Cha-Ching! Here’s How This Freelance Writer Made 6 Figures in 2016

From 2006 to 2013, I worked a stressful job that consumed nearly every waking hour of my life — and all for around $38,000 per year.

I schlepped into the office for long hours, weekends and holidays, with little time left for “real living” after taking care of laundry and other chores.

And, did I mention I had two small kids? I had them, but I rarely saw them. And the time I did spend with them served as a painful reminder of what I had given up.

freelance writer

Basically, my life sucked. I worked like a rented mule, yet never had time to enjoy life outside of my 15 days of paid time off. More than anything else, I was desperate to spend more time with my kids.

Fast forward to last year — 2016. I earned $270,000 — $225,000 was from freelance writing alone. The rest was from my blog, ClubThrifty.com.

I went on 11 vacations to places like Greece, Barbados, Grand Cayman and Mexico, mostly with my kids. I paid off a house, a rental home we bought in our early 20s.

I barely got dressed, choosing to spend most work days in my pajamas on my couch. Best of all, I put my kids on the bus at 8 a.m. each morning and stood smiling at the bus stop at 3:40 p.m. each day. I also had ample time to be a parent and a wife, and to enjoy all that God has given me.

 

How freelance writing changed my life

Amazingly, I accomplished all this on my own terms without having a boss or staring at the clock until 5 p.m. And I didn’t have to hope and pray for some shitty three percent raise or an extra day of PTO.

I’m sure you’re wondering what happened between 2006 and 2016. To be honest, it was a lot of work!

My husband and I started our blog in 2011 as a hobby and money-making venture. But it turned out to be so much more.

freelance writingSomewhere along the line, I learned to use my writing skills to land freelance jobs all over the web. Meanwhile, my husband learned to monetize our blog. I quit my job to write full time in 2013, and my husband quit his in 2015.

These days, I have popular columns in publications like The Indianapolis Star, The Simple Dollar, Frugal Travel Guy, U.S. News and World Report Travel, Travel Pulse, Lending Tree and Wise Bread.

It’s still a lot of work, of course, but now we reap all the rewards.

Last year, I also took on another project that’s been on the docket for a while: I created an online course for freelancers who want to build a career like mine. It’s called EarnMoreWriting.com, and so far, it’s helped hundreds of would-be writers get their first writing gigs on the web.

The course includes a bunch of video modules created by yours truly, plus a private Facebook group where people ask questions and get answers. And yes, it’s been a lot of fun!

earn money freelance writing

5 lessons freelance blogging taught me

But that’s not all I’m here to talk about. These are my best tips for anyone hoping to build an awesome (and lucrative) freelance career on the web.

1. Ignore people who don’t support you

Whether you’re writing for a living already or trying to build a portfolio from scratch, some people in your life will think you’re nuts. It’s more comfortable for them to see you working a regular job than to watch you break out of your shell. For a lot of people, your success is proof of their failure — and they don’t like it.

This is exactly why you should never listen to people who discount your efforts. When I started writing part-time, a lot of people rolled their eyes and said it would never work. Thank God I always ignored them.

2.  Limit distractions and you’ll make more money

A lot of writers I know want to make more money but really suck with their time. They secretly hope to boost their incomes, they say, but they also spend little time actually working. Instead, they opt to hang with their friends, run errands and enjoy their freedom.

But, freedom is a tricky thing. It sure feels great to create your own schedule, yet running errands won’t pay the bills. If you want to make money, you have to enjoy freedom in moderation and work like your income depends on it. Because it does!

No matter what your friends say, you will earn more money if you create a set work schedule and stick to it. My kids go to school from 8 a.m. until 3:40 p.m., so this is when I work. And no, I don’t go out to lunch, hit up Hobby Lobby at noon or sip fancy drinks at Starbucks all day.

3. Don’t care what anyone thinks

I’ve always felt like most successful writers have a superpower, whether that’s writing fast, having killer research skills, or something else.

I actually have two superpowers — writing fast and not giving a single #@%#$$# what anyone thinks.

If you worry too much what people think, it’s hard to create intriguing content or share opinions that might offend. But when you stop caring what people think, you gain the superpower to write the type of content people share.

They may not like what you say, but that’s exactly what you should say it. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, no matter what anyone thinks.

