Want to be a Six-Figure Freelancer? Here’s What That’s Really Like

What it’s like to be a Six-Figure Freelance Writer. Makealivingwriting.comI meet a lot of writers who say their goal is to become a six-figure freelancer.

You may find some ‘experts’ online who’ll tell you they earn six figures freelancing and hardly work — that they’re vacationing all the time, driving luxury cars, and enjoying the good life…and I’m here to tell you, they’re lying.

I’ve been a six-figure writer since 2011, when I hit that number entirely from my freelance gigs — not counting any blog or Freelance Writers Den revenue. At this point, I’ve had a few years to experience what this lifestyle is really like.

Money ≠ happy

Am I going to tell you it sucks to have money? No.

But now that I finally have some, and I’m not scrambling to pay basic bills while slowly sinking into debt — the mode I was in for most of my adult life — I’ve discovered there are many things money can’t fix. And getting that money usually comes with some very real costs to your personal life.

This is why studies often show that beyond the point where your basic needs are met, there’s not much increase in happiness as people earn more. A recent study from 2013 found $75,000 a year was the cutoff, beyond which people were no happier.

Lifestyles of the well-paid freelancer

Still interested to be a top-paid freelancer? Here’s the lifestyle I’ve had, and that of most freelance writers I know who’re paid at this level:

  • Long hours. I’ve never met a six-fig freelance writer who doesn’t work a *ton* of hours. Work, work, work. We get up before our kids wake, or work after they sleep, we work on Sunday — often, we also work while on vacation. Not fun.
  • Low glamour. Often, the best-paying gigs aren’t your dream topic or magazine — but you take them for the money. “I’m like a machine, stamping out hamburgers,” one well-paid writer-friend once told me, as she turned in yet another arcane trade-publication article on new refrigeration technology for convenience stores. If you’re one of those people who’s in it for fame and to write what they want, it may be hard to earn well. A lot of the good-paying work doesn’t carry a byline.
  • Do the hustle. It’s tough to earn big if you’re in feast-and-famine mode. The only way to prevent that is constant marketing to ensure a steady stream of client leads and new work. Having lots of offers is what drives your rates up and lets you pick and choose the best ones to grow your income.
  • Deadline pressure. Better-paying clients tend to want their assignments done right and on time. Top freelancers usually have ongoing work from clients, so blowing an assignment could drastically affect future income. To sum up, it’s pressure, pressure, pressure — often while you deal with some pretty persnickety people, or downright PITA clients. A lot of the good-paying jobs pay well because no one wants to do them…for good reason.
  • Walking the high wire. When you’re earning well, you’re often working on big, complex, important projects. Your reputation is on the line. You’ll be asked to do the impossible in no time with nothing, and have to calmly pull that off.

If you’re still interested in earning the big bucks, let’s talk about what that money can — and can’t buy you.

What money buys

Here are some of the thrills I’ve enjoyed as a six-figure freelancer — I can:

  • Buy organic food, like I always wanted to
  • Take a vacation that does not involve a tent
  • Hire a babysitter and have date nights
  • Buy a new dress for $75 without worrying I’ll bounce a check
  • Afford healthcare premiums that are sky-high as a self-insured U.S. freelancer, and to pay all the deductibles and copays for all the care my family needs
  • Pay off debts — most writers I know list this as the first action they take as their income grows, and that’s a good idea.
  • Remodel the rundown — like my leaking upstairs shower, after several years of waiting.
  • Stop worrying about money, which was occupying some serious head space before.

All good stuff, right?

I’m not gonna lie — it’s been a huge relief to get out of ‘survival’ mode, and to become essentially debt-free, aside from my mortgage.

But it’s also been a rude awakening for me, learning money’s harsh limits. When you’ve never had money — and I grew up very working-class — you imagine having it will solve all your problems.

Spoiler alert: it won’t.

What money can’t buy

What have I found money isn’t that much use for?

  • You can’t buy back your children’s childhood. The time we spend working while they’re young is an opportunity gone forever. Even though I ended up working from financial necessity, I still have regrets. The same goes for single people who aren’t taking the time to date.
  • Doesn’t change your genetics or body type. My hair is still falling out (my dad was bald at age 28). No cure. Rogaine makes me break out in a rash. At this point, my knees only hurt if I do a vigorous workout — or if I don’t. And I don’t notice those extra 10-15 pounds are any easier to lose with a bigger bank account.
  • Mental illness endures. While it’s a comfort that I do have some resources to pay for therapists, treatment programs, and the like, mental illnesses are brain disorders and for many affected people, a medication solution that allows them to lead productive lives remains elusive.
  • Broken things still need fixing. Recently, our home’s heater broke, and it took 8 weeks to repair. Money couldn’t speed up the process — the HVAC pros were baffled. It took three teams to solve it. We were chopping and hauling logs like a pioneer family.
  • Love. You may have heard money can’t buy it. True — though it can get you spoiled, irresponsible kids who expect a shopping spree every weekend. “Why don’t you just get it for me, mom? I know you have the money.”
  • Peace of mind. People still seem to shout and fight in my household, and nothing I do seems to stop it. Possibly, with more money and more stuff, they have more to fight over. As Rabbi Hillel said: “The more possessions, the more worries.”

Am I trying to talk you out of aiming for the stars with your freelancing? Definitely not…if it’s what you really want.

But consider the tradeoffs in your quality of life as you ramp up your freelancing. Ironically, it turns out money usually comes at a price.

Do you want to be a six-figure freelancer? Let’s discuss in the comments.

 

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119 comments on “Want to be a Six-Figure Freelancer? Here’s What That’s Really Like
  1. Terri Cruce says:

    I love this post. I know so many people, and I admit I’ve gotten caught up in this as well, who feel that we just have to keep pushing to make more money. But when the all too valuable intangibles in your life suffer as a result, wealth may indeed be fleeting. Thanks for a great post!
    Terri Cruce recently posted…Should You Blog When Your Brain Is Mush?My Profile

  2. This is a very interesting post, and your comments about the six-figure lifestyle echo what I’ve heard from other writers.

    But I want to add a somewhat dissenting viewpoint, if I may.

    I’m an RN who began writing full-time in 2011 (after freelancing for over 20 years part-time). In 2012 I hit six figures. The following year we had to suddenly relocate for my husband’s job, which took its toll on my income.

    This year, however, I’m back on track to hit six figures again. I currently work just 18 hours a week (according to my time-tracking software). I don’t kill myself. In fact, I care for my elderly mother with dementia.

    I have a crazy notion it’s possible to reach six figures while only working part-time, and I’m on a mission to prove it in 2015. I would love to keep you updated on this experiment (and, believe me, I’ll be completely honest if I don’t get there).

    One element I think is missing from the whole “six figures” conversation is the concept of “total compensation.” For example, you, Carol, said your goal was to replace a $60,000/year salary. According to the Employee Total Compensation calculator (here: http://www.calcxml.com/calculators/total-compensation), a person would have to earn at least $70,960 to replace her total compensation, defined as salary, health insurance benefits, paid time off and a minimal 401(k) contribution (I used 5% in the calculator, which isn’t much).

    Your advice to new writers is always great, Carol. I enjoy reading your blog.
    Elizabeth Hanes recently posted…Banish Flaccid Prose through Freelance Physical FitnessMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’d love to hear more about how you’re getting it done on such a limited work schedule, Elizabeth — feel free to email me and pitch me a guest post about it!

