Susie Cagle’s Ledger Lists Her Freelancing Income, and the Numbers Are Very Familiar

I am surprised at how much I am enjoying email newsletters and TinyLetters. (Usually, I treat my inbox like a game of Space Invaders, trying to clear the screen before I become overwhelmed.)

Thanks to Manjula Martin’s TinyLetter Three Cents, I started following Susie Cagle’s TinyLetter Ledger — and the very first Ledger letter is about how much Cagle earns from her freelancing work.

But for two stints of employment (2.5 and 10 months each, respectively), I have freelanced for 9.5 years — reporting, writing, editing, producing audio, and drawing. The least I have made is $12,520 (2010); the most is $38,585 (January — August 2015).

That second number is super-interesting to me because it implies that Susie Cagle and I are making roughly the same amount of money. Between January and August 2015, I received $39,283.43 in pre-tax freelance income.

We aren’t doing the same kinds of work; Cagle lists her jobs, and here’s a sample entry:

I was paid $3,000 for a ~4,000 word, 14-illustration feature at Aeon about the ethics and economics of policies that promote housing the homeless, including expenses for a reporting trip to Utah (-$400). I negotiated for this rate based on an initial estimate of 2,000 words and five illustrations. Payment was made ~30 days after publication, paid by international wire transfer and subject to a –$27 fee.

The part where she mentions negotiation is hugely important; she writes that “this has been my best freelancing year to date, not necessarily because I sought out the highest “rates,” but because I worked hard to negotiate better for myself.”

My workday is more like “I did 350 words for $35, and then 1,200 words for $100, and then 800 words for $300, and then 650 words for $250. Repeat tomorrow.” I don’t negotiate as much as I ought to, and that’s something I need to change for myself. (I have a whole list of action items that I have told myself I will do, to ensure this change.)

Cagle also writes that she works 60–80 hours every week, and I tend to hit around 50 hours a week during the good months, the ones where my clients and income feel balanced. (Right now I’m doing 60-hour weeks, but it’s the holiday season. We’re all doing 60-hour weeks, right?)

So there you go — a rough comparison of two freelancers, both of whom are having the best financial year of their careers so far.

Update: A previous version of this article included inaccurate speculation about Susie Cagle’s income. I’m sorry about that; it was my mistake and I jumped to a conclusion that wasn’t there. To learn more about Cagle’s work, support Cagle’s newsletter at Patreon and subscribe to Ledger at TinyLetter.

Photo credit: Alexander Baxevanis