It’s hard to find income reports from freelancers specializing in the book niche, especially ghostwriters. So, last year I started posting income reports in the hopes of providing some encouragement to those thinking of entering this field. It is, in fact, 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 lower side of what is possible in this business once you really establish yourself in the field.
In order to meet my income goal for 2018, I need to average $2,500 a month, and I’m happy to say that February was a major success. I had my first $3,000 grossing month! I invoiced over $3,000 last month, but fell short of actually earning that because of expenses. Clients new and old kept me on my toes with a mix of editing and ghostwriting. My two ghostwriting projects from January (which you can read about in last month’s income report) continued over and provided the largest chunk of my income. Both of those clients came to me through Reedsy. A publisher I’ve worked with in the past reached back out to me for a short proofreading job. (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 landed a brand new editing client by responding to a Facebook post in one of the freelance writing groups I’m part of (read this post on how to Get the Most Out of Freelancer Facebook Groups). Lastly, I had a client reach out to me via my website, PurpleInkPen.com. Initially, she wanted ghostwriting, but I couldn’t match her budget, so I negotiated a developmental edit for her instead. (To learn more about this sales strategy, read this post.)
Here’s February’s breakdown. The chart below is from my invoicing and accounting software, FreshBooks.
(Want to learn more about Freshbooks? Read my review.)
February Gross Income: $3,740
I’ll break down some details of the jobs I completed in just a moment.
February Business Expenses: $644
This is much higher than it’s been in the past, but I have a feeling this will become the new norm for the year.
February Net Income: $3,096
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 last 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.
Last month, I didn’t have any editing clients, which is highly unusual. This month, I had more editing jobs than ghostwriting, but ghostwriting still grosses more income. Editing clients are the perfect fillers for boosting my income without overwhelming myself. Editing work is still plenty involved, but it is not as time-consuming as ghostwriting, so it creates a nice balance.
My new copy editing client, whom I connected with via Facebook, sent me a sci-fi short story, which is always fun. He was pleased with the work and says he plans to return to me with more. Even small jobs are worth the money in a lot of cases (as long as you’re paid professional rates); it can turn into recurring work that provides cushion for later months.
My developmental editing client, who reached out via my website’s contact page, has me working on a YA mermaid novel. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to say that part of my full-time job is reading a book about mermaids. This is why I freelance.
The publisher who specializes in company histories reached out for a short chapter proofread.
I also had a long-time editing client reach out to me for a full book proofread. A nonfiction computer science manuscript I copy edited for him last year was recently picked up by a publisher, and there were a few rewrites made as a result. He is an international client and his publisher is in Germany, but the book is in English, so my client got the publisher to agree to pay me for the final proofread. However, since this is a publishing house, and an international one at that, I’m not expecting that check until end of March or early April.
The final payment for the rewriting job on the children’s nonfiction book I talked about last month came through, but I didn’t actually work on it this month. However, the client re-hired me to do some extra ghostwriting on it, creating worksheets and a few all-new anecdotes to add to the book, and I’m working on that in March.
The bulk of my time is still going to the large 30,000-word rewrite I’m doing for the YA fantasy client I landed last month. He has upped the work to 35,000 words, and I am now in the middle phase, which is the most fun. January was spent coordinating a plan for the rewrites, and now I’m in the thick of the actual writing portion. I’m doing a mix of rewriting/strengthening the work he already wrote and adding all-new scenes in order to better flesh out the plot, fill in holes, and make sure the characters get the all-star treatment they deserve. I’m so glad we hashed out that plan down to the last detail in January, though, because it’s making the writing portion stress-free. I’m able to let loose and let the creative sparks fly, helping a wonderful client’s story shine its brightest. Again, this is why I freelance.
My last source of income was my old trusty tutoring job. It is one of my two “cushion” jobs. They aren’t book related, but they provide weekly or biweekly work on a regular basis, so I always count on a few extra hundred bucks from them no matter what else is going on in the month. The other is my review writing gig, but I told the company I needed to put review work on hold for the month because I was so busy with other projects (which paid better), and they didn’t raise any fuss over it.
Okay, let’s get back to numbers.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
This is the final payment of the children’s book rewrite and one of the installments on the 35,000-word rewrite project.
MANUSCRIPT EDITING: $686
This is the down payment for the developmental edit, the full payment for the short story project, and the single chapter proofread for the publisher.
This came from my tutoring gig.
WHAT DID I SPEND MONEY ON?
This month, my expenses came from my Publisher’s Marketplace membership, the small fee FreshBooks takes on each paid invoice, Stripe payment fees, and Reedsy’s “finder’s fee.” In exchange for providing a platform that directs ghostwriting clients to me, Reedsy charges 10%. Is it ideal? No, but based on the number of job opportunities that come my way via the site without any “hunting” effort on my end, I personally see it as a worthwhile business expense. Even with the percentage taken, this was my highest grossing month as a freelancer, so I have no complaints.
AM I ON THE RIGHT TRACK TO MEET MY 2018 GOALS?
GOAL 1: ANNUAL GROSS INCOME OF $30,000
Last year I did not meet my old income goal of $25,000, but I’m still aiming higher this year. $30,000 is what I would charge for a full-length (75,000 word), from-scratch ghostwriting project that required research and/or phone interviews with the client, and an outline crafted before beginning. It’s also around what my husband made at his 9-5 in 2017, so I think doubling our income is a good goal now that we have a baby on the way.
As I’ve surpassed the monthly income goal both this month and last, I’m totally on track to meet this goal.
You know what I made last February? $1,016. Sometimes it’s good to look back. You can read that income report here.
GOAL 2: SHIFT PURPLEINKPEN’S FOCUS TO MANUSCRIPTS 100%
At the beginning of 2017, books were making up about 70% of my income. I set a goal to shift the focus at least to some degree last year, and by the last 3 months of 2017, I’d shifted it to around 90%. By the end of this year, I’m going to drop both of my lingering non-book related gigs. It will probably be later in the year, at least for the tutoring gig, because when the baby comes, having those small but regular gigs for the first few months of adjusting to motherhood will be nice. However, by December 2018, I want to be so slammed with book work that I couldn’t even fit anything else in if I wanted to.
GOAL 3: Land One Book Ghostwriting Gig with a Payout of $15,000 or more
Ever since raising my rates back in early 2017, I have only landed smaller scope rewriting projects. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed all those jobs, but I would love to land one full-length, from-scratch ghostwriting project. $15,000 is the average of what I would charge for a 50,000 word book that did not require research and already had a basic outline provided by the client. That’s also half of my income goal from one project, so I think this is a tangible and worthwhile goal.
GOAL 4: Self-publish print copies of my novel, Arcamira
I wrote this novel when I was 14. I began revisiting it 2016, doing some major reworking to bring it closer to my current skill level, and I posted the reworked chapters in installments as a series on Channillo. The book has since placed in five Channillo Awards, snagging top spot in two, all based on reader/user feedback. However, I have given that reworked version to my mentor for beta reading, and he is almost done with it. After that, I’ll be applying his suggestions, and then I want to self-publish it by the end of the year.
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 a veteran, best-selling ghostwriter commanding $1 per word rates (yes, those rates and even higher are out there and attainable with hard work!). I started this right out of college with no “real world” experience, sweet samples, or any sort of clue, but I have come a long way in the past three years. It takes time to build credibility in this niche, but with dedication, it can become very lucrative. You also don’t have to start out naively charging a few hundred per book, like I did. I look forward to the day a book I collaborate on reaches the best-seller list and my website boasts rates of $1+ per word, 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 9-5 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 2018 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!