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Speaker, Writer, and Author of GodSpace

How to make a living as a writer, Part 1

I’ve been working as a writer since I graduated from college almost three decades ago. Some years (when I worked full-time for a newspaper, for example, or when I wrote four books in one year) I made a decent living. Other years, (when I had toddlers underfoot, for example) writing was a part-time gig and I was glad to have the back up of my husband’s income.

But in recent years, I’ve made a living as a freelancer. (Admittedly, some years, a better living than others.) If you’re a writer and wondering if you can do the same, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Track your income. I set up a simple Excel spreadsheet, where I track the money I earn, and where it comes from. Last year, I had income from nine different sources—from writing my own books to writing for a hospital website. I know how much I made from each source. This helped me to see which projects were most profitable, and how I was spending my time. It also helped me formulate goals for 2014, which leads me to…
  2.  Write down your goals. Around this time of year, I set financial goals for each quarter, and personal goals for the year. Writers sometimes get paid for something more than a month after they write it, so quarterly financial goals make more sense than weekly or monthly goals. On that same spreadsheet, I have a running total for the quarter, right next to the box with my goal in it. That helps me decide which projects to take on. For several years, I didn’t follow my own advice. I tracked my income but had stopped writing down specific financial goals. In 2013, I wrote them down again, after neglecting that task for several years. And exceeded them. There’s incredible power in writing down goals. As Michael Hyatt points out in this great blog post, you are much more likely to meet a goal that’s in writing.
  3. Consider ghostwriting. A large portion of my writing these days is collaborative writing, and ghostwriting. Typically, ghostwriters take content or ideas from someone else and wordsmith it, organizing the ideas and polishing the writing. If you are willing to write and not have a byline (but have your name on a check), there are opportunities. Now, if your goal is to build your own brand as a writer, then maybe ghostwriting isn’t for you. But if your goal (see above) is to put two kids through college (as mine is), you might be willing to work on projects where you are behind the scenes. One of the reasons this blog has been neglected is that I worked (often with a team) on several books (including a best-seller, and this book from a first-time author) and wrote more than 80 bible studies, none of which have my name on them, in 2013. And had my best year ever. As Harry S. Truman said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

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I’ll blog in more detail on each of these things soon.  Leave a comment with any questions you have, and I’ll try to address those in subsequent posts.

Leave a comment: are you a freelancer? What are your goals for 2014?

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing this Keri. I wonder where to gain some footing as a freelance writer as a newbie. I do not have a writing background but would like to develop my writing abilities. With so much information out there it is overwhelming and wonder if there are some really practical and obtainable goals for people who are just beginning. It becomes discouraging to write pieces that never get picked up.

    • Randi
      Thanks for stopping by. i would highly recommend attending a writer’s conference to get some tips on getting started in freelance writing. For starters, unless you write them for your own blog, you should be writing query letters (these are letters to editors outlining and pitching your story idea), not articles themselves. Also, most magazines and websites have editorial guidelines telling what they are looking for and print magazines often have editorial calendars with themes they want to have in each issue. You should look at MomSense, which is published by MOPS, as well as giftedforleadership.com and other Christianity Today publications. Your first goal should be to educate yourself about the needs of publications. If you start with your needs, you’re less likely to get published. magazines and websites need content–but you need to educate yourself about what content they need. There’s a pretty good writer’s conference in June, held at Wheaton College, called Write to Publish. Or try taking a writing class at your local community college.

  2. Keri,
    Thank you so much for responding. You’ve given me good direction and I appreciate it!

  3. I stumbled on your name and this post via the Ink Creative twitter page. Thanks for writing about this in such a straightforward, no-nonsense way. I’ve been getting my feet wet a bit as a freelance editor, some ghostwriting and I’m now close to releasing my first book. I’d love to read the other “parts” to this blog post, if you’ve written them. Is there a link you can send me with that content? Thanks so much!

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