Tracking Freelance Earnings: A New Monthly Column From Nicole Dieker

Tracking Freelance Earnings: A New Monthly Column From Nicole Dieker

Hi, writers! My name is Nicole and I’m a full-time blogger and copywriter. This year, we’re going to take a monthly look at how much money I earn as a freelancer.

I first began full-time freelancing in May 2012, as an independent musician and singer-songwriter. In July 2012, I started posting my weekly freelance earnings to my Tumblr. I started publicly sharing my income because I wanted to start a conversation about how much musicians actually make. That first week I posted my income, for example, I played two shows but only earned $141. Not great, right?

By the end of 2012, I was pretty certain I couldn’t make a livable wage just as a singer-songwriter. I decided to see if I could pick up a few writing jobs to earn extra cash between gigs. Like the great Carol Tice, who was also a songwriter in Los Angeles before she transitioned into writing, I quickly learned that I loved the freelance writing life — and that I could earn a lot more money as a writer than I ever could as a musician.

Tracking my freelance writing income

So I kept tracking my income, week by week, and watching the numbers get bigger and bigger. I wrote for content mills, then entry-level copy agencies, and then I started to build my own portfolio of writing clients.

Now I have regular bylines on sites like The Penny Hoarder, The Billfold, Boing Boing and The Freelancer, and make most of my income as a professional blogger with the occasional copywriting job. (I still play about one gig a month as a musician, too — can’t give it up!)

Every month, I’m going to check in with all of you at The Write Life with a report of my previous month’s freelance earnings. I’ll write about how much work I was able to bill for the month, how many pieces I wrote, and share a little bit about how the month went for me, finance-wise. Let me know what you’re interested in discussing, and I can write specific columns about sending and tracking invoices, making budgets on a variable income, and other financial aspects of the freelance life.

I love writing about money, and I promise I will share all the important details with you — down to the penny.

2014 Earnings and 2015 Goals

Here’s what you need to know to start out: I just finished totaling up my 2014 numbers, as I recorded on The Billfold. In 2014, I earned $40,966.48 as a freelance writer and $2,492.54 as a musician, for a grand total of $43,059.02.

At the beginning of 2014, I was making most of my money through 3-cents-a-word content sites. I really wanted to expand my portfolio (and my income), so I set myself the goal of pitching one new blog, publication or copywriting client every week. A lot of my pitches were successful, and I began building my portfolio and adding new clients to my roster.

I also learned that this type of success starts to snowball: once you get a byline in a high-profile publication, other editors start contacting you to ask if you’re interested in working for them, too.

By the end of 2014, I was earning most of my income writing articles for various publications and blogs. Instead of 3 cents a word, I often get between $150 and $300 a piece. I still do some copywriting work, too — as I wrote in one of my recent Ask A Freelancer columns, it’s important to diversify your income with different types of writing. I don’t know what the blog landscape will look like in 10 years, but I do know businesses will probably still need copywriters, so I want to make sure I stay active in both fields.

This year, I want to see how far I can take my monthly earnings. I’m earning around $4,500 a month now, and I’d like to push it to at least $5,000 a month by summer 2015. If I average $5,000 per month over 2015, I’ll earn $60,000 for the year, which would be incredible.

To get that extra $500 every month, I’ll need at least one more really solid client. Or, I could increase my income by re-negotiating rates with my current clients. I’ll also need to figure out how to re-allocate my time, since I already have a pretty heavy writing load: each week, I turn in around 20 individual articles to various publications.

Will I earn that $60,000? Will I get that new client? Stick with this column, and we’ll find out what happens together. See you back here in early February!

What subjects would you like to see Nicole cover in her monthly freelance earnings column? What are your biggest questions about freelancing and finance? Let us know!

Filed Under: Freelancing


  • You are living my dream life. I can’t wait to see how you started – what websites you approached, how you approached them and then diversified. I, personally, would be interested in an international view at some point; I’m British, so any advice that can cross the Pond would be really appreciated.

  • Great idea for a blog series. Like many other people have already said, I’d like to see some posts about how you started out or some beginners guides to finding a steady income doing this.

  • Yvelette says:

    Thank you for sharing and being so transparent. I set the intention for 2015 to really push myself with my freelancing again. This is much encouragement. Thanks!

  • Gina Horkey says:

    I love income reports! I started writing my own shortly after launching my freelance writing business as a side hustle last year. Recently I took it full-time:-)

    Here’s my most recent income report if you’re curious:

  • Solana says:

    Hello Nicole! I follow your articles quite often, I love your posts!
    I wanted to ask you for some advice, as I am new in this freelance world and I don’t really know where to start pitching projects. I live outside the U.S. and sometimes that makes it difficult to find international paying jobs.
    Any word of advice?

  • Abel Nyarangi says:

    Hey Nicole,

    Congrats for your figures. Can you give us a list of freelance writing sites you work


  • Daryl says:

    Thanks for your wrap up of your 2014 financial year! And good luck on hitting your $60,000 goal next year!

    PS – I think Freshbooks has an option to pay a small monthly fee without having to pay those onerous Paypal fees you mentioned over in The Billfold – and would probably save you a good few hundred dollars!

  • Toni Primavera says:

    Great stuff, Nicole. Congrats. I’d like to learn more on how one actually begins copywriting.

