The following is a guest post by Holly, a freelancer writer and blogger I've known for over five years. I've seen her grow her side-hustle, ClubThrifty.com from a tiny site to one that has allowed her and her husband, Greg to quit their day jobs.
Freelance writing is the easiest way to get started making money online. I did some various freelance writing after I left my day job just to make sure I wouldn't starve to death. Despite receiving a severance and having passive income streams, I'm never 100% sure I'm doing the right thing until a long enough time passes.
Freelance writing is also one of the main reasons why I'll never be scared of running out of money again. I know that if all else fails, I can tap my network of startups I've cultivated since 2012 for writing assignments. Once you become an established online writer, you can easily make more than the median household income earns a year. Take it away Holly!
As someone who gets paid to create interesting content for the web, I recognize writing talent in everyday people all the time. Sometimes it’s a thoughtful and poetic Facebook post crafted by someone I know. Other times, it’s a witty email, a clever take on an issue, or a handwritten card filled with all the right words.
That doesn’t mean everyone wants to write for a living, but some people absolutely do. Over the years, I’ve watched several of my friends take up blogging to express themselves and (hopefully) begin a digital career. Unfortunately, far too many never blog long enough to build anything meaningful. It’s hard at first, they’ll say, and there are few rewards for someone just starting out.
One of my friends, Karen, is the perfect example of a would-be writer who couldn’t hang in there. After brainstorming passionately for months, she started a blog of her own and poured everything she had into it. But, just a few months later, I noticed she, too, sputtered out.
She worked in a grueling job with hectic hours and desperately needed a change, yet she couldn’t juggle both the blogging and the career. Frustrated, she chose to settle on her regular, 9-5 job. For all the talent she had, giving up was such a shame.
Then again, I totally understood where she was coming from. I could have ended up just like Karen. In fact, I was Karen at least five or six times. When my husband and I started our blog in 2011, I quit at least once per month. I had a full-time job that consumed most of my waking hours, and seemingly, my life force. Oh, and I also had two kids under the age of three.
When we first started blogging, I had no choice but to get up at 5:00 a.m. to write before work, only to wait until the kids went to bed at 8:00 p.m. to finish. Needless to say, I was spent.
But I am one of the lucky ones. Each time I wanted to quit, my husband kept our website going. There were times when he wanted to quit, too, yet I was able to pull us through during those times. We have always been very yin and yang like that – always there to support one another at the right times. Fortunately, it worked and we’re still blogging to this day.
Eventually, I even turned my love of blogging into a profitable side hustle creating online content. Over time, I found this is where I could really shine. This is where I belonged.
I had always been a writer, but never focused on writing exclusively for profit until I started blogging. Alas, I found I absolutely loved writing content in a variety of online formats outside of my own website, Club Thrifty. And most of all, I loved all the extra money that came with it.
This is where my husband and I are different. While he felt a sense of accomplishment from blogging alone, I only felt like I had “done something” when I was bringing in cash.
Forget the website traffic, I thought. I want the money. And that’s exactly what I went after – the money.
Eventually, I had to quit my full-time job. Like, I absolutely had to. Not only was I driving myself crazy, but I was earning more money writing part-time than I was working full-time.
This wasn’t a huge feat in itself. After all, I was only earning around $38,000 per year at my job. Still, it was exciting when I finally surpassed the $40,000 per year/$3,300 per month mark with my side hustle. This was 2012.
I still remember the excitement I felt when I landed my first few “big” blogging gigs. Actually, Sam was one of the first editors to give me a break. He hired me to write at a large fintech company when he was their consultant, then again for ongoing work elsewhere.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m still writing for a living. And with a few years under our belts, our blog is profitable enough that my husband is home, too. So yes, we’re both full-time, stay-at-home workers. We’re the kind of people who keep our neighbors guessing as to what we do.
Despite outward appearances though, I actually stay very busy. If you ever read about money or travel on the web, you have probably read my words. Not only do I serve as Contributing Editor at The Simple Dollar, but I write columns for Lending Tree, Frugal Travel Guy, U.S. News and World Report Travel, and other top publications.
When Sam wrote about how much bloggers actually make earlier this year, he was spot on. There’s definitely a difference between earning most of your money on your own website or other people’s, but the message is the same. There is an enormous amount of opportunity out there, and the spoils will go to those who seize it.
