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.
October was a rather chill month, and as a result, I didn’t hit my peak of $2,000 like I did last month, but that was my choice. I didn’t do any pitching, so this month’s income was solely from recurring clients and clients coming to me, which is nice. (If you want to learn more about how to build your own network and have jobs come to you, read How to Establish and Maintain a Strong Freelance Network.) I also spent a good amount of time on marketing myself as an expert to lay groundwork for more jobs further down the line. It’s working. I’ve got more potential ghostwriting opportunities coming to me (three in the past week, actually). I’ll talk a bit more about that in my highlights section.
Here’s October’s breakdown. The chart below is from my invoicing and accounting software, FreshBooks.
(Want to learn more about Freshbooks? Read my review.)
October Gross Income: $1,085
I’ll break down where everything came from in just a moment.
October Business Expenses: $51
This has become my typical range. I’ll break down where it came from in a bit.
October Net Income: $1,034
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.
This month, the majority of my income came from book editing (never a bad thing), but I laid some major groundwork for my ghostwriting. By now you probably know I’ve got a profile on a site called Reedsy, where I’m listed as a ghostwriter. The company told me when I first signed up that they had some opportunities for me to get my name elsewhere on their site and blog to earn credibility with the clients who use their service. The first thing I did was write a free email course on creating character outlines for novels: Developing Characters Your Readers Will Love. The folks at Reedsy liked it so much, they asked me if I’d like to host a webinar. I agreed, and on October 25th I hosted a live webinar on Essential Tips for Writing Fantasy Fiction. Both these projects were unpaid, but I weighed that against what these projects could do for me. They both revolved around fiction and presented me as an expert in that area, and both appeared in places where Reedsy clients can easily find them. They both also had links to my Reedsy profile. I saw a serious spike in the amount of briefs (project requests) I got on my Reedsy profile after doing these two things. Now, I can’t 100% prove these things are correlated, but it seems like too much of a coincidence, especially since of the five I’ve received since those two things came out (three in the last week alone, since the webinar), four are fiction requests. It remains to be seen if my prices will align with these clients’ budgets, but that still means projects coming to me without any hunting on my part. I’m going to say it was worth it.
I actually landed the fifth of those ghostwriting projects, a nonfiction rewriting gig where I will help the client rework her already published book so that it reads more like a tween talking to other tweens, while still keeping her educational messages. However, that project will not start until January because the client is working on publishing arrangements for a second edition of the book and needs time to collect the funds needed to hire me.
Lastly, I had three different book editing projects this month, all with past clients who have come back to me to edit or critique their new work. I’ll break that down a bit more in the next section. But it’s good to know that once you’ve gained an author’s trust, they are highly unlikely to go through the process of finding a new editor for every project. Establish trust and you’ll have work coming your way at least semi-regularly.
Okay, let’s get back to numbers.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
MANUSCRIPT EDITING: $723
Lately I’ve been shifting my focus so that editing and ghostwriting equally contribute to my monthly income, but since this month I was laying groundwork for ghosting, editing took the lead again. No complaints.
The first project was the last of a large two-book contract I picked up last month. The second was a quick analysis project for a recurring client that will turn into more work later. He wanted me to read a few excerpts from the novel he’s currently working on and give him my thoughts on the execution of his third person omniscient point of view in scenes where multiple main characters were all together. The third is now an ongoing project from another past client who normally he gives me short stories to look over before submission, but now I am doing both a critique and a copy edit of his novel. This month only reflects the first payment of four.
This month, while I landed another book ghostwriting gig, it won’t start until January, so my only ghostwriting work was two projects from my old product review client.
This came from my tutoring gig. I also earned another affiliate payout of $44 (yay!), but I won’t actually receive that until I earn a total of $58 with that affiliate.
WHAT DID I SPEND MONEY ON?
This month, my expenses came from my Publisher’s Marketplace membership 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 needed to make an average of around $2,100 each month to meet this goal. Probably not going to make it this year. However, if things progress as they have been, I will still exceed last year’s income, just not by as much as I’d hoped. It’s a bit disappointing that I probably won’t reach the goal, but I have made huge strides in my career. I feel like a pro, I’m being treated like one by the clients I choose to work with, and new opportunities are coming my way; what more can I really ask for? And hey, maybe I’ll land a huge gig in November or December that pushes me closer to my goal; who knows?
You know what I made last October? $1,970. I billed for over $2,000. That was in the three month period last year where I was billing at least $2,000 each month. It was those months that encouraged me to set my current income goal. I’m going to make that a year-round consistent thing. That’s a promise to myself.
GOAL 2: SHIFT PURPLEINKPEN’S FOCUS TO MANUSCRIPTS
Books have always been around 70% of my income, and though I’ve switched that to around 90% lately, that’s probably more like 80%. Once I land a full-length book ghostwriting project, I’ll drop that review writing gig.
GOAL 3: LAND TWO NEW GHOSTWRITING PROJECTS
This means full book projects, but I’m still more than pleased with the newest ghost gigs I’ve landed in the past few months. I’ve landed three ghosting gigs at my new rates (rewriting and outlining), and I’ve got more opportunities coming in, so I think that’s a win for the year thus far.
GOAL 4: ACTUALLY MAKE MONEY FROM AFFILIATE MARKETING
I’ve done it! Not a ton of money rolling in, 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!