The secret to making $100,000 a year as a freelance writer isn’t exactly a secret. There is zero secret. There’s no magic dust. Just a lot of hard work (and internal screaming). In this blog, I’ll give you a quick rundown on how I make over six figures a year as a freelance copywriter, and give you a framework to help you do the same.
Just to be clear – $100,000 will not fall out of the sky for you when you get possessed by the crazy-yet-intriguing idea to start freelancing.
Your $0 to $100k journey comes down to basic maths, a ton of hard work, and having strategies to find good clients, network, and raise your rates as you get more experience. These factors will help you steadily hit your weekly and monthly targets as your business grows.
I could end the blog here, because that’s basically it. But that would be terrible for my SEO 😂
I want to share with you how I started from scratch as a freelance writer and got to the point where I now consistently earn $10-$20k a month.
How I make over $100,000 a year as a freelance copywriter
I want to say that getting to 6 figures was an easy ride, but that would be a huge pile of trash. A 60-hour week is often my reality when things are busy. Some weeks I have no work at all (okay, I kinda love that part).
I’ve put in a lot of hard work, failed at a lot of stuff, and had more than my share of very long days and sleepless nights. It hasn’t been a journey full of popping champagne corks and fluffy hotel robes. I wish.
I get headaches, back ache, anxiety, insomnia, and RSI. I had a frozen shoulder that lasted for a year and was so excruciating I could barely dress myself. There’s often a price to pay for striving for your end goals, and mine seems to come in delightful physical forms.
Since 2016, I’ve:
- Invested thousands of dollars on amazing courses
- Wasted thousands of dollars on shitty courses
- Joined numerous paid writer communities
- Paid for business coaching and masterminds
- Spent even more thousands of dollars on going to conferences
- Listened to 5,242,365 webinars and 955 podcasts (give or take)
- Made a ton of mistakes
- Failed embarrasingly at a lot of things (and yes I will write a fails posts about this!)
- Steadily grown my business to a point where I can comfortably work, travel, and save money
Basically, I have the same struggles as any other solo business owner – except that I like to supercharge these problems by moving to a new country every 2-6 months. I have to constantly deal with things like new currency, new languages, new food, new climates, time differences, jet lag, and weird travel illnesses – on top of all the other weekly challenges of client meetings and work.
Over the years, I’ve niched down to writing for software companies who are at a specific level of growth in their business. I focus mainly on website copy, landing pages, brand voice guides, and email marketing. This has helped me get more revenue, with less client workload.
Where the majority of my work comes from:
- Google search
What my revenue breakdown looks like:
I used to work for up to 10 clients at a time. As my rates increased and my projects changed, I was able to work with less clients and earn more. I typically work with two clients at a time now, with some overlap between start and finish dates, and I take the occasional assignment from the one agency I still work with. My minimum project fee is $5,000.
Between intial 50% deposits for new client work, milestone payments, and final payments, I steadily earn around $15k per month. I might also go well under this, and well over this – but that’s my average expectation for a month.
How I started freelance writing
For those of you who don’t know my story – I sold everything I owned at the start of 2016, stuffed all my essential gear in a backpack, and left my home country of New Zealand.
Eventually very rapidly, my savings started to run low (I blame my insatiable cheese habit), and I went looking for ways to make money online so I could keep travelling.
I think I’ve covered all the necessary cliches here 🤦♀️
When it came to online work that you could make decent, and even significant money from, freelance writing seemed like the best fit for me. I didn’t want to spend time learning a new skillset – and the thought of coding for a living made me want to fling myself off a cliff.
Once I decided to become a freelance writer, I spent days and weeks reading everything I could about how to find clients. I joined Facebook groups, scoured popular blogs, and talked to people on LinkedIn.
My goal was to earn enough to travel WELL. I didn’t want to be stuck in South East Asia writing a $20 blog here and there when I needed some money.
I wanted to stand in the Arctic Circle in the darkness and watch the aurora. Drive a jeep with a roof tent through the Serengeti. Stand in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and feel the weight of all that history. Swim in the postcard-perfect blue waters of Zanzibar and eat juicy pineapples until I exploded.
I was determined to get paid well as a freelance writer. And I made all of these things happen (except for the exploding bit).
Many people hit their $100k target in the first year of their freelance business. I was not one of those people. I struggled with finding clients and staying productive and organized while I moved around, so it took me over two years of full-time grind and frustration before I reached the six figure mark.
