Here’s What the Six-Figure Writers Are Doing That You’re Not

Carol Tice

8 Steps To Earn more from your writing Tips from Six-Figure Writers - Makealivingwriting.comDoes it seem like freelance writers live in two different worlds? Sometimes, it can feel that way.

In one world, writers are excited if they can move up from $10 a blog post to $15. They write entire websites or e-books for a couple hundred bucks. I like to call this the Underworld of Freelance Writing.

In the other, writers land four- and even five-figure contracts with terrific clients to write interesting, fun projects. They get so many great offers, they can’t take them all. And they get paid $200 a blog post, or more, and $35,000 and up to ghost a book.

These writers can afford to take vacations. They have retirement accounts. They eat out. Why? Because they have an entirely different approach to their freelance writing business than writers who earn peanuts.

If you’re interested in earning real money from freelancing, let’s take a look at what makes the difference:


2 Things They’ve Got

Six-figure writers have two things going for them — a strong sense of self-worth, and a willingness (an eagerness, even!) to learn and grow.

If you believe you deserve to earn professional rates, and you are willing to find out what it takes to get real pay and good clients, then you’re on the road to earning a real living at this.

How can you get there, from where you are now?

It Takes a Plan

You could take years and years trying to figure out how to make freelance writing pay well. That’s basically what I did!

Or you could use a road map. One charted by writers who’ve already been there, that takes you step-by-step through the simple building blogs of creating a thriving freelance business.

Recently, I created a customizable Road Map course for my new mastermind program, the Freelance Writers Den 2X Income Accelerator. This program is for established freelancers who have been writing at least a year, and earned at least $15,000-$40,000 from their writing in the past 12 months. (And yes, we are opening up new masterminds right now!)

But I think the basic elements on this Road Map are useful to almost any freelance writer in thinking about how to take their business up a notch, whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been at this for years. Take a look:

Freelance Writers Den 2X Road Map to Doubling Your Income

Download the Road Map (PDF)

Under each of those headings, there’s a ton of content for Den 2X members — links, techniques, resources, ideas, strategies, and practical exercises for achieving that particular goal. Here’s a peek behind the curtain at the process of doubling your income:

Client Analysis

It’s hard to map out a route to a better place if you don’t know where you are now, and how you got there. So all Den 2X students begin by analyzing their clients of the past year. Six-figure writers do this routinely, because they want to know what’s going on in their business, and how they can earn more.

How much did each client bring you, over the course of that year? How did you find this client? How much do you like writing for them? What’s your hourly rate with that client? Are they still a client, or was it a one-off job? Have they ever referred you a client, or given you a testimonial?

It can be a revelation to take a 12-month view of clients and their value to you, instead of thinking of what they’re bringing you this week or this month. Out of this analysis, we begin building a route to a higher income.

But before we can rev up the engines and zip down the road, there’s one important stop to make. We made it look like a roundabout because if you don’t do this work, you’ll just go ’round in circles and not make any progress.

Mindset Reset

To earn well, you have to believe you deserve that. I hear a lot of negative self-talk from writers, and that’s gotta go if you want to earn more.

In Den 2X, we take classic negative comments and recast them into affirmative statements.

“I’m worry that I’m bothering people when I send them a marketing email,” for instance, becomes, “Clients need my services.”

“I feel unqualified” becomes “I’ll behave professionally, so I’ll be treated professionally.”

Whenever you catch yourself running down your abilities, it’s time to rewrite that script.

Clearing the Way

Once you know what you need to change in terms of your client base, and you’ve got your attitude fired up, it’s time to make some basic business moves that get you ready to earn more.

You cut expenses, if you can, to enable you to drop low-payers and have breathing room while you look for better clients. You look at ways to get more work hours into the month, or ways to become more productive with the hours you’ve got.

Make plans to get rid of your lowest-paying client, as soon as you can. Ask current clients for a raise, if possible, or at least raise your rates for new clients.

The Fork in the Road

Once you’ve done those simple steps, there are two basic ways to earn more:

  1. Find more clients like the ones you have. If you’re just underbooked, or willing to work more hours, this may do it for you. This is easier than #2, because you clearly know how to get the types of clients you already have, and it probably won’t be too hard to get more of them.
  2. Find better clients. This means clients that not only pay more, but treat you better, and have more ongoing work for you. These are clients you’ll have to actively troll for — they’re not placing online job ads, or using bidding sites. Some writers need to have a deep think about the type of writing they’re going after and the industries they’re in…and may need to switch gears. Finding better clients usually means learning new skills, either in how you market or in types of writing you offer.