      And I completely agree on the ‘total compensation’ idea, as I wrote here: http://www.makealivingwriting.com/billing-day-job-hourly-rate-freelance-business-fail/

      I’m just trying to demonstrate how *small* I was thinking when I first got back into freelancing in 2005. I didn’t dream I could earn the full package of what I made as a staffer, or even more. Now of course, I earn a multiple of my previous total package. 😉

  3. Nolan Wilson says:

    You are right on the money Carol!

    I have hit the 6 figure threshold over the past few years and its definitely not without some hard work and long hours. However, I have been able to lower the number of hours I put in by establishing long term relationships and better paying positions with my clients. I found that avoiding the temptation to take on every job offered to me has helped me build in some free time and get my life back. The first few years are always killers, but if you grow the right way you can have that 6 figure income and some balance in your life.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I agree, Nolan — fewer, better-paying clients both make it easier to get to 6-figs, and also give you a better quality of life, because you’re doing less dull admin work.

  4. Carol,

    Great post! I’ve been a freelance writer for almost a year now. I’ve arrived late in the game career-wise, but I’m not dead yet!

    Have you looked into having your thyroid checked? That might be related to your hair loss… Since I started using iodine supplements on a daily basis my hair has gotten thicker. At 40!

    Hope this helps… Keep on keepin on!
    Gretchen Friedrich recently posted…Up CloseMy Profile

  5. Barbara Saunders says:

    Actually I do know six-figure writers who don’t work “long, long, long” hours. What they have managed to do is either complement the writing with something that isn’t so labor-intensive or develop some kind of intellectual property.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’d agree — or they’re writing things that generate royalties like direct response. But I guess I think it’s a relatively small group in that category, who’re usually pretty late in their career. Most work hard.

  6. Harry Husted says:

    I’m on permanent disability. However, I am permitted to make extra income. So my objective is to make up to $400 more per month, which is my limit. I’m not out to make six figures. I just want to make enough to supplement what I have. If I can do that, I’ll be in good shape.

    • Deb Holder says:

      Try blogging for businesses, Harry. This will enable you to have a steady stream of income while controlling how much you earn. I’ve been blogging for one of my clients on a weekly basis for nearly a year.

      • Harry Husted says:

        Can you give me some ideas or leads that may help me in this endeavor? Any help I can get to work this will be great. I do know how to write blogs, as I have one myself.

        Thanks for the info and suggestion.
        Harry Husted recently posted…Is SEO Dead?My Profile

        • Deb Holder says:

          Harry, what is your specialty? Approach companies that have websites in your specialty niche market. Since you want to keep your profits low, you can also work for a company that finds clients and distributes work.

          Years ago, I worked for Content Divas. I was a writer and an editor. I am not sure if they are hiring writers or not, but you can check. It’s an awesome company to work for if you just want to supplement your income. Tell them I sent you.

          • Harry Husted says:

            My niches have always been in business, health and fitness, finance, IT, and self-help. Also, thanks for the tip on Content Divas. I’ll check it out.
            Harry Husted recently posted…Is SEO Dead?My Profile

          • Carol Tice says:

            Deb’s right, Harry — research local websites of companies in a sector you know, and you’ll quickly see ones with abandoned blogs that haven’t been posted on in months or even years. That’s your opportunity to pitch them outsourcing their blog-post writing.

            Many company’s don’t blog, and you shouldn’t waste time trying to convince them to do it. The ramp to where they’d hire someone is too long. Abandoned blogs are the ideal situation.

  7. Stacey says:

    Thank you for the reality check!

    We all need ballance I think.

    I’m glad things are working alright for you. You do earn a bit of money which is nice but have not lost perspective and still enjoy time with your loved ones (when you’re not working your ass off!). That’s important!
    Stacey recently posted…Four achievements I want to make in 2015 through travelMy Profile

  8. Kendra says:

    I’d be happy to earn what I’m earning now at a dead-end, stressful, unfulfilling job. I’m currently making the SAME yearly salary I made 20 years ago — $25k (sad, sad, sad). No college degree, but I have tons of clips from freelance/stringer gigs. I keep listening to the “voice” in my head that keeps telling me there’s no way I could do what I love full time. 🙁

    • Carol Tice says:

      Kendra, you’re really breaking my heart there. 20 YEARS at $25K?

      If you have tons of clips, I don’t know what’s stopping you from freelancing. It’s very doable to earn as much or more as a freelancer starting with a portfolio. You’d just have to be willing to market yourself and find clients.

      • Kendra says:

        Yep. I had a few jobs where I made a bit more and now I’m back to what I made long ago. Sounds worse when I say it “out loud.” I’m reading the replies to your post here and — wow. I’m struggling financially and barely have a social life now trying to cobble side gigs together (everything from ebay to pet sitting) and just asked myself what I have to lose if I’m already living the “negative side” of freelance writing without any of the “benefits” (and working for a micromanaging company whose motivational style is “negative reinforcement” — sucking away every last shred of my confidence). I just subscribed to your RSS feed and checking out your e-books as I “speak.” Thank you for being such an inspiration / needed kick in the pants. I will definitely stick around. 🙂

  9. Great article! I love when someone is willing to let it all hang out and tell the good, bad and ugly. I really related to the family juggle and working crazy hours to get it all done. That being said, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s a fabulous career.
    wendy mccance recently posted…Are You Conveying the Right Message with Your Business Card?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Oh, I couldn’t really imagine having a day job at this point. My kids are special needs and have so many conferences and medical/psych appointments, I don’t think it would even be possible. Plus, I make so much more now than I ever did at any day job. 😉

  10. Alisdair Mans Cornwell says:

    As an English and Creative Writing graduate and a creative writer who aspires to be a copywriter (even if I don’t make six figures, which is not what I want out of it), it’s encouraging to see a blog post that actually shows you what it’s like and doesn’t bog you down with absolute idealistic bullshit.

    I’m get annoyed by the amount of blogs and articles that pushes the idea of “you can make six figures in less than six months if you follow my advice”, which is usually followed by “just sign up for my ebook and pay just £80 and you could be one of those big earners”. These are things people buy into and think it’s a get rich quick program. Not many people do it for the love of writing anymore. All it is is pound signs in their eyes and, ultimately, dreams being crushed when they’ve just found out they can’t win big like they were promised when they forked out their hard earned money on rubbish.

    Like any job, whether it’s freelance or otherwise, you have to work hard and you have to love it to reap the benefits.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Alisdair — there’s definitely no get-rich-quick to freelance writing — in fact, I’ve discussed how freelancing is one of the worst ways to try to earn money fast.

      Freelancing is solopreneur business. That’s what you’re doing — you’re a business startup. And you do best by building your business systematically and proactively, not by taking the cheapest gigs on Craigslist.

      I think the get-rich-quick mentality pervades more in the world of passive income and Internet marketing, where there are way too many promises made about fast money. In reality, each of those gurus made it usually back when the Internet was a lot younger, competition way less, and viewers had more tolerance for ads.

      • Great point there, Carol. The only surer recipe for failure than trying to copy exactly what worked for someone else, is trying to copy it AFTER it becomes one of the rare “rags to riches household name” successes and already has 1,000,000 other copiers. Especially if any of you have worked for major publishing houses or know someone who has, you’ve heard the story: the fantasy/self-help/romantic comedy/etc. genre has gotten little attention in the past few years, then some talented storyteller shows up with a manuscript that offers a brand new take on the genre and soon becomes the book *everyone* is buying; and suddenly everyone with a hint of get-rich-quick-writing tendency is rushing to submit “the next bestseller” on the same theme, and within months every potential publisher reflexively groans as soon as a cover letter mentions the topic.
        Katherine Swarts recently posted…Change Is a Journey, Not a DestinationMy Profile

        • Alisdair Mans Cornwell says:

          “In reality, each of those gurus made it usually back when the Internet was a lot younger, competition way less, and viewers had more tolerance for ads.”