I work long hours (40+ hours per week) and I pour my soul into at times, but I work less overall and I earn a hell of a lot more. In 2015, for example, I invoiced for around $180,000 in freelance work. This year, I am on track to invoice for more than $225,000.
As an added bonus, being self-employed means never having to deal with the words “overtime,” “PTO,” or “staff meeting” again. On a personal level, my husband and I are also able to travel around once per month – working intermittently during our longer trips. Since I write about travel for a living now, most of this “work” is also a tax write-off.
Truthfully, it’s pretty darn awesome – at least most of the time.
How to Turn Writing Skills into Dollar Signs
This year alone, I have easily received 300+ emails from people asking how we’ve done it. How was I able to build a freelance writing career from scratch? How were we both able to leave our jobs? And, most importantly, where can a starting writer find the kind of work that might help them do the same thing?
Just as often, however, I get questions on how I became a paid travel writer. For people who love to travel, getting paid to jet around is practically the holy grail. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get paid to see the world?
Even for those who don’t want to write about travel, the freedom that comes with digital entrepreneurship is intriguing on its own. Location independence and the ability to set your own hours is something people dream of, yet few achieve. Even if you’re a homebody, there’s something alluring about being able to live life on your own terms.
Then again, it all boils down to how. How do you get started, and where is all of this opportunity I speak of? Who are these people that are hiring, and how can you find them?
How to Turn Writing Skills into a Digital Career, Q&A
To answer all of these questions and more, I did what all digital entrepreneurs do – I created an online course. Totally predictable, I know, but very valuable.
During nine video modules hosted by yours truly, I explain how anyone with writing talent and the drive to succeed can start on the path towards freelance success. If you’re interested, you can find my new course online at EarnMoreWriting.com.
No matter what, there is a real thirst for this information. People are yearning to learn more, yet not entirely sure where to look. If you love to write, wish you could write for pay, and desperately want to work from home, here are a few questions and answers that can help.
Q. What is the first step a person should take if they’re interested in getting paid to write?
A. By and large, the most important step you can take is to start blogging and building your online presence. Your website doesn’t have to be fancy, but you generally need to have an “online home” or online portfolio to get jobs.
Q. What is the most important attribute a person who writes online can have?
A. Being responsive and responsible is just as important as being a good writer. There are so many talented freelancers out there, yet few of them know how to be the ideal freelancer. There’s a difference. Ideal freelancers respond to emails promptly, follow directions, and make their editor’s jobs easier.
Q. How can I become a travel writer?
A. I suggest doing exactly what Sam has done with his new travel category. To become a travel writer, you have to start writing about travel. Don’t wait for permission or for someone to hire you outright. Become who you want to be and create the social proof you are a travel writer first. Once you accomplish that step, the jobs will come.
Q. What if I want to write about something else?
A. Nearly every business has a blog these days, and all of them hire writers to create fresh content on a regular basis. As a result, you could wind up writing about anything from pet care to makeup or even high fashion. I always suggest people find their areas of interest and expertise, then brainstorm related businesses that might hire writers.
While I mostly write about travel and personal finance, I have also created content for all types of businesses that deal in everything from lawn care to higher education. If you can dream it up, you can do it.
Q. How much money can you make creating content online?
A. It really depends. I know people who earn anywhere from a few hundred bucks per week to six figures every year. The amount of money you’ll make depends on the niches you’ll find yourself in, how well you use your time, and how good your writing skills are.
Personally, I started writing articles for around $100 each. Years later, I try to earn at least $300 for anything I write, and up to $1,500 for meatier and lengthier content.
To give you a broader idea of what to expect, I reached out to a few more writers I know to see how much they earn for various types of content. Here’s what they said:
“My name is Carrie Smith Nicholson, and I write blog posts for startups and small businesses related to financial organization, entrepreneurship, productivity and freelancing. I earn between $250 and $500 for every post I submit. In 2015, I earned $78,000 from my freelance writing pursuits.”
“My name is Lindsay VanSomeren, and I write science and personal finance blog posts between 700-2000 words. I earn anywhere from $75 to $350 for my work. I've been doing this for just nine months, and depending on the workload, I make anywhere from $700 to $1475 per month.”
“I’m Emilie Burke and I write personal finance content for a myriad of sites and brand-sponsored content for my blog. I earn between $65 and $225 per post (300-500 words). I do price myself based on the client. (Bigger brands get charged market rate, a mom and pop shop might get a discount.) I earn about $500/month in freelance income, which is supplementary to my full time job.”
