Sunday, May 17, 2009

How Much Does Freelance Writing Pay, A 2009 Update

In July of 2007, I wrote a post called How Much Does Freelance Writing Pay? At the time I wrote it because I found that people were arriving on my blog because they asked the search engines that question. I decided to answer it to provide people with information.

At that time, I was proud to report that in just over a year of writing for the web from home I had doubled my rates from about .01/word to .02/word on average. A penny a word sounds like nothing but it was through those types of gigs that I learned how to write for the web. Someone recently commented with some not-so-nice comments on that post (I've deleted the comment).


I still get a lot of traffic to that post because people want to know whether or not they can earn a living wage writing from home. How much you need and want to earn will depend on a lot of factors! I can also see that the debate about how much writers should be paid and whether or not web content writers should be able to call themselves writer will probably continue forever and ever.

While the 2007 post doesn't neccesarily reflect what I earn today, it does provide helpful information to those who want to get their start so it's still relevant. Not everyone needs to write for $.01/word to make money writing but if you're just starting out, those gigs can teach you a lot about the web writing industry.

A lot of web content companies pay from $5-10 an article and a writer who can write and research quickly can write a few articles in an hour. If you're writing on a topic you know a lot about, you might be able to write an article in less than ten minutes. And while you're writing, you can learn how to market yourself and get higher paying clients while still bringing in money. There are other companies out there that pay much better for those with skills and expertise in an area.

I've found that the best way to increase my earnings is to find my own customers through developing some niches, and through marketing and self-promotion and that has worked well for getting me word-of-mouth referrals as well.

A lot has changed for me in 3+ years of writing full-time. I started at .01/word and made about $10-15 an hour and now at times I'm making $75+ for an hour's work. Sometimes I make money without doing anything at all because I'm earning passive residual income on something I've published in the past.

I'm not a penny per word content writer any longer. I'm doing writing, consulting, and not just working for others but working for myself as well. I write for clients, I mentor and lead a small team, and I dabble in many of my own entrepreneurial pursuits as well. But if I needed to start over again, I wouldn't hesitate and I definitely wouldn't hesitate to encourage someone else to get started the same way I did.

Feasts, Famines, Droughts, and Floods...

There are feasts and there are famines or droughts and floods and sometimes I churn out fodder for search engines that doesn't get my creative juices flowing and sometimes I am so proud of the words I write that I beam when I read them. Then I let someone else take credit for them. C'est la vie. This is my choice.

Sometimes I write a little and hit my quota before noon and spend the day doing what I want and sometimes I work 60 hours in a week just to scrape by. This isn't a charmed life I lead but I am doing something that makes me happy and provides for my family.

It sucks when someone leaves a rude and anonymous comment on your blog, trying to cut down what it is that you do to support your family but the Internet isn't always a warm and fuzzy place. Thankfully, it's warm enough and just fuzzy enough that I've been able to use it to create an income from thin air.

After I gave birth for the second time, I left my great-paying IT sales career voluntarily (because I was tired of being treated like plankton on the corporate food chain) in search of a happier life. I started out in 2006 on dial-up with a clunker of a computer and managed to create money for my family out of thin air with the advice of some new online friends. I'll never be plankton again! This enabled me to support us while my husband returned to school. I've also helped other people learn how to write for a living. In fact, I'm working on a book and mentoring program with a colleague that will help more people learn how to make a living by writing. I'm proud of myself.

What's the moral of today's post?

Only you can decide whether you're going to have a good day or a bad day each and every day and only you can decide whether or not you're a "real" writer. I'm fine with the choices I've made, even if I've given up a corporate career and really good health benefits. I'm more in charge than ever of my own potential for success and fulfillment.

Another thing I've realised is that it's also a great idea to chronicle your journey in life so you can see where you've been and decide where it is next that you want to go.

The pennies I earned 3 years ago don't sound like much today but I was proud of them back then because they were the fruits of my entrepreneurial pursuits and I wouldn't hesitate to suggest to anyone else that they take a similar route to get to where they want to be.

So, for the hater that tried to get a rise out of me, you did. You encouraged me to reflect and be grateful and proud of myself today. Tata for now!


John Soares said...

I've been fortunate in my writing field to make in the $50+ per hour range, with some projects more than that. I've definitely been offered some projects that paid far less. I either negotiated a higher amount or I turned it down.

There are times, though, when it's important to accept writing assignments with low pay. One, you may need the money. Two, you can establish a relationship with an editor that can lead to higher paying assignments in the future.

It sounds like you have done very well in just three years. Congratulations!

WordVixen said...

Book and mentoring program? I'm hoping you'll set up an affiliate program for it. ;-)

Dana Prince said...

Thanks, John. I think it's a good idea to set a minimum wage for yourself and if you've got enough work to keep yourself busy, then you don't have to drop below it. It's definitely good to know that if I need to, I can grab a few low paying gigs if ever things get really slow.