4. Perception is reality

If you want to work as a professional writer, make sure you look the part. I see so many people building careers with a selfie they took on their phone.

Please, stop this. It’s not that hard to go to Target and pay $9.99 for at least one professional-looking headshot. Trust me, it will help!

5. Hard work trumps talent

Through my course and my personal relationships with other writers, I’ve noticed a trend worth noting: The best writer does not always get the job.

Most of the time, the most aggressive, fierce and hard-working writers get the bulk of the freelance work that’s out there. It’s not because they’re more talented – it’s because they are crazy-good at finding and retaining clients.

I’ve said it a million times – hard work trumps talent in this business and many others. Being an awesome writer helps, but it’s just not enough.

Throughout my writing career, I learned these lessons (and many others) the hard way. When I started freelancing, I had no idea websites like The Write Life existed!

Fortunately, you have a leg up when it comes to building a freelance career you love. With resources for writers readily available, you can get questions answered and learn from other writers in your niche.

And if you want my help working toward freelance success, make sure to check out EarnMoreWriting.com. I’m always available, and I love sharing my unique insights with other writers who craves success.

Have any questions about how I earned $200K last year? Leave them in the comments below.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

Filed Under: Blogging, Freelancing

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78 comments

  • Kate says:

    I love that you talked about how this is an actual JOB, not a passive income sort of thing. Yes, you have to do the work! But when it’s work you love doing and you do on your own terms, that’s everyone’s dream!

    • You are so right – writing isn’t passive income at all! Our goal has always been growing our blog to earn more passive income. That way, I can write less in the future. We’re getting there, slowly but surely.

      • you are so amazing and right

        • Hui Jia says:

          Making money is important but it shouldn’t be the end goal to writing. If I had your skill then I’d grow the blog and become truely independent to write the stuff I would want to write, as that seems to be what you are doing- brilliant. Is that what you are hoping to do?

    • Lisa Guo says:

      I am a Chinese college graduate in China but I grew up in American. I have recently found a stable job but I don’t like my job as much as writing. I love writing in English and I really want to become a freelance writer in America. My American friends like my writing samples. I want to quit my job and start full time writing but my parents think that is a big risk and don’t want me to do that. What should I do?

    • Lisa Guo says:

      I am a Chinese college graduate in China but I grew up in American. I have recently found a stable job but I don’t like my job as much as writing. I love writing in English and I really want to become a freelance writer in America. My American friends like my writing samples. I want to quit my job and start full time writing but my parents think that is a big risk and don’t want me to do that. What should I do?

      • Personally, I would start by trying to get a few “starter” writing positions on the web. Look for work on forums like Freelancer.com and Linked In. Ask around your professional network to see if anyone you know has a lead. It’s not that hard to get started once you get a few jobs under your belt.

  • Cynthia says:

    Your course is $199, $349!!!! I am new at this, but I’m sure I would not need to pay that much money. This sounds like another home based business scheme. I need to know how to become a freelance writer and I certainly can’t afford this Is this how you made your $200K?

    • Wow, no. I made $225,000 writing in 2016. My course didn’t launch until the end of October 2016!

      I don’t feel bad for the price of my course at all. I spent months on it and I took the time to create 9 videos. I also respond in the Facebook group every single day.

      As a writer, you should know your time is valuable. Would you write for free? Probably not. So no, I don’t feel bad charging what my course is worth.

      If I were you, I would focus on finding all the free resources on the web. There are plenty, including this website. At the same time, don’t insult people for their entrepreneurial ventures or for putting products out into the world. Nobody is making you buy anything.

      • Erin says:

        I love this response. It’s empowering and spot on. Bottom line: something is worth what someone will pay for it. If you were overpriced, no one would buy it and you’d change the price. I love that YOU decided what your course was worth. Period. It dovetails with everything else you said.

      • As far as Cynthia thinking your price is too high for the materials… it is not. I paid a special discounted rate of $299.00 for the American Writers & Artists Institutes (AWAI) Six figure copywriting course. I learned a lot which helped with my book writing. I also had access to their job board. Thing is, the majority of the posted jobs wanted freelancers who had experience plus a BA degree in journalism.

        Additionally, I discovered that in order to be noticed by the top copywriters at AWAI, (which would lead to getting the really good jobs) it was recommended you attend their copywriters intensive boot camp, which costs upwards of $2000.00 for three days. Needless to say I passed it up.