“I'm Eric Rosenberg, and I left my day job in April to go full-time with my business as a freelance writer and website developer. Last year, I made $40,000 as a freelancer on the side, and decided to take the plunge this year as a full-time freelancer. Since leaving my job as a Senior Financial Analyst, I have made around $5,000-$8,500 per month and expect to end the year with around $75,000 in revenue.”
As you can see, freelance income is can be over the place depending on the person and their niche. How much you can earn depends on your level of skill, your experience, and the rates you negotiate.
Click her to follow my step-by-step guide to starting your own money making blog within 35 minutes.
Where people once had mostly traditional jobs, the internet has ushered in a new revolution of online freelancers and entrepreneurs. That includes the writers and content creators that craft the blog posts and web content people read every day.
When you really think about it, it’s amazing how many businesses need writers to create their web content and write their blog posts. Every word you read on the internet was crafted by someone, after all. If you’re someone who loves to write, there’s no reason some of that work can’t be yours.
If you’re already a blogger, you already know how much opportunity is out there. If you’re still on the fence, you’re probably curious where this path could lead. Either way, you should know that creative people are building epic writing careers from scratch every single day. If you want to be one of them, the onus to take that first step is on you. Here's the link to my course if you're interested in earning extra money freelance writing.
Related post: The Easiest Way To Make Money From Home
44 thoughts on “The Freelance Writing Lifestyle: An Easy Way To Make Money Online”
The promotional code “NEWYEAR25” for the writing course by Earn More Writing does not work for me. It says “Invalid”. I tried signing up, so I can get started.
Hey Sarah, it’s probably outdated now. You can try EMWWEBINAR25!
Holly, GREAT article! Thank you for your efforts on this, and your course. I’m sooo taking your course. You hit the holy grail for me, in the details of what it takes. “Responsible and responsive”! My last 2 full time regular 9 to 5 jobs, I put my heart and soul into, only to have the promises walked back when it came to a salary bump. This is an area where those qualities can be rewarded. I also did the same thing your friend did, a few years ago. Started, and then got discouraged. Not this time. With more than 350 million blogs, it is daunting, but achievable. My new site has barely generated nil traffic so far, but your hard work has inspired me to press on. When I was working for the man, I would always say, if I’m going to work this hard, I might as well be doing it for myself. With the proper structure and discipline, you’ve inspired me to make that happen. I’m also learning it’s more about collaborating, than “broadcasting”, and that’s what comes through in both your and Sam’s sites. Thank you.
Sorry I am just seeing this. Good for you! I wish you the best of luck. How are things going with your project so far?
Very inspiring blog post Holly!
Thank you for sharing and providing insight on how to become a freelancer. You did an amazing job providing a realistic perspective about the grind and how much work goes in. It’s always motivating to hear success stories like this.
I’ve been able to earn a very small amount of extra money freelancing. I did leave my full-time job, however, I left for a mini-retirement, not to start a blog. It was only after leaving that I realized that I wanted to blog/freelance.
Though I’ve had some success, the main takeaway from this post is on professionalism. I blog mainly as a creative outlet, but I have to admit, it would be a dream to earn a full time living from it.
Sam said it best in one of the comments on this post… “If you can build your brand online, be professional, and consistently produce at a high level, you’ll have endless options.”
Thanks again for sharing :)
It’s always fascinating to see how the sausage is made. I’m glad the internet is big enough for everyone with the drive to do something with it. My blog is a little over 6 months old and is getting dribbles from Adsense, but it is not my primary focus right now. Thankfully the income from the blog does not have to exist for it to be a useful venture for me.
This is a great example and I’m happy to hear from some well-known freelance writers on how they are fairing in the online writing market. Considering Holly’s prominence in the industry, I’m sure this course is an awesome one!
Interesting! I’ve been blogging of about 6 months now and find the writing to be fun. This raises a question:
Where is the best place for someone to begin with freelance writing? I saw a couple suggestions but wasn’t sure if there was one place that may be better than others.
I do have my own blog and recently have received some interest from some readers in having me guest post on their blog. Although this is much different than getting a request to write for pay, I do find it to be a step in the right direction.
It was great to read about your experience and the economics of a freelance writer. Best wishes on the success of your book.