So far, in Den 2X, most writers are opting for this second option. If you go from a client that pays $100 an article to one that pays $1,000 — which I’ve seen happen — it’s such a major efficiency gain that life gets better pretty quick.

It’s well worth learning a few new tricks to double your income, right?

Easy Does It

Now that you’ve cleared the roadway of any clutter, you’re ready to get into gear with some basic marketing steps.

We begin with the easy stuff: Getting a writer website and LinkedIn profile that are set up to bring you clients while you sleep, a/k/a your inbound marketing machine. This will help attract those better clients.

From there, you go after low-hanging fruit — namely, asking everyone who already knows and likes your writing if they’d be willing to refer you. Marketing will never get easier than this, yet few writers I know do it.

Switch into Overdrive

Once you’ve got all that done, it’s time to get serious about proactive marketing. I know, you want to run! But six-figure writers do marketing — a lot of it, on a regular basis. Got to get your head around that.

What’s the best kind of marketing to do? The kind you’re willing to stick with.

Begin by learning all the options that are working today, and see what resonates for you. Will you send query letters? Go to networking events?

Whatever it is, the key is to do it in quantity. And not in a scattershot way, where you do a bit of this ‘n’ that, and you’re using seven different strategies. Pick two or three approaches, and go at them full bore.

We’re not talking about sending three letters of introduction this month — we’re talking 50, or 100. This is where most writers fall apart, because they don’t have enough support to stay on track and do volume marketing.

It’s a numbers game, so put a lot of lines in the water to be sure you catch enough fish for dinner.

Chart Your Course

Once you know who you want to write for, and how you’re going to market to them, it’s time to have a plan. That’s what we do in that final, orange section of the Road Map above.

Create a written plan for the next 1-3 months. Then, find a person — or group — to help hold you accountable for doing it.

From there, you want to roll for at least several months. Don’t give up too fast! Don’t worry about results yet (though most writers I know start to see some right away). Just go, go, go.

After 3-6 months, it’s time to analyze what’s happening. Never getting a query response? Maybe you need to learn more about writing those. Is your in-person networking paying off, but you never seem to connect with anyone on Twitter? Time to ramp up the networking.

From here, it’s lather, rinse, repeat.

Six-figure writers don’t sit around whining about how horrible it is to do marketing. It’s just part of their everyday life.

Keep going, until you have all the clients you can handle, paying really solid rates.

What’s blocking your road to higher freelance income? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

P.S. If you’d like to work this Road Map, join a mastermind of writers at your income level who’ll hold you accountable, and get one-on-one coaching time with me, check out my new Den 2X Income Accelerator program for doubling your income.

Den 2X Income Accelerator




  1. Heather

    Briefly, lack of confidence and too scatter gun in my approach – and you’ve just helped with the latter for sure. The former, I need to do what you say and change the script. I’m right at the start of my freelance writing career – although not my freelance career (I am also a non-profit consultant although I’m trying to stop doing that and move completely into writing). My main issue has been trying to do too many things at once. And we all know how that ends. Not doing anything! I have written out – for the first time – my business & marketing plan (which is hilarious because in my consultancy business, it was always the first thing I told clients to do!), so I have a better focus on who I’m going after and how. Now I just need to do it!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad this post helped you to get organized, Heather!

    • Katherine Swarts

      “Those who won’t do, teach.”… If I had a dollar for every time I’ve personally proved that, it would be my primary source of income! You’re not alone in being the last to take your own advice.

  2. Elke Feuer

    Fantastic post! I haven’t reached the 15k mark yet, but I’m working on it. I’m a couple months away from leaving my day job (thanks to the hubbie) and this road map is just what I need to hit the ground running. Thanks, Carol!

    • Carol Tice

      You’re welcome — and congrats on seeing light at the end of the tunnel on leaving the day job. 😉 I can’t believe it’s been a DECADE since I had a paycheck. Time flies when you’re writing fun stuff!