          Pretty interesting point and not something I’d thought about. I (and I’m sure many others) hate feeling of being ripped off or told half truths with nothing more than a rags to riches story to back it up. This is what I’m finding with copywriting gurus. I’m finding it difficult to know where to stand start. I guess intuition and gut feeling play a key role in finding credible sources of info.

          I guess staying completely true to what you want to do and doing it because you love it is one of the best avenues you can go down because you’re not doing it for anything but the art you’re trying to craft.

          On completely unrelated but somewhat related note, how long is the waiting list for the Den?

          • Carol Tice says:

            Alisdair, the Den is open right now if you sign up for our upcoming bootcamp, How to Write Case Studies: Break in and Earn Big: http://freelancewritersden.com/landing/write-case-studies. (It’s even on an early-reg discount.)

            On copywriting, I can recommend Chris Marlow! She’s the coach who taught many of the people who are now coaches. We had her as a Den moderator for a while, and I can vouch she’s for real.

            • Alisdair Mans Cornwell says:

              Cheers, Carol. I’ll have a ganders. I’ll also check out Chris Marlow. Always good to get some more info from better sources than I’ve experienced before.

              • Carol Tice says:

                You know, I recently saw an e-course for freelance writers offered by a writer who literally quit their job to freelance in the past month, and had only done it part time to date! There is a real trend towards see one, do one, teach one in online training. Which means there is a lot of dubious-quality offers. I’m just planning a post about what I learned in each year of freelancing, and there’s so much that takes a decade or more to unfold, where you get to the point where you’ve encountered nearly every bizarre, challenging, unusual scenario and have a wealth of knowledge to share.

                I always recommend writers look into how long someone has been doing the thing they claim they can teach you, and how successful they are at it, before paying for anything.

                • Someone told me about a freelancer selling courses on how to do it. He apparently posted an income report and had made $200 the previous month.

                  It’s tempting, I suppose, to try and teach what you’re learning, but some success and competence is required if you want people to take you seriously!
                  Philippa Willitts recently posted…50 Free Online Writing CoursesMy Profile

                  • Carol Tice says:

                    OMG, I think I saw that one, too! Don’t know why people want to go public if that’s how little success they’re seeing, *and* they’re trying to put themselves forth as an expert.

                  • Alisdair Mans Cornwell says:

                    I think the idea of teaching people as you go forward is great. I keep a diary of everything that I’ve done and everything that I’m doing so I can eventually use it later on in my career. The things I’ve learnt already is staggering.

                    I’m thinking of starting a blog that outlines practically everything I’ve done and will continue to do later on, but it’ll be all for free and open to people if they want to read it. It’ll almost be like a start up copywriter’s diary.

                    Charging at this early stage is absurd. It would make me look like a low end scam artist.

  11. I could write a whole book on the thinking mistakes mentioned so far that I’ve made multiple times: trying to copy someone’s success by copying their methods, looking for a “solves everything” formula, and especially “I can learn to outrun the crises permanently” thinking–am still struggling to accept that the crises never DO stop and one needs to take joy breaks from them on a regular basis. My main 2015 New Year’s resolution is to concentrate on walking the unique path I was made for–based on natural passions and skills as much as income goals–and to avoid as time sucks “good ideas” that don’t fit on that path.
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Change Is a Journey, Not a DestinationMy Profile

  12. Linda H says:

    Love it when you share the way it is honestly for us all. I agree with the “what you gets” with “what you sacrifice” and have to agree with them all.

    I find myself working endless hours, sometimes lacking sleep. Fortunately I’m single but my cats do suffer a bit when I’m trying to meet multiple deadlines in a short time frame. Do try to spend quality time with them though, after all they’re my kids.

    Your post sheds light on how I want to design my future. Points to ponder as I build my business and move forward.

    But working full time from home has been a life-long dream come true. I find I’m less stressed, not sick as often, do take time for myself and my needs, and while I feel pressure I weigh it against my daily schedule. As I focus more on what I want to accomplish things are falling into place. Bills are being paid and bad habits are changing to ease even more financial pressures. I’m not near a six-figure income, but the future looks promising and I’m willing to tow the line if it happens.
    Linda H recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  13. Deb Holder says:

    This post is spot on. I was on my way to becoming a six-figure copywriter but had to take a break for awhile. What I discovered is that my health suffered from all of the long hours. I’d be at my day job at 8:00 AM and work at home until 3:00 AM. Then, I’d get a few hours of sleep and start over again.

    Now that I’m back in the game again, I work a “regular” work schedule, although I cannot afford to take today’s holiday off. I have deadlines to meet. I take as much of the weekend off as I possibly can, although I do teach one online job, which requires me to check my e-mail at least one day on the weekends. Otherwise, I leave my work to the week days.

    There are exceptions, however, because a looming deadline can get here quickly, especially when juggling multiple projects. However, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I work full time from home and love it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I took a half-day and took my daughter to the fabric store! She’s now happily creating her own sweatshirt with fabric paint.

      The lifestyle habit of drastically shorting your sleep is a recipe for a health crisis. My sister’s family all seem to only catch about 5 hours a night, and they’re always sick.

  14. Gina Horkey says:

    Great article Carol! I think this an honest/realistic glimpse into your life as a successful writer and appreciate you sharing. Time, money, health; seems like you’re always trading some for the other.

    That ever-illusive balance is hard to come by, but we can’t stop trying. Missing your kid’s childhoods is the one that hits home for me and something I’ll strive not to mess up as I continue to build my career – thanks for the reminder!
    Gina Horkey recently posted…The 10 Most Effective Time Management Tips from Top WebpreneursMy Profile

  15. Thanks for this Carol. I also love glimpsing the reality of what it takes, and how much work it is, to make 6 figures as a freelancer.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m not progressing as fast as I would like, but I also balance (well, unwell and everything in between) building my career with staying at home part time and caring for my two little boys. Your comment about never getting to relive their childhoods hits home. Thanks for sharing.

    Amy
    Amy Dunn Moscoso recently posted…Quick Tip for LinkedIn PeepersMy Profile

  16. Marro says:

    very true words,Carol! from someone who tried it before.Money is not everything in life.

    Thanks for your post.

    Marro
    Marro recently posted…The Simple Productivity Trick That Few People Know About is Now in Your HandMy Profile

  17. Todd E Jones says:

    One of the most honest posts I’ve ever read. Thanks for drawing back the corner of the drapes to let us see inside the reality.

    You and others like you are inspiration for those of us trying to get there, trying to have a freelance career. And, honestly, there isn’t a whole lot of support from others for doing this as they don’t understand.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, that’s why there’s Freelance Writers Den, Todd! I hear that over and over from Denizens, how incredible it is to be able to talk to 1,400 other writers who understand what it’s like trying to run a solopreneur freelance business.

  18. This is brilliant, and so important.

    “What, you’re not typing on the beach in Hawaii for four minutes a day, and getting $$$$ into your PayPal account as you sleep, like the internet marketers say you will?!”

    Success takes hard work, as well as talent, skills and a bit of luck. But mainly the hard work bit.
    Philippa Willitts recently posted…Mythbusting Low-Paid Freelance Writing WorkMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      What most of those online marketers don’t tell you is it’s the 1% of online businesses — literally — that are doing that. As a recent Copyblogger survey showed, most don’t earn nearly so well.

