Tracking Freelance Earnings: January 2016 Income Report

Tracking Freelance Writing Earnings
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How was your first month of 2016? Did you set a freelancing goal? Did you take steps to achieve it? Let’s look at how I did this January, and check in with another freelancer about her freelancing goals.

First, my January numbers:

Completed pieces: 64

Work billed: $5,676

Earnings received: $4,884.30

I wrote roughly 57,000 words in January, with an average per-piece earning of $89. My highest earning piece was $1,029, and my lowest-earning piece was $78.

I would have earned more than $6,000 this month, except one client canceled an assignment. This is the kind of thing that happens once in a while, which means it’s always important to plan more work than you need. When I say I want to earn $5,000 every month, I know I need to plan to earn a little more, just in case something like this happens.

Checking in on my freelancing goals

How am I doing on my freelancing goals?

I’m on target to maintain my $5,000 monthly income. I’m also working towards building new client relationships. However, I fell behind in my goal to work reasonable hours. I spent the first half of January ending my workday — and turning off social media — by 6:30 p.m., but during the second half of the month the hours started creeping up again.

I’ve heard other people say 2016 already feels busier than 2015, so I’m curious if you feel that way as well. I have a lot of opportunities available to me this year, which means putting in extra hours to make sure I both manage my workload and build the foundation for the work I want to be doing in the second half of 2016.

However, I have already made changes for February. The biggest change? Telling clients I already have a full workload for the month, and can’t start any new projects until March. Let’s hope I can keep that resolution and keep my workload manageable!

But enough about me. I also made a goal to turn this column into a collaboration, so today we’re going to look at another freelancer and her 2016 goals.

Q&A with MaryBeth Matzek of 1BizzyWriter

MaryBeth Matzek is a freelancer whose work includes journalism, blogging and content marketing. She also owns a quarterly agriculture publication, Midwest Agriculture Almanac. Learn more about Matzek’s work at 1BizzyWriter, or follow her on Twitter at — you guessed it — @1BizzyWriter.

ND: What is your freelance life like?

MM: Busy. I feel like I constantly have multiple irons in the fire at all times, but it’s better than the alternative — not having enough work. 2016 marks my 10th year as a freelancer and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the flexibility it gives me to help out at my children’s school, with their sports teams and not having to worry or explain why I need time off for doctors’ appointments, illnesses, etc. I write primarily for publications — mostly business and trade focused.

What would you like to improve about your freelancing career?

I would like more balance — at times, the work can seep into my family time, which is not what I want. I would like to replace lower-paying clients with ones that pay more so I can earn more and work the same amount (or less).

What steps are you taking to help you get there? Have you had success so far?

I have let one client go that was too much work for the money to free up my time to find additional, better-paying work. After doing that, I was able to connect with a trade magazine publisher that provided me with a lot of work. As for finding a balance and being more organized, that’s still a work in progress. I always start out Mondays with good intentions, but by the end of the week, my desk is a complete mess.

Do you have an income goal for 2016?

In 2015, I grew my income by nearly $20,000 so I would like to maintain that gain in 2016 and if possible grow it by a few more thousand.

What steps are you taking to hit that income goal? Have you had success so far?

We’re only a month into the year so I haven’t had too much time to find new partnerships, but I continue to work on growing the ones I have with clients and publications. I know I need to send out additional letters of inquiry and pitches to publications and websites that I’m interested in writing for and need to build that time into my schedule every week.

What is the hardest part of freelancing, for you?

Finding balance between too much work that I can’t breathe and that not having enough work that I panic about never finding work again, which is ridiculous I know since I have several clients I can consistently rely on for work each month. But as I found out in 2015 when two smallish clients cut their budgets and I lost work, I can’t always rely on that.

What do you feel like you do really well as a freelancer?

Write compelling, well-written articles on time. Editors also love that I’m easy to work with — want me to find another source or have the story in by Friday? Sure, I can do that. My 11 years of daily newspaper experience provided me with a great skill set that allows me to just do that.

What advice do you have for other freelancers?

Don’t give up and always make your deadline. And if you need more time, ask for it and explain why at least one day before the deadline. As an editor on the other side of the table, nothing is worse than when you expect a story and then have it not show up.

Share your January stories

Now that you’ve seen my freelancing update and learned how MaryBeth Matzek is planning to structure her goals for 2016, it’s time to share your January stories. How did you do this month? Did you make your income goal? Did you pitch a new client? Did you write something you’d like to share with us?

Share your January successes and struggles in the comments.

If you’d like to be part of a future Tracking Freelance Earnings column, email me at See you all next month with a new update!

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Nicole Dieker is a freelance copywriter and essayist. She writes regularly for The Billfold on the intersection of freelance writing and personal finance, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, Yearbook Office, and Boing Boing.... .

Nicole Dieker | @hellothefuture

Nicole Dieker
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  1. Congratulations Nicole!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been a freelance writer for 18 years and have felt like a lone wolf not knowing how other writers work or develop clients or how their pay fluctuates. This has been informative and encouraging!!! Thank you!!

  3. Reading your posts has been very enlightening. I have a question. How many hours per day of work time are you averaging? Does that include research as well as writing? I find the research bogs me down and increases the hours I’m working.

    • I tend to work between 40-60 hours a week, which I know is a huge variance but it really depends on what I’ve got going on.

      The research doesn’t necessarily bog me down—I block that off into my calendar. What really throws my workday off are the surprises, like “can you do an emergency quick article for us?”

  4. Thanks so much for the reply Nicole!

  5. I love reading these reports, but I’m wondering if you have considered charging more and working less? When I freelanced up until Dec. 2015, I started to stay away from Internet publications because I felt the pay was low. On the other hand, I’m now working as a senior writer at an organization, and I just received a proposal from a freelance writer for web copy at $70/hr. I was charging around $40 an hour for various copywriting work, and looking back, I feel like I wasn’t charging enough.

    • Often publications reach out to me with budgets and rates already set. I do successfully re-negotiate the majority of my rates every year, which helps with the earning more/working less thing.

  6. A big congrats Nicole (and a belated “happy valentines day” to you)!

    I will say I respect you like mad. Writing that much content for clients and still keeping up with your own blog deserves respect.

    You go girl 🙂


  7. Fahim khondokar says:

    I have been trying to earn $600 per month. But I can not earn $200, let alone $600. To overcome this situation, I am searching someone to work together.

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