    Thanks Toni

  • Stacey says:

    You’re being very open.many people would just chalk it up to being no one else’s business. I can really see the value to those of us getting a start as freelance writers having this info on hand so thank you very much!

  • Katie says:

    I’m completely ignorant about the fields of copywriting and blogging and would love to know how you gained the knowledge necessary to even begin your career. I’m excited about the prospect of getting my own career started but completely paralyzed right now because I just don’t know what to do first and where to go from there! Thank you so much for helping the newbies and wannabes!!

    • Nicole says:

      This is a really great question and one that I’m making a note to expand upon in a future column. Honestly, and this sounds like a cliche, a liberal arts education is great for having a foundation in many disciplines and areas of interest (science, tech, pop culture).

      Reading a lot, and reading a variety of publications, is also essential.

      • Katie says:

        Thank you, Nicole. I’m very much looking forward to hearing more on the absolute basics of getting started! This is the most helpful and encouraging information I’ve found so far – specific direction!! Much appreciated.

  • Ken Stewart says:


    Love this! How do you track your income? Software?


  • Whitney says:

    WOW – thank you! What an honest idea – I have often thought that people will speak more openly about sex, than they will about money… but, we could all learn so much from one another if we would speak clearly and honestly about money. I really appreciate this as I am “starting over” and transitioning my life from being an entrepreneur to a writer and obviously need all the help I can get. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  • Musu says:

    I love how you detailed the steps you took that lead to you becoming noticed and generating more income. This type of information helps me pace myself for my own career. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks so much, Nicole, for being so willing to share your actual numbers. Congratulations, by the way! This is both impressive and encouraging.

    I’m a newer blogger, and I’m just getting my feet wet with Textbroker. It is slow going so far, but I am happy to know that there is hope. Thanks so much for the encouragement.

  • Blake Atwood says:

    As others have said, thanks for your honesty and vulnerability in writing this post Nicole. I always appreciate when writers share hard numbers, because there’s often such a shroud of mystery around what’s made and what can be made. Here’s to more and better work for all us in the writing trenches.

  • Thank you for your transparency #HUGS May you EXCEED your goal of $60000


  • Daniel says:

    How did you get to have those clients that pay you 150 dollars a piece?

    • Nicole says:

      Worked my way up. I wish I had a better answer than that. I know that some writers move up faster than others; back when I was in the 3-cent-a-word market, other writers on this writing forum I visited would tell me I had to start getting paid more. My response was “well, how do I do that?” Then, slowly but surely, I got better assignments and bigger clients.

  • Cee says:

    How do you decide which blogs or clients to pitch? Can you give examples of sample pitches for various clients?
    Are some just a waste of time to pitch if you’re just starting out?


    • Nicole says:

      It’s not a waste of time to pitch, per se, but there are some publications that want to see a portfolio of previous work before they’ll accept you.

      I started pitching the blogs that I read regularly. Being an active commenter helped. So did knowing the type of posts the blogs ran so I could pitch topics their readers would like. I often sent my pitches with spec drafts to prove I could write.

  • Care says:

    Hello Nicole, I’m looking very much forward to your column! I have a full-time job with a freelance job on the side. That freelance job has taken a little bit of a downslide last year when I lost one big client and another has been phasing me out. I’m now determined to write more and having your column will be sure to motivate me 🙂

  • Nichole,

    I’m also looking forward to your column, as I think this type of visible tracking will greatly benefit other writers who can take tips from you to make their own success. Thanks for being brave enough to honestly share your reports!

  • Lora says:

    One of the things I am hung up on is whether to start out by forming a type of business structure or to just start submitting pieces and focus on a business structure later. Also, how do you go about finding copywriting clients when you’ve never written copy for anyone? I wouldn’t begin to know what businesses to start submitting to or how to start the conversation.

    • Nicole says:

      Lora, I don’t know much about your individual situation, but I know that in my case I just started pitching. Good clients will give you a contract or agreement when you start and they’ll ask for a W9 so that you can get a 1099 from them when it’s tax time.

      One of my goals for 2015 is to figure out whether I need more business infrastructure than “sign contract, turn in W9, invoice, collect 1099, pay taxes.” I have a CPA to help me figure out deductions and things. I suspect there are other Write Life community members who could be helpful here, too!

  • Marcy McKay says:

    This is both cool and courageous of you, Nicole. Thanks for sharing your insights with us. I love that you didn’t discard your music completely. It’s important to do the things that feed our souls.

    Here’s to $60K for you, baby!

  • Elke Feuer says:

    Great article, Nicole! I’m in the very early stages of my freelance career. I currently have a lot on my plate (full-time job, author, and business owner), but I really want to expand my freelance income this year to the point I can remove one thing on my list. Can you guess which one. 😉

    I’ve done a preliminary budget for expanding my freelancing income and would love to know (1) if I’m on the right track, (2) more tips for tracking budget vs actual costs, and (3) invoicing.

    Looking forward to your blog posts!

  • MaryBeth says:

    Looking forward to your column and hear how it goes. It’s amazing how you’ve transitioned yourself in one year already. One issue you touched on is big for me — time! I want to get in new publications, but never seem to have the time to pitch them since I’m busy with other (less well-paying) work. I am trying to spend less time on Facebook and social media since I sometimes get sucked in, etc. One thing I did was un-follow a lot of people and businesses that seemed to just take up a lot of space on my newsfeed without adding value. Good luck!

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