Have you ever imagined what it would be like to earn twice as much freelance writing income as you’re getting now? Lots of writers work hard for years, and their income seems to stay at the same, low level.
It’d be amazing if you could break that cycle and earn big, right?
No more fear and stress about whether you can get the bills paid each month — or whether you might have to go get a day job (or might be unable to ever quit the one you’re stuck in). Or never get to retire.
When you’re struggling to find better clients, it can be hard to envision that your writing life can ever change. That you can level-up your business and earn a LOT more.
But it’s definitely possible, if you’re ready to focus and work for it.
How do I know? Because I’ve spent the past 10 years teaching thousands of working freelance writers how to double their income and more.
For 6 months each year, I work with a small group of writers on a focused, step-by-step plan with individual coaching, group peer support, and monthly live trainings.
It changes how they approach their writing business — and that, in turn, radically ramps up their income.
At this point, I’ve seen writers routinely go from $20,000 a year to $40,000 — and from $40,000 to $80,000. Some of my grads are even earning $120K+ as freelance writers.
Want to get inspired and discover how real-life writers skyrocket their income? I recently sat down with three of the most high-achieving students, who all more than doubled their income in 4 months flat.
That’s pretty wild, rapid success, even for Freelance Writers Den 2X-ers. So I asked them to unpack exactly what actions they took that got them earning a lot more.
Read on to get their tips for moving up and earning a lot more:
2 Writers work to turn around a slump
When you’re barely earning $20,000 or so a year, you can feel desperate. Especially if you’re living in rural Thailand and trying to scratch out a living as a freelance writer, like Neil Pope. Or if you’ve struggled to top $300 a month sometimes, like Celeste Altus of Danville, Calif.
Here are their stories of how they got their freelance-writing careers back on track. (Spoiler: get ready to learn a lot about LinkedIn marketing!)
SHOW NOTES: Celeste Altus
- Celeste had earned well in the past, but income had become unreliable. Working through agencies for less-than-ideal rates, got her feeling stuck. Neglecting her marketing efforts made it hard to break the cycle at first.
- She began with inbound marketing, optimizing her LinkedIn profile with a tagline that had keywords to attract her target clients, and adding an eye-catching ‘proof bar’ header to impress, with her past marquee clients’ logos. Then she rewrote her About section to focus on client problems. (Check out the video for screenshare pix!)
- Discovered that once you pass 500 LinkedIn connections, you start to see real traction in terms of connection invites and inbound leads.
- Watching reviews of all the other students’ profiles helped her see how to improve hers.
- She began getting inbound leads shortly after redoing her LinkedIn profile.
- Benchmarking prices in her 2X Slack group, she gained the confidence to take a meeting with one lead from LinkedIn and got hired on a 60-day initial contract to mutually try each other out (and set up to negotiate an early raise). All things she’d never done before.
- Used “F.U.” pricing (bidding high) to test if a client understands your value and is worth your spending time on.
- “It’s a thrill, when it’s a real offer. When you treat like yourself as a serious business — that’s the difference. I wasn’t doing that before. I thought only agencies get these type of clients.”
- She lined up another client using ‘low-hanging fruit’ marketing — asking her network to refer her business.
- After just 4 months, she is reliably earning $2,500 a month — eight times what she earned at the start.
SHOW NOTES: Neil Pope
- Aussie native Neil had been a freelance writer for 4 years. Now living in Thailand, he was stuck writing for a single client at $30 per 1000-word daily post, which kept him too broke and busy to either quit or market to find better writing jobs.
- After getting 1:1 coaching and starting to build his presence and post articles about his automotive expertise on LinkedIn, he began getting inbound leads.
- Using what he’d learned on building blog topics, he pitched 15 ideas to a new client and got 14 posts assigned at $100 apiece — an instant 3X raise.
- Learned to deploy arresting visuals on his posts to get more attention, such as a post about custom cars with a picture of a car shaped like a rhino.