This is very thought provoking and inspiring. I can attest that this “persistence” mentality is the key to success in most things in life. For example I made plenty of mistakes on my first rental property! It cost me a lot more than it should have, and several things happened that could have easily been avoided due to my inexperience. But guess what! I learned some valuable lessons that I have since used several times and I have more than made up for my previous setbacks. Persistence in anything is the secret to success!
Great article Holly!
I’ve hired writers from a few places including freelancer.com. A big differentiator is the response time and professionalism of folks. That’s easily half of the reason we will hire or continue working with a particular writer.
On a side note judging by the number of commenters that have their own finance blog I would wonder if new competitors really have much chance going forward. The world changed and there was a window of opportunity- now there are a vast number of players in the personal finance area. How many content providers Can the market support?
When I started Financial Samurai in 2009, there were plenty of other finance blogs as well. Whatever you do, there will always be tons of other people doing the same thing. Thankfully, the market is HUGE. If you can build your brand online, be professional, and consistently produce at a high level, you’ll have endless options.
I’ve been doing this for two years, so the market was already saturated when I came in. And yet I’ve still managed to steadily grow my traffic and CPC income while making a few affiliate sales on the side. I just had my first sponsored post published, with other advertisers who had reached out to me having been turned down for one reason or another.
Hanging in there and consistently writing high quality posts, interacting with other blogs and forums, and all that will get you noticed eventually. I’m not “there” yet like Holly and Sam are, but I can still see the possibilities. Simply not quitting in the first six months already will set you apart from most other bloggers.
Finding a way to make your blog different from the others is also important. Angry Retail Banker doesn’t just provide financial advice like other finance bloggers, but does so with equal parts anger, sarcastic humor, and casualness that you don’t see elsewhere. You’ve got to make sure that your blog is different from the thousands of others online.
ARB–Angry Retail Banker
I agree with Sam! The internet is a big place, and competition is really all in your head. There is enough opportunity for everyone to succeed.
I must admit that I’ve always been curious about freelance writing. Thanks so much for telling your story. This is definitely something that I want to look into.
Thanks for sharing!
Very interesting as starting an online business is my 2017 goal.
I have 3 questions for you Holly:
1 – to keep you motivated, did you have a plan of different steps to reach the first months and then the first years?
2 – how did you divide your time between writing and promoting your blog? Was it 50/50?
3 – did you take any writing course to keep improving your skills?
Thanks a lot!
Hi Claire! Happy to answer!
1. To be honest, no. I just did whatever I had to do to move forward. We didn’t really have a comprehensive plan on how things would work until like 2 years ago. I just kept plugging forward with my blog and writing as much as I could for pay until I “made it.” Now that I’m further along, I do have weekly, monthly, and annual goals.
2. I didn’t spend much time on my blog at all for the first few years. It really was an afterthought. With that being said, my husband was also putting time into it, so that helped.
3. I never took any writing courses to improve my skills. I don’t think courses were as popular when I started as they are now. At least, I didn’t know of any!
Let me jump in as well.
1) If you do anything with a partner, your chances of success will be much, much higher. Think about an eating or workout buddy, or a financial buddy. Have someone who holds you accountable and challenges you.
2) I spend 90% of my time writing, 10% promoting over social media and my e-mail distribution list. I do this b/c I love to write and connect more than I love to self-promote. I have this very laissez-faire attitude where if someone wants to read what I write, come on by. If not, no big deal. But the reality is, this is not the best ratio. The best ratio is probably 60% writing, 40% promoting.
3) The best writing course I took was AP English in high school. I’ve picked up Strunk & White’s book and read a lot, but that’s about it. I wouldn’t worry about amazing writing mechanics. Good enough is good enough. Just try to be as authentic, entertaining, and insightful as possible.
Over thinking things was my hurdle before I started. Once you start, you will find yourself and the momentum will only build.
Thank you Holly and Sam for your answers!
I think the accountability partner is the way to go, and as I have a 19 years old sister who wants to start her YouTube channel, this is probably going to be it. Her YouTube Channel commitment and my blog commitment!
In an ideal world, I would like my blog to produce enough income in 2/3 years to be able to either quit my day job and be location independent, or fuel my real estate investments. Your ratio gives me a good idea of how to organize my time.
Thanks for the tips for the writing, English is not my first language, but I do want my blog to be in English as the potential audience is so much bigger (I’m French).
Ok, now the big step is stopping to read all about it, and do it!
Thank you again, really appreciate you taking the time to answer, and if you stop by London let me know,
Hi Claire – To give you some added inspiration, English isn’t my first language either! Mandarin is. But with enough practice, anything is possible!