  3. Timothy Gagnon

    I’m a little bit more confident with my rates but I still have a hard time asking for more than $40 for one article. But I’m working on it, and when I get some good samples, I’ll increase my rates, or I’ll just increase my rates, not sure. I made a new website just a couple of months ago. Anyways, I downloaded the road map, thanks a lot. I have to learn to be more confident and charge what I think I’m worth.

    P.S. I’m going to send you a guest post idea soon.

    • Carol Tice

      You know, Timothy, I just sent a bill for an article yesterday. It was for $2,600.

      Definitely raise your expectations of what an article should cost!

      • Tammy Farrell

        I love to hear the numbers Carol! Thanks so much for being so open and sharing both your knowledge and realistic income targets for us.

    • Daniel

      Unless you have that article wrapped up in less than an hour, and are selling multiple articles every day, you definitely need to up your rates! What kind of articles are these?

  4. Rohi Shetty

    Thanks for this great post, Carol.
    It’ll probably take me another year before I qualify for Den2x but this post and infographic is a great roadmap on how to get there.

    • Carol Tice

      Right! Maybe this will help some people to at least get a base of initial clients, so that they get to the point where I could work with them and double their income in Den 2X!

      Obviously, there’s a lot of details in the program on the best ways to do each of these steps, but that’s one reason I put out the road map — so that people can at least see the basic groundwork that goes into building your income up.

  5. Evan Jensen

    I’ve ran a couple of 100-mile races. But I can remember when I used to think a 10K was a long-distance run and a marathon (26.2 miles) was impossible. When I finally got over myself, I decided to map out a training plan and try running a marathon. Sure, it took some work, commitment, and trial and error, but now a marathon is a fun run.

    For too long, I’ve considered freelancing a casual endeavor to make some extra money. At the same time, I’ve been daydreaming about freelancing full time while doubting my abilities to make it happen. The first two items on your road map (Client Analysis and Mindset Reset) are really important for moving forward. After that, the action steps are a lot like a running program that builds, confidence, strength, endurance, and efficiency over time. Thanks for the Road Map.

    • Carol Tice

      Love your marathon analogy, Evan! Glad you found that Road Map useful.

  6. David Throop

    Great roadmap and points to helping less advanced writers climb the mountaintop.

    It reminds me of when I really began focusing on my freelance writing. I created a plan, met a number of clients, had a lot of momentum including working for an Internet Marketing agency, then about 6 months down the road, all the oxygen got sucked out of my writing as one-by-one I lost the accounts.

    I had thought it was going to be easy to find new clients, as finding my previous ones didn’t seem so difficult. But I found it a gigantic task and have been struggling to regain my momentum since then.

    Your post reminded me about a previous article about the need to continually market our services. And armed with a roadmap, I hope to get back into the groove.

    Thanks for the motivational post and everything you do.

    • Carol Tice

      I know SO many writers who’ve been through this cycle, David. Get first clients easily, become complacent, and then get gobsmacked when that scenario falls apart and you haven’t developed any marketing muscles.

      Luckily, you can always build those puppies up at any point… 😉

      Glad this helped you!

  7. Katrina Cureton

    You give great advice. I love the way you tell people how to be successful and the way you encourage people to shut down the self-doubt.

  8. Bonnie Nicholls

    Hi, there. This is a great idea. I’d like to get involved, but I’m on vacation for 2 1/2 weeks in September. Would I miss anything critical?

    • Carol Tice

      Not at all, Bonnie — the support is 24/7 on forums and Skype, and we have a live mastermind once a month. We’ve had people miss one and send stuff ahead of time for me to give feedback on. We all travel and have vacations and stuff. This is a 6 mos-1 year program, so I’m hoping we all take a break somewhere in there! The point is to be steadily working the Road Map courseware as we go and progressing in finding better clients and getting rid of low payers.

      Let me know if I can answer anything else on it!

      • Bonnie Nicholls

        If I signed up today, when would the first live mastermind be? BTW, I’m finally in the process of changing my business name and my website to reflect that I’m a professional writer. My website started out as a blog, then morphed to a writer website. I feel embarrassed to say my business name for fear clients won’t take me seriously, so it had to change.

        • Carol Tice

          Well, that sounds like a good move, Bonnie!

          First masterminds for these two new groups are happening June 30…but it’s no problem if you can’t make it to one, you can send info ahead and still get some coaching. I’d expect this summer we’ll have people in and out. The key is that you’re in your Skype group brainstorming, and that you’re working the Road Map.