I started out writing terrible blog posts on a bunch of random things. Dog training, real estate, finance, SEO, road conditions in Texas, games for kids, increasing bacteria in your silage stack….
But once I figured out a system for finding the work I actually wanted, and steadily closing bigger projects on sales calls, everything changed.
A lot of success comes down to your mindset, and how you apply what you’re learning to get increasingly better clients and more money.
Remember: you can figure everything out as a freelancer if you break it down into small pieces.
The six figure freelancer formula
Let’s do the math so you can see that this 6-figure thing isn’t so daunting.
First – start with your annual revenue goal. For the sake of this blog, it’s $100k.
$100,000 a year breaks down to:
- $8,333 a month
- $2,083 a week
- $416 a day (based on a 5-day work week)
Not looking so daunting now, right?
When you’re figuring out the pieces of your own puzzle, think about what could you do for clients as either large projects, or smaller recurring projects, that will help you get closer to these numbers. What existing skills and services can you offer that are valuable to the clients you want to write for?
Depending on the type of writing you do, and how many days a week you want to work, this might look like:
- 6 x $350 blog posts a week
- 4 x $500 blog posts a week
- 2 x $4,000 website projects a month
- 2 x $4,000 brand voice guides a month
- 8 x $1,500 landing page projects a month
- 1 x $8,500 sales page a month
- 4 x $2,000 VIP day rates a month
You get the picture.
Start with your overall income goal, break it down into monthly and weekly targets, and figure out exactly what you need to do to reach those targets.
Things that will help get you to six figures faster
Find good clients
Well duh, everyone wants those! But when you’re pitching for projects, searching on LinkedIn, or deciding whether to spend time on calls with potential clients – remember to do your research first. Do they work with other freelance copywriters? Do they have an editor or a chief content officer? Do they have funding? How big is their company? What’s their annual revenue?
Once you start looking for clients that value good copywriting, and are also happy to pay well for it, that’s when things in your business will start to shift.
Learn to say no (even to good clients)
It’s hard to say no to work. Even if you have plenty. Because…what if…
- What if there’s no new clients around the corner?
- What if your current project is The End Of All Copywriting?
- What if AI becomes sentient the moment you say no to that project?
- What if that client had the mother of all budgets – and you just missed out?
All of these are common thoughts, trust me. That’s our lizard brain having a good ol’ panic about the feast/famine lifestyle of freelancing.
Saying “no” to projects that aren’t the right fit or will overload you, is a good thing. And if you can refer those “nope” clients on to trusted colleagues, this makes you look super professional as a freelancer. It also clears space for the right projects to come along – and ensures good karma from your copywriting pals 😉
Raise your rates
This is the most obvious way to get to six figures faster as a freelancer. I aim to raise my rates every 6 months (or after every 3 successful projects of the same type), even if it’s only by a tiny percentage each time.
Some people get stuck charging the same amount for years, and wonder why they aren’t progressing. The more experience you have, and the more testimonials and results you get for your clients, the more you can confidently charge higher rates for your time and experience. It seems scary, but if you don’t ask for the rate you want you won’t get it.
Say you start by getting $50 a blog, and you work 5 days a week. You might physically only be able to write 10 blogs in a week, depending how long the articles are, and how much research is required. Then there’s other things you might need to do – such as editing and formatting, finding keywords and images, and making sure the blog is SEO friendly before you deliver it to your client.
That means you can earn a maximum of $500 a week. Your earnings will be capped at this amount unless you work weekends and late nights. So keep raising your rates as you make progress.
And theeeeen…there’s tax
Yep, that $500 isn’t all yours. The tax man will cometh for a percentage of your hard earned cash.
As a New Zealander, I have to put aside 33% of my writing earnings. If that’s the tax rate in your country too – you’ll need to put aside $165 of your $500. This will leave you with $335.
Now tally up how much you need for accommodation, food, and weekly expenses. Those $50 blogs aren’t looking so good now.
I know I can’t live on $335 a week. But this is why many freelance writers and digital nomads end up in places like Thailand and Vietnam – because you can get by on that amount per week quite comfortably.
I started out writing an $80 blog post, and quickly raised my rates to $500 once I had experience, live articles, and testimonials to show new potential clients. If I wanted to be a full-time content writer, this would mean I could earn $2,000 a week writing only 4 blog posts, and working 4 days a week. So uh…raise your rates!
Start an agency or contract out to other writers
Subcontracting is a natural progression for a lot of freelancers. This means they can take on more projects but keep their personal workload stable. But if you’re a control freak like me and don’t want to deal with the stress of managing other people, this might not be the right path for you.