Yes...definitely :) Likely through E-Junkie. Stay tuned closer to the fall for more info :)

Lori said...

Great moral. So true. We are the masters of our fate, the captains of our freelance ships.

I love that you no longer charge so little, Dana. You're definitely worth what you earn now!

Dana Prince said...

Thanks Lori. It's my quest to continue to raise my rates. Just like a person that works for someone else doesn't want to hit their earning ceiling, I don't think freelance writers should settle either.

Sharon Hurley Hall said...

This is one of the best posts I've read recently on the writing life, Dana. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Dana Prince said...

Thank you, Sharon. I highly recommend to people that if you're feeling down that you reflect on how far you've come! And if you don't feel like you've moved forward in one area of your life, chances are that you've definitely moved forward in other ways!

Sun Singer said...

Nice post, Dana. This shows what folks starting out can expect.


Dana Prince said...

@Sun Singer
Thanks Malcolm, Nice to 'see' you here :) You replied on that original post about 2 years ago as well. Hope the world is treating you well!

Danielle Gibbings said...

I always like to see what other people are doing and the success they have Dana. Thanks for posting this.

I've had to start a new writing blog because I forgot to renew my domain so I'd love it if you'd stop by and say hi. I'm still working on getting it together. But an important lesson learned people - back up your blog!!!!

Dana Prince said...

So sorry about your blog, Danielle!
I'll be sure to visit your new one.

Alina Padilla said...

Great advice for freelancers, Dana. Although we're not freelancers ourselves (Precise Edit), the ups and downs of being in the business of writing are similar. We often accept smaller jobs to keep the work and pay consistent. Don't get me wrong, we love books! Working with new authors and publishing companies is what we always hope for, but can't consistently depend on.

Here’s to you. Keep up the good work!

Glynis said...

I will never earn like that, but I did earn enough to buy things for my daughter's wedding in July. I admire anyone who works as you do, it takes courage to leave a job with trimmings. Good luck and I hope to read you achieve 0.3pw soon :)

Your book sounds like a good idea.

Dana Prince said...

Hi Glynis,
Actually I'm typically above that rate per word. It takes time to find better paying jobs but if you're determined, it does happen.

Enjoy your daughter's wedding!


Shankha said...

Thanks for this post. I am really searching for a writing that pays me back. $0.01/word sounds fair to me. If I get the chance to write an article for that much per word, I shall do that.
Please let me know where to start and get these "contracts".
Thanks and regards.

Dana Prince said...

Have a look at a post I did for my Work at Home blog that shares some places to get paid to write:

Some of those places are US only so I suggest you also join job bidding sites and begin bidding on work. I do still see people posting for bulk content work and in those cases they often want to pay .01/word. It isn't much but can help you get your start.


Brenda Emmett said...

What a great and fantastic post, Dana! It really made me reflect on my own writing career and path and realize just how much I have accomplished these past couple of years. Thanks for being a mentor to me as well as a friend! :)

Dana Prince said...

Thanks, Brenda. I highly recommend reflection for helping you set new goals, and for helping you feel better!

That lady with 6 daughters said...

Good for you for not giving in to the negativity of the hater. Peace to you, mama. I always say this is the perfect job for moms. Like you said, we make a living out of thin air. No inventory, no employees, no overhead, just bla bla bla and the bills are paid. I love it.

Kristin Mulholland said...

I'm so glad I found this post - thank you for writing it, Dana, and thank you for all your comments others!

I asked Google, "How come freelance writing pays so little?" And it brought me here. Now I see that $5 per 500-word article is the going rate to start, and you've all shown me the future potential value of writing for pennies.

I am a little uncomfortable at giving away all of my rights -- can I still use that article as an example of my work in my portfolio? Because it no longer has my name on it.

Dana Prince said...

Hi Kristin,
Thanks for stopping by :)

You'll need to clarify rights when you ghostwrite for someone. Some don't mind you using the work in an offline portfolio and others don't want you associating your name with the work at all and have you agree to 100% confidentiality.

On my business website I tell clients that I have an endless stream of words within me so I'm not afraid to sell the rights to something away. I will admit that sometimes I cringe when I give something away because it struck a chord with me and felt too good to sell but when I do give away something that I feel really passionate about I know I'm giving my clients my best.


Candace Morehouse said...

You have definitely come a long way, baby.

I tried going the solo route and posting profiles on guru and ifreelance and others but didn't find the subscription price worthwhile. There are too many writing "whores" out there who will do jobs for peanuts and underbid me.

Thanks to people like you, writers like me can rely on a decent rate, at least most of the time.

Clare said...

I agree with you Dana , everyone starts out somewhere. It was the same for me $5 per 500 words , and then it slowly increased. I am proud to say I am well past the $5 mark now !

I have a few niche areas that I have researched a lot, and can write the content for a lot quicker that always helps.