Here’s How You Stack Up Compared to Other Freelancers

Carol Tice

Stack of pancakes

Have you been wondering how well you’re doing as a freelance writer?

If so, you’re not alone.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this lately. Writers are burning up to know how their progress compares to that of other freelance writers.

Recent questions I’ve had include:

What is the average time it takes to write an article?

What is the average pay for an article?

What is the going rate for a blog post?

How long does it take the average writer to ramp up their freelance writing business into a full-time living?

So. Here’s the question I’ve got:

Why do you want to know?

What is with this fixation of endlessly comparing your success, your pay rate, your client list, with that of other writers?

I find this a highly negative mindset, constantly worrying about whether you stack up well — whether you’re the most productive, best-paid, or most creative writer.

Here is the only person I spend much time comparing my writing work to:


That’s right. I’m my biggest — and toughest — competitor.

To be specific, I compare my writing career now with how I did last year.

If last year I earned X, this year I’d like to earn X plus something more.

If I had X level of clients last year, I’d like to have better than that this year.

That’s the whole plan.

By focusing only on self-improvement and keeping the blinders on about other writers’ progress, I’ve been able to earn more each year since 2006.

I feel pretty great about that.

Let’s take a peek at how I could be feeling about my freelance accomplishments of the past six years or so if I had focused on what other writers are accomplishing instead…

(movie-like dissolve to dream sequence)…

Hmm…some of my favorite Seattle Times investigative-team reporters won a Pulitzer. And I didn’t. If only I’d stayed in newspaper journalism, I could be getting those accolades. I know I’ve got the chops for that. I feel insignificant and that my writing isn’t making an impact.

I make good money, but I know top copywriters make at least twice what I do. Hmph. I sort of suck, don’t I? Why didn’t I master the art of writing direct mail?

I’m really happy with the modest success of my blog and my writer community…but I’m hardly a million-dollar blogger like Brian Clark, Seth Godin, Leo Babauta and all the A-Listers.

I know writers who’ve written for my dream publication — Vanity Fair. People who’ve written hit TV shows and Broadway musicals, and others who’ve published acclaimed nonfiction books. And they did it all at a much younger age than I am now.

Loser me, on the other hand, just has this one co-authored business book coming out in May.

I’m so slow. And old. And pathetic. I’ve missed so many opportunities.

Great. Now I feel like crap.

(movie dissolve back to reality)…

Does this help you see how utterly unhelpful and negative this comparison game is?

Your writing career is your writing career. It’s better than some writers, and not as great as others.

Just like mine.

The answers to your questions

Here are my honest answers to all your questions about how you stack up:

Some writers write faster than you. Some write slower.

Some earn more per article or blog post. Some earn less.

Some have better clients than you do. Some have worse.

Some will take longer to get their freelancing launched, while others will do it faster.

None of that matters.

All that matters is that you improve. Keep moving up. Write all you can, in the best places you can.

Stay focused on your accomplishments. Set your goals. And celebrate your success.

What freelance success would you like to celebrate? Leave a comment and tell us about it.



  1. Glori S.

    Thanks Carol! I needed the boost!

  2. Karen

    Very good post. I agree, there is probably nothing worse for our happiness as writers than comparing our writer’s life to anyone else’s.

  3. Lisl Fair

    Hi Carol, I’m so new to online freelance writing, I haven’t even had time to make my own website yet! I’ve been at it part time for two months now and I am blown away by the amount and diversity of work that came my way so quickly. I must have done something right! I found your website and something in your tone and style of working resonates with me. Thank you for this post – it puts things in perspective – sometimes quick, sometimes slow, always learning and growing.

    • Carol Tice

      Looks like your writer site is within Elance…here’s hoping you can get off of there soon and find your own clients. You’ll make more.

  4. John Soares

    Carol, I take a similar approach. I do look at my income and client numbers compared to the prior year, but I also look at:

    1. the rate of return on my time invested in my writing career (how much money I made on average for all the time I spend related to freelance writing)

    2. how interesting my projects were

    3. and how well I lived the rest of my life

    Only a very few people will ever be the best at something. For the rest of us, we must accept that there will always be people better than us, and we must learn how to accommodate that fact and be happy with our lives and our careers.

