Two $120K Earners Reveal Exactly How They Make Money Writing

Carol Tice

120K Earners Reveal How They Make Money Writing. Makealivingwriting.comDo you wonder sometimes if it’s really possible to make money writing? I’m talking good money, not the kind that barely covers a weekly latte.

I meet a lot of writers who believe reliable writing income that truly pays your bills is an urban myth, like alligators in the sewers of New York.

But I can assure you, it’s not. Real writers just like you can start out earning small, and ramp up to six figures. Or more!

How do I know? Because I’ve been coaching working freelance writers on how to double their income for several years now. My Freelance Writers Den 2X Income Accelerator program has grads who routinely earn $80,000-$120,000 per year.

Recently, I sat down with two of my top earners — Laura MacPherson and Emily Omier — at a monthly mastermind call for my Den 2X program grads.

With Laura’s and Emily’s permission, excerpts from each of their insight-filled interview videos are included below! Along with show notes on exactly how each of them discovered how to make money writing.

Laura and Emily didn’t start out with any special advantages. They were just hardworking freelance writers who weren’t earning enough. In fact, Emily had a lot of life struggles to overcome, which she recently wrote about here on the blog.

Get ready to change your worldview on what writers can earn, because here are their insights into building a $100K+ freelance-writing biz:

Make money writing — no matter what

It was about two weeks into her Den 2X class when Emily, then pregnant, dropped a bombshell on her group: “My husband has cancer.”

As you can imagine, her road to six-figure income was a rocky one. More tough blows were to come. But she used her Den 2X resources to prevail and build her dream freelance-writing career.

Watch the video for all the details on how she made it happen, against all odds:

Emily’s Show Notes:

  • She joined Den 2X making just $2,000 per month, and it had taken years to get to that level.
  • Her husband was diagnosed with cancer while Emily was pregnant, their daughter was born, her husband died shortly after her birth, leading her to not work at all in 2016. Her mother was also diagnosed with cancer and died shortly after this. (!) As a result, she ended up moving several times.
  • She came back to work doing just a little, perhaps 5 hours a week. In spring 2017, she began sending LOIs again and started rebuilding her business in earnest.
  • By fall 2017, she was billing $7,000 per month, with the support of her 2X community.
  • Built authority in a tech niche by writing for a trade magazine software developers read, to gain a higher profile in their industry. Article sources, advertisers, and trade-show sponsors in the field became clients.
  • She transitioned to writing for businesses, leveraging topics she’d covered as a journalist and life experience including working for an immigration lawyer.
  • Her first major business client was in immigration-law software.
  • Her law background allowed her to bridge into writing on tech.
  • This client said her past work experience made her the ‘needle in the haystack’ they were looking for, the only candidate who had anything relevant to say about their industry.
  • She used lists of startups that had recently received venture capital to look for prospects.
  • She took in-person meetings when possible — and in some cases, that seemed to make a difference in getting hired.
  • She focuses on a tech sub-niche: writing about developer tools. Few writers know this space, so she’s in-demand.
  • Emily attracted clients by building authority through writing for a trade publication her clients read. Two new clients saw her byline there and hired her, and some article sources she interviewed also became clients.
  • Total retainers currently are just under $10,000 per month, and two new clients she’s just ramping may turn into retainers, too.
  • Marketing method of choice: Sending soft-sell LinkedIn connection invites. She mentions that she’s a freelance writer who knows their niche, and just thought it would make sense to connect. Sometimes customized if she spots something in theirr profile they have in common. Several clients came this way.
  • Her project mix includes case studies, white papers, blog posts, and editing. with a growing focus on the higher-ticket items.
  • Pitch companies in your niche that are headquartered in a low-glamour city (she did San Jose, Calif.), where it may be hard to get good staffers.
  • She now uses a rate sheet for easily defined projects such as case studies and white papers, to simplify her life.
  • When she thinks of bidding low, she asks herself, “What would a white man charge?”
  • Her tip: Send out a LOT of marketing.
  • Set high goals and target companies that are flush.
  • On track to exceed $30,000 per quarter this summer… and still working on growing her income further.
  • Did I mention she only works 30 hours a week?

Read the full transcript

I’ll be honest — I got some tips for my own freelance biz from this interview! Packed with goodies.