      The myth is that if one guy made his blog go viral by accident in 2006, that you can easily do it now. As Jon Morrow once said to me before a live training he was doing, “The reality is, no one can do what I do.” No one has his unique story, and no one else was in the right place at the right time to end up a Copyblogger editor, like he did. But the fundamentals of good blogging — that he can teach.

      Yes, six-figure earnings are possible, and there’s much we can learn from others who’ve done it. But ultimately, few will earn at an elite level, and each of us have to hack our own pathway there, through the woods.

      For instance, I’m sure I’d make more if I spent a lot of time doing A/B testing of my sales pages, or sent twice as many marketing emails in each campaign I ran. The big guys tell me I should do that stuff. But overmarketing makes me want to throw up, and I prefer to earn what I do and not spend hundreds of hours fine-tuning my marketing.

      We each have to do it the way that feels right to us, and set the income goal that feels right, too.

      • That Copyblogger survey is really interesting. I feel it should be required reading for everyone who’s desperate for the ‘one-click solution’ that will automate every aspect of their website and produce vast income with zero work.

        I mean, sure, that’s a tempting offer. But people spend lots of money seeking the magic formula, waste lots of time, and achieve very little.

        What you said about people trying to mimic what one person did years ago is so true. So much IM info is recycled, often written by people who haven’t even had their own success, and it just doesn’t apply to the vast, vast majority of folk.
        Philippa Willitts recently posted…Don’t Undervalue Your Talents and Skills | Freelance PricingMy Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          I so agree — but regular readers know I’m a big data whore.

          I just laugh when I see these ‘make a passive fortune’ pitches — ALL the top blog-based business owners I know work like dogs!

  19. Cherese Cobb says:

    Carol,
    Thank you for your honest post! It’s good to see that people can make six-figures writing. However, I’m with Karen. I’m aiming to make $40,000 to $50,000 (not that I’d complain if I hit the $75,000 mark);)

  20. Jessica Brown says:

    Carol, thanks for posting this! I’ve been having some of the same revelations, even though I make nowhere near a six-figure amount from freelancing. 🙂 Still, as I’ve started to climb the ladder of success (made about 4 times as much in 2014 from my writing as I did in 2013), I’ve often had these thoughts: So what if I end up reaching my income goals? It’s nice to have extra cash, but I am absolutely convinced that, as you said, there are many important things (THE most important things in life) that money can’t buy. I love that writing has become my main source of income and it’s wonderful that I’ve learned so much that I can apply with success in finding good-paying freelance gigs. It’s a blessing and a gift to me to get to live my dream of writing for a living! But I never want to get so swept away by my writing jobs that I neglect my husband, my family, my (hypothetical future) children, or my community. It’s a good discipline for me to constantly evaluate my priorities and decide if a gig is worth taking or not. I’ve found that if a gig pays really well, my immediate response is “Yes, I’ll do it!” but sometimes that isn’t the best response…Not from a monetary viewpoint, but from a “What really matters here?” viewpoint. “What will I have to sacrifice that time from to get this gig completed on deadline?” I love to work at what I love and be paid well for it, but not at the cost of my relationships with others. This is a great topic of discussion for the freelance life; thanks again for posting your thoughts.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Jessica — well, making 4x year-over-year is pretty awesome, no matter what the figures are you plug into that equation!

      As I’ve matured in this biz, I’ve learned to ask more closely about how much time something is going to take before I get excited about the pay. Somethings only *sound* lucrative, but really they’re going to turn out to be a massive time suck and not worth it. Luckily, your ‘nose’ for sniffing out those problems gets better as you gain experience.

  21. Patricia says:

    Carol –

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My aspirations are to get out of “struggle” mode and get things more under control in that area of my life. I’m not as concerned with bylines and attention…I just want to live without the stress and worry of financial pressures. You obviously get that.

    Thanks again for the very honest and insightful post.

  22. Lois says:

    I have lived in many homes, both my own and others, for varying amounts of time. That shouting and fighting you mentioned occurred in every home in which I lived. We remain human inspite of the amount in our bank accounts.

    Maybe it was me, all that shouting, was it me?

    Hee hee, maybe, but I don’t think so

    • Carol Tice says:

      😉

      Well we all know lack of money is a major cause of divorce. But I find having money can’t my kids like each other.

      The miracle is, not long ago, they finally figured out they’d get more privileges if they weren’t constantly picking on each other…and they crafted a truce. Life has been better ever since. I’d put that down to my commitment to family time and spending the time working with them to finally realize how to get what they wanted.

      It’s easy as someone with a ton of work offers to just flee from the unpleasantness. I know one rabbi who says workaholics often do it to get away from the more messy world of personal problems, and I think that can be true.

  23. Chelsea says:

    Hi Carol,

    Thanks for sharing this post – it’s so true!

    In January 2015, I’m set out to earn far more money than I’ve every earned in any month previous… but I’m paying for it by working on nights and weekends and having no time to myself.

    I’m not yet near the six figure rate, but at this months’ earnings rate, it would be around $17k more than what I had hoped to earn for 2015.

    I have a question I hope you can answer… how do you handle times when you’re absolutely booked with work from amazing clients with amazing pay, and half of them are literally begging you to do more work for them?

    It’s so hard for me to say no… especially because I’m coming out of a long famine session of the feast or famine cycle. I have literally never been in such a lucky position thus far and I’d be interested to know how you handled it when you’ve faced it.

    Thanks & Cheers! 🙂
    Chelsea recently posted…7 Life-Changing TED Talks on Personal FinanceMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Chelsea —

      Yes, I feel ya there. As a Jew, I often joke that it’s so hard to make my mouth form the words, “No, I don’t want your money.” 😉

      I’d say looking back, too often, I just said ‘yes’ and worked too many hours. Like Ben Gran said above, it can easily verge into workaholism, where it’s pretty much all you do and your personal life starts to disappear and your relationships suffer.

      Ultimately, you have to decide what your bandwidth is. It’s scary to say no to your own clients, because then they might replace you with someone else.

      But having been at this a long while, I’ve come to feel there’s a karma to that, where if you lose a client, it usually turns out to be for the best in the end. The end of one gig is almost always an opportunity to find a better one, if you have the right attitude and are marketing yourself well.

      These days, I’m proud to say ‘no’ to many gigs I could do and be well-paid for, because of my commitment to leaving family time. I’m done working the 8-midnight shift.

      I actually recently turned down a lucrative book-ghosting offer, because the guy really wanted me as more of a co-author and co-marketer of the book, and I knew the marketing time on it would kill my personal life.

      • Chelsea says:

        “But having been at this a long while, I’ve come to feel there’s a karma to that, where if you lose a client, it usually turns out to be for the best in the end.”

        Thanks – I guess that’s the push in the direction I knew I needed to go to start saying “no” and guarding my personal time like a hawk. 🙂
        Chelsea recently posted…7 Life-Changing TED Talks on Personal FinanceMy Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          We all need to guard our personal time like mad. Being a freelance writer is a bottomless-pit job. There’s always more we *could* do, learn, more marketing — and we have to draw the line if we want a life.

  24. Carol, this post fits right into a little something I’m working on called the National Freelance Advocacy Association (NFAA). There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep the freedom aspect of freelancing.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Rebecca, you’re starting a new association? You’re hopefully familiar with the Freelancer’s Union…and they’re not the only organization out there that already advocates for freelancers’ rights.

      As someone who covered nonprofits as a full-time beat for 7 years, make sure you’re not duplicating effort that’s already out there. There’s a ton of that in the nonprofit sector, and it usually leads to organizations going bust, because they haven’t identified a need that isn’t already being filled.

