How a Mean Editor Helped Me Triple My Writing Income


Client management is harder when your client's a jerk.It seemed like a dream come true.

I landed a high-paying blogging gig on a popular software blog. I knew that the clients I wanted read this site, so they’d see my name there and come to me with gigs.

In my mind, this was the break I was looking for to make it big as a business writer. I felt like I’d finally made it as a professional freelance writer.

But it didn’t take me long to figure out it wasn’t the absolute dream job. The editor was mean. Here’s how I handled it – and how it helped me with marketing and client management in the long run:


Working with a real meanie

Now when I say this editor was mean, I don’t mean she was the kind of tough-love editor that actually cared about your improvement. I mean she was rude.

One day, an article I’d write was great, and the next day it was horrible – she didn’t know what I was thinking by writing something so terrible, and refused to pay my invoice.

Call me crazy, but I kept going.

You’d have to be incredibly nerdy to know, but in the world of software, this company (and its blog) are big names. Plus, the $200 per post price tag was the highest I’d ever earned at that point.

But my audacity to stick with it came crashing down on me in November when I tried as politely as possible to ask for more clarity from the editor, pointing out her conflicting statements about my work.

She lost her temper and fired me on the spot – still owing me $400.

I was furious and sad. I was angry I didn’t have the resources to fight her for that $400, and Christmas was right around the corner.

What I did to recover

I harnessed my anger as inspiration (I really didn’t have a choice). I worked my tail off through the next month, with the goal of increasing my income and filling out my calendar for the first few months of 2015.

I networked like crazy on AngelList and LinkedIn, going after software startups that needed writing and marketing work done. (Startups are usually open to remote work, and if they’re well-funded, they pay well for people who know what they’re doing.)

I made a detailed spreadsheet of company names, their needs, who to contact, LinkedIn pages, and message dates, to keep track of the sheer amount of marketing I was sending out.

A lot of people didn’t respond, but many did. And from the ones that did get back to me, I was able to fill out my calendar with high-paying clients (some even higher than the mean editor – hah!) that wanted regular, recurring work from me.

And you know what? They’re all nice to me. They love my work, recognize my expertise, and work with me to make effective content for their business instead of against me.

Plus, because I’m working for people who are more friendly and easier to predict, it takes me a lot less time to complete their projects and do any requested revisions. Client management is a dream when you start with quality clients.

The projects I landed

By January, my plate was so full that I had to work nights and weekends to keep up with demand! By February, I learned that I had to start saying “no.”

A quick look at my bank account showed me that my monthly freelance writing income had grown to three times the rate it was in November.

Not bad, huh?

Here’s a sampling of some of the work I landed:

  • 4 blog posts per month for an IT education site for $150 each, $600/month total
  • Basic editing duties for a podcast for $1,200/month
  • One feature post per month for $650
  • Weekly consulting for $120/hour of phone time, or $480 per month
  • Large writing projects for one client, ranging from $300 to $700

As you can see, that more than makes up for the $400 per month I lost from the mean editor.

And you know what? I’m still getting those passive leads from the mean editor’s posts, that I cared so much about when I got that gig.

The biggest lesson I learned was that a difficult client simply isn’t worth the hassle, no matter how seemingly reputable they are.

If you’ve got the talent and drive to land one reputable client, then you can land as many as you want–as long as you’re willing to put in the time and marketing effort to make it happen.

Have you had a mean editor? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Chelsea Baldwin is a web marketing consultant and business writer. Check out her blog Broke Girl Gets Rich.

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  1. Taylor

    I headed over to Angel List after reading this and got a few good bites. Thanks for the advice!

  2. Jon Lee

    Hey Chelsea,

    What an inspiring post, and great way to turn rejection into success! Sometimes I feel like we all need a mean editor or business partner or whatever to really kick us into action. How amazing you were able to get all that work after!

    It seems like you were also able to branch out and use other skills like podcast editing etc, which make you more of a full stack marketer type writer as well which I believe is the future for all content producers.

    Awesome post.



    • Chelsea


      As writers, we definitely shouldn’t be afraid to branch out and work in related fields, even if they’re things we haven’t done before.

      The podcast is a really cool gig. I get paid well (I’ve actually raised my rates quite a bit since I wrote this article), I learn a lot from the interview guests, and I gain new skills from working on it. Win-win-win.