Build up to full-time freelancing

Laura built her freelance career on the side of a day job, and then made the leap to full-time freelancing. What drove her income over six figures? Watch and learn:

Laura’s Show Notes:

  • Laura ramped her freelance income up until it equaled her day-job income, then quit. Low-risk!
  • She used letters of introduction (LOIs) and focused on SaaS companies nationwide.
  • Then, she focused on pitching companies with very similar offerings to existing clients, so her clips were highly relevant.
  • Key decision: she tripled her rates.
  • She realized small jobs were killing her and established a $1,000 minimum for first projects.
  • Focused more on larger projects such as white papers.
  • Grew her confidence to pitch big-ticket items such as a white paper as a first project.
  • Schedules everything in Google calendar, including home chores.
  • Allows extra time for writing-biz tasks, just in case.
  • She participated in a Den 2X 100-pitch/30-day challenge — and rapidly built her freelance client base.
  • 3 big recommendations: Jack up your rates, take no small projects, and bid on a project basis for higher-ticket projects, where hourly rate can top $300/hr.
  • Now projecting $150,000 for 2019 income!

Read the full transcript

Make more money writing

You know, they say a parent’s proudest moment is watching their kids outshine and out-achieve them. And that’s exactly how I feel, watching Den 2X grads like Laura and Emily!

I personally felt maxed out at $100,000 a year as a full-time freelancer, but they’re both doing me one better — working smarter, charging more, and showing that six-figure freelance writing is achievable. It’s not hype: you really CAN make money writing… and lots of it.

Need to grow your writing income? The only Den 2X Income Accelerator mastermind of 2020 begins in January! All the details on this 6-month coaching program are here. (Got questions? Ask in the comments.)

Get the best freelance clients - join Freelance Writers Den 2X Income Accelerator


  1. Running Ragged

    Great tips here, thank you all! I’d love to see more success stories like this outside of the tech world.

    I write at a high level for my niche status-wise, but I don’t find there is a lot of high-paying work available. A global media agency that hires 22-year-old interns who work for free (it’s considered a “prestige” industry) snags a lot of the better business. I can write one-offs for publications, which pay well, but they aren’t those desirable steady retainers.

    I get bites on my LOIs, and I’m active on LI, but the clients usually balk at my rates, so I wind up taking agency work (high-paying “move-up” mills or book ghostwriting agencies) to make my expenses. I’ve resigned myself to working about 50 percent outside my niche because of the better pay, which is okay.

    I’d really just like to make more money in either silo, so I can devote 10-20 hours per week to fiction writing and self-publishing, as well as afford to move to Europe next year. Overall, I’d like to feel more control over my schedule and more confident about my income, especially with more retainer clients. I make about $3-4K per month, but it’s hard won, and I have a resume that says I should be making at least twice that. When does your den open up again? I missed the window in December because it closed earlier than I expected. I think the extra push would help me branch out to higher-paying jobs that cross over between my niche and some of the outside work I’ve been doing.

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t usually OK posts from people using fake names on here, Running… please use a real name next time?

      The Den will have an open later this summer… but it sounds like you’re a perfect fit for my Den 2X program – check out the links at the bottom of the post! I have about 10 spots left only, for coaching with me. Happy to spend the next 6 months helping you double your income! And…can’t wait to learn your actual NAME. Thanks!

  2. David Buckley

    LinkedIn seems to be a great source of writing opportunities. I have just joined. A bit cautious as I have no experience with any social media platforms.

    These stories are both very inspiring. Thank you.

  3. GR

    I appreciate everything that was written in this article. I also appreciate the specific case studies.

    What I didn’t appreciate was the comment, “What would a white man charge?” That’s WAY over the line and absurd. I’m a white male and it has meant NOTHING in my life and that’s a fact. Oh, and by the way, I have no white privilege card either. Maybe I should say I’m a migrant or an illegal immigrant. Then maybe I’d get some breaks.

    • Paul Uduk

      I guess “what would a white man charge” is a joke. I believe it’s a metaphor for “what would the top 1% making money in this niche charge.” My guess.

      • GR

        You’re probably right Paul. Thanks for the response.

      • Carol Tice

        Not a joke at all, Paul, if you look at the figures around what whites and men make vs women and POC. I guess some people aren’t liking Emily’s strategy! But I know a ton of women who would do well to make that mindset switch.

    • Carol Tice

      Well… I assume you’re not saying that white privilege isn’t a real thing? I feel like more and more people understanding that it is.

      More importantly, thinking that way is a strategy that helped Emily earn more, a way of rethinking how she was presenting herself.

      I’ve definitely seen white men who don’t charge enough… but we all know pay equity has not yet been achieved, and that more women need to advocate for themselves. Yes?