  5. Anthony

    Thank for this very timely post. I notice more and more in various forums that freelancers are (overly) concerned with the ‘going rate’ for XYZ job or how much freelancer ABC got paid for a given project. As baselines, it is fine to seek out this information. But when we use it to psyche ourselves out and convince ourselves that we’re not good enough because we make less or publish in different outlets than another writer that is the beginning of the end! We are all different and have different backgrounds, skill levels, and expertise. I hope more writers will read your post and realize that you just have to keep going and compare yourself to your greatest competitor…..yourself.

  6. allena

    This is a great post! But I have this odd little “desire” that makes me feel successful: I want to work ONLY part time.

    I want to travel. I want to be available to my children starting at 230 pm everyday when they return from school. I want to read books after dinner. I want to teach some evenings.

    So anytime I get sad or jealous or whatnot, I tell myself that sure, I could go for x,y,z. But remember what the trade off is.

    No thanks!

  7. Lee Cart

    Hi Carol, I really like your website and found this post to be very insightful. I do have a tendency to compare myself to others and feel like crap because I’m not making $100/hour writing as some people do. That said, when I look at my writing accomplishments in the last six-eight months, I can feel pretty good about myself. I had never written a book review before July 2011 and now work on a consistent basis for three review sites as well have had my reviews placed in The Writer and The Christian Science Monitor among other magazines. And my first book, a cookbook, is being published this fall, so looking at those goals and seeing that I have accomplished them, makes me feel really good.

  8. Dr Kavita Shaikh

    Yeah Carol, I could not agree more with you. BTW it is not only freelancers who do this sort of comparison; bloggers and authors also do. There could be no other way to crush your own morale than comparing yourself with others. Great post idea, hits the nerve for many of us.

  9. Justin Mazza

    Earning a living as a writer sounds like something that I would be interested in. I don’t make any money with my posts but I am getting a lot of practice writing while doing it.

    I have read about some bloggers earning as much as $1000 for their posts which sounds amazing to me.

  10. Debbie Kane

    Thanks for the reminder of what it means to be successful, Carol. Last year, I reached a small milestone: in 4 years, I’d doubled my income over what I made as a 3/4-time marketing/development manager for a small non-profit. I love being a self-employed writer, I have much more flexibility and I’m growing professionally in ways I haven’t in years. Always look forward, not backward or sideways!

  11. Cathie Ericson

    Great advice for life in general! It is absolutely human nature to compare on every level, but as I tell my kids there will always be someone with ‘more,’ no matter what scale you are using!

    Satisfaction has to come intrinsically, but easier said than done.

    Since focusing my efforts on writing, I have found that one of my “simple pleasures,” reading magazines, has become less pleasant. I look at EVERY byline and think, “How did they get in this magazine?” Or, “I could easily have written this article.” Or, “hey! they just recently nixed my story idea as too similar to one they’ve done and yet, this article is very similar to x one they printed a few months ago!” I mean, sometimes I wonder how many 100-calories switch articles these magazines can print, one after the other…

    However, I also know that one of those “big hits” (in my mind) still probably pays less than the steady, but less glam, work I have, day in and day out. I also focus on the thrill of the “little wins,” that come on a regular basis. That pays my bills and allows me the flexibility others have cited as a huge component of the satisfaction of a writing career!

    • Carol Tice

      Ha! When I read novels, I’m always thinking, “Could I have written this?” If I think the answer is no, I always like the book better ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Anthony

        I thought I was the only one who felt like that when reading articles, books, and blog posts. I think the more useful emotion is not “I could have written that”, but “Why didn’t I write that?”

        • Alison

          You know, I always do that with novels too! Until I read somewhere that if you write a certain amount of words a day, (3 pages) you’ll have a novel in just a few months. So while I don’t often get to write 3 pages a day, I’m starting out small, writing a serial novel via blog posts. All I keep thinking is maybe one day it’ll turn into a real novel. But no novels will get written if I don’t write at all! Baby steps maybe is the key for me!

