Monday, September 7, 2009

Want to make a living as a freelance writer? Learn to juggle

I make enough money as a freelance writer to support my family, keep our house out of foreclosure and put food on our table. Some months are better than others, but for the 15 years I've been working as a freelancer, I've been able to keep us relatively sound financially.

My writing certainly has won any Pullitzers along the way. But I do enough of a good job to keep the work coming in, though it has gotten harder to do that this year.

What's the secret? It's all about building a writing career that's varied enough to survive the little downturns or hiccups that hit every industry.

Here's my formula: I specialize in real estate writing for trade magazines and newspapers. This includes my work as an editor for a real estate trade magazine in Chicago. Of course, this part of my business has taken a big hit lately thanks to the housing meltdown. A slew of the real estate-centered trade magazines that I've written for have either gone out of business or have slashed their freelance budgets.

Fortunately, I have also developed a busy content-writing career. I haven't been writing content stories for too long, but I generally make anywhere from $800 to $1,000 a month in content writing.

I also do some ghost writing for corporate blogs. That part of the business has suffered a bit, too, thanks to the economy. However, I still have a handful of reliable blogging clients.

I still write regularly for the Washington Post, too, and have picked up work this year for an Illinois publisher that creates books full of odd trivia. This means that I've been able to write about the history of Mighty Mouse, the most overwrought Harlequin romance book titles and the world's most dangerous professions. I also write regularly for a local newspaper chain.

Finally, I have nabbed some -- not a lot, but some -- paid writing for comic-book work. That's a blast.

Every day, I make sure to apply for new writing business. It's the only way you can survive as a freelance writer, especially in this lousy economy.

It's a lot of work, but it's better than sitting behind a desk all day.


  1. Wow, amazing. I could definitely relate to your post, although not in the same scale (you seem to have a lot on your plate!). I try to juggle various writing assignments for the most lucrative results: copy editing here, content writing there, etc. Freelancing is indeed a decision, and sometimes I'm tempted to just go back to working in an office and calling it a day at 5:30-ish, or even just turn off my computer for a whole day :)

    That's a good tip you wrote there for freelance writers by the way: being on the lookout for new writing opportunities everyday.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I have those moments, too, where you just want to chuck it all and work a normal 9-to-5 job. But those jobs sure aren't safe anymore, are they?