  25. Tracy Hume says:

    Carol, thank you for another, terrific, telling-it-like-it is post. Your uncompromising honesty is what sets you apart from so many of the hucksters who are out there selling the so-called “easy” freelance life. Your straightforward, authentic voice is what makes the Make A Living Writing blog and the Freelance Writer’s Den so valuable. Thank you for sharing your experience with the rest of us!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m particularly happy that I’m able to make a full-time living from writing and teaching — without lying to anybody about the realities.

      I hope I never feel so desperate to make another dime that I start slinging the snake oil that ‘anyone can do this’ or that it’s easy.

  26. Williesha says:

    Carol!!! Another winner where we get a glimpse of your life. It’s awesome because this is the life of any kind of business owner making a lot of money – everything is the same, you just have one less worry!

    Yes, it still would be awesome to be a freelancer making 6 figures. Even mental illness, because you have the money to see people and get medications. Right now, a great majority of my issues have money at its core. I would kill to work on weekends if it meant having my own home (we live with his family), a car (we need one).

    Not to say we are flat broke. We can finally have a savings account and we’re going to have a honeymoon do-over soon.

    So especially with anxiety issues, it’d be nice to delegate things to people. And, really, kids change everything, regardless of income.

    Thus
    Williesha recently posted…How to Get Gutsy & Make the Big Ask to Influential PeopleMy Profile

    • Williesha says:

      Whoops! Doing this on my phone. Meant to end with “This is amazing. It’s also a motivational post because people still think you can’t make six figures freelancing.
      Williesha recently posted…How to Get Gutsy & Make the Big Ask to Influential PeopleMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’ve come to believe there’s a cosmic stasis in the number of worries we each get. So as I solved the money worry, other emergencies in my life came along to take its place. Truly, it happened just like that — as the money worry scale went down, the other worries rose up. The net worry level, I feel, has stayed more or less the same.

      Now, if one of my kids’ friends asks if they need to give me money for the movie we’re taking their child to, I say, “No, money doesn’t concern me. I have other worries now. And you don’t want them.”

      One other new worry I have, of course, is the responsibility I feel to the 10 or so people who work in the blog & Den side of my writing business. Now, I have to make enough to cover all their work too, as well as my own.

      I think the key to life is learning to be happy in every moment, and to spend less time thinking, “After X crisis is over, then I’ll be happy.” Which is how I spent all of my younger years. Now, I’ve lived long enough to know that the crises never end.

      • Riss says:

        “I think the key to life is learning to be happy in every moment, and to spend less time thinking, “After X crisis is over, then I’ll be happy.” Which is how I spent all of my younger years. Now, I’ve lived long enough to know that the crises never end.”

        I love it. Going to save this quote! 🙂

        Thanks for a great article. I’m just starting out and looking forward to the point where I earn anything at all, lol! I’ve enjoyed the discussions here about learning to develop repeat business and passive income. I guess writing books or other writing forms that can earn income for us repeatedly, is a good way to do that. Freelancing probably leads into that quite naturally for many people anyway, once you develop expertise in a particular subject area.

      • Willi Morris says:

        That’s definitely a quotable there, Carol. Also, if you notice an uptick in referrals to this post from Facebook…totally me. 😉
        Willi Morris recently posted…How to Get Gutsy & Make the Big Ask to Influential PeopleMy Profile

      • Adeline Gonzales says:

        Yes! Carol, I completely agree with being content in EVERY season because there will ALWAYS be crisis and trials and hurdles to overcome and issues that have the potential to cause worry. Really, this is the key, to find contentment in every season of life because we’ll never arrive like we think. When money becomes a non-issue, something else will inevitably take it’s place. I’ve learned that whatever hurdles or trials I’m experiencing worry does NOTHING but stress and wear me down physically and mentally and I ain’t got time for that!lol

  27. Rohi Shetty says:

    Hi Carol,
    I’m inspired by your honesty, work ethic and grace under pressure.
    I do want to make a living but I’m not really interested in making six figures.
    Money is important but so is everything else.
    Thanks again for this great post.
    Rohi Shetty recently posted…How James Chartrand Helped Me Publish 6 Kindle Books in 5 MonthsMy Profile

  28. Mike Johnson says:

    Carol has done a good job describing her experiences while attaining a six-figure writing career. I would go so far as to say these experiences are likely the norm for others who do it too. I can also imagine some people lying about their six-figure experiences to make them look easier.

    But there ARE writers who can earn six figures a year and not work the crazy hours she describes. I was one of them. For me, the secret to gaining both time and money was gaining clients with reoccurring projects. I recommend newsletter publishers, trade magazines and ad agencies. Over six years I wrote four newsletters a month for one freelance client that required about 20 hours a week. That client paid me over $50K a year 20 years ago, which would be well over 6 figures a year now. My other regular ad agency and trade publication clients were just gravy and required far fewer hours. When the same clients give you regular work, your unpaid time spent marketing drops to near zero.

    But the real issue I disagree with here is the unspoken assumption that trading time for money is the only way to earn income. This is not true. There are many ways to earn income without having to work a schedule. As a writer you have the power to read anything, interview anyone and become an authority on anything. Why not direct some of your power toward learning the many ways to earn passive income that do not require you to trade time for money? Just because it is not widely taught does not mean that it doesn’t exist.

    After tiring of trading my time for money as a freelance writer, I used my writing and research skills to make the leap to passive income and now I enjoy both money freedom and time freedom.

    People are like magnets. You attract what you think about. If you expect that earning money will be hard, you will attract that. But if you research alternatives and read success stories of others who earn easier, more passive incomes, you can elevate your thoughts and actions to attract that.

    Only about 5% of Americans are financially independent and I estimate only about half of those are time independent too. This shows that mimicking what the 95% do isn’t the best strategy. If you use your writing and research skills to study what the other 5% are doing, you can improve your life in ways you cannot yet even imagine. They know things that you do not. Why not just read their books or phone them up and start asking how they did it? You’re a writer! Use your powers!

    As you can see from Carol’s experiences, time is more important than money. But you have to gain money to gain time. So the best time investment you’ll ever make is learning how to earn money that doesn’t require perpetually trading your precious time to get it. Thankfully, your writing and research skills give you a big advantage in this journey.

    Good luck!
    MJ

    • Carol Tice says:

      Mike…I’ve obviously branched out into other ways to earn as a writer as well, since the 2011 year I’ve pegged this post around.

      My income is mostly *not* passive — my courses and Den support are all very hands-on! — but I’m definitely a fan of diversifying your sources of writing income, now that it’s fairly easy to do so.

      I do affiliate sell a select handful of products and courses, from places I’ve used and can personally recommend, and now have 5 self-pubbed ebooks out with more to come. Usually, someone buys a copy of one of them pretty much every day, and that’s become a nice side income.

      Learning how to do all that is a whole different post — I wanted to focus this one purely on freelancing.

      I also agree about finding recurring freelance work, which I mostly do as well. But in the main, I find hitting the six-fig range usually doesn’t happen on part-time hours, unless you score a really terrific stable of clients.

  29. Isobel Jones says:

    Hello Carol,

    This post just.. well, let’s just say that right now I would settle for something, anything, which gets my bum off the ocean floor and the credit card wolves away from my door. My target right now is $100 a week. If I can make that, then all well and good; the heart lifts a little bit and the head stays above water. And I know this is relatively early days, plus I have some nice clients.. but they’re all oDesk finds during the ‘paying your dues’ phase, i.e. they locked me in at $5 an hour. I just doubled my rate to $10 an hour for new clients in the hopes. Let’s see if that works.

