Tracking Freelance Earnings: June Income Report From Nicole Dieker

Tracking Freelance Writing Earnings
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Hi! If you’re new to this column: I track my freelance income every month and share it with all of you. This is my third year of public income tracking, and my first year sharing my income with The Write Life.

You probably have a daily work routine, right? Get up, make coffee, check email, that sort of thing? Are you satisfied with your routine, or do you find parts of it frustrating?

This month I got rid of a really frustrating part of my freelancing routine, and found this change helped me work fewer hours.

But before we get to that, here’s the monthly roundup:

Completed Pieces: 54

Work Billed: $5,808.25

Earnings Received: $6,413.35

In June, I wrote fewer pieces for more money. I only wrote 54 pieces this month, compared to last month’s 80. I also wrote 40,704 words, compared to last month’s 57,000. And I billed $5,808, compared to last month’s $5,336.

Here’s some even better news: My average per-piece earning climbed to $108 (from last month’s $67), and while my lowest-paid piece is still $35, my highest-paid piece is $751.

Wait, you might be asking yourself. How did your highest per-piece rate go from $300 to $751?

Well, I got a new client.

But, you might continue, didn’t you say that you weren’t taking on any new clients unless they were offering a dream job?

Yes. It is a dream job. I’m writing for a major company and getting paid $1 a word, so I’m pretty pumped.

How’d I get this dream job? Via a recommendation from another freelancer, of course. The best jobs have nearly always come this way.

The best part about taking on this new client was that I didn’t have to let any of my regular clients go. Right now I like everyone on my client list, and so I made space for this new client by pulling back on new pitches and one-off pieces.

This was also one of my goals for June, and it worked; everything I wrote was for a client with whom I had an established relationship. I expect this to continue through July, and don’t anticipate sending out any new pitches or taking on new clients. But, as we’ve just seen, it’s hard to predict what might happen.

Writing fewer pieces and working fewer hours

The other way I made room for my new client was by taking on fewer pieces from existing clients. Two of my clients put out a big list of potential article topics every Monday, and writers can claim as many or as few as they want — have you worked for clients like those? — and so I’ve taken on fewer of those articles.

This, in turn, has helped me pull back on my work hours. I still get the occasional day when a difficult assignment pushes my work into the late evening, but I feel like my freelance workload is a lot lighter than it used to be — especially if you compare it to that monster week I wrote about for The Freelancer, where I spent most nights working until 9, 10 or 11 p.m.

In March, I tracked my hours and discovered I was averaging a 50-hour workweek and spending about 25 of those hours writing. (I also wrote 90 pieces in March, so I was doing a lot more work back then.) It would be interesting to track my hours again and see how they’ve changed, so that’s something I’ll do for July.

Building a routine (that gets me out of my pajamas)

The other big change I made in June has to do with my personal routine. I live in Seattle, which means I work on Pacific Time, but a lot of my clients work on Eastern Time. Because of that, I often felt compelled to wake up and start working right away, without changing out of my pajamas. After all, if my 9 a.m. was a client’s noon, I wanted to make sure I caught up.

But that also meant that I often stayed in my pajamas until 1 or 2 p.m., when my Eastern Time clients began winding down their workdays and I felt like I could take a little break. Some people really like working in their pajamas, but I don’t, especially when it gets into the afternoon — I feel sweaty and gross, and all I want to do is take a shower.

So I decided to change my routine. I would set my alarm for 8 a.m. instead of 8:30, and start my official workday at 9:30 a.m. instead of 9:00. That gave me 90 minutes to wake up, do yoga, shower, get dressed and eat breakfast. Then, I’d be ready to start work at 9:30 without wondering when I’d find time to do all of that important stuff.

Did my Eastern Time clients notice that I was getting in touch with them a half hour later than usual? Nope. I do scan my email as soon as I wake up — don’t we all? — so I have occasionally responded to an urgent message at 8 a.m., but otherwise, putting off my workday by a half hour has made the whole day better.

And no, I haven’t had to make up that half hour at the end of the day either. This new routine has given me a momentum that carries me through my entire day and helps me finish my assignments more quickly. Today, I’ll end my workday at 6 p.m., making it an eight-hour workday plus a 30-minute break for lunch. That’s an ideal schedule for a busy freelancer.

