This is not going to be the most jaw-dropping income report you’ve ever seen. Not even close. But I wanted to start sharing my monthly income breakdown with you because I have found there is a serious lack of these reports for experts in my field. You can read income reports from freelance bloggers, journalists, virtual assistants, and web designers all day long, but what if you want to work in books? There are very few income reports for freelance editors and book ghostwriters, at least that I have been able to find. I want you to know that it’s possible. You can feed and clothe yourself running your own book-focused business. I also want you to know that my monthly earnings are still on the low side of what is possible in this business. I’m not a seasoned veteran making huge bucks. Due to the lack of material in my specific field, I’ve stumbled a lot trying to piece together what steps to take from a freelance blogger here, a traditional freelance writer there, a traditional publishing house editor every now and then, and the few helpful ghostwriting sites I could find. I’ve only been doing this full-time for under a year, part-time (a.k.a. sporadically) for almost two. I’m not the best of the best, but I am going to start sharing my monthly income with you in the hopes that it will provide you some encouragement. It can be done.
So without further ado, here we go.
This chart is from my accounting software, Freshbooks. (You can read more about it here.)
January Gross Income: $1,111
As you can see, I’m still recovering from the holiday slump (you can read how I plan to combat it next year here), but this is still much better than poor December. You can also see that February is coming along wonderfully. Fingers crossed it stays that way and I can get back to the $2,000 range I enjoyed from July through October 2016.
I’ll break down where all of this came from in just a moment.
January Business Expenses: $95
This is higher than usual, but also better than December. I’ll also break this down for you.
January Net Income: $1,016
This is before I put 20% into savings in preparation for taxes. This is a good practice so you aren’t forced to cough up cash you don’t have in April. However, I’m not taking it out of the net income calculations because I still have that money, just not in my checking.
You might be thinking, “But … but, Hannah, you have a husband who works, too. If I just make that, I won’t be able to eat.” Not true. My husband made $1,500 at his 9-5 in January (working more hours than me). Yes, it’s very nice to be able to fall back on a spouse’s income if something goes wrong (like December), but this is still a liveable income. Two incomes equals two people, which equals double expenses. You have to feed, clothe, and entertain two people. After going out waaaay more than usual (it was ridiculous, actually), buying birthday gifts for my sister, buying little fun things we didn’t really need, and paying every single bill in full, we still made $100. Now there have been months where we made far more than that, but that’s still extra money in our pocket after paying for absolutely everything we needed and some things we didn’t. If I was single, I would have needed to eat out a lot less (like not at all) and forgo some makeup items I splurged on, but I could have done it. Hell, when we first got married, my husband and I lived off $1,600 a month total. Are you going to live like a king or queen when you first start out? No. But you can live.
If you have children, you probably need to freelance on the side of a steadier gig while you’re getting off the ground, but please know that what I made this month is nothing compared to the possibilities. You can support your children doing what you love; I promise you.
So Where Did It Come From?
Manuscript Editing: $539
I got the final payment on one manuscript and got the downpayment for another. I also edited a section in a recurring client’s thesis. Not a true book, but it’s large enough to be one, and the sections are designated as “chapters.” This section of my income held pretty steady at what I’m used to, so no problems there.
I got the final of four payments for my latest book project, which is currently available for preorder, for a small publishing house I’ve worked with for a while now. It’s not a typical ghostwriting job because I actually get my name on it, but the payment is in the same spirit. I get paid a flat fee for the writing, then they do all of the production and get all the proceeds from sales. I’ve made it clear that I need a substantial raise to take on another project from this company, so we’ll see how that goes, but if I have to part ways, that’s okay. I had a lot of fun with them, and now I have two printed books with my name on them.
I also got one check for ghostwriting product reviews. I’ve been working with this particular company since last summer (before I narrowed my niche to manuscripts only), and they usually send me 3-4 assignments. However, just like in December, they only sent me one this month. This is partially why my income dipped, but it isn’t the largest factor.
That would be the radio silence on the part of what used to be my steadiest manuscript ghostwriting gig to date. Since June 2016, I’ve been working on a book for parents of drug addicted teens with a man who runs a sober home in Florida. In December, I turned in the last chapter. From there, it is up to the client to go through the full manuscript and mark any revisions he wants (a.k.a. he thinks this sentence doesn’t sound like something he’d actually say, he wants this paragraph taken out, he wants these two lines rephrased for clarity, etc.). These revisions are an included service I do for free (if I didn’t 100% nail the writing in a certain spot, I want to fix it), so my income dipped, but it was only supposed to take like two weeks. He did the revisions at a somewhat slow but steady pace for the first seven chapters, and I sent him back the revisions, no issue. Then, after a week or so of nothing, he told me in the second week of January that he had made it to chapter 10 without coming across anything else he wanted to change (awesome!), and he’d keep going and let me know when he had something for me. After that, nothing. I’m supposed to finish the revisions, do one last proofread, and then move on to the workbook he wants to go along with the main manuscript. But I’ve heard nothing, despite attempts to get in touch. This was the biggest blow to my income in January. This client always kept me super busy, so I didn’t make plans to replace him. He had a whole other project for me, for goodness sake! Now I’m having to scramble to fill in that hole. Not to mention I’m worried about the client … Wow, he literally just emailed me while I was writing this! Got a phone call set for tomorrow. Phew!