          Hope you can join us! Thing to know is, once I fill the about two-dozen Den 2X mastermind slots that are open now, then the program will close to new members, likely until 2016.

          • Bonnie Nicholls

            Hi, there. I just joined. I’ll miss the June 30 mastermind (darn it, had a vacation planned). If the next two are on the last Tuesday of the month, then I should be OK.

          • Carol Tice

            Awesome, welcome aboard!

            Masterminds are always around the end of each month…not necessarily on Tuesday. 😉

  9. Darren Baguley

    Hi Carol,

    Thank you very much for this post. My income as a freelancer has varied from $15,000 – a year where I spent most of my time building a house and just wanted to make sure people didn’t forget that I was around – to just shy of $80,000 during one year where I had done/was doing a lot of the stuff you have talked about in this post.

    You have encapsulated what’s needed very well and your roadmap is very useful. I especially agree with you about high earning writers never stopping marketing. It is so true and it something I really, really need to work on. There have been many times when I’ll have so many jobs on that I can’t do any more without running myself into the ground and burning out, getting sick or both and I’ll stop marketing. Problem is that I then go from a month where I’ve hit or surpassed my stretch target for the month to having hardly anything in the pipeline except my two regulars, who fortunately do pay the bills.

    This so does not work. You need to think of what you’ve got on this month but also what you’ve got coming in next month. If your pipeline for next month looks a bit lean then you need to hustle but what you really should be doing is marketing every day or week, however you want to split it up, even during those times when you’re so flat out that all you can do is work, sleep, eat and walk the dog.

    • Carol Tice

      Darren, I think that’s one of the big advantages of getting into a mastermind like Den 2X — is that we are there to push you and KEEP you marketing. And there are ways to keep your marketing going even when you ARE that busy, that we get into. I’m all about strong inbound marketing machines to underlay your marketing and keep leads coming when you’re super-busy.

  10. Rob S

    I’ve gone from $10/500 words to around $15,000 a year to about $45,000 a year, but have been taking the slow lane getting there. I’m going to check out Den2X now.

    • Carol Tice

      That’s awesome, Rob — I would *love* to have you in Den 2X! I think we could really help you take it up another notch. You’ve obviously got a strong grounding in writing and getting client work done…we could strengthen the marketing side and up your client quality and really change the money equation for you. 😉 Hope to see you in there!

  11. Zvidzayi

    Nice one Carol. I’m definitely going to try it out

  12. Allison Keltner

    Dang, without even realizing it I’ve had a hazy form of this plan in my head for the past week or so and this has solidified it! I’m just about to hit 1 year of freelancing full-time and I’m feeling okay about my earnings so far, but it’s definitely time to kick it up. Thanks Carol!

  13. Alvin

    This is an excellent post. I’ve downloaded the roadmap and will apply it! I’ve had so much “muck” swirling around in my head as to what I needed to do. It has been weighing me down for quite a while. This really gives clarity as to EXACTLY what needs to be done!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad I could help Alvin!

  14. Kerry

    Confidence is key.

  15. Kristen

    Do you also recommend a blog like you have here? I’m on blogger and word press..but I have mostly posted videos and got away from my own writing on there because it was hard to drive views to my own new websites, but would be interested in writing on others pages that have the views.
    I am eager to receive your information. I majored in English in college and have not used it for anything other than writing for the town newspaper years ago. I teach elementary education, but really work that belongs to me now since there is too much instability out there in education today.

    • Carol Tice

      Kristen, it depends on the kinds of freelance writing gigs you’re trying to get. Certainly running a video blog isn’t going to help you land writing gigs — unless you’re writing those videos, and looking for video script-writing gigs.

      Yes, it is hard to drive traffic to a new blog…but if you have a niche topic you love and can build an audience for it, it can help you get freelance blogging gigs. You might check out my “How to be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger” e-book, if you’re interested in leveraging a personal blog to get writing gigs.

      Or, for building up your blog, check out Kickstart Your Blog, from A-List Blogging. That’s where I learned to build this blog. 😉

      • Rosemary Collins

        Hi Carol,

        I read your advice about queries, have written over 75 articles, made over 150 queries and submissions and have gotten no results. I am wondering what in the world am I doing wrong. Can you help me?

