The Habit That Will Transform Your Freelance Writing Income

Carol Tice

Change THIS to Boost Your Writing Income. Want to know the secret to boosting your freelance writing income? I learned this a long time ago, and it’s still true. Change this one thing, and you’re on your way. Enjoy! —Carol.

Would you like to create a drastic shift in your freelance writing income?

There’s really only one way.

The good news is, this is something you can do no matter where you live, or how the economy is doing.

I was reminded of this when I ran into a mom I know casually — she’s the mother of one of my son’s longtime friends.

I hadn’t seen her in a while, and I about fell over when I ran into her at a local bike race I did with my family recently.

She has lost probably 80 pounds or more, and looks 15 years younger!

Between slimming down and growing her formerly very short hair out to ponytail length, she looked almost like a teenager. Even the shape of her face had changed.

And you know what? Her approach to losing weight was so smart, it can even help you boost your writing income. Here’s how:

Curious minds want to know

Like me, I knew Jenny has a pretty sedentary line of work, so I was fascinated.

I came over to chat and told her she looked amazing.

What had happened to create this transformation? She was like a new person.

The change

It wasn’t a coincidence that I ran into her at a bike race, it turns out. Jenny had always liked bicycling, and finally decided to get serious about it.

She started biking a lot instead of a little. Gradually, she built up her muscles and her stamina, and tackled longer rides.

Instead of watching TV, she’d bike. Instead of sleeping in, she’d get up early and bike before work.

Even in the rain…which we get a lot of around here.

Until today, she bikes roughly 500 miles a month.

She changed her habit of being sedentary and replaced it with a habit of long-distance bike riding.

Simple as that.

She created one new, positive habit that was the catalyst for changing her whole life.

Getting over the hump

You can imagine how grueling this was in the beginning. It probably didn’t look very graceful at first, being a 200+ pound woman atop a bicycle, huffing up a big hill.

Or — oh the shame! — sometimes having to get off and walk the bike up to the top.

I’ve no doubt she had to deal with a lot of snickering.

But that negative feedback didn’t affect her. She had decided to change a habit, and to become a competitive bicyclist. She stayed focused on what she wanted to achieve.

As she got into cycling, she found she wanted to change how she ate to nourish her body better for bicycling.

She cut the junk food. She ate smaller portions.

More and more weight came off, until today she is a svelte woman glowing with health.

Changing one habit started a cycle of change that moved into other parts of her life.

The payoffs were many — more energy and stamina, greater self-confidence, a better health outlook, and the satisfaction of a goal accomplished.

Change one habit to boost writing income

As writers, one habit can change everything for our careers, too.

  • What is that one habit? It’s the habit of changing what you do until you get the results you want.

When we keep doing the same thing, we tend to get the same result, right?

So to get a new result — to earn more — requires us to change a habit.

The way we spend our time in our writing business needs rethinking.

There are many factors in the writing world we can’t control, but there’s one we can: ourselves.

There are two main ways writers can change:

1. Marketing

Not marketing your business? Here are some ways to change that:

  • Resolve to make 500 cold calls, and see what happens.
  • Send out 300 letters of introduction.
  • Go to a networking event five nights a week.
  • Commit yourself to big marketing numbers, and you know you are going to get clients.

Maybe it’s a bit harder in a tough economy. But work is out there, and if you market, you will find it.

It might be a slog.

You will deal with rejection.

You won’t always do it all perfectly and gracefully — you’ll make mistakes.

But if you are willing to change your habit of not marketing, your writing career will move forward in new directions.

I spoke to one Freelance Writers Den member recently who took her income from zero to $6,000 a month in a year, just by implementing a few new strategies for marketing her business that she picked up in the Den. I was blown away.

We’re talking big differences in writing income that are possible when you resolve to change your habits.

2. Skills

If you feel your writing skills aren’t up to snuff, you can identify where you feel you need to improve. Then, you can:

  • Read a book on freelance writing, marketing, productivity, etc.
  • Take a class from the Freelance Writers Den, or another experienced writer, to acquire new writing skills.
  • Or just commit to doing more writing, on your own. You can learn a lot by doing.

Yes, it’s not always easy admitting you feel ignorant about how to do something.

But if that insecurity is holding you back, the only way forward is to get more knowledge.

You might have to tighten your belt to pay for the training you need. Or it might come free.

Either way, you won’t have to stand out in the rain.

