Freelance Writing in 2016: How to Make Your Money

Ahhhhh…. that’s the sound of a busy writer finally taking a holiday. Today, I was outside and walking and taking in sights while on vacay. Tomorrow, more of the same.

I was talking with my daughter recently (a moment ago, actually) and I asked her “If you were a freelance writer, what question would you ask?”

Her response: “How do I make my money?”

Her answer is today’s post. In fact, that’s the whole reason I asked her. I’m on vacation. The well is dry because hey, I’m on vacation.

So how do you make your money? Through clients, of course. But there’s more to it than that. In order to make money, clients have to know a few things, starting with knowing you exist.

Here’s a quick-and-dirty method of getting your name out there right now:

  • Hit social media. Start following people who are in the position to hire you. Use hash tags. Start Twitter chats. Join LinkedIn groups where clients are hanging out. Listen, respond, post interesting things.
  • Offer a free report. Give them something valuable in exchange for their email address. Blast out on social media the availability of your report. Put up a landing page on which they can get their own copy. 
  • Send an occasional newsletter/email. Please, make it occasional. I stopped following a respected colleague because the emails were every day. And while many of them were for free things, it just felt oppressive.
  • Send snail mail. How about a letter of introduction with your brochure? Right now, it gets much more attention than one more email.

So now you have their attention. How do you get them to hire you?

  • Start with a conversation. Follow up your snail mail with a phone call. Create a script that gets a conversation going, not pitches about how fabulous you are. Make sure to ask what kinds of communication projects are they hoping to accomplish this year. Don’t sell on the first date unless they lead you directly into that conversation.
  • Offer valuable skills. It’s not enough to tell them you have skills they need. Show them how those skills will help them.
  • Stay in touch. Part of having a network (that’s what you’re building here) is nurturing it. That means the occasional note or email asking how they are, sharing something that might interest them, or asking how that project/milestone went. Too many times we forget to treat our network contacts like people. Stop selling and start being friendly.

So a client has hired you. How are you going to make your money?

  • Charge fairly. And that means fairly from both sides of the equation. Never undercut your price just to get the business.
  • Work professionally. That means with a contract/statement of work and by meeting deadlines and promised outcomes. Bill immediately and track invoices. Have an invoicing system to avoid the late payer/nonpayer.
  • Continue making connections. Connect with someone every day. Market, network, chat or tweet with someone who’s in a position to hire you, even if they may never do so. You never really know that, do you? Today’s dead end could well be tomorrow’s highest paying client.
  • Ask for referrals and testimonials. You’ve pleased them. Show would-be clients why you’re a safe gamble by getting that happy client’s kudos in writing.

Writers, how do you make your money?

About the author




  • Anne Wayman January 28, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    As usual, you've made a great list… thanks

  • Dava Stewart January 28, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    My list is a bit different:

    1. establish a portfolio, demonstrating ability to write about niche topic
    2. network with writers in the same niche
    3. create a list of publications, websites & newsletters to follow. Read them regularly.
    4. contact editors of those trade publications, websites, and newsletters with introduction and/or article idea suitable for that publication
    5. carefully read contracts before signing. Negotiate if necessary.
    6. network with experts, conduct professional interviews
    7. write good stuff
    8. meet deadlines, and generally keep the doors of communication open.
    9. be humble and willing to do revisions if requested
    10. ask for additional work
    11. repeat

    There are lots of ways to make money as a freelancer. It's neat to see how other folks are doing it.

  • Lori Widmer February 7, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    Great list, Dava! I love every one of your points, and in particular #5. Contracts can protect you or lock you into bad terms if you're not careful.