How about you? Have you tested out new routines until you found one that improved your workday? I’d love to hear about all of your freelance routines in the comments.

Share your freelance routines: Are you a pajamas-wearer? A coffee-drinker? Do you check your email as soon as your alarm rings? Do you take lunch breaks?

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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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Comments

  1. Hi Nicole!! Awesome job on the income and the new client!!

    My current routine is waking up around 6:30 with my two little girls, having coffee and checking emails. We then get ready and play until I drop them off at daycare around 8:15am. Once back home, I spend 30 minutes or so reading blogs and checking emails before starting work. I work til 11:15, go get my girls from daycare, get them down for a nap and then start working again until they wake up. That’s normally more than enough time for me to get everything done, but I’m just part-time 🙂

    Congrats again on the new gig!! Love following along 🙂

  2. I recently changed my routine as well. I actually have two jobs. I work as a front desk agent at an inn, and I freelance during my off time. I was getting so stressed, because of all the changes due to new ownership at the hotel that I started having anxiety attacks. I work two day shifts there where I begin work early, but the other shifts are afternoon/evening ones.

    What I have been doing this past week is unplugging for at least two hours each morning that I do not have to be at the inn early in the morning. I wake up naturally, meditate, journal, read while sipping a cup of tea, do my stretches, and get ready for my day.

    It is working wonders. The anxiety attacks are gone, for the most part. This, I feel, will get better soon enough.

    I start writing after my unplugged time, and I am able to focus better and get more done.

    Congratulations on the new gig! I enjoy reading your articles.

  3. Congrats on the awesome gig Nicole! I usually get in an hour (or two) of work during the day, then a couple hours in the evening, being a part time freelancer. Currently I’m trying to start work earlier in the morning as I find that’s when I get the most done.

  4. Great post! Congrats on your new gig.

    I officially start working as a full time freelance writer July 27th. My schedule right now is writing at lunchtimes and in the evenings after the kids go to bed. I’ve got a couple of schedule ideas, but they’ll be work in progresses since it’s summertime, and my daughter will be home with me for a year to save money.

  5. Great post Nicole 🙂

    I also have a routine in the morning to ensure I’m dressed up and ready to work. Besides getting ready to work, it also includes going for a walk and writing in my journal (good for the mind and the body).

    I found that checking my emails in the morning made me very unproductive. Well, the mornings are when I’m the most productive, so I’d rather do important work (and do emails during the afternoon slump, as you mentionned). How do you deal with that? And have you tried checking your emails only once or twice a day?

    Thanks!

    • It’s hard not to look at email first thing in the morning, but I generally answer email in batches: the super-important ones when I wake up and everything else right after lunch.

      Today there weren’t any super-important emails to answer, so I’ll get back to everyone else in a few hours. 🙂

  6. As a freelancer I’m always tweaking my schedule. I think it’s vital that you re-evaluate and experiment with where you spend your time, when you wake up, when you take breaks, etc. I also try to listen to my body and my energy levels. Coffee helps too!

    Congrats on landing your dream client and upping your rates so much. That’s always an amazing feeling!

  7. Way to go Nicole! Sounds like you made some amazing progress in transitioning your freelance writing business to be more enjoyable and on your terms over the course of this last year. I’d be curious to know – has sharing these public income reports contributed to that, do you think? I would assume so!

    Personally, this week I’ve also made a change to my routine. I have 2 toddlers and my husband is a SAHD and I’ve been working too much! So I now start my day with family time and exercise (rather than client email) and end my day at 5pm promptly! That’s the dream anyway;-).

    Congrats on your recent success and thanks for being so transparent:-).

    • Sharing my income has always incentivized me to earn more, in that when I get to choose between taking on an extra assignment or taking an afternoon off, I nearly always pick the assignment so I can make that income number grow!

      I don’t know if sharing my income has improved the job opportunities sent my way. I think that mostly comes from putting in a lot of work and making connections.

  8. Thanks for posting this! I am standing at the precipice, contemplating the leap to freelance writing. Info like yours is helping me decide, and the more I read, the surer I am that I want to jump! I will be going back and reading all your previous reports. Thanks again!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this. I too am trying to make writing my career and am so excited to have discovered you and am very much looking forward to what other advice and experience you have to share, because I definitely need both!

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