    And because what you’ve said here was so honest and so helpful, and because it made me feel like I’m not alone out here, I just applied to join the den. For the reasons above I can’t pay much, but would blog or even sweep the floor for cookies.. actually, no, better make that apples, am getting too fat.. 🙂

    Thanks for being there and telling things like they are for you. Hope I’ve managed to convey how much that means.

    All best wishes, Isobel 🙂
    Isobel Jones recently posted…Fiction Editing, Proofreading, Beta ReadingMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Isobel, I’d recommend setting a goal above $100 a week. Few people can live on that…and we often fall short of our goals.

      May I officially declare your ‘paying your dues’ phase over? If you have three clips, start looking for your own clients. Then you can charge more professional rates — in the Den, we advocate $35-$50 an hour as a floor for new writers. I shoot for $100 an hour, myself. You have to remember how many hours are unbillable.

  30. Misti says:

    My goal is to become a 6-figure author of fantasy and sci-fi. I have reasons I want that kind of income, things I want to do with it. Getting out of debt is one. Eating more organic is another—but food already is on the expensive side, because of my myriad of allergies. (When you’re allergic to things like rice, tomato, and carrot, you even have to make your own ranch dressing.) I want to be able to travel. I want to be able to help friends out, financially.

    But I have health issues that mean I have to be careful how I schedule work. I have a tendency to forget I’m not well, and I set up my to-do list as if I am well, and then… That doesn’t work. Client work gets done, but my own stuff doesn’t.

    I’ve started frequently reminding myself I’m a spoonie. It helps.

    Fact is, I won’t get better if I don’t keep my poor health in mind and account for that. I can slow down my plans and schedule for my fantasy and sci-fi without giving up on my dreams and goals. It’ll just be a longer timeline than I’d wanted. That’s okay.

    • Carol Tice says:

      What’s a spoonie?

      Becoming a 6-figure fiction author is an extreme moonshot, Misti. So few writers get to simply spin tales and earn a lot.

      As nonfiction freelance writers, we have much more of a shot at this, and it’s not a moonshot, but income you can see in the door every month, rather than writing and writing and simply hoping to hit it big someday. That to me is more on the order of hoping to become a movie or rock star — most who hope it will be disappointed.

      Where as freelancers, if you’re willing to market and work hard, you can do this, and earn well at it, reliably, month after month.

      • Misti says:

        I linked to it, but a “spoonie” is a way of thinking about chronic health issues, where your energy/ability to do things is limited.

        Your presuppositions about writing and publishing are actually downright wrong. I have a headache right now, else I would go into more specifics, but you’re assuming that an author has to hit it big to earn well. That’s actually a myth.

        • Misti says:

          I do appreciate your point that self-publishing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, but 6 figures is actually a quite reasonable goal for a fiction author. Even before self-publishing got easy, a lot of the longstanding folks who made their livings writing and could produce regularly made at least 6 figures. Some even use that as the definition for “pro” author.

          I have done my research. 😉

          In the current self-publishing environment, an author who sells, on average, 100 copies per day, of novels priced at $4.99, will hit 6 figures. Doesn’t matter if it’s on 1 novel or across 50 novels.

          I’ve seen a lot of authors doing just this. I’ve observed that the ones who reach that point with more titles out tend to have more stable success than the ones who have a blockbuster out the gate.

          As long as I keep working on building a backlist and produce quality writing, I’ll get there eventually. I know far too many people who support themselves writing, to doubt that.

          Even now, with my releases and updates being fairly erratic, my average monthly income is going up with each new release. Once I have a series completed, I’ll start promoting (more via freebies). I have a plan, and things are actually doing better than I expected, at this point. One of the points of owning intellectual property—which, when set up properly, can bring in income even if you’re ill for a month and can’t work.

          There is a reason fiction writing careers tend to attract people with chronic health conditions. 🙂

          • Carol Tice says:

            Misti, so few writers sell 100 copies of their ebooks a day. I know I’m in nonfiction, but with 5 of my own titles, I usually sell about 1 a day, on average, mostly at $9.99. With an audience of 50,000+ readers a month.

            The key here is ‘eventually’ — and maybe. Six figures is a reasonable goal IF — if you find an audience, are a successful marketer, and a great writer, too. And those are all big Ifs, in my experience. And you might do all that fiction writing and never earn a dime — I hear from sooo many writers in that boat.

            Guess I’d say six figures is a reasonable goal — for a *successful* fiction writer. Problem is, most aren’t. If it were easy to be a successful fiction writer earning six figures, we’d all be doing it, including me. 😉

            If I can give you a tip, don’t wait until you’ve written an entire series to start promoting! Promote the first one. Use the second one to sell more of the first one. And so on.

            It sounds like you’re seeing some sales, so that’s fantastic! Hope it continues to build for you. But I’d be the last one to encourage fiction writers to count on this for income to pay this month’s rent.

            • Misti says:

              Oh, I’m not relying on it to pay off immediately, and I never said making a living with fiction was easy. It is doable, though.

              I have a goal years long, with my current promo tactics mainly being stuff that’ll pay off in 5-ish years (and, on that front, it’s actually working better than I expected). I’m just waiting to have a series out before I try more promo tactics that have a short-tail effect, because that’ll give a better return on investment and can convert that short-tail effect into a long-tail one.

              There are some self-publishers who go a year without moving a copy. I’m not one of them.

  31. Penny Hawes says:

    Great post, as usual, Carol.

    Aside from everything mentioned above by your other wise readers, I was happy to see that the cutoff point for happiness/$$ ratio is $75,000.

    As my goal is $77,000, which would bring my net below that threshold, I’m ready to work hard and enjoy some of the many benefits you listed.

    Quite honestly, I’m mostly ready to move above the poverty level, below which I’ve spent more than enough time. Having a nest egg, to me, sounds like heaven on earth. I’ve always worked hard, now I’m working on being smarter about it and actually owning the fact that my work has value.

    Here’s to all of us finding out own sweet spot.

  32. Scott says:

    Hi Carol,

    Some of the downsides you mentioned are exactly the reasons I haven’t embarked on a freelancing career. I worked in the newspaper business for about a dozen years before moving on. Eight years later, I still miss it. Sure, I’ve done some freelancing and have had the thought of doing it full time.

    But having the constant pressure of producing and worrying about lining up enough gigs to keep the dollars flowing,? Not sure how well I’d handle it. I admire your tenacity and work ethic.

    As for the mental health issues you mentioned, I have some experience in this arena, too. I was diagnosed with clinical depression about five years ago. Didn’t even know I had it until I had a really not so pleasant panic attack. I was luck, though. I found a good doctor that helped find the right anti-depressant and anxiety meds that have allowed me to lead a “normal”life.

    Years ago, I watched my mother struggle with schizophrenia. It took a considerably longer time for the docs to get her the right meds.

    The reason I’m telling you all this is, don’t give up. I’m not sure which disorder(s) you suffer from, but help is out there. I certainly hope you don’t attach any kind of stigma to it. It’s disease no different than cancer or diabetes.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Not me, Scott — family members. Though at one point I found it so stressful to deal with the mental-health issues of my family members that I did also require medication for depression. (Being around crazy people…it can make you crazy!)

      And don’t worry, we’re in it for the long haul and tweaking those meds until we get where we need to go. One of my kiddos is already doing great having found the right solution, but we have more battles left to fight.