The cumulative effect of habit change for writers

A few months from now, you could be a whole new writer, in terms of writing income. Changing one habit will get the ball rolling, encourage you to cultivate other positive habits, and ultimately bring you new clients and higher earnings.

All from a small beginning. Just changing one habit.

What writing habit would you most like to change? Let’s discuss on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Get paid to blog: Get a free e-book (100+ Freelance Writing Questions Answered by Carol Tice) and free updates! Sign me up!


  1. Melissa

    I am working on both my writing skills and my marketing. In addition, I am working on my accountability. I will be writing my October goals in the den later today. Thanks for the inspiring post!

    • Carol Tice

      My pleasure — we’ll look for your goals in the Den!

  2. Anne Grant

    My new habit is making every productive hour count and taking my mind off of production in the downtime. Working and playing with intent, instead if looking back and saying, “Where did the day go?”

    • Carol Tice

      The downtime is sooo important. I’m glad to be someone who keeps the Sabbath, and that for me means not just not working, but not THINKING about working on my day off. The difference is huge to your productivity.

  3. Carole Lyden

    Great motivator,

    300 loi’s, oh my God no time to chat lots to do



  4. Nicole

    Hi. How are you? I like this article actually. My bad habit is not sticking to my writing schedule. I need to do it and make it productive otherwise I have nights like last night that make me sleepless and all for a point that I made but still think its a weak link.

  5. Amandah

    My new habits are to increase my marketing efforts and to surround myself with like-minded people. Sadly, your family and friends MAY NOT BE the like-minded people you need in your life if you want to be a success. If you want to be a success, surround yourself with successful people. For example, I had lunch with two people from an organization I want to volunteer with and the one person informed me that I’m known as a “boomerang,” a person that moved away from Northeastern Ohio but moved back to the area. The people I spoke with were excited about my ideas and don’t want me to leave Ohio. Yes, I’m a mover and shaker with many ideas that could benefit the state of Ohio. Out of this meeting, I got the names of two organizations that could help me not only market my writing services, but market me as well. I’m excite and look forward to the doors of opportunities that are about to open.

    • Carol Tice

      So funny you say that — I just was doing a 1 on 1 mentoring session with a woman who has a half-dozen blogging clients who all pay $25 or so a post.

      When I asked her where they came from, it was all referred by her “friends” in a particular bloggers network.

      I said, “I don’t want to be down on your friends..but these people are not your friends! Friends don’t refer friends work that pays this badly. I want you to find some new friends to hang out with.”

      It really will make a difference.

  6. Amandah

    Typo alert! I meant to say, “I’m excited and look forward to the doors of opportunities that are about to open.”

    • Carol Tice

      No prob — I officially absolve all commenters on my blog for typos they may commit. It’s just comments! And we can tell what you meant.

  7. Debbie Kane

    Ditto Carole’s response above. I need to do more marketing.

    That habit also is more doable when you break it down into manageable goals. Years ago, a major fitness goal of mine was to run distances longer than a 5K. Once I’d run a 10k and enjoyed it, I set a half marathon goal; then I aimed for a marathon. My point is that achieving your goal is much less intimidating when you break it down into smaller goals. Having support along the way helps, too (like the Writer’s Den).

  8. Rosa Lee Jude


    I have read most of your posts on this blog through the years. This may be the best and most inspiring post you have ever written. What a powerful analogy, what a powerful message! Makes me want to market more, write more AND lose weight! In your words, “Right On!”

    • Carol Tice

      I know — I could totally drop 15 pounds or so. I found her So inspiring. She’d been heavy for at least the 15 years or so I’d known her. But one day…she just decided that wasn’t who she was, and she changed it.

      And thanks for the compliment — I think you’ve been reading for quite a while! But we do keep striving to improve. 😉

  9. J. Delancy

    I’m resolved to do the one thing I shy away from most, write more. A full-time writing job is hard but I know I can do more and in the process get better.

  10. Rebecca Lee Baisch

    I needed to change the way I market. Scattershot internet marketing just doesn’t get the required ROI. I quickly found that Linked In and Adsense weren’t effective for my chosen niche. I can write SEO-rich copy with the best of them, but all that accomplishes is to attract 100 junk emails a day. Sorry Google, but targeted snail mail sometimes works better than the newest and shiniest e-campaigns.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for sharing this, Rebecca. Your story points up something I’m always saying.

