Tracking Freelance Earnings: October Income Report From Nicole Dieker

Tracking Freelance Earnings: October Income Report From Nicole Dieker

If you don’t make a monthly freelancing goal, what steps do you take to keep yourself on target? This month, I didn’t hit my $5,000 income goal — but I’m working on changing things for November.

Here are October’s numbers:

Completed Pieces: 81

Work Billed: $4,985.36

Earnings Received: $5,521.62

I wrote roughly 44,500 words in October, with an average per-piece earning of $61.55. My highest earning piece was $849, and my lowest earning piece was $20.

I also came close to hitting my $5,000 monthly income goal. Seriously, I’m only $15 off! The fact that I was just shy of $5K — not to mention that I earned nearly $7K last month — means I’m not beating myself up over this.

Still, it’s worth looking at what happened.

How my projected income dropped by $1,000

For most of the month, I thought I would earn more than $5,000. But one of my clients asked that I hold off completing a piece until November, and another client accidentally assigned the same piece to two writers (thankfully, this client let me know before I started writing the piece).

My income line dropped by $1,000 overnight, without me doing anything “wrong.”

A year ago, losing two pieces might have cut $150 off my bottom line. Now, it’s a more significant income drop. The more successful I get, the bigger my risks become. Having one client cancel a piece or getting a request to hold on a draft for a month can mean losing 20 percent of my monthly income.

It’s also important to note that earning less money in October means receiving less money in November. I need to be prepared to only receive $4,500 in freelance payments this month, which means having a little less discretionary income than usual.

It’s time to start trading up

So I didn’t get a few assignments that I thought I would. This hasn’t happened before, but I bet it’ll happen again. This means I need to come up with a solution to this problem.

Can I prevent a client from canceling a piece? No.

Can I prevent a client from asking me to hold off on writing a piece? No.

What’s the actual solution here? I need to get more high-paying clients.

As you saw above, I earn $849 for some pieces and $20 for others. I’m always happy to earn that $20, especially if it’s for a piece that takes me 20 minutes to write, but I sat down with my freelance spreadsheet and started figuring out how much more money I could earn if I traded out that $20 piece for a $75 piece. Or if I traded a $75 piece for a $250 piece.

Those numbers jump significantly, if you do that kind of math. More importantly, the value of an individual client assignment becomes less critical. In other words: The more high-paying clients I land, the less risk I absorb if something happens to one of those high-paying clients.

This means I need to spend the last two months of the year trading up.

I’ve already sent out a referral request, asking one of my high-paying clients to introduce me to a new client that I’d like to land. I also need to start the end-of-year negotiation process with my current clients, to talk about rate increases for 2016.

In both cases, the onus is on me to explain exactly how I provide value and why I’m worth the referral or rate increase. You can’t just ask; you also have to show the client how they benefit from your request.

I also need to pitch more. I started pitching bigger markets this past month, and one of the pitches landed, so I’m hoping I can grow that into a regular relationship. I also have a list of additional clients to pitch before the end of the year.

I know that the $1-a-word clients are going to be few and far between, so I’m not expecting to turn every client into a $800-per-piece client. But it would be great to trade a few of those $20 pieces for $200 pieces.

As always, I’ll let you know what happens.

What do you do when you don’t meet a freelancing goal? Do you agree that more success equals more risk?

How do you know when it’s time to start trading up for higher-paying pieces?

Filed Under: Freelancing


  • GLORIA says:

    I completed a rather rigorous rewrite job for a client, that was full of grammatical errors, and need total re-formatting in order for the piece to be marketable to an educational facility. It was perfect. Then he stiffed me for the payment, won’t return phone calls or answer emails. What are the legal recourses for a free lance writer when the client does not pay as per agreement?

  • Jaleesa says:

    I second that, Chris. Sometimes I feel like I want to relapse to content mills, then I look at their prices and the sticker shock brings me back to my senses. When I got off content mills I landed a nice client through LinkedIn that brought in $450 total and then two more from elsewhere bringing $750 combined. I’m racking my brain thinking of how to get more exposure for my site. Any suggestions, Nicole?

    • Mm-hm. Good job landing those first three clients. Onward and upward!

      Are you guest posting on popular blogs? That is one of Bamidele Onibalusi’s favorite methods of getting exposure. Well…actually lots of writers use that tactic to get traffic to their sites. Neil Patel comes to mind…

      Easier said than done, though haha.

      I’m interested to read Nicole’s reply too.

    • Nicole says:

      I think it’s a bit like what I wrote in the last Pitch Fix: don’t make the focus on getting eyes on your site; focus on the value you can provide to other people. Keep pitching!

      • Jaleesa says:

        @Nicole – Ok, I can give that a little more effort. Thanks.

        @Chris – I used to guest post years ago before I began writing for a living and I just had a blog, but not really since then. I can’t say that it interests me as much now as it did back then, but I’ve got to branch out. Thank you.

  • Dang, Nicole. I can’t wait til I have to struggle with problems like these.

    Since ditching the content mills a couple weeks ago (I literally deleted my accounts so I can’t go crawling back when desperation hits), I’ve only managed to land one paid guest post for $30. It’s not much, but it’s way more than I ever got paid at the mills.

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