  33. Carol, I’ve been preaching this for years…how refreshing to read your take on it! I’ve shared it to The Confident Copywriter group on LinkedIn, where we’ve often debated the six-figure myth. Success, in my opinion, is whatever achievements and income level make you feel happy and satisfied. Period.

    Thanks so much for an awesome post!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Victoria — thanks for sharing the post!

      There is definitely more than one definition of freelance-writing success. I say more power to moms who’re only freelancing part-time, or in retirement — part of the ‘free’ in freelance is that we’re free to define the terms of what we’re doing.

  34. I always love it when you tell it straight, Carol!

    You have a way of blurting it out that’s almost like Steven Spielberg’s way of telling stories using films. Even if the stories make me feel bad… or sad… …there’s always a sense of delight watching them.

    Anyway, in theory, I always knew the sacrifices one needs to do to have bigger income, but I know it would be different when I will actually hit six figures.

    Whatever happens, and however I would feel, upon hitting those numbers, I know I would enjoy the benefits of having a fatter bank account, as opposed to being stressed because I’m not holding anything to pay the bills. 🙂
    Anthony Dejolde recently posted…Immediate Action (One of the best productivity hacks)My Profile

  35. Ben Gran says:

    Excellent article, Carol! I can totally relate to many of the points made here. I’d rather not publicly disclose my income, so I’m not going to confirm or deny that I’m a six-figure freelancer, but my freelance income has increased significantly in each of the past 2 years, and I’m now much busier than I’ve ever been before, and it looks to (hopefully, knock on wood) stay that way for the foreseeable future. I’m a sole breadwinner for a family of four, and I’m grateful to have this money, but higher income also brings a few downsides and concerns…

    Here are a few things I’ve discovered from making more money as a freelancer than I used to think was possible:

    1. It feels weird to be making this much money. It’s kind of changed the way I think about myself – mostly in a good way. I’m proud of myself. I feel more empowered. I feel validated in my decision to leave my corporate job four years ago. I feel like I can do what it takes to provide a good life for my family. But at the same time, I have to guard against arrogance. I have to remember that this could all go away at a moment’s notice.

    2. I feel LESS pressure than I used to. Oddly enough, now that I’m super-duper busy all the time, I feel more relaxed with my freelance work and schedule. I feel more confident in my abilities. I can afford to say “no” to more things – I can turn down bad projects that aren’t a good fit, and I can say “no” to bad, cheapskate clients who are too picky or demanding. I’d rather be insanely busy with work – to the point that I’m working on nights and weekends – than be even slightly bored, underutilized, or searching desperately for new projects.

    I’m really really grateful for all of this work and income. I feel like this is what I was made for – I was made to write lots and lots of stuff for the Internet. I’m grateful for the Internet and for all of the digital tools and online connections that make it easier to be a freelancer than ever before.

    That said, there are a few concerns that go with being a high-earning freelancer:

    1. Work-life balance: I sometimes feel like all I want to do anymore is work. (Here I am on a Sunday morning checking e-mail – which is how I found this article.) I don’t feel a lot of interest anymore in hobbies or clubs or other activities; other than spending time with my family and a few close friends, I’d rather work than do almost anything else. Everything else other than work feels kind of boring and unfulfilling to me lately. I’m comfortable (for now) being a high-earning recluse, but maybe that’s not really healthy in the long run?

    2. More Money, More Problems: I love having a big income that enables me to pay off debt and pay for medical bills and take my family on vacation. We’re going on vacation in March and we’re flying instead of driving – my kids are so excited to go on a plane for the first time. I’m so grateful for all of this. But it’s true that having more money doesn’t solve all of your problems and can sometimes be a source (not to complain, not to be ungrateful) of new stress. I sometimes worry that we’ll get used to a higher standard of living that is only possible if I’m working like a maniac all the time. I worry that I’m not saving enough money to pay the higher tax bills that go with a higher income. I worry that I’m just raising my family’s expectations and speeding up the never-ending treadmill that life as a sole breadwinner often feels like. I worry that I’m not spending enough time with my kids, that I’m often obsessed with work and distracted and disengaged around the house, and sometimes I worry that I’m going to become a grim, arrogant workaholic who only cares about money. I don’t want money to change me for the worse – I want to be a generous person who does good things for other people and who has a healthy, happy perspective on life.

    Here are a few things I’m trying to do better in 2015:

    1. Spend more quality time with my kids. If I’m working hard all week, I’ll take them swimming on the weekends.
    2. Go on more dates with my wife. We can afford plenty of child care right now, so I’m going to take advantage of it.
    3. Set – and reach – powerful financial goals. Last year I paid off a lot of debt, which felt AMAZING. This year I’m going to save a lot of money, especially in tax-advantaged retirement accounts like my new SEP IRA. (Once you’re making a big enough income, the IRS offers you lots of fun things to do with it.)
    4. Get more exercise. I have complete control of my schedule, so there’s no excuse for me not to go for a long walk in the neighborhood or go jogging at the gym for an hour everyday before I start work. I’m going to do better at this in 2015 – especially after this interminable dark winter is over!
    5. Outsource more domestic tasks. People tend to undervalue their time. Now that I’m busier than ever before, my time is really valuable, and so I’d rather hire a private chef service or hire housekeepers or hire lawn care workers than do the cooking, cleaning and yard work. I’d rather buy myself more time to work and make money (or to do things that are more important and enjoyable than domestic routines).

    Being a successful freelancer ultimately isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about designing a lifestyle that works for you. Every single day as a freelancer, you have the chance to build the life you want, with the right balance of work and money, fun and love. More money often helps with a lot of your challenges, but it’s not the answer to everything. But I’m still grateful to be earning a good income and I hope I can keep it going for the foreseeable future.

    Thanks again for this article, Carol!
    Ben Gran recently posted…What is the JET Program like? My experience teaching English in JapanMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Ben — great to hear how well you’re doing!

      I think my goals list is similar to yours, though I’m already all-in on the date nights.

      Funny story — this past year, I went to raise the amount I was auto-deducting into my SEP, to reflect my higher income, and meant them to cancel the previous amount I was doing. Instead, they added the new higher one, and suddenly I was putting aside 150% more than I had!

      At first I was freaked out and was going to call and fix it…but then I decided to let it stand and see what happened. If we hurt for the money. And we didn’t. So the result is that this is the first year that I have put a SERIOUS sum into retirement in a long, long, time — since back when I had a day job with a 401(k) and matching money from my company. That definitely felt good.

      And yeah…I feel ya on the hobbies. I used to dry flowers and do crafts with them and garden a lot more, I quilted…and that all disappeared. When I was ramping this blog and launching Freelance Writers Den, I didn’t so much as see a TV show or have a friend over for about 2 1/2 years. I’m still trying to get back to the social life I want! On the plus-side binge-watching Walking Dead rocks over watching one episode at a time. 😉

  36. Elke Feuer says:

    I was never interested in earning six figures, just replace the salary of my day job. Ambitious enough. Lol!
    Elke Feuer recently posted…Welcome 2015My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s exactly how I started out…then, at some point I started to wonder if I could make enough to get out of debt and maybe be able to eat a meal out without feeling guilty, and a whole new phase of my freelancing began. 😉

  37. Oludami says:

    Hi Carol.
    So much wisdom in this post.

    However I’d still like to hit 6(and more) figures, so I can also write a post like this someday 🙂
    Oludami recently posted…The Simplest Guide to Writing an About Page That RocksMy Profile

  38. Thanks for sharing this. If I can add, I think this is like any career/job. The more money you want to make, the more time you need to spend making it successful. The difference with freelancing is when you’re the writer (or graphic designer, etc. ) “you’re it!” The client is hiring You for Your work. Unlike creating widgets, you are ultimately required to produce the end product. One thing you can do is outsource anything else (e.g. admin) so you have more time to do the work and spend less time on all the rest – and more time with family.

