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 I have successfully done that all year. I missed writing up a post for March because I had my baby girl in early April, and it’s been a whirlwind since, but I am happy to report quickly that I made $3,066 in March. Even though I had a child (no easy feat, let me tell you) and I only worked for the first half of the month, April turned out even better! That’s what solid book ghostwriting projects can do for you. I received multiple final payments on long-term projects, and that allowed me to turn April into my highest grossing month yet. I had three clients from Reedsy—two that I’ve been working with since January and one new one. The two continuing projects were book ghostwriting/rewriting gigs. The newest client was for consulting, which I have started offering as a more budget-friendly service to clients who cannot afford my ghostwriting rates (read more about this sales strategy in The Sales Strategy that Keeps Your Client List Full). 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 received the final payment on the developmental editing gig I mentioned in February’s income report.
Here’s April’s breakdown. The chart below is from my invoicing and accounting software, FreshBooks.
(Want to learn more about Freshbooks? Read my review.)
April Gross Income: $5,263
I’ll break down some details of the jobs I completed in just a moment.
April Business Expenses: $965
This range has become the new norm this year.
April Net Income: $4,298
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.
This was a whirlwind month, as I had multiple long-term projects wrapping up and one all-new consulting client. My daughter wasn’t due until the 21st, so I thought I had time to meet all of my deadlines. Nope! Little Charlotte decided to come on the 10th. I should have set my deadlines all in the first week of April, but I naively thought I would not be full-term until 39 weeks (when they set your due date), but turns out you’re actually full-term at 37 weeks. When I found that out, I scrambled to finish everything early, but it didn’t happen. Luckily, I have great clients and they were all understanding. However, I still only postponed my deadlines by a week, as I wanted to get everything out of the way while my mother was in town to help me out. So, that first week with a baby was absolutely insane, but everything got done, and I feel good about the work I delivered (it was all mostly done before Lottie got here, thank goodness).
So, what did I work on?
I finished the 35,000-word rewrite/ghostwrite on the teen fantasy novel I’ve been working on since January. It was not my largest project to-date, but it was my highest grossing, as it was the biggest project I’ve landed at my current rates. It was a wonderful experience. The client was everything a ghostwriter wants: communicative, involved, enthusiastic, and 100% willing to take professional direction—not to mention perfectly understanding of the fact that high quality work costs more.
I also finished writing the exercises and examples for the teen self-help book that I did rewriting on back in January and February. That client was a dream, too. Though I look forward to landing a gig where I take a book from start to finish, I have thoroughly enjoyed these smaller-scale rewriting and small addition gigs. I will definitely seek out more work like this.
(Don’t know what ghostwriting is? You can learn more in two previous posts: Ghostwriting 101 and 10 Things You May Not Know About Ghostwriting.)
On the editing side of things, I received the final payment for the YA mermaid novel developmental edit I took on at the very end of February, and a publisher I’ve worked with in the past reached out to me to edit two chapters in one of the company histories they are developing. I landed the mermaid novel gig thanks to my website. If you don’t have a website of your own, I suggest reading this post and setting one up. It’s a huge asset. I landed the proofreading gig thanks to my established network. If you want to learn more about that, I suggest reading How to Establish and Maintain a Strong Freelance Network.
The new consulting gig I landed via Reedsy involved reading through the client’s material, making notes on places where I felt improvements could be made, and delivering a separate document with answers to all of the questions the client had for me. She had only written half the book and briefly outlined the rest, and she was stuck on how to move forward. She also had some concerns about one of her characters and was worried that her timeline was not adding up. I charged for eight hours-worth of work, providing my opinion as both an editor and ghostwriter to address her concerns, but as of this month, I have only received the down payment and not the final payment. Something has gone wonky in the payment system, and Reedsy is currently hashing it out. Such is life.
Okay, let’s get back to numbers.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
This is the final payments of the tween self-help book and the YA fantasy novel projects, along with one small assignment from my old, trusty product review gig.
MANUSCRIPT EDITING: $602
This is from the mermaid novel final payment and the two chapters of the company history book.
This came from my tutoring gig, affiliate income, and the down payment on the consulting 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%.
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 to provide for.
I’ve surpassed the monthly income goal every month this year, so even though I’m taking the entire month of May off for maternity leave, I’m totally on track to meet this goal.
You know what I made last April? $1,427. 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, because having those small, regular gigs like tutoring and project reviews will be nice, easy assignments to help me adjust to working while also caring for an infant. 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 gave that reworked version to my mentor for beta reading, and he just completed it at the end of March. Next, 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!
2 thoughts on “How I Write and Edit Books for a Living: April 2018 Income Report”
Wow, absolutely amazing Hannah, a baby and your biggest month to date, I’m lost for words, very well done you! Good luck with self-publishing your novel as well, I’m sure it will be successful. I went to a local literary festival last month. It was SO inspiring, I ended joining ALLi, an association for independent self-published authors (just as an associate as I haven’t published anything yet). I learn so much every time I visit their website or Facebook page and the people are so helpful and encouraging. Congratulations again on the birth of Charlotte, it’s wonderful news. CJ xx
Thank you so much, Claire! And that sounds like a great resource. When I get a moment to myself, I think I’ll go check out that Facebook page. Glad to hear you found some great inspiration!