On the the first of December I decided I would take my foot off the gas, and only pitch stories that I really felt strongly about. Financially, the pressure was off a bit because October and November were such big months and so I started to relax. I had lunch out with my partner and friends, I went for long walks, I started to ride my bike again (hello quad muscles), and I felt rejuvenated. This is my last post for 2017, and one where I outline my yearly income for the year.
December wrap-up and my freelance writing income for 2017
Each year we go away camping for three nights just before Christmas and it’s the best thing ever. We were outside nearly all day every day – swimming, hiking, bike riding, reading and eating.
Work took a deliberate back seat.
But even though I anticipated things slowing down almost to a halt in December, I actually found that some of the editors I work with were hurriedly trying to wrap things up before the end of the year and so commissions did come my way.
One editor even said that lots of her regular freelancers had gone on holidays or were planning on taking leave in January, and asked if I would like to take on an extra story or two. I think this is a real opportunity for freelance writers to show editors that you are keen, and if you are available in January, it’s a good time to pick up extra work.
In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:
Pitched: 8 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 1
Offers: 6 (where the editor approached me with a commission)
I got offered several famils or press trips in December (for trips in 2018), and so the majority of the eight pitches I sent out to editors were trying to gauge their interest in stories about those destinations.
Two editors who I recently met in person have resigned from their positions – this was a really good reminder that editors frequently move on and a prompt to look at who I am writing for and making sure that my income comes from a diverse range of publications and clients.
When one door closes …
I have also noticed that a couple of websites I write for fairly regularly have started to heavily focus on sponsored or branded content. This has meant that they have a decreasing budget for commissioning pitches from freelance writers unless the idea is spectacular or an exclusive.
It’s something to keep in mind when you are pitching online publications – look at the kind of content they are regularly producing. It may not always be clear if it’s native advertising – meaning that the content tends to look and read very similarly to other stories the publication produces. So while this kind of content may mean that pitching is no longer your best chance of getting published, there may be opportunities for you to write the branded content for them (if that’s what you want to do).
For me, this has meant that I approached one editor to let him know that I was available if he needed native or branded articles written. It’s not the kind of writing I want to do full time, but happily, the editor took me up on my offer and I would write an average of one or two articles a week for him. These articles are usually quick turn-around pieces that pay well.
It’s definitely worth keeping your eyes open and asking editors about the kind of content they are producing or planning because even when you think one opportunity isn’t available, another may be just around the corner.
Highlights of December
December has been a lovely end to a great year.
A week or so ago the lovely Ginger Gorman suggested that I join her on a national radio program talking about life as a freelancer. I haven’t listened back to the recording (is there anything worse than hearing your own voice played back?), but if you’re interested (and Ginger has some super things to say about freelancing) – here’s the link. I think the section starts about seven minutes in.
One my editors got in touch a couple of days before Christmas to request that I add a couple of paragraphs to a travel story I had written. She felt that the story was missing a personal element and wanted me to add in some first person observations and thoughts.
I always feel so reluctant to place myself in travel stories (I feel like I run the risk of writing a travel diary entry), so acknowledged this to the editor but said that of course I would make the changes she requested. She wrote back and told me another editor at the magazine teaches travel writing and had asked to use another of my stories as a “great example of travel writing” where the “I” is almost non-existent. So that made me feel better about my decision to cut myself out of travel articles!
In December I also caught up over Skype with a new writer friend – she is an editor who I met on a press trip who has since gone freelance. I love speaking to her about her experience as an editor and I hope that I can help her with some pragmatic advice about freelancing. We have both been invited on a famil in February, and I’m pitching hard to ensure that I get to go.
The downs of December
I’ve had a few requests for revisions this month – it’s never great to get an email with a document full of ‘track changes’. For me, the worst thing is shelving current stories to delve back into the headspace of ‘old’ ones.
