The Math of Making a Living as a Writer

Write Craft with Sean and Johnny

The math of making a living as an author.

Unfortunately, many writers make the mistake of thinking they need a massive audience or long list of clients to be profitable. This is a stumbling block for many freelancers, and business people in general.

But that simply isn't true.

You must be smart and strategic if you expect to truly grow your business and pull your dreams closer to you.

Good writers can make a great living online, but the stronger your foundation and strategy is from the beginning, the more you increase your odds of success.

Let's say you want to make an extra $20,000 a month. That's nearly a quarter of a million per year, which most people would consider a great living.

You can reach $20,000 in countless ways, but don't make the mistake of believing your income must all flow from one-off writing jobs. Building your own assets is the best way to arrive at a large and growing income, by far. 

If you were to try and make $20,000 a month, you would need to either write an impossibly-high word count each month, or have a top-percentage rate to even come close. 

Let's say you were paid $20 per article — then you would need to write 1,000 articles each month to make quota. Assuming you're working six days a week, that's more than 40 per day.

If that's not impossible, it's pretty damned close.

What if you were to make $50 per article? Much better, right? 

Sure, it's better, but you'll still have to write 400 articles, or 16 per day. This can be done, but you'll be burned out in no time. Believe me; I’ve tried it.

If you shift your aim and worry about building assets instead, your numbers become much different.

Sticking with $20, you still need to move 1,000 units, but now you're not skinning your nose against the grindstone for every nickel dropped in the jar. EBooks, affiliate commissions, newsletter or membership subscriptions, etc. — are all excellent ways to help you quickly build the numbers you deserve. And that's just based on $20. 

EBooks articulating your expertise, affiliate commissions on products you use and respect, and membership subscriptions.

Assets can be slow to build and won't necessarily get you where you want to go overnight, but if you take the time to lay the bricks, you'll be running down the road in no time.

If you’re dead set on trading time for money, you’ll want to raise your rates and limit your availability as quickly as possible. Focus on the type of copy that has the highest reward and over-deliver with everything that leaves your desk. Good enough isn’t. Make sure your clients love the work you do and they will come back for more. 

There are plenty of jobs for press releases, SEO copy, and even blog copy that pays $200 or more for around 500 words. This rate is perfectly reasonable, but you must be highly focused on securing the work, diligent in getting it done, and delivering something beyond ordinary, while staying undaunted when work is scarce.

But even if you’re getting $200 for copy that takes two hours to complete, there is still plenty of room to grow. If you want to hit $20,000, you’ll have 100 pieces of copy to move through. That’s 200 hours. A great living, sure, but it’s also a full-time job that leaves you little, if any, time to write for yourself.

Don’t think of your $100-an-hour rate as the finish line. See it as a new beginning instead. If you can command $200 for a page or so of copy, you can command substantially more as a consultant.

There are many companies with large consulting budgets who will pay good money to understand the online space. What if you are a consultant to those companies? A $2,000 fee per month is reasonable to them, and a great boost to your income (while only requiring an extra 10 hours a month from your schedule). Add a couple of companies to your queue, and social proof can double your rate.

Of course, even this is still trading time for money and allowing someone else to dictate your schedule, and therefore not as powerful as building assets. The point is, don’t get trapped behind thick walls of limited beliefs, and don't get stuck in the same rut as many writers, letting the hamster wheel spin as you do — the same things over and over with diluted results.

There is no end to the number of ways you can make money.

Stay focused, work hard, and never sell yourself short. Draw on the talent and skill set that makes you unique, then charge accordingly.

Success is never an accident. Decide how much you want to make, then set a plan to make it.

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