  12. Annie Alley

    Hi Carol —

    Saw your tweet and came over to catch this great conversation. Your excellent post speaks to much more than freelance writing — many of my clients (entrepreneurs and marketers in small and mid-size businesses) also struggle with comparison. The lessons you outline here are helpful to keep things perspective and focus on our individual growth, no matter what line of work we’re in. I’ll keep this in mind as I continue to grow my public relations and copywriting business as well.


    • Carol Tice

      Maybe I’m particularly sensitive to this because comparison is a huge problem with my two youngest kids. All day long it’s “She’s doing this thing wrong, mom!” And we’re like, “Just worry about what YOU’RE doing!”

      Or “How come she got a cookie and I didn’t?” Life’s not fair and everyone doesn’t get the exact same stuff. Our careers are individual. Focusing on self-improvement and moving up from wherever you are is just more productive than worrying about what everyone else has got.

      • Cathie Ericson

        I tell my boys “The fair only comes once a year.” ha ha ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Corinne

    This is great motivation. I know I am guilty of wondering how I stack up against other writers. the important thing is that I am doing well for myself and I am happy. Nothing else should matter.

  14. Joanne Wallace

    Carol – LOVE this post. Your movie dissolve reminds me of Chekhov’s Three Sisters constantly moaning “if only we’d gone to Moscow.” Never mind those other writers (or other people who moved to Moscow). Just live your life, write your stuff and stay true to yourself. The money will come, and it will be exactly as much as you need.

  15. Amandah

    Carol, I agree that comparing yourself to another freelance writer is a sign of having a negative mindset. It’s also a good way to talk yourself out of becoming a freelance writer.

    Not only do I like to celebrate my successes, but I celebrate the successes of other writers. Their good energy could rub-off on me too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Millie Lapidario

    This is so true. Thanks, Carol! Your blog was like a cold splash of water. I needed it.

  17. Anthony

    Carol & Everyone on this thread,
    Here is a link to hands down the best article I’ve read today. It’s nothing profound, in fact, it speaks to what Carol wrote about above. Steve Martin’s philosophy and how he ‘made it’ is explained but the blog post is really about becoming the best you can be at what you do and how to do it. The ‘secret’ will probably disappoint some people.

    • Carol Tice

      Interesting link – thanks for sharing Anthony!

  18. Karen

    Hi Carol! Your blog is SUCH a great resource. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in just a short time. I have to admit though, the thought of “Cold Calling” scares the heck out of me. One one level, I know the worst that can happen is I get hung up on. But I can’t seem to make that step yet! I did, however, get over my fear of interviewing people and my first (ever) freelance article/blog post was posted on a magazine’s website today. So, baby steps I guess!

    Thank you for sharing all of this great advice with us! It’s such a great help for those of us just starting out!

    • Carol Tice

      Well, no law says cold calling has to be your marketing method of choice. I don’t do it, myself. I think it’s very powerful for people who overthink their emails and queries…but that’s not my personal issue.

      Congrats on the interview — I know I hear that a lot in Freelance Writers Den as a major hurdle to get over.

  19. Okto

    I agree with Justin Mazza, I am not a professional writer but I do write for my blogs. Reading Carol’s blog surely have made me want to learn more about writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Susan B. Bentley

    Love it Carol! We need to just pat ourselves on the back sometimes for the small accomplishment we all achieve every day just by calling ourselves writers; that in itself is a huge achievement! There’s such a tendency to compare ourselves to others when freelancing and it’s nearly always negative, I know I’ve been doing it lately too. So, thank you for this, a humorous way to look at what really counts – how we view ourselves.

  21. Josรฉ

    It is so true what you say. I try to focus on my road but when I look at someone else on my field I can’t prevent comparing myself, usually with the negatives consequences you write about. But I think I’m slowly starting to overvome it.

  22. Sharon Gibson

    Great way to make a point Carol! I look at you and admire you and so it seemed ridiculous to see your comparisons in a negative way. And so doing this helped me to realize how ridiculous it is for me to do the same. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I love your idea of comparing yourself to yourself and competing against yourself. Thanks for writing and sharing this and I hope I can keep it in mind.

    Keep up the good writing!

    Sharon Gibson

  23. Mike L.

    I don’t get why people consider $.10 per word a bad deall? For me that’s all I need and if I can make about $100 it would definitely get my mom off my back for choosing a degree in journalism.

