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.
It’s been a hot minute since I did one of these. If you are subscribed to my newsletter you already know that my husband and I are expecting our first child in April, and as a result of the extreme fatigue that plagued my first trimester and is still chasing me into the second trimester somewhat, I’ve fallen behind. However, I am working on getting my butt in gear and catching up, and I couldn’t resist cataloging September, even though it’s now long gone, because I broke the $2,000 mark again. Woo-hoo!
Here’s September’s breakdown. The chart below is from my invoicing and accounting software, FreshBooks.
(Want to learn more about Freshbooks? Read my review.)
September Gross Income: $2,077
I made some progress in the high-paying ghost work this month, so I’m excited to break down where everything came from in just a moment.
September Business Expenses: $60
This has become my typical range. I’ll break down where it came from in a bit.
September Net Income: $2,017
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.
Back at the end of July, I told you guys I got accepted to a freelancer site that focuses on book editors and ghostwriters. Perfect, right? Well, I’ve been very pleased with Reedsy thus far. Yes, they take 10% as a finder’s fee, but unlike with Upwork, I feel they’ve earned that fee. Their platform’s setup doesn’t encourage bidding wars and they require a good amount of qualifications to join, so even though low-ballers still show up on the site, there are far more clients willing to pay good rates, and you don’t have to worry about being completely undercut by an amateur charging dirt. I’ve had 9 requests sent my way (three in just the past week!) thus far, and two have turned into good-paying work. One of them contributed to September’s income, and I’ll break that down in the ghostwriting section.
(Don’t know what ghostwriting is? You can read learn more in two previous posts: Ghostwriting 101 and 10 Things You May Not Know About Ghostwriting.)
My very first editing client, back in 2015, got in touch with me this month and hired me to edit two of his manuscripts. A word of caution to you all: don’t offer discounts to old clients. I ended up doing this, and I’m upset with myself. Sure, I didn’t charge that old original rate of a $1 per page for proofreading, but I still undersold myself “for old times’ sake.” This client helped me get started as an editor, and I wanted to pay it forward, but his books are very dense and required a ton of time and effort, and I should have been paid more for them. Period. They took up my whole work day basically, and then I had to cram in the other work I received, and I should have been paid my full professional rates for that hassle. Don’t do discounts, folks. The end.
Lastly, I want to note that I am very pleased with the amount of work that has started coming to me. I did not pursue a single client this month. I had all I could handle thanks to old clients getting in touch, recurring clients sending their usual work, the pregnancy fatigue, and Reedsy’s system feeding me new leads who were already interested in me and my services thanks to my profile. Feels really good. (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.)
Okay, let’s get back to numbers.
Where Did It Come From?
Manuscript Editing: $990
Editing supplied my largest income percentage for the first year of my full-time freelance business and much of this past year. However, I began to see a shift back in June and July, and now my editing and ghostwriting work have remained pretty much even for three months. I’m a-okay with that.
Anyway, this month, my editing work was all from that returning client I mentioned earlier. He writes adventure novels with a sci-fi leaning, and they are all very long and very dense, so I had more than enough editing work to occupy me. This is the payment for one of the two novels he hired me for.
I’ve been 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 adore it.
This month, I landed my first Reedsy gig at my new rates. It wasn’t a full book project, but I’m still ecstatic. I was hired by a small publishing/packaging company to outline a romance novel. They gave me about three sentences of the bare bones that they wanted (who the protagonists should be and the main conflict the book should center around), and then I turned that into a 3,000 word outline with character descriptions and full plot breakdown. Their in-house ghostwriters were the ones who will complete that manuscript, but I’m not complaining. Romance isn’t my favorite genre to write, and I still got paid handsomely for the smaller project of outlining. I charged $900 and received $810 (Reedsy takes 10%), and the job took me five hours total over the space of about three days. That comes to $162 an hour! I’m finally getting paid like a pro. I’m finally being adequately compensated for my creative input. That was a fiction project, ya’ll! It is possible, even if those types of projects at good rates are a bit harder to find.
I also got work from my long-time product review ghostwriting gig this month. It’s still relatively easy work that acts as a nice filler to my months, so I’m reluctant to let it go, even though it’s not book related.
(Want to learn more about book ghostwriting? Read these posts: Ghostwriting 101, 10 Things You May Not Know About Ghostwriting, and How to Craft a Ghostwriting Bid.)
