This year, I started posting income reports because I have found there is a serious lack of these reports for experts in my field (namely, books), and I want to provide some hope to those thinking of entering it. I want you to know that it’s possible to feed and clothe yourself running your own book-focused business if you’re willing to work hard to get yourself started. I also want you to know that my monthly earnings are still on the low side of what is possible in this business.
Regular readers might have noticed I didn’t post a May report. Life got hectic in June, and I kept putting it off until it was too late. So, before we begin on June, I want to give a brief run-down on May.
May’s Gross Income: $1,006
May’s Expenses: $32
May’s Net Income: $974
The most noteworthy thing that happened in May was that I got my first affiliate income check (okay, direct deposit)! $37.50 to be exact. I have some other affiliate sales already made, but I haven’t been paid for them because they don’t meet the company’s pay limit. Not gonna lie, it felt really good to be surprised by that direct deposit.
Another exciting thing that happened in May was that I got myself onto three more book packager’s lists, for a total of five! Woo-hoo! Now it’s just a waiting game until a ghostwriting project comes along that they feel is the right fit for me.
(Don’t know what a book packager is? You can read about them in two previous posts: 5 Things You Need to Know about Pitching Book Packagers and 10 Things You May Not Know About Ghostwriting.)
Okay, on to June. May and June were both crazy when it came to my personal life. Birthdays, holidays, weddings. A whole lot of trips, basically, and it’s a little harder to work on the go. If I’m being honest, it’s getting a bit disheartening that I’m not meeting my $2,100 monthly income goal this year, especially when I hit it multiple times last year when I didn’t even have a set goal. My advice to anyone who is feeling this way is to step back and look at your accomplishments as a whole, not through one goal lens. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m already on my way to make more than last year. If I make the same amount in the last six months of 2017 as I did in the first six months, I’ll make $2,000 more than last year. So, if I can step things up, I’ll be even better off, but I shouldn’t be unhappy with what I’ve done. Also, I need to remind myself that I’m laying lots of groundwork right now. I’m getting myself into organizations, getting myself onto important lists, and I’m branching out blog-wise behind the scenes right now. If I keep it up, I’m bound to see the returns sooner or later. Lastly, I need to remind myself that I chose a tough niche because I decided not to settle and instead chose to go after what I loved most. In this niche, it takes serious time to build credibility and land the high-paying clients. In big-budget niches like real estate, tech, business, and medical writing, you can jump right in and start making big bucks fast. In books, you can make a large, highly sustainable income if you get in with publishers, celebrities, and big-name experts, but the book industry is like an exclusive club, and it’s extra hard to get that first invite. Still, I have two books in my own name, I’m getting close to self-publishing my first novel, and I’ve got multiple ghostwritten books under my belt that have been well-received by readers. I’ve also got multiple loyal editing clients. I think I’m doing pretty damn good. Phew, okay, I feel better. Now we can move on.
(If you’re in a slump, I encourage you to do a similar exercise. Write it down if you have to.)
Here’s June’s breakdown. This chart is from my invoicing and accounting software, FreshBooks. Oh, and semi-exciting announcement, I finally updated my FreshBooks Review after getting switched over to the latest version in April. So if you want to learn more about FreshBooks or read about the new features, check that out.
June Gross Income: $1,399
Not my goal, but not too shabby. I’ll break down where everything came from in just a moment.
June Business Expenses: $50
Pretty low. I didn’t really have anything special going on or any new courses I wanted to sign up for, so that kept it down, which I’m not complaining about.
June Net Income: $1,349
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 during tax season (to learn how my taxes went this year, read my post on Filing Taxes as a Full-Time Freelancer). However, I’m not taking it out of the net income calculations because I still have that money, just not in my checking.
I still pitched packagers in June, but all but one were fiction packagers, and those take longer to hear back from, at least from what I have read and experienced. Many fiction packagers have you submit samples through Submittable, and that platform lets you see when they review your stuff. I got one rejection in June from a fiction packager I pitched back in April, but one I pitched back in February hasn’t even reviewed the samples yet. I think the difference is that fiction packagers probably get more submissions, and they always request like 10 pages of samples right off the bat, so it takes them far more time to wade through everything.
