The idea for this site was born when I surpassed my first five figures as a freelance writer in 2013. My taxable income from that year was $59,000 and I was overjoyed to replace my full-time income writing from my home office.
In May and June of this year, I broke through my next Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal (BHAG) by invoicing five figures two months in a row. ($13,900 in May, $11,525 in June).
I am beyond excited to have broken through this goal without working absolutely insane hours or doing work outside of my usual day-to-day. That is, I didn’t take on a side job or get thrown into something crazy; I simply worked my butt off and did my best for everyone who hired me.
No matter what your personal BHAG is — it might be your own five figure month, or it might be breaking $1,000 in a month — these two high-income months were the result of four very important lessons I’d like to share with you today:
1. You Can’t Charge Bottom-of-the-Barrel
Here’s the honest truth: I simply couldn’t have done this if I were working at a low or reasonable hourly rate or at a project rate like $50 or $25 per post.
I simply couldn’t have done this if I were working at a low or reasonable hourly rate or at a project rate like $50 or $25 per post.
Do the math. To make $10,000 at $50 per hour, you would have to work 200 hours per month or 50 hours per week. To make $10,000 at $25 per post, you would have to write 400 posts per month or 100 per week. (Both of these examples are in a four-week month). That’s simply not reasonable or maintainable in the long term. (At least, it’s not maintainable for me… talk about burnout!)
Instead, I have tweaked and developed rates that work for my clients and value my time (and the results of what I do) fairly. I charge by project, so they have reasonable recurring expenses, and I make more when I work faster (instead of making less when I work faster, which is the case with hourly work).
2. Write for People With Real Budgets
Once you decide to charge what you’re worth, you may find your clients don’t think you’re worth that. It’s up to you to decide to move on and find and write for people with real budgets.
I started my writing journey writing $10 and $20 personal finance posts. No matter what I said, did, or how trained or experienced I was, these blogs would simply never have the budget to pay more per post. So I moved on, and now I focus my services on companies and niches that pay well.
Linda Formichelli explains this concept in her post, “It’s Just as Easy to Fall in Love with a Rich Mag as a Poor Mag.” Certain topics and industries don’t pay well and never will because the nature of the topic won’t make the publisher money. There are always exceptions, but these industries often include “fun” topics like food, lifestyle, personal finance, faith, anything personal, and relationships.
If you really want to make money as a professional writer, find clients with the budget to pay you for what you bring to the table.
If you love to write about these topics, do so on your own blog to build an audience and later launch your book or brand. But if you really want to make money as a professional writer, you’re far better off learning a new niche and finding clients with the budget to pay you for what you bring to the table.
3. Don’t Just Search for Clients, Search for Partners
Much of the significant boost in these two months was the direct result of letting my network know I was looking to take on more client projects. I was incredibly blessed to partner with a high-end business coach to entrepreneurs. This person had clients running successful businesses who needed reliable, talented writers. I connected with these clients for one-off projects and delivered on what I promised, which resulted in an invoicing boost for both of these months and will hopefully result in even more work in the future.
Expand your search from clients to like-minded, tangential service providers like website designers, graphic designers, business coaches, and other bloggers.
You can take this idea to heart by expanding your search from clients to like-minded, tangential service providers like website designers, graphic designers, business coaches, and other bloggers. Then you can focus on developing real relationships with these people (by referring them business, too) and getting warm referrals built on mutual trust.
4. Embrace Recurring Work and One-Off Work Equally
The writing community has a lot to say about the benefits of the recurring retainer, and I am inclined to agree. However, don’t let that stop you from creating relationships as an ad hoc (as needed), infrequent writer.
About 25 percent of these five figure months came from retainer work. The rest was a mix of regular one-off work (that is, it’s regular work but we don’t have an established retainer) and large one-off projects that happen two or three times per year.
High-paying one-off work isn’t something you can walk into overnight and get a fat check (at least, I haven’t figured out how to do that!). It’s something that develops over time, which means you need to get on it before you want the income. Nurturing these kinds of relationships year-round (when there’s no work to be had) will allow you to capitalize on the big projects that come up every once in a while, unexpectedly (and pleasantly) pushing your income over the edge.
Are You Aiming for a Five Figure Month?
I’d love to hear from you about your income goals. Are you aiming for a five figure month? Or setting your sites on a lower but recurring monthly income? Let me know how you plan to adjust these tips to meet your goals, however high or low they might be.