We started the freelance writing blog here at ArcticLlama with the goal of making it easier for freelancers to understand how to succeed as freelance writers and for businesses and clients to have better success working with freelance writers. While we always strive to improve, I think we have done a pretty good job. However, we have also branched out, driven by both comments and emails from readers, and website statistics about the visitors who come here to read about the freelance writing business.
One of the top drivers of readers to this writing website is search engine traffic. This is not surprising since Arctic Llama isn’t exactly a household name and we don’t spend much time advertising, marketing, Twittering, or otherwise promoting this blog. (This is something we look to improve upon in 2010.) However, some of the search terms that drive users here are a bit more unexpected.
We’ve written before about how much freelance writers make per hour, or how much a freelance writer should make. These articles bring in search engine traffic from all manner of keywords, but the one that pops up repeatedly is how much do freelance writers make? I doubt there is much interest in this topic from a purely research perspective, so the assumption must be that people are wondering how much a freelance writer makes because they are potentially interested in doing some freelance writing.
What makes this unexpected is that we don’t really optimize our site around these keyphrases, and there are a lot of much bigger and better known websites that have written on this topic repeatedly. In other words, we aren’t the number one search result for some huge search keyword, and yet, here is this traffic. It boils down to either, a) people are not getting the information they wanted so they keep looking, or b) people are getting a lot of different information and they keep looking for some definitive answer about what freelance writers get paid. We can see this in how many of the searches on the topic also include a word like "average," "usually," or "typical."
How Much A Freelance Writer Earns
In an effort to serve all of our readers to the best of our ability let me provide an answer to the question about how much an average freelance writer earns. First, the short answer (which you won’t like), then the longer answer, which if you are willing to read should help give the answer people are hoping to find.
So, how much money does a freelance writer earn on average?
It depends. (See, I told you, you wouldn’t like it.)
Like the computer Deep Thought suggests in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the problem is that the wrong question is being asked.
There are two main issues with framing the freelance writers earnings question in this manner. The first is that freelance writing income varies widely. There are some exceptions (which we’ll cover in the long answer), but for the most part, unless you are writing consistently for just one or two clients (which is really more of a contractor than a freelancer), the income will vary depending upon the projects and the clients.
To "solve" this problem, some resort to asking how much a freelancer makes per hour on average. This too is problematic in that, even that number varies depending upon circumstances. Furthermore, there is the issue about how to characterize "per hour."
For example, are we talking about the amount billed per hour or the amount made per hour as the result of dividing income over the amount of time worked? Anyone who thinks that the amount of hours a freelance writer works and the amount of hours a writer works are equal is sorely mistaken. (Again, pseudo-contractors being the exception.)
Changing the length of the time interval only helps a little. Freelancing income varies week to week, month to month, and even year to year. A big contract that once provided 80% of writers income comes to an end and there can be an enormous swing in earnings. This is part of what makes having a business plan for freelance writing so important. It is this concept, that finally provides us with a way to answer the question about how much a freelance writer makes. Instead of creating an arbitrary chart or table of freelance writer earnings or agonizing over how accurate the average, whatever that means, is, examining a freelance writing business plan, would provide the insight that people are looking for when they search for information on freelance writing rates.
So, that is what we will be doing here in the next month. The start of the year is a perfect time to review any business plan or strategic objectives. We’ll walk through how a freelance writing business works, where the income comes from, and how cash flow, expenses, contracts, clients, and so on all drive a bottom line that is not easily summed up in a search engine optimized post of 500 words. Along the way, if you are wondering how much a freelance writer earns per year or per month, you’ll get the real answer you are looking for.