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, .

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 , 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, 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

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 . 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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82 comments

  • alan adları says:

    These are my favorite blogging and freelancing resource sites. I subscribe to their newsletters and frequently visit their sites to obtain relevant information for my business.

  • Zack Khan says:

    Hi Holly,

    I work on freelancer.com and on a good month, I can make over 4k. Recently, I have had two horrible experiences with employers on freelancer.com, both of these employers were blackmailing me for “free work”, when I refused, they filed a dispute and won. A recent example- I was hired to write a short 100 page novella for $900, after I had sent him the first 50 pages, he messaged “I love what you have done, cant wait to read more.”, after a few hours, he messaged again, “I was expecting at least 60,000 words for $900, when I convert this to Kindle, the 50 pages you had sent are only 15 Kindle pages”

    Now I dont have to go any further, you get the idea. Even though we had an agreement, there is nothing I can do, freelancer.com locked my funds immediately after he had filed a dispute (gives you a good what their intention is). The employers always win on freelancer.com, the employer can release the funds, leave a 5 star rating and a good review, and can still file a dispute and get his funds back by simply saying. “I don’t like it, the quality is bad.”

    I am sharing this story because I am disheartened, I feel that I have wasted my time on freelancer, I have learned a lot but feel that I am stuck at freelancer.com as you were stuck with your $38000 a year job.

    I am glad I stumbled upon this website and to your article. What I admire most is not your income, but the courage that took you from a job to a self-employed success. I congratulate you on your success and I wish to pave the same path for myself.

    Thanks.

    Zack Khan

  • AnalisGuig24 says:

    Hi Holly,

    I work on freelancer.com and on a good month, I can make over 4k. Recently, I have had two horrible experiences with employers on freelancer.com, both of these employers were blackmailing me for “free work”, when I refused, they filed a dispute and won. A recent example- I was hired to write a short 100 page novella for $900, after I had sent him the first 50 pages, he messaged “I love what you have done, cant wait to read more.”, after a few hours, he messaged again, “I was expecting at least 60,000 words for $900, when I convert this to Kindle, the 50 pages you had sent are only 15 Kindle pages”

    • 60,000 words for $900? WHAT

      • Zack Khan says:

        Originally it was suppose to be $900 for 100 pages in US TRADE format – hardly 10,000 words (I had mentioned this to my client). It is still pretty low – but $900 for 60,000 words is not right. I am still learning – i have to spend a lot of time figuring out characters and their voice – not to mention doing tons of research on areas, preferences, hot spots, fashion, food, and trends of all kind – the list goes on. Sometimes it takes me a day to write a page, the compensation is ludicrous, expectations on the hand – is pretty high. Now this forces me to take the “assembly line” approach – mix three novels and rewrite them. Good for me, i can write, edit and format a 10,000 word short novel in 2-3 days, clients love it but I don’t feel that great. I am not adding anything to my skill if not becoming a french fry dispenser. I will have my website running in the next 2 months. Freelancer.com has gone down the drain – seems they already have minted enough money, now they are going for scraps.

      • Zack Khan says:

        $900 for 100 pages is still pretty low – but $900 for 60,000 words is not right. I am still learning – i have to spend a lot of time figuring out characters and their voice – not to mention doing tons of research on areas, preferences, hot spots, fashion, food, and trends of all kind – the list goes on. Sometimes it takes me a day to write a page, the compensation is ludicrous, expectations on the hand – is pretty high. Now this forces me to take the “assembly line” approach – mix three novels and rewrite them. Good for me, i can write, edit and format a 10,000 word short novel in 2-3 days, clients love it but I don’t feel that great. I am not adding anything to my skill if not becoming a french fry dispenser. I will have my website running in the next 2 months. Freelancer.com has gone down the drain – seems they already have minted enough money, now they are going for scraps.

  • Elske Newman says:

    Love these tips! And you are totally right about having a good photo, I really need to sort mine out, thanks for the reminder 😀

  • Lionel says:

    Hi Holly

    I need to know what job a content writer does. There are a lot of vacancies for content writers but I am scared to apply as I have no idea or experience being a content writer. Would appreciate your help and guidance to be a good content writer. Is this a specialized field. Thanks for your help

  • Natalie says:

    I love point three. I haven’t read through the entire article but have always worried what others will think of my writing. It is refreshing to find people who write from the heart. it truly is the best place.

  • I agree with setting working hours throughout the day. Aside from doing errands that distracts you from working efficiently, when you don’t set working hours, you might overwork that will lead you to lack of sleep, hunger etc.

    So setting working hours and really following it will make your freelancing life easier and more productive.

    All the Best,
    Jan Limark |

  • Angela says:

    I’ve been a consistently working freelance writer for 15 years. It pays the bills but never have I even gotten close to a six-figure year. I must learn your ways!

  • Kirt Purdy says:

    Interesting content. I have been writing for a number of years, and in a number of contexts. I have written screenplays, scripts, short stories, a novella, and got a book published. I also wrote a humour column for a few years that was very well received.

    I am also a teacher, but just substituting right now. I love teaching, but if I could get paid to write, I would probably enjoy that just as much!

    I will look more closely at this when I have a bit of time to dedicate to it. Off to school!

  • Kelsey says:

    Would you recommend quitting a full-time job that you have (8 or more hours per day) in order to be able to spend more time writing? Part of me would love to do nothing but freelance writing, but I’m afraid of losing that safety net. On the other hand, I don’t get much time during the day to write with this job, so I don’t know what to do. Thank you for your time.

    • I wouldn’t quit your job until you have replaced your income – or at least most of it. Get up early if you have to. Stay up late. Write on weekends. Once you replace most of your income, then consider it.

  • Jessie says:

    Are you in any way sponsored by Freelancer.com? I am asking because this site is a complete ripoff. Thousands of people have been scammed by this site and I guess I am a little bit confused as to why someone who professes to be a reputable writer would recommend such a site if they weren’t being paid to do so. Money taken from bank accounts with no warning, fees being taken when jobs haven’t even been paid for, they don’t guarantee that you will be paid from your employer but they take fees either way, no customer protection and bad customer service, etc. A boycott of the site going on right now. There is also a petition on Change.org

    • No, never communicated with them at all. But I have heard similar complaints. It’s a good way to find a few starter clients, but you’re right that there is some BS to deal with, too.

  • Karin says:

    I avoid those platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer.com and Remote.com (which used to be Outsource). The pay is lousy and 1000’s of others are competing for the same project.

    I used to work in a state government office but I was treated like a money-making machine for a lousy salary. I spent most of my pay for gas and tolls. I got paid off, but I am not missing that job.

    Unfortunately I cannot afford the course but I hope to be pointed in the right direction to find real writing projects to get my freelance writing career going.

    I have written travel articles and got them published, but they were not paid. However, I was happy to write about my travels and get my name out there. I enjoy writing but I would also like to make it a full-time job so I never have to go back to a 9 to 5 job, and also to help fund my travels so I can write more travel articles.

  • That’s an incredible feat and something I surely aspire to. Do you have advice for finding column-writing opportunities?

  • Patricia Purdaby says:

    Hey
    I like how postive and determined you are not only about your writting but your family as well. Im new to all this and an wondering what the best way is to get started. Im a mom and soon to be mother again. Is this the best time to start or better to wait?

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