I have found that the initial pangs I feel when I receive an email back from an editor asking for me to rework a sentence or paragraph, or go back to a case study to ask them more questions, have lessened as I’ve become more experienced. They used to really get me down, but now I expect them and am pleasantly surprised if an article goes through without boomeranging back to me.
Most of the publications I’ve written for this year pay around 80c/word. I definitely write for some that pay less and some that pay more, but overall my average is 80c/word. In the last couple of months, however, I’ve started writing for a couple of publications that pay 50c/word.
Now of course, it’s not all about money. For one publication, I love writing for them and I believe in their philosophy and what they are trying to do so I have no problem writing for much less than 80c/word.
But I don’t want to be writing for too many of these lower-paying publications because it may mean the difference between a couple of hundred dollars each day, and that eventually adds up. One of the magazines is a travel publication. I want to do more travel writing in 2018 and the editor is lovely and asks me regularly to pitch her, so I want to keep writing for them.
The other publication is one where the editor comes to me with commissions, which means that I don’t spend time pitching, but they are fairly involved articles (with multiple interviews) so I need to consider whether I’ll keep this work up in 2018.
My income for December
In December, I had my second quietest month ever in terms of income, and was commissioned $6K of work. I still count that as a success because I didn’t pitch for too many of those articles.
But because I had a huge October and November, I ended up invoicing for nearly $12K worth of work.
My income for the year
Lots of people talk about being a ‘six-figure freelancer’ but you never quite know if they are talking about income that has been commissioned, invoiced for or paid. And do they mean before tax or after tax?
I think it’s really important to be transparent about the earning potential for freelance writers, but also what six-figures actually means to me.
By the end of 2017, I was commissioned $110,955.40 worth of work.
By 31 December 2017, I had invoiced for $106,004.48.
By 31 December 2017, I had been paid $103,825.90.
I promised you last month that I would break down my income for the year into the different kinds of writing that I have done throughout 2017:
Feature articles for magazines and newspapers – $57,838.48
Content/corporate features – $39,312.85
Blogs for small business – $1,190
Research – $7432.50
Miscellaneous (this includes copyright agency payments* and affiliate payments) – $229.75
*And just a note here – if you are an Australian writer and are not a member (it’s free) of the Copyright Agency, I suggest you join up. The Copyright Agency collects licence fees for uses of content that would otherwise require a copyright clearance from a rightsholder. This means that every once in a while a small sum of money (we’re talking around $50) lands in my bank account.
It’s also worth mentioning that I have nearly $3K worth of invoices overdue. This has been a fairly common situation this year to be waiting on payments.
Some of you keen beans may add up the totals of my invoiced work, which should be $106,004.48, but you will notice that there’s a slight discrepancy of a dollar or so – I’m not sure why and maths was never my strong point! But you get the gist of how the year has panned out financially for me.
While that total number may sound incredible to you (and it still does to me!) – keep in mind that this is before tax or contributed to my superannuation.
I had a number of instances in 2017 where I earned more than $10K from particular publications and clients (and lots of piddly little ones where I earned $200 or $300!), but the biggest individual publication was one where I earned $27,485.
This is a publication where I write across three of their platforms – their monthly magazine, online and in a weekly newspaper lift out. Each platform has different editors, so for me this is a win-win – I have some internal credibility writing for all three editors, but also some stability if one editor should leave.
So … that’s a wrap for 2017.
Now I’d love to hear from you – earlier this week I sent out a survey to my subscribers, asking what you’d like from me in 2018 in terms of this blog.
What would you like from The Freelancer’s Year in 2018?
(And go into the draw to win a $50 Amazon gift voucher)
I would love it if you have a chance (it’s a 2 minute survey with 4 questions) to fill in this survey and let me know your thoughts about the kind of posts and resources that would help you reach your 2018 freelance goals.
You can find the survey here and don’t forget at the end to enter your name and email address for a chance to win the gift voucher.
Thanks for reading and happy new year!
How was your December?