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The Lowdown on What Freelancers Earn and How They Find Good Clients

Carol Tice

The Lowdown on Freelance Writer Pay - 2012 Freelancer Report Infographic. Makealivingwriting.comHave you been wondering if you can really earn a good living as a freelance writer?

Well, today, I’ve got some hard data to unpack for you about freelancers’ lives — what we’re earning and how we get good clients.

The info comes from Ed Gandia’s 2012 Freelance Industry Report, a survey of more than 1,500 freelancers in all fields.

Let’s start with probably the hottest question in freelancing — what can you make?

Ed has figures for freelancers overall as well as writers and editors/proofreaders.

Let’s compare (I’m rounding these figures off, folks):

Earnings for all types of freelancers

12% make over $100 an hour

41% make over $70 an hour

67.5% make over $50 an hour

Earnings for writers

14% make over $100 an hour

31% make over $70 an hour

61% make over $50 an hour

Earnings for editors/copyeditors

2% make over $100 an hour

13% make over $70 an hour

33% make over $50 an hour

 Earnings for copywriters

24% make over $100 an hour

53% make over $70 an hour

78% make over $50 an hour

You may have heard copywriting is a highly paid niche…and there’s the proof.

Also, check out all of the proof there that writers can make a good living. More than half make over $50 an hour! Hopefully that gives writers a sense of where to set their rates.

Three fun facts about freelance writing

  • 60 percent of the writers bid by the project, the survey found. Which is how you want to do it.
  • Over 40 percent of freelance writers report they earn more as freelancers than they did in their previous full-time jobs. I just knew I wasn’t the only one!
  • Roughly half of freelancers report the economic downturn has had no or “very minor” impact on their business.
  • (For more fun facts, check out that infographic!)

Marketing that works…and doesn’t

What did freelancers report were the best ways to get clients?

Referrals 27%

Word of mouth 24%

“Tapping my personal/professional network” 17%

From there, it goes down fast — the next best was looking at online bid sites with 6 percent. Email marketing was effective for less than 5 percent of respondents.

What really sucked in marketing

Social media 3%

Cold calling 2%

Craigslist ads 1.5%

I’m not sure where they put LinkedIn in all that — referrals? Word of mouth? Social media? But want to say it’s been a great source of leads for me.

Why it’s a great time to be a freelancer

If you feel weary of learning all about how to market your business and find clients, take heart.

The fact is, you’re smart to slog through the muck and learn how to do it now.


In the future, many more freelancers will be joining our ranks. One survey forecast that the number of freelancers will grow from the current one-quarter of the workforce to as much as half of all workers, as companies increasingly outsource creative services.

People who are freelancing now will have their businesses established and earning while workers who figure out this macro-trend late will have to scramble to learn how to operate their own freelance business.

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