Actual 2014 Earnings: How a Freelance Writer Makes a Living

It’s time to look at some year-end numbers.

If you’ve been following this series all year long, you’ve seen me nearly double my monthly freelance earnings while halving the number of original words I write every day — which, if you’re a freelance writer, is pretty much the way to go.

In January 2014, for example, I told y’all I earned $3,300.91 for writing 150 individual pieces (including listicles, copy, content, and essays) and when I reported November 2014 numbers, I earned $5,317.46 for 102 individual pieces.

(I am realizing right now that I never got a chance to report December 2014 numbers, so: $3,323.63 for 65 pieces. It was a holiday month.)

I’ve said from the very beginning that when I say I “earned” $5,317.46, I’m counting the gross amount I’m able to bill my clients, not the net amount that hits my bank account after PayPal takes out its fees. I also wrap up the odd CD sale in there, unless I play a show that’s large enough to warrant pulling those numbers out and listing them separately, like I did in November. These are all details I need to tweak for my 2015 income tracking (you’ll see why in a minute), but I want to reiterate them before I start listing my actual 2014 earnings.

With that in mind, shall we go over my net earnings — as in, what money entered my bank account — in 2014?

I spent a lot of time yesterday going over every dollar that entered my bank account in 2014 and sorting it into the appropriate place. With that in mind, here are my totals:

Money earned from writing: $40,966.48

Money earned from music: $2,492.54

Total money earned: $43,059.02

The spreadsheet with the gross numbers gave my end-of-year total as $47,597.08. That’s the number you’d get if you added up all of my monthly How a Freelance Writer Makes a Living reports. So let’s start figuring out the difference.

First, subtract the $2,213.95 that is currently invoiced but not paid. That gives us $45,383.13.

Then, subtract the one $300 piece where a client dropped off the face of the earth and neither paid me nor gave me a kill fee: $45,083.13.

Then, subtract $113.04 because once I tried to count a reimbursement as income on my spreadsheet and a reimbursement is clearly not income, I found this when I was going through every one of my numbers yesterday and was all NICOLE WHY IS THIS IN HERE: $44,970.09

The difference between $44,970.09 and $43,059.02? $1,911.07. That’s how much of my income went directly to PayPal. Not everyone paid me via PayPal, of course; some clients pay via check. But I still lost nearly $2,000 to PayPal fees (and, occasionally, Amazon Payment fees).

What happens next? I keep writing, and keep billing clients. Maybe I figure out how to subtract PayPal fees from my earnings spreadsheet (truth be told, I probably won’t do this). I try to earn even more in 2015 than I did in 2014.

If you’re interested in following along, I’m going to be taking this column over to The Write Life in 2015. I’ll count up my monthly earnings and provide a summary of my freelancing experience much like I have been doing here. (Yes, I’ll announce it on The Billfold when the first one goes live.)

I also promised I’d answer any outstanding questions y’all left in the comments after my November round-up, so: regarding the question “is it possible to be a part-time freelancer?” YES. YES IT IS. A lot of people freelance as a side hustle. Figure out how much time you want to put into it, and find enough clients to fill that time. The “finding enough clients” part is the easier-said-than-done bit, but there are a lot of websites out there looking for writers, and they don’t care if you’re part time or full. Rock on.

And to the rest of you: thanks for reading. ❤

See the previous entries here.

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer, copywriter, and blogger, and is the only member of the band Hello, The Future!

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