is too high for a project I might negotiate a lower rate and then pass on a higher paying job in the near future if the work was solid. That is the real thing if the work isn’t there then the money won’t be either.

    Thank you *so* much for sharing this, Nicole. It’s great for writers to hear how lowballing doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get the job 🙂

    Great posts I am going to be forwarding them on to all my freelancing friends.

    Nicole’s last blog post..Verona

  12. Richard

    Mille Grazie ! This is one series that is “on my hard drive”. The column plus the comments and sharing may be something that some of my “ol’ profs” should read.

    From my background I guess I would say; ‘signal Bravo Zulu”…

    Love and light, richard

    Hee hee…thanks Richard 🙂

  13. Andy

    I need some advice. I have applied for a long term, part-time job writing short news articles for a website. I submitted a sample article and it must have been good enough cuz they asked me how much I would expect to be paid to write 4-8 articles a day, each article being roughly 3 paragraphs.

    This is my first dip into freelance writing and I have no idea what the average pay would be. I know it will be low but I want to make sure I don’t get ripped off. any thoughts?

    Thank you,

    Andy, first of all, congratulations! Now, my best advice to figure out what you think you should be paid an hour, then figure out how long the articles will take you–and get a number for how much you should be paid for each depending on that. As you’re just starting out, sure, you may have to go a bit lower than your ideal rate (I think most all of us have), but the important thing is that you don’t *stay* at that less-than-ideal rate for too long…best of luck!

  14. Andy

    Thank you for the advice. Well, it would probably only be a few hours of work per day. Do you think between $3 to $5 would be reasonable? I enjoy the subject matter I will be writing on and do not necassarily need alot of extra money(not to say I won’t take it :)) I don’t want to lose the job by over quoting.

    I don’t mean to be wishy washy, but it really is whatever you feel comfortable with that matters; that said, I’d definitely ask at least $5 😉 Do them for a week or two and see how you feel; if you feel “cheated,” try to renegotiate or just thank them for the opportunity and move on with your new writing credits 🙂

  15. 11.05.2010

    I have been freelance writing fora month now and have made about $30 my first month. Far from $1,000, but I set goals to make more each month.

  16. Drew

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned here: You can charge a heck of a lot more for freelance writing, if you have some life experience or skill/knowledge that makes your time more valuable. I’ve made as much as $180k a year for freelance writing from a war zone (Afghanistan) and I am currently pulling in $80k+ writing related content for various government and corporate customers. I am looking at adding $40k+ to that, so I will possibly end up netting around $120k. I don’t think you need to go to the extreme I did to make more money writing, but it helps if you have something besides writing to value-add.

  17. michelle

    Thanks for adding that, Drew!

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Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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