      • Holly, has a millionaire mindset!

        People with a millionaire mindset want to help a lot of people make money.

        They also KNOW THEY DESERVE EVERY DOLLAR THEIR COURSES BRINGS THEM!

        Plus, they know when they are open to receiving money – the universe sends it!

        They don’t have the broke mentality of making excuses why a course costs too much.

        The person with the millionaire mindset knows money is great, cool, and important to making our dreams and life fulfilling and abundant!

        Being broke is what being broke does…

        Stays broke and gets nowhere or nothing.

      • Angie says:

        Great response. Thank you.

      • Pablo says:

        Thank you for this comment to Cynthia. That was exceptionally rude, how she reacted to your prices for your courses. Very immature. You spent your precious time and resources on this project, you give valuable advice, you know your worth, and you’re reacting rightfully to what the market will bear. All very reasonable.

        I actually have the opposite problem from Cynthia–I know can make it in this industry since I can write clearly and well, and I am coming from highly competitive industries with relevant expertise on specialized subject matters. And I’m serious about embarking on a freelance writing career of my own. The problem stems from ALL THE GOOD FREE SOURCES out on the web now–it’s a tad overwhelming, figuring which are right and which are wrong for the particular market niches I’m thinking of entering. But I may as well start right now and see how I fare!

        There’s nothing like good old-fashioned hard work and the experience that comes with it–these are the best teachers. Wish me luck!

  • Misty says:

    Holly, thanks for sharing your story! That’s so exciting that you were able to turn something you’re clearly passionate about into such a successful career.

    I’m curious how many hours per week you typically spend working, how you find work-life balance when you work from home and also whether the $225,000 was your personal income or household income for you and your husband.

    My husband and I are in the beginning stages of building our freelance portfolio, so I have a good idea how hard you worked to get to where you are!

    • Hi Misty!

      My work hours can be fairly sporadic, mostly because we travel some. There are some weeks when I work 7 days and at least 70 hours. Then there are others where I only work 10 because we’re on a trip. In would say, on average, I probably work 40 hours per week.

      I earned $225,000 writing in 2016. That includes content creation only. The rest of the money we made was from our blog – affiliate marketing, sponsorships, advertisements, etc. We count the blog income as my husband’s because he treats the blog like his job. I still blog some, but most of the work is done by him.

      Someone in another comment asked if my income came from course sales. I started making sales in October/November last year, but there is a few month lag between when you launch a course on Teachable and actually getting paid. So we only made $600 in course sales in 2016. Just to clear that up in case anyone asks!

      I hope that answers your questions.

    • Rose says:

      Hi. I liked your piece! I have been looking for freelance writing jobs and it is impossible to find anything legitimate. Upwork is a scam. Blog mutt pays poorly. How does one find decent paying gigs?

      • When it comes to online platforms, I mostly use Linked In Profinder, Contently, and Skyword. I think getting your first “big” ongoing jobs is the hardest. Once you have a few recurring jobs, it’s easier to fill in the blanks with other word.

        I

        • Misty says:

          I’ve also had great luck with LinkedIn Profinder, but be aware you will have to pay for a pro account eventually to keep using it. I’ve also wound up with a couple of good leads through ProBlogger. I’ve pretty much given up on UpWork.

      • Angela says:

        Try writejobs.info

  • Adishwar Jain says:

    Hi Holly!
    Thanks for sharing your story. Its really motivating to see people live life to fullest doing things they love. I’m just starting out on freelance writing, so wish me luck!!

  • Ladipo says:

    Hello,

    This is good advice. Your story inspires and make me feel I can succeed too. However, do you think freelance writing jobs are available to international writers as it is for Americans?

    • One gal in my writing course lives in Turkey and seems to do quite well. But I do know she faces specific challenges, including the fact some clients only want U.S.-based writers.

    • Elen says:

      If I can chip in… yes. I’m a New Zealander based in Nepal, and I’m a full-time freelance writer and editor. I’m certainly not making the kind of money that the author of this article is! But as I have a clearly defined niche (travel in Nepal, as well as Asia more broadly) I find there are plenty of companies that want to work with me, both here in Nepal and around the world. It depends what you want to write about.