      People often ask me what the best way is to market their business. And the answer is you won’t know until you experiment.

      I was stunned to hear Chris Brogan on a Den call say he tried LinkedIn and didn’t work for him, so he left it!

      It’s done great for me — I’ve gotten several very heavy-hitting clients who found me through it. But for someone else, maybe it doesn’t work, and direct mail or in-person networking does. You won’t know until you start doing enough marketing where you can measure the results of your various channels.

      After my 2010 analysis of my marketing is when I made some big changes to what I did that saved me a lot of time, and yielded better clients — basically, I figured out scanning mass job boards like Craigslist did result in some clients, but it was too time-consuming and the clients were almost always lower quality than ones I got elsewhere. So I stopped doing that and did more in-person networking and building my online presence. Speaking of which, I need to go respond to a reach-out I got from a top local construction company that wants some writing done. Probably found me on Google.

  11. Sophie Lizard

    My new habit is signing up for membership resources! As you know, I’m already a Den member, but I’ve signed up for a couple more members-only clubs with great leaders and helpful communities, too.

    The great advice and the networking benefits are more than worth the fees, and I’ve found it’s true that if you hang out with good people you tend to better yourself. Now I’m surrounded with shining examples, and constantly encouraged to push myself.

    • Carol Tice

      Wow — I find one community at a time is all I can really get the value out of, Sophie. I feel bad as it is how little time I’m spending in A-List Blogger Club these days, as I always want to devote my time to the Den members.

      But I love how you’re using that to create a circle of other pros who think big – writers really need that. Otherwise, you’re hanging around sites where they’re patting people on the back for moving up from $2 and article to $10…which BTW seeing that is why I started this blog! I wanted there to be somewhere to talk about real pay and how to get it.

  12. Amandah

    @Carol… I hope your client takes your advice and finds new friends or at least begins to limit the amount of time she spends with her current friends. 🙂

  13. Jamie

    Motivating post Carol.

    I think I am the writing equivalent of a lardass at the moment. I know I am a good writer but I see a long road ahead of me. With a background in fiction and being in a dead end job for so long it seems I have to start at the beginning again.
    I am university educated
    Self taught
    a good writer –
    but low confidence and negativity has prevented me from trying to get published. It’s a matter of setting goals, staying focused, working hard as well as smart. I hope I can start making progress soon by following such sound advice. Market, then market some more, then do even more marketing – then you create fertile ground for luck to flourish.

    How is the best way to get started writing for any niche if you don’t have any concrete experience Carol?
    What if you can only learn on the job or draw from other sources, is it still possible to break into freelancing?
    Where is the low hanging fruit for Copywriting outside the mills?

    Sorry for so many questions at once, just getting a bit overwhelmed at the moment.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Jamie — Have you done our previous bootcamp, the Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success? That was exactly what it covered — my low-hanging fruit method of how to get your first legit samples and start moving up.

  14. Linda H

    Your timing is perfect Carol. I’ve decided recently to change two bad habits that will transform everything to a more positive outcome. I know because years ago I made these changes and saw my business skyrocket. Then I fell away from these habits when hired by Corporate America and didn’t have the same pressures. Now that I’m back as a full-time freelancer, I’ve seen how the loss of these habits have been costly.

    One habit is changing to a more active lifestyle. I love working out, have a home gym, and decided to brush off the dust and get back to it. I’ve already seen changes. It does bring about significant change that bolsters everything else. It’s also helping keep me healthy again, which is a major contributor to laziness, poor thinking, lack of confidence–when your brain isn’t fed through a good dose of solid activity it’s like the electricity is shut off… it’s running on low when it requires high to get it going.

    The other habit is marketing. I’ve been attending live networking meetings for almost a year. I’m starting to get requests from business colleagues for articles, newsletters, brochures and other business writing. It’s paying off. Add the warm email marketing and a few cold calls, the business comes in along with a paycheck and the bills get paid. And each paid gig builds self-esteem and confidence. I’m commanding higher fees because I know my writing is high quality and brings success.

    That’s just a tidbit. As you’ve always said — Start somewhere. Once you get started, the rest sorta falls into place. It’s exciting.

    Thanks for another great post. I’m looking forward to higher paychecks, more often, and my bills paid and a rewarding writing career that benefits a bigger audience.

    • Carol Tice

      I too am recommitting to MORE exercise. I actually just returned from playing hooky with my daughter for a couple hours, and biking up to the park to climb trees with her. Was super-fun…and we all need the fresh air, and exercise.