Another thing I learned this month is that packagers don’t always tell you that you’re on their list. I learned that when a packager I’d pitched and followed up with in April with no response suddenly reached out asking me to do some editing work. That’s right, I’ve landed my first job with a packager! It’s just not ghostwriting. I make mention of my editing work briefly in my pitch template, and apparently, this packager put me on their list as both an editor and writer without ever notifying me and then reached out when they had an editing job. I only know I was actually on a list because my contact said that’s where she’d found my name. I’ve done two very short projects for them editing journal-style books that ask readers a question per page that they answer down in the blank space provided. Easy stuff. I get the feeling they’re testing me. The first book had already been briefly proofed by my contact, and they wanted me to do a second pass. The second book hadn’t been touched; they decided to trust me with the first proof. That second one was also a rush job, and they accepted my rush rate without blinking an eye. No haggling. I could definitely get used to that. The only downside is that they take up to 45 days to pay invoices, so that work didn’t contribute this month. This isn’t unusual for publishers of any kind, as many traditional freelancers who write for magazines will tell you, but I’m used to getting paid in a week by individual clients.
(Curious about how I landed this first job with a book packager? Read 5 Things You Need to Know about Pitching Book Packagers.)
Lastly, I answered an ad asking for book proofreaders for a small publisher that specializes in company histories. I took an editing test, passed, and was accepted. Now they will send me editing work, hopefully at least semi-regularly.
Okay, let’s get back to numbers.
Where Did It Come From?
Manuscript Editing: $188.50
So far in my career, editing has usually supplied my largest income percentage, but this month was different. This was definitely a result of my recent pitching habits. I’ve been focusing on packagers and ghostwriting gigs rather than using my old Twitter cold-pitching strategy to target authors. All of the editing work this month came from my Publisher’s Marketplace membership, which is only $25 a month, so it’s still paying for itself.
Some of this money came from some very minor edits done on the massive memoir that I talked about in my last few income reports. The client added some new things and needed them edited. I also landed a new client thanks to my PM membership page. This client needed a very short academic book edited before self-publishing.
Ghostwriting supplied most of my income this month, and I’m not complaining. If I can land more ghost gigs at my new rates, that’s how I’ll raise my income fastest. This month, I had one book job at my old rates and one small project at my new rates. I also had two assignments from my regular review writing gig.
I’m working on a workbook to accompany the book I ghostwrote for parents of addicted teens. That book wrapped up at the end of April. However, I had already agreed to do the accompanying workbook before raising my rates, so I needed to stand by that. I did however, get a very slight boost in income by redefining a page as 250 words rather than 300. I did this in my editing rates, too. When you use standard manuscript format, a page comes out to be between 250-300 words. When I first set my rates, I went on the far end. Now I’ve moved to the lower end for a better hourly return.
But here’s the exciting part. That memoir client I mentioned in the editing section wanted me to implement some of my larger suggestions myself, and I told him that would be considered ghostwriting. I told him my brand new rates, and he agreed! All I did was rework the book opening and add one or two short, descriptive paragraphs, but thanks to my new rates, that accrued me $231. It also showed me that I don’t have to be nervous about my new rates. They won’t scare away good clients.
This is from my tutoring job. It’s always a good idea to have some small, quick jobs in your arsenal to pick up the slack when your big projects slow down, and I’m still really enjoying the work.
This is also where I will put affiliate income. I made $5 this month, but it isn’t actually paid yet.
What Did I Spend Money On?
This month, my expenses came from my Publisher’s Marketplace membership (still paying off so far) and the small fee FreshBooks takes on each paid invoice.
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. Still not quite there, but I’m not giving up. That goal is double my 2016 income, so just coming close will make me happy. However, if I can land one good book ghostwriting gig at my new rates, thanks to my new pitching strategy, I will exceed this goal for sure.
You know what I made last June while transitioning into full-time? $798. Sometimes it’s good to look back.
Goal 2: Shift PurpleInkPen’s Focus to Manuscripts
Books have always been around 70% of my income, but this is the first month this year where I can really see the transition moving closer to that 100% I’m looking for.
Goal 3: Land Two New Ghostwriting Projects
This means full book projects, but I’m still pretty ecstatic about landing that partial project at my new rates, so I’m feeling hopeful. I’m working on landing full projects using my Gotham Ghostwriters membership and those pitches to book packagers. I’m on some lists, so now it’s a waiting (and pitching) game.
Goal 4: Actually Make Money from Affiliate Marketing
I’ve done it! Not a ton of money rolling in (if you add up what’s been paid and what’s pending, it comes to about $60), but I’ve done it! Goal met.
It is Possible!
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 this niche, but with dedication, it 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? Are you working toward landing that first “big break” gig? Did you kick this month’s butt and make more than ever before? I’d love to hear about all of it. Thanks for reading!