    • Lilli says:

      Hey Ladipo,

      yes, successful freelance writer from Austria, Europe here! 🙂 Every business needs good copy to succeed, anywhere in the world. Good luck to you!

  • Ivy Shelden says:

    Hi Holly! This is such a great story for me to read right now. I am really at a turning point in my career, where I’ve been a stay at home mom for 2 years, and I have to make the tough decision to either go back to full-time “regular” work, where my income potential is very low when you count in daycare and health insurance, and just going full force and trying to make my writing into a real business. Bills are very tight so something has to happen soon, and it feels like a lot of pressure! For now, I am getting some writing coaching and going for it. I will still have a 2 y/o at home (and a 5/yo in kindergarten) so it will be tough but I think it’s a better option than working 40 hours/week for less then $1,000/month!

    • I hear ya. That’s kinda where I was when I left my job. I was earning an okay amount of money ($38,000 per year), but it wasn’t much after I paid to have two children in full-time daycare. And when you count everything I gave up (nights, weekends, holidays, etc.) for that job, it wasn’t close to worth it!

      It’s really hard to have small children when both parents work outside the home. Our lives became a lot easier when I was able to come home and write full-time. My kids were always in daycare or school, however, so that helped.

      I do have friends who write full-time with kiddos at home, so I know it works for some people. My friend Catherine Alford (CatherineAlford.com) writes full-time with twins and has since they were babies!

  • Esther Copeland says:

    Hello! I didn’t read if you narrowed down to any niches, or do you write for everything? Thank you.

  • Lipi Macwan says:

    Thank Holly for this inspiring piece. As I work towards establishing myself as an independent writer, coming across towards positive, motivating and educating pieces, is a great help.

  • Hello Holly,

    I applaud your hard work and being that I enjoy writing but feel a bit lost and disorganized in what I should do next. I am glad to have found this site to provide me some guidance. I’m using youtube and other sources to help me in my blogging so I can learn to monetize on writing as I work full time on assignment in the late nights. I heard from one friend that says that freelance writing does not pay that much to live on. I find that strange when you are proof of your work and efforts and make over six figures. I admire your success and I hope to achieve such a level depsite being 50 years old now.

    • Angela says:

      Don’t let them tell you that freelance writing can’t pay the bills because it can! It took me awhile to find my groove but now I CAN support myself writing, despite the naysayers who told me I couldn’t.

  • Mollie says:

    Hi, thank you for the article! Do you have any advice for teenagers going into freelance writing? I turn 17 in April and am currently a writer at 2 publications, 1 that pays, so I’m doing pretty good but I still thought I would ask.

  • Hi my name is josephine sharma.IVE been writing since age 12 im 5o now.I STILL WRITE.BUT NOT EVRYDAY.I HAVE LOTS OF THINGS ive written sitting in bags or around my desk.I JST LOCE TO WRITE ABIUT SERIOUS ISSUES LIKE ABUSE , WONEN ISSUES,Real life experiences. But a sounding board or to get published. I CANT FIND ANYWERE I CAN FREELY EXPRESS MY THOTSS.AND TO GET PUBLISHED, well that wuld be like winnjng the lotto.BECAZ MY AIM IN LIFE IS TO WRITE TO HELP AND ENCOURAGE PEOPLE. IVE BEEN ON LIFES DEPRESSION ROAD MANY TIMES, NOT FUN.ANYWAYS IF I CULD SHARE MY LIFES STORY 😊MAYB SUMONE WULD NOT FEEL ALONE IN THIS THING CALLED LIFE.THANKS FOR HEARING ME.SORRY FOR LONG PARAGRAPHS. IM ovER THE LIMIT IM SURE😆🤗Thanks so much.

  • Shirley J says:

    This was an awesome and aspiring read. You deserve your success. No one should be upset nor having anything visceral to say.

  • Duke Stewart says:

    Your life is a dream but I know that it’s taken lots of work. Congratulations on doing so well and I’m glad to have found your site via this post. I’m still trying to find more clients and look forward to doing just freelance someday. Seeing stories like yours show me that it’s totally possible. It just takes lots of work and time. Thanks for sharing how you did it and the tips as well.

  • Hi Holly,
    It’s so refreshing to read about people’s success stories and how they share to help others. Kudos to you for making it work for you. I know the key to freelancing is locking in those hours and avoiding distractions. Let them in sometimes but if your words aren’t getting out there, people turn to the next writer.