  15. Katherine Swarts

    The ONE change I’d most like to make is attitudinal. A light bulb went on for me recently after I read about a woman who was baffled over her inability to attract Mr. Right into her life–until she looked at her cluttered garage, her overflowing closets, even her habit of sleeping in the middle of the bed, and realized that virtually everything about the way she lived was sending out the subtle signal, “I have no room in my life for anyone except myself.” Likewise, I have been in the habit of making it so important that I finish MY To-Do list daily and MY long-term list as fast as possible–and of filling both so full–that I resent virtually everything anyone tries to give me as an “interruption” or “one more chore.” And I was wondering why so little was coming to me!

    • Linda H

      That sounds like a great change and one that I could probably use too. I’m glad you posted your comment. I’m going to take time to look at my area and see what I might be projecting toward others in body language and mentally. This is a great insight for anyone. Thanks for sharing!!

  16. Ronn Jerard

    I must admit that my marketing skills need an infusion, which I sense will help me greatly. I am learning how to use Social Media, but I feel the need to go beyond this endeavor. And, yes, I do need to take writing classes, which is high on my list of priorities. S thank you for this article; it hit all the right spots for me.

    • Carol Tice

      You’re welcome, Ronn!

      If you’re interested in learning business writing, check out our Break into Business Writing bootcamp that starts TOMORROW.

      Did I mention I’ve got the “original copywriter’s coach” Chris Marlow teaching our module on writing persuasive copy, which I personally want a front row seat for! That’s not my strong suit (since I’ve only ever written landing pages for this-here blog and my classes, not for clients), and I can’t wait.

  17. Stef Gonzaga

    Timely post, Carol. Thanks!

    I’ve recently started changing some bad habits of mine that kept me from focusing and writing. I used to put my writing tasks off, make excuses for an unfinished to-do list, and would allow myself to dawdle online. It’s frustrating!

    Nowadays, I try to keep my desktop free of anything besides the tools I need to write—and I’ve seen some progress. I’ve just finished a 30-page PDF guide for my readers over at my freelancing blog and I can’t wait to finish editing and setting it up for download.

  18. Daniel

    I wrote an article in early August 2012 for a business publication. The article was published in August.

    As of now, early October 2012, I have not been paid.

    If anyone else has experenced this problem (which is very real and common in the freelance world), I’d like to know what they did or or doing about the situation.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Daniel —

      Sounds like you need to establish the new habit of having a written contract before you write an assignment…I’m betting there wasn’t one.

      If there was, what were the payment terms? Many publications are slow payers — I used to have one where it was routinely a couple months after publication before they paid.

      If you’ve got a contract with terms and you have passed your date, send a past-due bill noting a 3% per month late fee. I find once clients discover you’ll expect MORE money from them if they drag their feet, the check comes promptly. They like to pretend they didn’t see the late bill and then pay the regular amount without the extra charge…but it gets them up and writing that check.

  19. Sarah L. Webb

    What a great post to read. This mother’s story is really inspiring, especially the image of her continuing on when things were hard and people probably doubted her.

    The biggest change I need to make is in marketing. As you say, I definitely need larger numbers, more volume. I’ve set some goals recently pertaining to quantity, and this post is a great motivator to work diligently to reach them.

    Thanks so much,


    • Carol Tice

      Glad I can help! I think marketing is where most writers are weak. Whenever I ask writers who complain they’re not earning well what they’re doing now to market their business the answer is always the same: “Well, um…nothing.”

  20. Terri H

    This post hit the nail on the head. I too have recently inherited a new habit which I thought had absolutely nothing to do with writing. But it turned out that it had everything to do with writing.

    I am a dancer. I’ve danced my entire life. But in order to save some money and dedicate more time to my writing practice, I cut it out of my life. I soon stopped getting more clients, I wasn’t writing as much, got frustrated more easily, and simply wasn’t happy. Of course, once I started dancing again to bring back the happiness in my life did I realize that my writing improve and I got more effective.

  21. Monique (

    I’m scheduling posts in advance and I’m using keywords to optimize them.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m so in love with my WordPress Editorial Calendar! One time I wrote like the whole month’s posts in a day. Planning ahead totally rocks. An engineer once taught me “happiness is redundant systems”…have extra ideas and posts handy and you’ll never be stressed.


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