      • GR

        “I assume you’re not saying that white privilege isn’t a real thing?” White privilege is overblown by race baiters. I grew up on welfare and have had to struggle for EVERYTHING I’ve gotten in life. I’ve also been on the verge of homelessness four times in my life. My being white has not ever helped me as far as I can see. Just because the media says it exists so flagrantly doesn’t mean it exist to the level they say.

        “More importantly, thinking that way is a strategy that helped Emily earn more, a way of rethinking how she was presenting herself.” I’m happy it helped her earn more — I am. If that strategy helped her re-evaluate things and try a new approach, good for her.

        “…but we all know pay equity has not yet been achieved.” Income disparity. I’ve been in hi-tech for years and the women I’ve worked with are all paid market value. Does it exist? Perhaps — I don’t know for sure. I’ve personally never seen it although in the Obama White House women were paid less, according to a news report I read. I’m sure you’d agree that’s not right. If it does exist in such a widespread way, I’m AGAINST THAT as I believe in fairness for all whether you’re white, black, Asian, male, female, etc.

        “…more women need to advocate for themselves. Yes?” Of course. Absolutely. I TOTALLY agree with that.

          • GR

            One thing I found interesting. At the end of the URL you shared under Employee Responses to the Statement, the average for all was about 19%. For white males it was 24% — clearly not a ringing endorsement that even the bane of civilization, white males, feel they’re not being paid what they’re worth.

          • Kaitlin Morrison

            Here’s the thing about privilege, GR–it’s not all or nothing. It’s not cut and dry. You can HAVE one privilege and not BE privileged in every area of your life.

            White privilege doesn’t mean all the white folks are billionaire trust fund kids.

            It represents a significant privilege in certain areas of life, which doesn’t mean it grants you an easy life. And you can have privilege in one area and lack it in others.

            Here’s how.

            For instance, I’m white, too. And in this system we have, that’s often a privilege because we have a broken system. But, I also live in a rural area and my parents were the first in their families to go to college. They were white, but had to contend with entrenched poverty and a dearth of opportunities. That poverty they grew up in is a completely different thing from them being white. It was a disadvantage, but it’s not what they’re talking about when society brings up white privilege being a problem.

            No one is saying low-income white people don’t have a hard life.

            But the conversation that does need to happen is this–how do we break down barriers and create a world where everyone can thrive?

            In all likelihood, you’re just going to disagree with us on all of this. Oh well. But it’s not going to stop a lot of us out there from trying to break down the barriers and open opportunity. It should just be about what you can deliver and what you have to offer.

            My recommendation to you…focus on your business. Build what you can to the best of your ability. Embrace opportunity. Honestly, I really don’t think the race issue is holding YOU personally back. That isn’t to say you don’t have challenges in life, because we ALL do.

          • Carol Tice

            Thanks for breaking it down, Kaitlin!

          • Kaitlin L Morrison

            No problem, Carol. I kind of didn’t want to spend time replying, but I’m hoping other readers who are still confused about the privilege thing will see it…maybe some will get the message.

      • Tara

        I so totally appreciate your responses, Carol. Thank you.

  4. Paul Uduk

    Hello Carol, thanks for these inspiring interviews. I will definitely join the Den. I’m more of a trainer but working hard to master all the seven dimensions of the Expert Industry: author, speaker, trainer, coach, consultant, seminar leader, and information marketing. I’m more at home writing books (written five to date) but it wouldn’t hurt writing quality articles and getting paid. As a matter of fact, I’ve written articles for articles aggregators and repositories for free, with some articles running to 2000 words. Joining the Den will be a step in the right direction. Thanks for the wonderful community you’re building.

  5. Paul Uduk

    Thanks, Carol for also including the full transcript, which enables me to follow their trains of thought.

  6. Kaitlin Morrison

    Thanks for this, Carol! And I appreciate Emily and Laura sharing their stories and examples with us.

    To the other readers here I wanted to add something–I’m in one of Carol’s Den 2X masterminds with the two writers featured in this post and I can say that they’re both incredibly approachable and down-to-Earth people. They work really hard and I hope visitors to this site take the time to truly learn from these stories. There’s so much value in seeing what other writers are doing and putting in the work to get there yourself.

    I’m not at their earning level yet, but I’ve gotten so much value from the 2X program and I’ve personally doubled my income through the program twice. It’s absolutely been a worthwhile investment for me and for my business.

    If you’re out there thinking it’s an urban myth that growing your business as a writer is possible–I’m here to tell you this is totally doable. Even for ‘regular’ people like you.

    (By the way, Carol never asked me to say all of this or to post a comment on here. I just really believe in this program. It’s the real deal.)