    Self belief is also critical as are being part of writer’s groups who understand the challenges.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • CM Porter says:

    Thanks for the advice! Even as a newbie, a lot of this seems useful. I can’t actually do some of it yet, but it’s somewhere to start.

  • A nice post. I would like to know the topics mostly you prefer to write on. Do you write for magazines also?

  • Stephanie Howard says:

    Dear Holly, I read your brief and I really want to start a blog trouble is I am a little confused as to what a blog actually means, is it an article? or a paragraph about a particular subject and setting up a domain. I write short flash verses and poetry I enter contests also. I am blessed with the ability to look at a situation and write a brief description in a poetical way.
    (Flash-verse) I have had two poems published in anthologies published by the Spiritual Writers Network,
    so I know I am going in the right direction.
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    With kind Regards.
    Stephanie Howard.

  • Hi, your article gives me hope and more drive to try to get out of the job I hate but can’t afford to leave. at 51 i want to do something i love for a change and I live writing. I have a blog and although friends in FB like what i wrote it doesn’t reflect it on my actual blog. Im stuck, i dint know what to do. I am worki ng on 2 memoirs and have devoitional poems in English and Spanish…and I have written some “custom” poems when loved ones have passed…what would you suggest I do to get established as a freelance writer?

  • Chris says:

    Hi Holly,

    I’m pretty fortunate in that I have had two regular ongoing freelance writing gigs for several years. The work is steady and it pays the bills, but I’m looking to branch out into other areas — and I’m getting tired of searching though all the online job boards and finding nothing but low-paying crap.

    I currently make around $40,000 per year total from the two gigs and I’d really to develop a solid work plan that will allow me to double my income. How can your course help me do that?

  • Athie says:

    Hello Holly!

    Your story is inspiring and gives me some hope – I’m in a rather gloomy phase financially speaking right now and keep on wondering whether I’ll succeed in the end.

    My main issue is that I’m working on different projects at the same time and find it hard to focus. Do you have any advice?

    Kind regards,

    Athie

    • Hmm……that’s tough. I am always working on multiple projects at once. I typically break my work calendar up into jobs. So on a specific date, I’ll have the goal of finishing one or two projects so I can move on. If you can focus on one thing at a time, that will probably help. I know jumping back and forth between projects would make it hard to finish anything.

  • Maggie says:

    HI there. I am a mom who works part time, and homeschools my kids the rest of the time. I cannot quit my part time job (and wouldnt want to) as it is running my husband’s chiropractic business.
    I am writing to say that I am having a really hard time making time to write. I lack self-discipline. I am working on this but it’s a challenge.

    Thank you for your post. Money is tight now but I could see myself utilizing your resources in the future.

  • CM Porter says:

    Thanks for the wonderful and encouraging article! I wish I could afford to buy your full course, if only to express support.

    Do you perchance have any more concrete advice for someone trying to get started freelance writing? I’ve been looking for jobs and resources for almost 3 months now, but haven’t really had any success. I’m really not even entirely sure why.

  • Masindi.P says:

    Thanks for the article. I have been reflecting on my desire to purse writing as a career. I find that is it quite fulfilling and a great avenue to meet and empower young people. But as you say, I often allow distractions to give me reason to procrastinate.

    It is nice to have people say what you often refuse to admit to yourself. So, goodbye procrastination, hello routine and regular writing…. Thanks

    Masindi.P
    South Africa

  • Devnidhi says:

    This blog post is really helpful It is very informative and you explain it well.Thanks a lot

  • James says:

    Hi Holly! Heard your story on the His and Her Money Show back in December 2016. You inspired me to jump into writing full speed ahead.

    Fast forward to late March, and I have one piece that has been published in G.I. Jobs Magazine, a military transition magazine distributed to military bases world wide. Additionally, three of my pieces will be featured on their website in the coming weeks. I am also waiting on one piece to be published on another military website. My next few pieces will branch out from the military/Veteran space to reach a broader client list. Looking into really ramping up in the Content Marketing arena. I hope to make writing my full-time job in 18 to 24 months, or sooner.

    Anyway, just had to thank you for inspiring me to do something I have wanted to do for years and re-igniting my love for writing.

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