Choose a niche
If you find a freelance writing niche and become a specialist, it makes it easier for you to find clients. And it makes it much easier for clients to find you.
You can niche down in either the type of writing you do, the type of people you write for, or both.
- You only write emails
- You only write for tech companies
- You only write emails for tech companies
Imagine your freelance writer website says something vague, generic, and desperate like “OH HI I AM A FREELANCE WRITER! PLZ HIRE ME! I WILL WRITE ANYTHING 4 CASH MONEYS!!!!”. (It’s okay, we all started out here).
Now say your DREAM client is trying to find a freelance writer, so they google exactly what they need. Your name doesn’t come up, because surprise! there’s 19,700,000 other search results that come up in Google before your name.
Instead – behold what niching does for you:
If you type “B2B SaaS Copywriter” into Google, my freelance copywriter website will be on the front page. Hopefully near the top.
On my site, you can see that I only write for B2B SaaS companies (cloud software companies that sell their products to other businesses). So when someone is looking for a SaaS copywriter, I’ll come up on the first page of search results because my entire site is laser-focused on that niche.
Because I only write for SaaS companies, clients can see that I’m a specialist, and I’ve had experience writing for other businesses like theirs. I understand exactly what their copywriting problems are – and how to fix them.
I’m unlikely to be hired by a sock making company based on my search results. This is because I don’t have any experience in the sock industry. That isn’t my niche. Also, as the owner of only 4.5 pairs of socks, my interest in this subject is quite low.
Some people worry about getting bored if they pick one thing to write about forever – but remember that you can change your niche at any time! It’s not a life sentence – just an easier way to start growing and channelling your freelance writing potential into something that will help you reach your dollar goals.
I know plenty of generalist writers who love the variety and challenge of writing about wildly different stuff on any given day – and if that’s for you, then that’s totally fine! Your path to $100,000 a year will look different from mine, but it’s no better or worse. I know many writers who are 6-figure generalists that can pick and choose what they write about, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Secretly, I also write for an avocado company occasionally, because hey – I freaking love avocados!)
There are millions of other freelance writers out there. If you don’t back yourself – nobody else will either. Clients arent just looking for “a writer”. Theyre looking for something more.
Clients buy your :
If you’re missing either process or expertise, the other one might make up for it. But if youre not confident about your abilities, and your desire to do great work and get great results, your potential clients wont be either.
This means you’ll miss out on projects to writers who might have way less experience and talent, but have more confidence on sales calls.
Quick tips on reducing overwhelm as a beginner freelance copywriter with BIG goals
- Don’t jump on all the shiny advice and hustle-bro marketing promises
- Learn everything you can from free online copywriting resources first
- Do lots of research on any paid course you’re thinking of taking
- Find copywriting communities and mentors that you resonate with
- Seek advice from people who are a few steps ahead of you – and people that are where you want to end up
- Build genuine relationships virtually and in person with other writers, business owners, coaches, mentors, and people that interest you
- Upskill – freelancing isn’t only about writing. You need to have skills in areas like sales, project management, and budgeting to be successful
My honest thoughts on the whole six-figure thing
There’s a constant pressure in the freelance writer world to reach the mythical $100k revenue goal. And I think this can place too much stress on people, especially newer writers, to reach something that might not truly be important to them if they step back to think about it.
So before you go up in flames trying to reach what can seem like an unattainable figure when you start out – stop and think about these points:
- Do you need 6 figures to live the lifestyle you want? Or will $80k do? Or $45k?
- Do you value your time/family/hobbies more than hustling non-stop to make tons of money?
- Do you need to make $10k a month just because somebody else is?
Freelancing gives us the freedom to live the lives we want, and to balance our work and life better. But it can also take all of this away if we don’t pay attention.
Make sure you keep checking in with yourself every month or so to see where you’re at physically and mentally. Are you consciously working towards a life you want, or are you sacrificing too many other things that you enjoy in the pursuit of those big dollars?
Reassessing what your days, weeks, and months look like is one of the most important things you can do as a freelancer – because living a rich, fulfilled life isn’t all about money, it’s about keeping your time and money in balance.
Rachael is a full-time digital nomad and freelance copywriter for B2B and SaaS companies. She’s worked with brands like Unbounce, Biteable, Datacom, Viddyoze, and Owler.
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- Finding freelance clients when you’re just starting out
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