This came from my tutoring gig. That’s another non-book-related gig I’m going to hold on to. The college guy I’m tutoring has become a friend, and it’s enjoyable work for $30 an hour, so why look a gift horse in the mouth?
What Did I Spend Money On?
This month, my expenses came from my Publisher’s Marketplace membership (still totally worth it, though I didn’t get a new gig from it this month—I think I’ll update my profile) 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. Probably not going to make this goal 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. I’m sad I couldn’t meet my monthly goals this year, but I’m also very proud of the progress I’ve made in my business. I’ve upped my rates, shifted my focus so that books are my main income source, and editing and ghostwriting bring in equal amounts. I’ve got my name on packagers’ lists and I’ve got ghostwriting requests coming to me, so I’d still call the year a success. 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 September? $1,650. That was the first time my freelance income exceeded my husband’s 9-5 income (Now he’s got a really nice new job and he’s blowing me out of the water again. Gotta catch up! Haha, extra motivation). 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 holding strong. Even though I had two gigs that weren’t book related, they only pulled in a fraction of what the book work did. I’ll probably hang onto that tutoring job until that client doesn’t need me anymore, but I’ve promised myself that I’ll drop that review gig as soon I land a full book ghostwriting project at pro rates, so anything $15,000 and up. It’s coming; I can feel it. With all these outlining and rewriting ghost gigs I’ve already landed, that full one can’t be far behind.
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’m getting my pro rates, just not giant projects yet. So, if I don’t exactly meet this goal, I’ll still feel accomplished. I’ve landed three ghosting gigs at my new rates (rewriting and outlining), 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!
5 thoughts on “How I Make Money Writing and Editing Books: September Income Report”
A great month Hannah, well done you. And a brilliant job from Reedsy, that must have been very satisfying. It’s good that your income is coming from several different sources, nice to have a spread of clients. I hope you get a good ghostwriting book project soon, I’m sure it’s on its way. Good luck!
Thanks so much, Claire! I hope your book projects are still going strong. I’d love to hear about anything new you’re working on.
I’m curious to hear more about Reedsy — since professional rates for ghostwriting a book start at $30,000 or so and go up from there, they seem drastically low. Glad to hear the experience seems positive though! It makes me unhappy to see writers aiming for such low income goals — hopefully you can connect with better pay once the baby comes and you have another mouth to feed!
I’m flattered someone like you found your way to my blog. Sorry my income does not meet your standards. I am fully aware that a full book ghostwriting project can net $30,000, and I’ve discussed that here on the blog. Of course, as I’ve also discussed numerous times, I stumbled upon ghostwriting by accident without a clue, so I was not always aware of this and took my first jobs at rates I’m not proud of. However, I did get wise, and I’m proud of the projects I’ve been hired for since then. The fact of the matter is, for someone coming straight out of college into freelancing with plenty of manuscripts but no traditional publishing credits under her belt, starting off with a $30,000 project just isn’t realistic. I wish it was, but it isn’t. I’ve built up samples and experience, and only began aiming for those large projects this year (my second year full-time). That’s because those high dollar projects are usually tied to publisher’s advances or ludicrously rich company execs, and those clients are rather picky about experience levels. They don’t want an early twenty-something with no paid work in her portfolio, so landing a job with them from the get-go is highly unlikely. Thus far, I have worked with less wealthy individuals looking to self-publish. This year, I did begin approaching packaging companies, and have landed on 5 lists (also talked about in detail elsewhere on this blog), but none have sent work my way yet. Thanks to those less lucrative jobs I was accepted into Gotham Ghostwriters, who send projects out to their network with budgets of $30,000, but there are thousands of ghosts in that network all competing for the same jobs. I’ll land that big project eventually, but until then, I’m increasing my experience with smaller jobs, and my income is plenty sufficient to pay for my mortgage.
As for Reedsy, I’m a bit confused by what you mean when you say, “they seem drastically low.” Who is the “they” there? Reedsy is not paying me. Reedsy is a platform that allows clients to find me, and the fiction outlining job that I landed via that platform (my first on the site), though a much smaller scope than a full-length book project, netted me $162 an hour, as I stated in the post. I personally don’t consider that drastically low.
Maybe I’m moving up slowly, but I am moving up, and I assure you I’m aiming high and will get there. Things do tend to move a little slower in the book world, as book projects take much longer to complete than articles or blog posts, and the traditional publishing realm is a very exclusive club. Thanks for reading, and thanks for taking the time to comment with your concern, but I know where I’m heading, and I’m enjoying the ride on the way there.