- Now, he wakes up to almost daily inbound offers and leads on email and InMail. All before getting up his writer website! Coming soon.
- Hourly rate grew from about $7 to $150 an hour, and he’s now had $600 article assignments.
- Having his 2X group help him decide what to charge helped him learn to bid high.
- Income grew from about $700 a month to $2,800 — four times what he earned at the start.
- He’s studied top writers in his space to improve his storytelling skills.
- Now, he’s stalking top automotive brands and sharing their content on LinkedIn, looking to get hired, and attending a major trade show to meet contacts.
- “I’m so excited to get to work every day. It’s a complete change in attitude, having the confidence to put myself out there.”
I get asked a lot whether you have to be in a big American city to make it as a freelance writer. Hopefully, these two writers’ success stories show you that’s not needed!
When a writer works hard — from a cold start
If you’re a newer or low-income freelance writer — say, you’re earning just $3,000-$19,000 a year or so — it’s hard to see how you can you break the cycle.
But you can, if you know how. Whidbey Is., Wash.-based farmer and former journalist Georgie Smith, who came into Den 2X as a ‘follow along’ student, getting Slack and mastermind time with the group, plus 1:1 chat mentoring from Den moderator-in-chief Angie Mansfield.
This ‘follow along’ level of 2X is new this year, replacing a 3-month quick-launch program I was running for newbies with the 6-month 2X framework. Would it be more effective, I wondered?
Turns out, it is — even if a writer wants to specialize in a difficult niche for writers. Here’s what happened to Georgie’s writing life, after she came into 2X with just a single $500-a-month editing gig going on:
SHOW NOTES: Georgie Smith
- Georgie, a former reporter, was ready to get out of farming and back into writing. But she had no current clips — and agriculture is a notoriously difficult niche for writers.
- She began researching hot spots in her industry, and discovered hemp and legal cannabis were attracting lots of investor money, along with farm tech, and sustainable/regenerative agriculture.
- Following that money, she began building up her LinkedIn connections, and asking her network for referrals to ag companies in these subniches that needed a writer — and scored immediate clients.
- She souped up her LinkedIn profile to emphasize her niche expertise, and started creating targeted, useful info-posts aimed at her prospects’ top pains. This content marketing led to an invite to a conference where she got many leads, and conference organizers also referred her work.
- Within 4 months, she booked a $5,000 month with a big new client, and has since settled in at around $3,000+ per month — six times what she made when she started Den 2X.
- Don’t be afraid to stretch a bit, as Georgie did when she found a cannabis-tech company desperate to find someone who could speak to an audience of farmers, whose mindset she knew well.
- “Realize there are people out there who want to hire you.”
Georgie’s story shows what’s possible when you decide to really show up for your business and get serious about telling the world about the clients you want.
Make your own plan to earn more
Here’s the big picture: If you keep doing what you’ve always done in your freelance-writing career, you’ll likely continue earning roughly what you are now.
I meet writers all the time who’ve been freelancing for years, even decades, and they’re still scraping along at $25,000 a year. Makes me sad. What we do is hard, and you should be able to build up your business, and be well-paid for your skills!
But if you’re willing to keep an open mind, stretch a bit, and try to build your freelancing into a real business… your income can change dramatically.
Going up a notch in income will take a different attitude and new tactics. Some writers can figure it out on their own, use self-study writer resources, and change up what they’re doing.
Others need more help. Actually, many writers need three things:
- A focused, proven program that shuts out all the shiny-object noise, where they can just follow the steps.
- A seasoned coach to provide a shortcut, so leveling up doesn’t take forever.
- Peers to provide accountability.
Those reliably help you rapidly find clients you love, and the income you deserve, in my experience. So look for those, wherever you go.
Whether you check out the Freelance Writers Den — you can join until July 19 — or find another way, think about what’s not working for you now. And what you want to change in the months ahead to build your freelance writing career.
Got questions about how to earn more as a writer? Let’s discuss in the comments.