    Thanks again for your insight!

  39. Susan Sommer says:

    I’m no where near a six-figure income in my freelancing, which I’ve been doing exclusively for the past four years but lately ramping up due to changes in marital status, but for me the lifestyle has always been the big payoff. I get to sleep until I’m done sleeping (no alarm clock), spend time with family and friends and pets, and not waste time commuting to an office. Carol, I like your note about how much head space worrying takes–so true! Whenever I spend too much time worrying, I later think of all the creative pursuits I could’ve used that time for.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I like the analogy that worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair — you *feel* like you’re doing something, but you’re really getting nowhere.

  40. Emma says:

    Your hair might not have great genes, and Rogaine is definitely not the answer, but you may have gut problems that are causing you to lose hair due to malabsorption/leaky gut syndrome, and if this is the case, you could be setting yourself up for an autoimmune disease. I only say this because 1) you brought it up and 2) I have the same problem, and it did lead to autoimmune diseases, and I wish someone had told me about this before I got so sick and had to do the research myself. So you might want to try to heal your gut. You may not have any gut symptoms, but that doesn’t mean you are getting all your nutrients. I strongly recommend Sarah Ballantyne’s book The Paleo Approach (it’s not the Paleo diet, it’s a textbook, don’t get the Kindle version unless you have a Fire because it’s mostly diagrams that are hard to Kindle on the kind I have…) which deals with autoimmune diseases and how to heal your gut. I have been on the AIP Protocol she recommends since August (after getting out of the hospital!) and my hair is starting to grow back. (I was in worse shape than you.) So if you have taken the time to have your thyroid levels checked and it’s not that (not mine either), please try this approach or something that speaks to you — there is a lot out there — but I know that putting it all on Dad’s genes is not really the answer, because it is a symptom of a larger issue. With love and compassion, Emma

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Emma –Not sure this is my situation, but it bears looking into. At one point about a decade ago, my hair was thinning, and I was found to be anemic. At this point I’m afraid age is a real factor in it…but I’m always all for getting healthier.

  41. Quinn Eurich says:

    Thanks Carol!

    It’s good to hear the truth from someone who’s living it.

    It not only puts things in perspective, but I have to say . . . it’s nice to know you’re not alone!

    Which is why I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning taking a break from work and checking out my favorite bloggers!

    Quinn

    • Carol Tice says:

      Seems like you’re not the only one! I’m checking in late today because it was my daughter’s birthday party last night, but usually I’m at it on Sunday mornings while she’s at religious school. 😉

      I keep trying to figure out how to get back to a 5-day week, but when you run a blog-based business in addition to your freelancing, it’s particularly difficult!

  42. Fantastic post, Carol! I do have a super-lofty 5-year goal to hit $100k, though I can live comfortably on much less. I hope to achieve it by hitting my maximum desired workload then steadily raising my rates or finding higher-paying clients and see how close to 6 figures that takes me. I just want to be able to live comfortably and feel consistently challenged by my work. And I almost always get excited about “boring” topics, so hopefully that means I’m well-suited to that aspect of this career.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I am such a learning dork, Sylvie — I enjoy the challenge of learning new topics. And I think that definitely helps! Often, writing gigs pay well because not every writer can understand the subject well enough to write on it. If you’re the writer who can, they’ll never let you go.

  43. Kristen says:

    I actually have no desire to become a six-figure freelancer and one of the main reasons is because of one you mentioned: I want to have a life. I would be very happy making somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.
    Kristen recently posted…Words Have PowerMy Profile

    • $50,000 would be dream income enough for me–I figure that for that I could handle all the bills and necessities plus eat out three or four times a week, hire a cleaning service to cover all those dreary and draining chores I hate, take a multiple-week out-of-town vacation annually, and never touch a charge card. Of course, that budgeting is based on local prices and the fact that I have only myself to support right now.

      I have to admit, though, that I’ve heard the “six figure” cliche often enough that one could start to feel lazy and shiftless for aiming lower. Dreaming big is fine, but why should one waste perfectly good thought energy seeking things she doesn’t personally care if she ever gets?
      Katherine Swarts recently posted…Change Is a Journey, Not a DestinationMy Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        If it were just me, I could earn *so* much less and live very well. But I adopted two of my three kids…and am the sole breadwinner, and have been the main breadwinner for 20 years now. And my kids turned out to be the type that need a lot of special services…it’s costs up the wazoo. Fortunately, I figured out how to solve it.

        • Cherese Cobb says:

          Carol,
          This is off-topic, but I think it’s wonderful that you adopted two children. My mother was in the foster system growing up, and she definitely could have used a motherly influence. I’ve worked with kids with special needs for 5 years, and I saw parents struggle financially to provide all of their needs. Wheel chairs, specialists, hospice care, etc. are not cheap!

          • Carol Tice says:

            Thanks Cherese — I’m grateful that mine are physically just great…but meeting their needs is still definitely costly.

            (PS — sorry, we just found your comment in spam! No idea why it went there.)

  44. manish says:

    Yes, still I want to be six figure freelancer writer because after that everyone deleted to me will become happy . its my dream to earn a lot.I can do anything for my dreams.

  45. Joe says:

    Great post Carol.

    The old joke about “can I do it until I need glasses” shows up here. Money for debt and better living but not enough for problems.
    We’re like Creedence Clearwater, “How much should we give, more, more, more”.

    Good things to consider, but even the considering is in moderation.

    Thanks again.
    Joe recently posted…Keeping Cool for a Living (Portable Air conditioners are a key)My Profile

  46. Amy Butcher says:

    I’ve been making six figures as a freelancer for a few years as well, and I have to say that last year nearly killed me and I had to ramp things down this year, fire clients that just weren’t doing it for me, and look for new directions in my work just to stay sane. And yes, here it is, Sunday morning, and I’m working while my family relaxes downstairs (and yes, I think that reading and commenting on this blog post classifies as work!).

    I would say that six figures is nice, but I never set out to make that. All I wanted was to do a job I loved, be the best at it, and make my clients as happy as possible. I often find that the people who want the freelancer lifestyle because of the money are the people who won’t make that salary.

    Freelancing is fantastic, but it’s hard too, and when I started ten years ago, I almost gave up because it was so hard. But now I love it, and the six figures is just icing on the cake. If my salary were cut in half tomorrow for some reason, I could still and be happy. This sounds very cliché, but it’s the work that’s important, not the money.
    Amy Butcher recently posted…How a Blog Can Drive Your MissionMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m with you, Amy — when I got into freelancing again in 2005, my big goal was to hopefully replace most of my $60K salary at my last staff-writing job.

      It wasn’t until I got into it more that I realized my earning potential was unlimited, as a freelancer. I’d probably still do it if I was making $40K a year, even, and figure out how to make the finances work.

  47. Hi Carol

    I guess it’s only human nature for people to assume everything’s hunky dory when you’re earning good money.

    They only see what’s on the surface – the nice clothes, meals out at expensive restaurants and the exotic holidays.

    What they don’t see is the responsibility, the late nights and early mornings, the deadline pressures and the fact that you have very little time to actually enjoy that money.

    And, of course, all that work can drive you to an early grave.

    But that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t be striving to earn more. Because working all hours for peanuts will also shorten your lifespan.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted…Revealed: The marketing tactics six successful copywriters use to build a better incomeMy Profile

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