When Freelance Writing Looks Like a Job: July Income Report from Nicole Dieker

When Freelance Writing Looks Like a Job: July Income Report from Nicole Dieker

Freelancers with multiple clients know that they can continue earning money even after a client relationship ends.

When most of your income comes from one or two clients, however, you need to be prepared for what might happen if you no longer have those income sources.

First, my numbers for July:

Completed pieces: 55

Work billed: $6,424.13

Income received: $8,530.55

I wrote 36,300 words this July, which is not only fewer words than usual but also significantly fewer words than the 53,600 I wrote in July 2015. I also earned more money: $6,424 compared to July 2015’s $5,034. My career — and my earnings — continue to move forward.

Booked through the end of the year

On the subject of moving forward: right now, I have freelance work fully booked through the end of 2016. There will still be opportunities for me to take on the occasional small project if one comes up, but for all intents and purposes, my calendar is full.

How did I get to this point? By building long-term relationships with clients who, in turn, offer me recurring work or long-term projects.

When I started out as a freelancer, I booked my writing work one day at a time.

As I continued pitching and building client relationships, I began to book work two weeks ahead. It took until my third year of freelancing before I was able to book work one month ahead — that is, to have a full month of work booked before that month began.

In 2016, I started being able to book work two months ahead, and now I’m looking at five months of fully-booked work.

The drawback, of course, is that this limits my ability to take on new projects or develop new client relationships. I have enough room in my schedule for maybe one additional piece per month, if the piece is something I really want to work on.

However, if someone asked me to take on a dream project — let’s say an editor asked me if I could fly to London and spend a week with the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — I’d have to say no. Or “could we do that in 2017?”

Thinking of freelancing like a job

Last month, I wrote that the majority of my income came from two big clients. I’m being very careful to ensure that I keep writing for a handful of additional clients, first to make sure my byline is being seen in multiple publications (and by multiple groups of readers), and also to ensure that I’ll have at least some income if something happens to one of my two big clients.

Freelancers often say that one of the benefits of freelancing is being able to diversify your income sources. If you lose a client — and I have lost more than one client, over the course of my freelancing career — you still have other clients and other work.

This equation changes slightly when the bulk of your income comes from one or two sources. I’ve always thought of freelancing as a job, but now I’m thinking of it in the so-called “traditional job” sense:

I need to be prepared for the possibility that I might “lose my job,” or lose one of my primary clients, and I need to be able to spend at least two months living off my savings while I look for a new large client (or, potentially, a group of smaller clients).

In the past, ending a client relationship meant, at most, losing 25 percent of my freelancing income. Now that the majority of my income comes from two clients, I’m beginning to think about what might happen if I lose 50 percent or more of my income.

I’m very close to having a , but I want to continue adding to my savings account as my own form of “unemployment insurance.” That, and continue to stay active in the freelancing community and build as many relationships as possible — even though I won’t be able to take on a new big writing project until 2017.

How do you diversify your income sources? Do you have one client that provides the majority of your income? Do you have a plan for what you’ll do if that client relationship ends?

Filed Under: Freelancing

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17 comments

  • Deanna says:

    Great article, Nicole! I, too, am a freelance writer. However, instead of articles and such, I write sales copy. It’s a tough field. I am constantly measured by how well my copy performs. If I beat the “control,” I’m golden. If not, I may be looking for a new client! I do have two or three months of emergency money in savings to keep me going between projects. However, I also want to develop other income streams to supplement my copywriting income. I’ve tried creating money-making websites – and failed. So now I’m focusing on pursuing my passion to write books and have my own little self-publishing “empire.” In theory, the more books I can write, the more passive income I can generate. I think having more than one source of income is essential for us freelance writers!

  • Eliana says:

    I have two great, steady clients but I am worried about over-relying on them. I have other work, but I’d be seriously screwed if either one suddenly ended. I’m trying to be aware but like you said, it is hard to take on new stuff when you are already booked.
    Also, nice numbers!

  • i do so much enjoy writing, persons from american negro to urban caucasion can relate which further gives life to the point that life, existing, making the grade, self initiated sabaticalls, and the need for a readers dictionary are all part of life anywhere usa, the fact that many persons enjoy my stories (prose) though by gmail, and writers sites submissions gives me the breath to make another big girl step to being the self expressive person who will allow the introvert to laugh and stake claim to likenesses, though i am columbian equptian negro pretend to be twenty nine when other races in my hood say to me ” i or we saw and were able to read your latest story”i began to feel as famous as the rapper Jay-Z.

  • Patchesoft says:

    Great income report. I’m a Freelance Programmer, so I know the feeling of worrying about if a certain client drops you. The phrase “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” comes to mind when freelancing.

  • Blake Atwood says:

    Thanks for the transparency, Nicole, and congrats on increasing your income. I’m curious as to how many hours you’re putting in. I seem to recall that last year, or even the year before, you were putting in much more than an average work week. Has that changed for you in the last year?

  • Thank you for sharing your income report with us! Seeing this helps me be motivated to keep working on my own business.

  • Sarah says:

    As a new full-time freelancer, I am mostly thinking about just getting enough work right now to pay the bills! I still really enjoyed hearing about your progression as a freelancer and how you book clients into the future. I haven’t thought about booking even past a few projects at a time, but this article is a great reminder that giving clients an awesome product now will result in steadier work in the future. And of course, learning to leave a little space for new clients is a great tip too. Thanks so much!

  • Ryan Tate says:

    Thanks Nicole. I’ve had a blog for 9 years and never really written any content on it because I didn’t really think writing outside of the traditional publishing world could make any real profit.

    Thanks for sharing your income report. It has opened my eyes.

  • Wow. Really inspiring. Thanks for the earning stats.

  • Aileen says:

    As a freelance writer and essayist, how do you go about getting clients? What kind of writing do you do for clients? I’m new to this and I’ve read a lot of articles about writing for clients and I’m not really clear on the specifics. If you could share that would be great! Thanks in advance!

    • Nicole says:

      Often, I’ll start pitching ideas to a blog or online site and then, after I’ve successfully pitched and completed a handful of posts, they’ll ask me to write for them on a regular basis.

      Also, new clients have reached out directly to me—although that didn’t really start happening until I had two years of successful freelancing with a highly visible byline.

      Hope that is helpful!

  • Ashri Mishra says:

    It’s Very informative post.. For me thank… you..

  • Of course writing is a full time job and now a days the writers have very good demand specially in marketing sector. The new freelance must be inspired seeing your post. Good job.

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