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, just found this — thanks for sharing your story, Kaitlin!

  7. Scott

    Also appreciate everything but “what would a white man charge.” I’ve worked hard for everything I have, and don’t see where any kind of “white male privilege” has helped that. I have also seen people I felt were unqualified or bullies being promoted for “diversity” reasons as well. It’s wrong to consider people by superficial traits instead of by their character and actions.

    • Carol Tice

      Try being a Latina woman for a week, if you could, and it might be enlightening about advantages you enjoy, Scott.

      • Scott

        Carol: Latina women come in many different varieties. Wealthy brat from the city who treats peasants like crap? Field-working woman from the countryside? In comparison to the first, I enjoy next to no advantages – no parents to buy me a car, pay for private school, VIP suites at concerts.

        Anyways, someone who lives in a suburban gated community doesn’t have the integrity to lecture working-class people about “privilege” – it comes across as authoritarian and mean-spirited rather than persuasive. It also sounds like you don’t actually care about people, but abuse them for a self-serving agenda.

        Go ahead and delete my moderator account and take my email off your list, as I do not want to support your business in any form.

        You come across like the Evil Stepmother from the fairy tale, hope you can find a way to not be nasty your entire life.

        • Kaitlin Morrison

          Since it’s your example, Scott, I’ll use it.

          “The wealthy brat from the city” might actually be a hard-working, successful young woman who aced her LSAT and pulled long nights of studying, then worked hard in law school to get where she is, but because she’s Latina, half the people who see her in those VIP suites at concerts assume she must’ve had rich parents. After all, she couldn’t have possibly earned that, right?

          And even if she did have rich parents, half of the time others would be looking at her thinking, “Why are you here? You don’t really belong. Who’s place are you taking?” And they’d assume there must be some better qualified person out there who didn’t have the “advantage” of a boost from a diversity initiative. So a lot of folks end up having to work even HARDER and show more impressive qualifications just to convince people they really belong and didn’t steal “someone else’s place.”

          That’s not to say being working class and white ISN’T a severe disadvantage, because it most certainly is.

          But why is this a contest? Why can’t we all just admit that working towards giving everyone a fair and equitable shot is a good idea? We can’t give everyone the same outcome…we all have to work for it. But it’d sure be nice if people stop making assumptions and restricting opportunity based on it.

          • Carol Tice

            Right on, Kaitlin.

        • Carol Tice

          Wow — not sure who this is, or who this is addressed to. I’ve never lived in a gated community, been in a VIP suite, or gone to private school, and come from a very working-class background.

          And… I’m not the one who said they use ‘think like a white male’ in their business! Just reporting what’s helped one writer hit $120K. Maybe I need a course that helps underpaid white males think like more privileged white males?

          Not sure how pointing out that white privilege is real makes me evil, but to each his own.

        • Evan Jensen

          Hey Scott,
          I’m your guy. 44-year-old white male. I can see how you think your success is directly related to all your hard work and nothing else. You’ve no doubt been hustling, and that’s awesome.

          But it’s no secret the working-white-guy demographic has had long-standing advantages in hiring, wages, advancement, etc.

          Thank God that’s beginning to shift slightly to create a more equal playing field for everyone, but the white guy still has an easier road to travel than others.

          Really like Paul Uduk’s comment: “I guess “what would a white man charge” is a joke. I believe it’s a metaphor for “what would the top 1% making money in this niche charge.”

          What’s pretty awesome and motivating to me is that every day I come across freelance writers who are from all different life circumstances in the Den, on LinkedIn, or in other networking groups who are making more money than me, have a bigger following, have better writing skills, etc., than I do, and have managed to achieve success.

          And what I see is that regardless of life circumstances, financial status, family dynamics, race, gender, etc, every single one of these people worked hard to develop their skills, make connections, improve their craft, and persist. That deserves a virtual fist-bump, an E-for effort, a nod to hard work and self discipline.

          Getting an up-close look at the way Emily and Laura have grown their writing businesses is super helpful, and offers insights on how I can improve my own writing business. And I totally celebrate their success.

          Kaitlin, I totally agree with you. Here’s to working towards equality and fair pay for everyone regardless of where you start.

          Keep going.

    • Jen

      The way that I always think of white privilege, which as a white woman I do benefit from, is that no matter what things in life you have going against you, the color of your skin will never be one of them. For me, it’s not an assumption that white people haven’t earned what they’ve earned, it’s just the knowledge that all other things being equal, it is likely that being white was more of an advantage than a disadvantage.


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