        • Carol Tice

          I can Rosemary — Linda Formichelli and I designed our Pitch Clinic class for helping writers with this exact problem. We’re planning to teach it again this fall.

          Short of that, inside Freelance Writers Den, we have a query review forum that’s helped a lot of writers. We have some great editors who staff that. Most people make some basic mistakes with their queries and don’t really understand this form, and what makes an editor assign an article. (Den will be reopening in just a couple weeks, FYI!)

  16. rosemary

    Thanks for your response Carol. I did not think I had any fear but what I think I most afraid of is not being successful, in other words wasting so much time. I think maybe I am not making my queries detailed enough. I guess I presumed if they wanted more info they would ask and sometimes they do. I looked back at your post about getting three jobs with one query and noticed how detailed it was. I did have two articles published about 20 years ago before I retired. Now that I am retired I am able to be very prolific. I write 3-4 articles a day and send out 10-12 queries a week. I have submitted to about 30 magazines, moving on to a new group when the present one gets no response.
    I have had some positive response, saying they would strongly consider my idea, but still no assignments.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m not sure what kind of articles you can write 3-4 a day of, Rosemary, but I don’t know anyone who gets paid well for that. The good-paying articles take more effort. But one big tip: You want to write an article on an assignment, not ahead of getting a green light from an editor. It’s very difficult to submit pre-written articles and get them accepted, as the editor wants input on the angle of the story.

      • Rosemary Collins

        well really I have about 50 articles at this point. I write one or two rough drafts a day, and then spend a couple of hours revising 5-6 of the ones I have already written and 3-4 hours searching for new magazines and sending the editor an introduction email, then send out 2-3 queries. I am working 8-9 hours a day but not every day because I do have my life to live! I have sent pre-written articles to some publications that request that, maybe 10. There is just something I am doing wrong. One of my professors once told me my writing was too matter of fact and often boring, so I am really working hard on that. I have signed up for the den so I can get some of my queries analyzed and another seminar I forget what for in September. So is this a boring comment???

        • Rosemary Collins

          Hey Linda, it’s the Pitch class I signed up for in the fall. Also I think my Titles are not catchy enough. In fact one of the articles I had published by Grit years ago, the editor changed the title, which was just fine with me. I was to happy to get paid and now to have some clips.

          • Carol Tice

            Rosemary, in general editors write or rewrite headlines for articles. That’s not unusual at all.

        • Carol Tice

          I’d stop writing article drafts without assignments — it’s mostly a waste of time. Instead, learn to write queries, and then work with an editor so that the article you deliver is what they want.

  17. Sid

    Thanks a lot for the great post.

  18. Aoife O'Carroll

    Hi Carol,
    Your point about new freelancers’ low self worth holding them back is so true. I’m new to the game myself and often wince when I press “Send” on a quotation, thinking the client will run/laugh when they see my rate, but I try to live by my father’s maxim: “If you’re too cheap, they’ll think you’re no good.”
    Thanks for the great advice.

    • Carol Tice

      That’s a great motto your dad’s got, Aoife! (How do you say that, BTW?)

      That fear problem is really common, and why one of the five lessons in our new Escape the Content Mills course is about overcoming fears. It’s got 18 practical strategies for busting out of that and moving forward. And why we have the “Mindset Reset” on the road map in Den 2X.

      I can teach you stuff all day, but if at the end you’re too scared to take any action, then it’s worth nothing.

      • Aoife O'Carroll

        Rhymes with FIFA – the original Aoife was a lovely character who turned her stepchildren into swans. I don’t know what my parents were expecting!

  19. Sid

    I have been a freelance writer full time since 2010. I have got work on and off but nothing big as yet. I even build my own site and made some money with adsense but then my account got banned for no reason. I also wrote for a few revenue sharing sites like Squidoo and Hubpages but there too I earned only for about a year as either the sites closed down or I couldn;t earn anymore as I had no adsense. I even had a PLR store of my own for over a year but never made any significant money with it and ultimately had to close it down. I am struggling right now and don’t even have money to buy a domain and hosting to promote my writing. I sometimes think am I even good enough. Right now I am writing for content mills but not much work there either. I would really appreciate any help, tips or suggestions.

    • Carol Tice

      Sid, I think the post above outlines my tips for moving beyond this. You might also check out my Step by Step guide ebook, up on the ebooks tab.


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