Making a Full-Time Living From Freelance Writing

I discovered today that I’ve inspired a discussion on the FreelanceWritingGigs site about what it means to make a full time living from writing. My answer seemed to be different than everyone else’s.

Lorna Doone Brewer, writing in their “Fun Stuff” blog, picked up on my comment to site owner Deb Ng that she should raise her rates, as she’s always complaining about working very long hours. This led to a discussion about what the minimum wage is in your state! As if making the minimum wage would be desirable.

Here’s my response:

I think freelance writers tend to think in terms of eking out a living. Ooh, if I can just manage to make $20,000 a year, wouldn’t it be wonderful?

Meanwhile, there’s an alternative universe where really motivated, efficient, excellent writers are making four or five times that. We’re making really good livings. Like, I took my family of five on an Alaska cruise a couple summers ago with what I made from just one copywriting client. I make more now than I did as a fulltime reporter.

There seems to be an assumption that freelancing means making less–that you must trade lots of income for the freedom you get. But in my experience, that’s only true if you think it is.

I encourage the writers I mentor to envision how to make a really comfortable living with their work, how to mix in some really high-paying work to enable them to also write lower-paying work they may really love, while not living on bean burritos. I’m definitely a fan of Peter Bowerman and The Well-Fed Writer and share his philosophy that being a freelancer does NOT have to mean starving.

I think the content mills have really encouraged the poverty mindset. But if you change your mindset to an abundance mindset, there is sooo much good-paying writing work out there. I made more than $6,000 in a week earlier this year on just one rush project.

Another example: I had a large client I was billing at $85 an hour. At the end of 2007, I was encouraged by other freelance-writer friends to ask for a raise to $95. I got some resistance, but they went for it–and wow was I glad! I later learned most of their other writers got $125 so I was still a deal…and of course shortly afterward the economy went down and it would have been impossible to ask for a raise at that point. But believing in myself there probably meant an extra $10,000 or so I earned over the course of the next couple years, for doing the very same thing I was before–it turned out to be a busy time with lots of work. If I had a poverty mindset, I’d still be earning my old wage, working more hours to get to the same place.