  3. Theodore Nwangene

    What a mind blowing post Chelsea,
    I’m really impressed. Indeed, there are people as stiff and difficult as anything you can think of and they’re also motivation suckers.

    Working with such people will only be draining your energy and the worst thing is that they will be giving you peanuts but inside their mind, they will think they’re paying you too much for a little work.

    But when you’re working with someone who’s very friendly, they’ll always applaud your work and will also motivate you to do your best even when you’re making mistakes.

    I’m very happy you were able to forget about that insatiable fellow with the money she was owning you.

    I have a question for you though, how do you normally land such clients? What’s it like?

    Thanks for sharing mate.

    • Chelsea

      Hey Theodore,

      This particular one I found through ProBlogger. A lot of those postings only want to pay $25-$50 a pop though, so be careful. But, I have found some really great long-lasting gigs on there.

      My other favorite places to find clients are AngelList & LinkedIn. These tend to be much higher quality clients more serious about the content they need, so even though they can be “harder” to use at times, it’s well worth it in the long run.

    • Theodore Nwangene

      Thanks for the feedback Chelsea,
      Thats so cool. Do you have any useful guide on how to find clients on Linkedin and even the other places you mentioned?

    • Chelsea

      No real guides to share.

      You pretty much just have to put yourself out there and do it. It’s not easy work, but it pays off.

    • Carol Tice

      Theodore, I have a 1-hour training on how to use LinkedIn in my Freelance Writers Den community — we did a 4-week bootcamp on how to get gigs using social media. You can get on the waiting list to join, at this point…we’ll be open again in the fall.

      In the meanwhile, there’s this post:
      And this great guest post I had recently:

    • Carol Tice

      I’d never had anyone suggest AngelList before — thought that was a great idea!

    • Chelsea

      Yea, I love it.

      And what’s even more effective is finding jobs on AngelList & then reaching out to the right people within that company individually using LinkedIn. It’s more work, but it’s really paid off for me.

    • Carol Tice

      Crunchbase can be another good place to find executive names, if it’s a tech company that’s ever received funding.

    • Chelsea

      Ah, cool tip! Thanks!

  4. Amel

    I enjoyed reading this post, and it is great that you bounced back from the negative experience of working with a meanie. I am curious, though, by what you mean by saying you didn’t have the resources to get the $400 that was owed to you. If you did the work and it was used/published, then it seems like you should not have a problem getting paid…but it’s not clear from your post whether the work was, in fact, published or completed according to whatever agreement you had with the publication.

    I only mention this because some writers might feel intimidated by working with difficult people and think that they have to give up what is rightfully theirs in the event of some conflict or disagreement.

    • Carol Tice

      Amel, if you have to sue someone to get the money, it COSTS money, so it’s not worth it for a job that small.

    • Amel

      Thanks, Carol. I did not realize that the author might have to sue for payment. Since it was a big-name publication, I assumed she could just send an invoice and pursue payment through the accounting department. I guess I was just curious if the publication actually refused to pay, or if she just let it go due to frustration with the editor or some other reason.

    • Patricia

      Wow. This thread just made me remember an article I wrote for a franchise of a well-known magazine that I did NOT get paid for! The article was for their December issue and I kinda forgot about calling their accounting department a month after its publication to follow up on my check. Back then, writing was more of just a sideline gig so my main concern was really just beefing up my portfolio.

      Earlier this year, I applied for a position in the publishing company handling that particular magazine. I thought that my application was also a good opportunity to drop by their accounting department to inquire about my check, so that’s what I did. Lo and behold, I discovered that I wasn’t even on the list of writers that had to be paid for that issue. The person handling the checks couldn’t really do anything since my name wasn’t in the official document of commissioned writers to begin with.

      That particular mag published its last issue last year (the company decided not to renew the local franchise), so when I finally inquired about my check this year, there was no one from that mag’s staff to ask about the lapse. Also, my only contact all throughout my stint there was the EIC. Ultimately, it wasn’t about the money. It was more about the principle of the thing. Ugh. Things like this DO happen.

    • Chelsea

      Yes, exactly.

      You can always make $50 more or even $400 more, but principles and how you treat people in business are important.

      The golden rule, though cheesy, is very crucial to doing business.

    • Carol Tice

      The moral to that story is — ask right away! Magazines do fold. I used to keep a calendar of when payments were due me — and I’d be on the phone the day after, if they failed to show up.

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