Mark Terry

Friday, November 21, 2008

$200,000 A Year As A Writer

November 21, 2008
I'm a subscriber to Freelance Success, and one of their forum threads was on whether it was possible to make $200,000 a year as a freelance writer. I read this with some interest, naturally. I don't think it's merely inflation that has made the usual goal of $100,000 jump to $200,000.

Apparently it is possible, primarily through either ghostwriting for famous people or for a lot of corporate work--writing annual reports and marketing materials, etc. I don't do much corporate work, although I've done some. I've never quite gotten a handle on breaking in, or perhaps I can more accurately say, I've never focused on breaking into corporate work.

More to the point, there were a number of posters on the forum who had at one time or another closed in on $200,000 and others who routinely made more than $100,000 annually, and the gist of it broke down to:

1. Get high-paying work.
2. Do a lot of it.
3. Work your ass off.
4. Market yourself like crazy.

I also find that some of the people making money in that range are doing things like giving speeches or they're earning back royalties on books.

Any number of people said something along the lines of: "There's more to life than money and in order to make that kind of money you almost have to give up what makes the freelance life so lovely--loose hours, casual dress, flexibility, etc."

I confess to an interest in the $100,000 a year number, although I haven't hit it yet. I got in range for two years, and I was aware of just how hard I was working and how busy I was. 

Having to double that has no appeal.

UNLESS...

I can do it through higher-paying clients or good-paying book projects.

Anyway, I thought I'd throw the topic out there because there's an assumption among many people, writers and non-writers alike, that a freelancer doesn't make much money. I make a very nice living, earn about $20,000 to $30,000 a year more than I was making working in clinical cytogenetics (although I don't have paid vacation, sick days, healthcare benefits or retirement). More the point, I love what I'm doing and the lifestyle suits me.

It's something to think about when you consider freelancing.

Cheers,
Mark Terry

11 Comments:

Blogger Kath Calarco said...

Yowzah! I never knew free-lancing could net so much. But still, it'd be a change in life-style for me. First, I'd have more money than I'd ever had, and second, it wouldn't allow me the freedom I enjoy now, and somehow I think there'd be stress involved. Got enough of that.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

My suspicion is that $200K is not the norm or even the average. In fact, I'm sure it isn't.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Just get a seven-figure deal for a novel and call it a day. :)

7:42 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Jude,
Longer odds, but more fun.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Kath Calarco said...

I'm with Jude - seven figures AND movie rights (but not Lifetime movie rights - that just seems so wrong, but then again, if it'll keep the Escalade gassed up, go for it!)

9:11 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

No way would I want that life. I'd rather have very few expenses and live comfortably and happily with less.

There was a time when I taught six days a week, a million students, and spent the rest of my day doing studio busywork. Ick.

I'll hope for Jude's day or a lottery win, LOL.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

OK . . .

Eight years ago, I hit well above the $100,000 mark and hadn't published a novel yet. All freelance editing/writing. Lots of trade books (not boring stuff). I stayed above that figure for the next few years, slacked when I had baby #4 (intentionally) and am back well above that again. I can't seem to crack the $150,000 ceiling (I'm close), but that's my next goal, and then $200,000.

I find in order to hit my numbers . . .

I have to sell two to three books a year, have steady freelance writing gigs, and ONE big writing project for a corporation or ghost job. The last one is a hustle to find sometimes--the real high-end spot. I also have--amazingly--found that a LOT of steady $1,500-$2,500 jobs a month gets you in that ballpark. The key is steady . . . . never bruning bridges.

The ghosting/book editing gigs, I am way on the high end of what to charge, but I am also worth it, and all my business is word of mouth at this point.

E

9:04 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Erica,
You and I need to talk. :)

10:13 AM  
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