    • Carol Tice

      If you can live on $100 AND satisfy your parents that you’ve done good, then congratulations.

      Have you thought about what happens to that $100 after you pay your taxes, own healthcare, electricity, Internet, computer repair bill, etc etc? Maybe it works if you keep living at home…and you can get a steady supply of this work. But what about all the marketing and admin time? Still think $100 is all you need?

      You might want to read this:

      We consider it a bad deal because it is. It was a bad deal when we were earning it in the 1980s. Figure in inflation and think about how much more it sucks now.

      Obviously, if you’re just starting out maybe it’s not bad for your first client or two. But it’s pretty hard to make a real living at those rates. We’re hoping some day you might want to get married, buy a house, have a family…and $.10 a word isn’t going to support any of that very well.

      But we’re off topic here. All we really want is if you’re earning $.10 a word now, to aim to earn more a year from now. That’s the whole point. Just keep moving up from wherever you are.

      • Mike L.

        It’s still more lucrative and less stressful/hour intensive than being a day laborer which is what my family keeps trying to pressing me into. I just have to prove to them I’m on the right track and $.10 is that.

  24. Maryden25

    Hi Carol!
    Thanks for some mind booster blog post like this. Such a great help and gives me motivation in doing my article. Your advice inspires me a lot.

  25. Abby

    Hi, Carol. I discovered your blog through a Facebook link, and I’d have to say it’s a gold mine. And this, this post of yours speaks to me on a very personal level.

    I’ve been struggling with comparisons for so long–why some writers write better than I do, why they consistently win awards and i don’t, and why they get published more often than I do. I allowed insecurities to creep in, and before I knew it, I couldn’t write with as much joy as I once did. Insecurities crippled my writer-self, stifled my voice.

    I’ve known how destructive comparisons could get, but I never realized how awful it looked until I read this post. Yeah, you’re right. Instead of focusing on what others were able to achieve, I should focus on how I could improve myself.

    Thanks a bunch! I’ll come back for more of your insightful posts.

    • Carol Tice

      My pleasure. What I was hoping to show here is…a lot of people think I’m a real successful freelance writer. But if I sat down and thought about it, I could have written so much more to date, and so much more great stuff. All we can do is keep trying to move up. That’s all there is. What other people are doing and achieving isn’t ultimately relevant. Our life is OUR life, and our challenges are each unique.

      And we all write our way there in the way we’re able. If you can look at last year and see progress this year — better pay, better markets, more interesting subjects, etc., I think you’re doing good.

  26. zahib

    I get it… I just think that a part of us are just afraid that we are not good enough to earn the money we want to earn. That’s just my opinion but that is the reason why I find myself comparing myself results to others. But the more I focus on overcoming my own barriers of self doubt the more my success become a bigger deal then how much money I make.

  27. LuAnn

    I read your comment about winning a Pulitzer and started chuckling because I was covering a major story in my home state and a person I interviewed told me if I kept investigating, I would win a Pulitzer. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sure, it would be nice, but is it realistic?

    I’m happy to report that I’ve already doubled last year’s writing income, and it’s only 3 months into the new year! But I haven’t been waiting for clients to come to me. I’ve been active in searching out new markets. It’s helped!

    • Carol Tice

      Congrats, LuAnn!

      Yep, marketing…it’s pretty much the magic.

  28. Lidgett

    There is a site called “fiverr” where you can create your own ‘gig’ by which you can offer your service, that may be anything including article writing, but you’ll get only $5 for each article, although you can decide the total number of words for an article.

  29. Victoria

    I’d like to celebrate getting my first clip – an essay in my favorite magazine, which is distributed nationally! I’m in my 40’s, so instead of beating myself up for being “old” and taking so “long,” I’m enjoying the feeling of having something I wrote in my favorite mag. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m no longer a writer with “no” clips!

    • Carol Tice

      Congrats, Victoria!

      I was a pretty late-blooming writer myself, having spent my 20s on songwriting and then switched to prose for the first time near age 30. Freelance writing makes a perfectly good second career, though ๐Ÿ˜‰


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