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.
Getting back on up there, but still not hitting that $2,100 goal. However, I actually invoiced $2,075 in July (only $25 off, woo-hoo!); I just didn’t actually receive that much by month-end because the last project was invoiced on the 31st. So, I’m hanging out in the ballpark, and I’m happy with that.
Here’s July’s breakdown. The chart below is from my invoicing and accounting software, FreshBooks.
(Want to learn more about Freshbooks? Read my review.)
July Gross Income: $1,732
I had a lot of fun projects this month, so I’m excited to break down where everything came from in just a moment.
July Business Expenses: $71
This has become my typical range. I’ll break down where it came from in a bit.
July Net Income: $1,661
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 want to keep you guys updated on my “Laying the Groundwork” campaign for landing two new ghostwriting gigs at my new rates. I’ve run out of known packagers to pitch, at least for now. I’ve dug down many avenues and pitched probably somewhere around 30 that I thought would be a good fit. That’s a guesstimation, mind you. I’ve gotten myself on five lists that I know of. I don’t think they always tell you, as one of them simply sent me a request to edit randomly without ever acknowledging my pitch or follow up; so I could be on more. I’ve also got a few fiction packager applications that haven’t been reviewed yet. That seems to be a trend; of about five I pitched, only one actually viewed my work within a month—didn’t land that one, by the way. Can’t win them all. I’ve established good back-and-forth relationships with two of the five I’m in with. One is giving me editing work while waiting for the right ghostwriting fit to come through, and the other has let me know he may have something for me soon. Yay!
(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.)
I also got accepted to Reedsy. It’s similar to Gotham Ghostwriters, which is a ghostwriting agency I’ve told you about before. Gotham is a middleman that sends out occasional exclusive ghostwriting project alerts via email, and then the members send proposals for the agency and the client to review. Reedsy is similar, but they actually have a system where you can create a profile and potential clients can search you, and they also take on editors. Reedsy staff will recommend you to clients if they think you are a good fit, but you also have a larger client pool and clients can come to you on their own. Reedsy, though, unlike Gotham, takes 10% from the freelancer’s fee, whereas Gotham only takes a cut from the client. Now, that percentage isn’t all that pretty, but finder’s fees are pretty common, and this network is big potatoes, so my judgement call is that it’s worth it. Reedsy isn’t Upwork or Freelancer. It’s not a bidding war. On Upwork and Freelancer, paid members can view every applicant’s bid and underbid to make themselves more attractive. All proposals are confidential on Reedsy, so you charge your rates for what you think the project is worth and the client chooses, just like answering an ad on a job board. It’s not a free-for-all either. It’s a serious network; they want a minimum of ten books in your portfolio, and you have to send a resume, project list, and samples to be accepted. You’re not going to be seriously underbid by a beginner charging $500; many of the folks on there have traditional publishing backgrounds. The staff has been wonderful so far, and I’m pretty excited about it. My profile just went live a few days ago.
Lastly, I landed some more ghostwriting work at my new rates! But it wasn’t a full book. It was basically rewriting work for an editing client of mine. I reworked his preface and wrote up a back cover description. Not a lot of material, but I made over $400 off it, and my hourly rate came out somewhere between $80 and $90.
Okay, let’s get back to numbers.
Where Did It Come From?
Manuscript Editing: $860
So far in my career, editing has usually supplied my largest income percentage. However, the shift I saw last month has stuck around. Editing and ghostwriting pulled out almost exactly even. Again, this was definitely a result of my recent pitching habits. I’ve been focusing on packagers, ghostwriting want ads, and laying my foundations to step things up in that area, rather than using my old Twitter cold-pitching strategy to target authors. I’m actually pretty established as an editor at this point, so I don’t know how much cold-emailing I’ll be doing in this area from now on. Old clients are reaching out unprompted (writers can’t help but write), and my Publisher’s Marketplace membership is still paying for itself. I’m also highly active in Facebook groups these days, and I’ve had a couple of people reach out to me for future editing work via that avenue. I’ve also alerted all the packagers I’m “in” with that I’m happy to edit for them.
Anyway, this month, my editing work was mostly from one client. He’s a very sweet, very intelligent Italian professor who had me edit his book on the history of the Web. Not my usual route, but I learned some interesting things. He is one of the clients who approached me thanks to that Publisher’s Marketplace membership. The rest came from that packager I told you about. I actually did that work last month but just got paid for it this month.
I’m pushing the ghostwriting thing hard lately because if I can land more ghost gigs at my new rates, I’ll far exceed my current income goals. Plus, I just freaking love it. I adore editing, too, but writing is my biggest passion. This month, I had one book job at my old rates and one small project at my new rates. I also had one assignment from my regular review writing gig. Oh, and guess what, they gave me a raise! I think I may have to make that story a separate post, though, or this is going to get really long.
I’m still working on that 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. Plus, I’m so familiar with this client, his voice, and his material at this point, that I’m averaging an hourly rate of $45 on this workbook, so no complaints. Oh and HUGE news! He landed a BIG-TIME agent in the self-help niche thanks to his own wonderful marketing skills and the book I already wrote for him. And guess what?! The agent wants another book to shop to publishers! And guess who he is going to call to help him write it … ME!!! He told me almost two weeks ago, and I’m still geeking out about it. My new rates will fit right in with a big publishing house’s advance. Take pride in those beginner-level jobs and treat them like high-end ones, and it will pay off someway, somehow.
The rest came from that preface and back-cover description I told you about. Still not a whole book, but more affirmation that I can find quality clients willing to pay my new rates.
Okay, I believe I made something like $12 via affiliate programs this month, but again, I haven’t reached the pay-out limit. My tutoring client is also taking a summer break, so nada in this department this month.
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. My expenses are probably going to go up soon, though, because I’m going to be taking steps toward self-publishing my novel. I’ll be buying books on self-publishing, maybe some courses, and then any expenses for the actual printing and publishing process will go here. That all counts as business expenses for me because books are my business, and I intend to make money off that novel. It’s also a necessary career booster.
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. It’s a bit maddening that I made over $2,000 for three straight months in 2016 without ever setting a goal, but I still haven’t hit it this year. But I digress. 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 strategies, I will exceed this goal for sure.
You know what I made last July? $1,447. That was when I really started cooking on my full-time transition. Felt really nice; I’d never made anywhere near that before. 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 I really started to see the shift I wanted in June. It’s even better this month. The only job that wasn’t related to books in July was the one product review assignment. So I’d say we’re at 90%. I’ll probably hang onto that review job a tad longer since I just got a raise and it’s pretty reliable work, but once I really get going with the book ghostwriting, I’ll drop it.
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. I’ve gotten myself positioned for work on multiple solid fronts, 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 $70), 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!