• Thu. Dec 9th, 2021

How to turn a side hustle as a freelance writer into a 6 figure career

lanwo ayotunde


Jan 13, 2020

More Americans than ever before view freelancing as a full-time career path that can earn them high-paying salaries. In fact, freelance writers, in particular, can earn six figures or more.

Freelancers, including freelance writers, are making up a bigger portion of the US workforce. According to an Upwork and Freelancers report surveying more than 6,000 workers, an estimated 57 million freelancers make up for 35% of the US workforce — and more than half of them just started within the past five years.

These freelancers contribute nearly $1 trillion in collective income, the study found. It doesn’t matter if they’re taking on temp jobs instead of earning a base salary — they’re making more money and view their work as a viable career path.

If you’re considering a career in freelance writing, there are many different ways you can making a living, and earn more than $100,000 a year. For example, there’s ghostwriting, news reporting, and finance blogging — each demanding similar and attainable skills for aspiring side hustlers.

Whether you want to turn your writing hobby into a part-time gig or a full-time career, there’s simply no one right way to do it — which can be both exciting and daunting.

Six full-time freelancers shared with Business Insider how they managed to earn six figures or more. These are four steps they took that helped them get a head start.

Learn to negotiate

A writer’s fee is ambiguous. Costs often depend on the worker’s experience and how much the client or publisher is willing to pay.

Regardless, seven-year freelance veteran Sarah Li Cain believes it’s your responsibility to advocate for higher rates. Cain has written for several finance publications including Business Insider, LendingTree, and Quicken Loans, and she earned a six-figure salary in 2018 — within five years of being in the business.

The finance writer wrote in a Business Insider post that she made less than $40,000 during her first two years while working 12-hour days. After reading “Overcoming Underearning: A Five-Step Plan to a Richer Life,” by Barbara Stanny that gave a five-step guide to increasing income, Cain was inspired and “started respecting my own time and my own work,” she wrote. When it comes to navigating through freelance writing gigs, she shared that a big mistake she made early on in her career was not learning to negotiate well.

“I was grateful for the work and didn’t want to price myself too high for fear of losing any jobs,” she wrote in a Business Insider post. “So I took any rate that anyone offered or purposely quoted a small rate to increase my chances of getting hired.”

Negotiating isn’t just about money. In fact, story deadlines, expected pay dates, and the number of articles you submit are all negotiable.

“It’s also about coming to a consensus where it’ll be a win-win situation for all,” she wrote.

Annastasia Kamwithi, a freelance ghostwriter who makes around $80,000 a year, told Business Insider that she increased her fees over time and partnered with other ghostwriters for bigger, high-paying projects.

“Most [freelance ghostwriters on online job sites] will accept $10 for around 1,000 words of content, but with my expertise and experience I go as high as $100 for 1,000 words,” she said.

Do some research on what’s low and high for your industry’s standards, and negotiate a pay rate that ultimately reflects the quality of your work, she added.

Establish a routine to maximize productivity

The key to growing your freelance writing career is discipline. Unlike full-time employees who have bosses to keep them in check, side hustlers self-manage their own workflow.

Megan DeMatteo, a former teacher who picked up a freelance-writing side hustle, wrote in a Business Insider post that she grew her income by 50% by holding herself accountable for miscellaneous tasks.

“There are days I don’t want to track my budget, or send out letters of introduction, or go through my emails to ensure I’ve not missed anything,” she explained. “But putting things like this off just adds to the negative build-up in my mind…Setting aside an hour a day for this kind of admin work is one strategy for making the work consistent, simple, and digestible.”

Create a personalized expense plan

clint proctor Clint Proctor. Courtesy of Clint Proctor

Monetary decisions can make or break a freelance career — especially if you’re thinking about turning your writing side hustle into a full-time gig.

Freelance writer Clint Proctor built up an emergency fund, saved his side hustle income, and waited seven months before quitting his day job and becoming a full-time freelancer. He resisted the urge to spend the extra side hustle paychecks because he wanted to be prepared for the ups and downs.

“Over the past seven years of our marriage, my wife and I have always tried to save at least 10% of our income in our ‘rainy day’ fund,” he wrote in a Business Insider post. “And whenever we’d get ‘unexpected’ money like from a gift, bonus, or tax refund, we’d try to put a large portion of it away in our Wells Fargo savings account as well.”

Proctor saved up about four months worth of living expenses with that strategy.

kelly burch home office Kelly Burch. Courtesy Kelly Burch

For Kelly Burch, a freelance journalist, her income jump from a $6,000 to $100,000 salary is much credited to childcare investment. She quit her newspaper job when her first child was born, and she learned overtime that investing in childcare really means that she’s investing in herself and her business.

“Seeing how quickly my business grew when I had more time to focus on it confirmed that I cannot be a great mom and great business owner without dedicating independent time to each endeavor,” she wrote in a Business Insider post.

Not only do you get to earn on your own terms with a freelancing career, experts also advise that you create an expense plan that caters to your personal needs.

When Cain first started her freelance career, she didn’t see a point in separating her finances because she wasn’t earning a lot of money. Overtime, having a joint credit card made it harder for her to keep track of her expenses and client deposits.

“Had I started separating my business and personal finances from the beginning, I could have made my bookkeeping process a lot easier,” she wrote in a Business Insider post. “For one thing, I could have signed up for a cloud accounting software program that automatically populated my income and expenses. Now that I’m doing that, it saves me hours per month.”

Find a way to expand your clientele

Kat Boogaard Kat Boogaard. Courtesy of Kat Boogaard

Being a freelance writer means you’re constantly on the lookout for new temp jobs. While you keep an eye on job boards like ProBlogger and FlexJobs, you might want to get creative with luring new clients.

Kat Boogaard, a freelance writer who earned $100,000 in 2018, doesn’t rely on a single web board for jobs, she wrote in a Business Insider post.

In fact, she tries to stay away from popular websites where there would be a lot of competition. The freelancer relies on social media platforms, especially Twitter, to form a relationship with editors, and she leverages her personal and professional network for potential gigs.

On the other hand, Burch advised that you find a way to reach corporate clients who pay higher rates. She increased her income by 30% through accepting writing assignments from an editor at a major brand.

Cain uses QuickBooks Self-Employed — a money-tracking service that keeps a record of income and estimates quarterly taxes.


2 thoughts on “How to turn a side hustle as a freelance writer into a 6 figure career”
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