This is the section I hope to put affiliate income into in the near future (I’ve been taking a course and really working to get that all in place this month), but I haven’t earned anything there yet. I also plan to put any earnings from my personal fiction in here, too. But currently all of my stories are out for consideration. I should be receiving my next check from my Channillo series this month (February).
This is actually from a tutoring job I started near the end of the month. That’s not my niche, but so what? I don’t think a niche should act as shackles. I didn’t go looking for this job. I don’t advertise tutoring on my site. It just fell in my lap thanks to an old profile on a tutoring site I set up freshman year of college and totally forgot about (crazy right?!). Well, with my ghostwriting client AWOL, I said yes pretty quickly. The work is easy and the pay is good for the time and effort spent ($30 an hour), so why the hell not?
What Did I Spend Money On?
Usually my expenses are just the small processing fees that FreshBooks takes from each payment I receive through their secure payment system. But the bulk of January’s expenses came from the theme I bought to upgrade my business site.
I’m going to make it a point to invest in my business more than last year. I really kept my expenses minimal last year, but I think by going the extra mile in the right areas and investing a little more each month, or at least every few months, that I’ll be able to bolster my business.
Am I on the Right Track to Meet My 2017 Goals?
Goal 1: Annual Gross Income of $25,000
I need to make an average of around $2, 100 each month to meet this goal. I’m behind, but if I can exceed the average in some future months, I’ll be fine. Besides, that goal was double my 2016 income, so just coming close will make me happy.
You know what I made last January? $86.20. Sad, but true. The holiday slump hits real hard when you don’t even know what pitching is. I’m feeling pretty good about this month all of a sudden.
Goal 2: Shift PurpleInkPen’s Focus to Manuscripts
It’s done on the website. I got on that pretty quick. Now I have to fully make the shift in my income (or at least 90%). That will take a little more time while I work on landing ghostwriting clients at my brand new rates.
Goal 3: Land Two New Ghostwriting Projects
This means full book projects. Working on it. I’m in the process of devising a new pitching strategy to target higher-paying clients.
Goal 4: Actually Make Money from Affiliate Marketing
I’m deep into laying the groundwork. It’s going to take time to build everything up and get the ball rolling, but I feel happy with what I’m doing at the moment.
It is Possible!
This post has rambled far more than most income reports you’ll find out there, but I wanted to lay out some things I wish someone had walked me through when I first started. I hope this has been helpful. I hope it’s convinced you that this career path isn’t a pipe dream. I’m not an expert. I started this right out of college with no “real world” experience, sweet samples, or any sort of clue. It takes time to build credibility in my chosen niche, and the lack of available information (at least compared to a niche like blogging) has made it harder for me to find my footing, but I chose it because I love it, not because it was the most lucrative path. And what I have found is that if you put in the time, if you put your soul into the work you deliver to clients, you can build that credibility and have fun at the same time. I also learned that with dedication, this niche can become very lucrative. That wasn’t my main goal in becoming a freelancer, but it’s definitely a huge bonus. I look forward to that day, but for now I’m grateful for what I’ve already achieved.
If you’re interested in this niche, I hope I’ve given you some ideas on avenues to explore. If you aren’t looking to get into the manuscript business, but you’re starting out as a freelance writer or editor of any sort, I hope I’ve been able to assure you that freelancing isn’t a fairytale only achieved by people with tons of free time or years and years of experience in a lucrative field.
Please feel free to connect in the comments if you have any questions or if you have any awesome stories about how you’re making a living as a freelancer. Are you on track to meet your 2017 business goals? Was the holiday slump still using you as a punching bag in January? Or did you kick its butt and make more than ever before? I’d love to hear about it either way. Thanks for reading!
5 thoughts on “How I Make Money Writing and Editing Books: Freelance Income Report January 2017”
It’s great to see you’re so successful with ghostwriting. I feel like I can write on many topics and in many different styles so it isn’t necessarily important to me that I write pieces with my name, etc. My eventual goal is to ghostwrite an ebook! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment! That diversity in your writing will definitely take you far if you just take the plunge into the ghostwriting field. I have found that ghostwriting has encouraged me to branch out into topics I might never have broached on my own, but which I have really enjoyed. Best of luck with that ebook! Go get ’em!
Thank you Hannah, I REALLY needed to read this post today. I would so love to be a ghostwriter and an editor, but I’m right at the beginning and it was all feeling like an unattainable dream. You have given me hope!
Claire, that is awesome to hear. I’ll definitely keep doing these reports outside of my regular Sunday postings if they help people.
Don’t let the startup overwhelm you. Break it down into manageable pieces and tackle them one at a time. You’ve got this! Thanks for stopping by.