What Exactly Is $70,000 in Freelance Income?

What does $70,000 mean? (www.inkthinkerblog.com) —  A whole heck of a lot of work, that’s what! But seriously, Susan asked and I’m glad someone is interested because I’ve been thinking I should break this down for you folks who (a) don’t believe I did it, (b) don’t believe it’s possible, or (c) want to do it, too.

Susan said…

Since you’re so open with your financials, I’m curious where the bulk of that income comes from. If not from blogging, then from speaking? Or print work? Or consulting?

I think we all know that it’s tough to get rich relaying on blogging or consumer pubs, after all.

Here’s where that $70,000 came from:

  • Blogging, ~$1.5K — Including base pay and traffic for paid blogging and ad revenues for my own blogging
  • Editing, ~24K — Mostly oncology clinical research articles, but also books, websites, and miscellany
  • Copywriting, ~$8K– Websites, brochures, etc
  • Writing for publication, ~10K — Print and online mags, etc
  • Resume writing, ~$24K — This was all since May, btw. If I did it independently rather than through a company and maintained the same workload, I would make literally twice this much (which, btw, is part of the plan for next year: more independent resumes!)
  • Other, ~$3K– random other writing, consulting, etc.

For the sake of simplicity, projects that combined consulting with copywriting are under copywriting rather than breaking it out. Whatever the dominant task was determined where the money was categorized. So in other words, blogging and writing for publication make up a mere 16.4% of my freelance income.

Now, where does the money go? Well, at my old job, the salary was only about 75% of my total compensation package, so let’s use the same proportion. If you take out 25% of my freelance income to cover taxes (which in my case is 15% of 93% of my income, or 13.95% — I don’t know why they don’t just say that in the first place), vacation time, sick leave, and health insurance (which, btw, is costing me way more than it was at the old job — $574 a month!!!), you get only $52,500. Oh, and retirement matching. I don’t get any of that, and I haven’t been saving for my retirement since I became self-employed, which I really need to start doing.

Then, factor in overhead expenses: phone, Internet (absurdly pricey out here in the boonies, where satellite is the only option and high-speed costs several pints of blood and your first and second born, or $200 a month on top of the $700 dish), Efax, website hosting, postage, PO box, electricity and mortgage (based on percentage of the home used for office space), business cards, advertising, office supplies, and of course the not-so-cheap computer parts, etc… Not to mention travel, conferences, subscriptions, and training that would all be covered by an employer. Average it all together and we’re talking somewhere around $500/month x 12 months = $6,000.

So after that, I get a measly $46,500. Yeah, I’ll definitely be getting a refund on mileage, tuition, and my overhead and other expenses, but that’s a lot of money to shell out throughout the year! And there’s a lot I don’t get back. So the bottom line is, I got a raise in take-home pay from my “real job,” but I’m not exactly rolling in dough. Hence, my new goal.

To follow: what I’m going to do to reach that goal.

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Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King

26 thoughts on “What Exactly Is $70,000 in Freelance Income?”

  1. Kristen, thanks for your openness!! This is very helpful for other freelancers. I have a VERY funny story about interviewing at a resume writing service, but it may not be blog comment-appropriate.

    Here’s another avenue you might look into (I meant to do it this year and got too busy)… how about making some extra cash by writing people’s holiday letters? I know my parents hate doing theirs, and I sometimes end up writing it for them.

  2. Thanks so much for being open and writing these last two posts. I often read about successful freelancers, but most of us aren’t actually posting the numbers that mean “success” to us. This was quite inspiring!

  3. Kristen, this is a great post. No one really talks much about money in the freelance world and so it’s really hard to gauge what it takes to make a decent living writing. Thanks for being open and willing to put your cards on the table.

    Seems I have a way to go, but it’s happening.

    Cheers and Happy New Year from sunny New Zealand,


  4. Kristen,

    You rock!
    Thanks for giving us scoop and showing that writers can make a lot of cash. The points you make regarding health insurance/saving/conferences, etc. are par for the course for any business owner. In return, we have flexibility, freedom and no annoying water cooler talk. :)

    Can’t wait to see your next post…
    Heather :)

  5. Thanks for being generous with the info, Kristen. This is great. It’s also a lesson for those of us aiming ONLY for print and mag publication – we need to look at other avenues.

  6. Thanks for sharing with us, Kristen.

    Can you tell me how many total hours (or average hours per month) this income level represents? Did you work 2000 hours (approximately full-time) last year? I want to leave my full-time job and do blogging/writing/editing full time. But I also want to have time for fun stuff, too. To get this level of income, will I need to work full-time?

  7. Thanks for the numbers and the breakdown. I’ve been struggling to make ANY income as a freelance editor and have had zero paying projects since August. People just don’t have money to pay a freelancer.

    Your post was inspiring in where to look for jobs that pay for what I can do. I’ve been barking up dead-end trees, essentially. I have hope again! (and dang, man–when I worked full time before children, I only brought in $22,000 pre-tax! $70,000?!)

  8. Kristen:

    That’s an excellent income — even with all of your expenses taken out. Congratulations!

    I’m bookmarking this for reference in one of my future newsletters. My last newsletter focus on what freelance writers make — I did a roundup from around the web for it. Here’s a link to that issue: http://www.inkwelleditorial.com/Newsletter/12-5-07-freelance-writing-newsletter.pdf

    As I’m sure you know, many freelance writers would be thrilled to make this much — heck, many employed full-time would be thrilled to make this much.

    One of the things I love about freelancing is that with some sweat equity, you can surpass what you’d make in a 9-5 job without having to go back to school to get an MBA.

    Again, congrats on the year you had — good luck in surpassing it this year!

    Yuwanda Black, Publisher
    P.S.: Want to start making $100-$200/day as a freelance writer — right away? Log onto http://www.FreelanceWritingWebsite.com for details.

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