Blogging For A Living: How Much Can You Really Make?
The Importance Of Starting Your Own Website
I was just reading your post on the difference between real estate and online income. Thanks for these two extra links and for the encouragement!
Great article on the possibilities of freelance writing. And you’re right. Every word on the Internet is written by someone.. There are plenty of opportunities out there, especially if you are able to charge per article and avoid long term commitments to any editor until you’re ready.
It’s also great that your husband for you when you couldn’t continue blogging, and vice versa. I can certainly sympathize there. When you have a full time job on top of other obligations, keeping the pace blogging can be difficult. Really difficult. As a blogger about to end his second year of blogging, I can tell you that you must really love blogging for its own sake to keep it up.
ARB–Angry Retail Banker
Really an inspiring story, and well done! It shows what anyone can accomplish with hard work and dedication (and a bit of talent maybe). :)
It’s wonderful to be able to do what you love. It’s definitely hard to start up a blog besides having a full-time job, but so rewarding as well. Being part of the so-called gig-economy, the possibilities are almost endless!
Congrats on your success! As a blogger and freelancer writer myself, I know very well how challenging and exhausting it can be especially in the beginning. I also had my share of times when I was under so much pressure I just didn’t think I could keep going. Writing professionally isn’t for everyone, but it turned out to be something I genuinely love to do and hope to keep doing for a long, long time.
This is great, Holly! I know I struggle sometimes with keeping the momentum going with my blog and I’m only about a year and a half in. I’m seeing growth but it’s definitely something you need patience for.
Hearing a success story like yours makes a guy want to keep pushing forward to reap some more of the rewards out there!
Congrats to you on such a great accomplishment!
I’ve read a lot of Holly’s writing and have read about her story from multiples sources. She’s incredible with how much writing she’s able to do while still taking care of kids and running a household. Very inspirational! Thanks for giving us another glimpse at how she’s been able to make it happen.
Thanks for the insight and congrats on all the success!
I’m just starting out and mainly writing because as I read financial content online, it actually helps me to learn it better by writing about it and challenging myself to explain it to an audience in a simple manner, hence my website, lol. I guess the $$ part will come later (fingers crossed).
I have two questions for you as an accomplished writer:
1) I’m curious, how long do you think someone has to “blog long enough to create anything meaningful?”
After Sam inspired me to create a blog I chose a three year plan from Bluehost. I felt if i wasnt satisfied with my progress after three years of posting twice a week, I could confidently state I had tried it with a full heart, but I would love your opinion!
2) Based on feedback from readers, I wrote a novel based on war stories and cop tales. Do you have any advice on releasing your own e-book vs joining the Kindle collective?
Thanks for the article, I’m not surprised at your success as your writing is clear and easy to follow. I love my job, but its still intruiging to think about the possibilities out there if I ever need to retire my badge.
#1: You’re smart to give yourself three years. I think it takes a good 12 months to get any traction at all, then longer than that to start earning any real money. Most people give up too early because it sucks doing something for free that long – even if you love it. Three years is excellent, I think.
#2: No idea. I don’t have any experience in that. Sorry! My husband and I wrote a traditional book, launching January 10th! Very excited about it, but I didn’t do the backend work because we went with a traditional publisher. You can find it here:
Congratulations! And again, thanks for your insight & I’ll be sure to check out zero down your debt. I think I’m going to like the thesis just by the title.
Nothing about how to find people to pay you. I guess that’s probably all in the paid course?
A quick google search can help you find platforms that connect brands with writers. Some sites to look at are Freelancer.com, Upwork.com, and the ProBlogger Job Board. Personally, I like Contently (set up a free profile) and LinkedIn ProFinder (it’s free, but you have to get approved) best.
A “hire me” page on your blog can work well too, provided you have a blog to begin with.
This article is very inspiring. I started a blog about 3 weeks ago, and I am loving it! However, it is very hard work and I do find it difficult to make time to write. I work about 60 hours a week at a somewhat stressful job. While I love what I do, I get tired and dream of the day that I can reduce some stress and obtain some financial independence. I am extremely motivated to make my blog successful; I know I have a long road ahead of me, but am willing to do whatever it takes. I spend all my free time either writing, reading and posting on others pages, and using social media to promote my blog. When I read articles like this, it reminds to just hang in there; hard work and dedication will pay off!
My wife has recently begun a path of freelance writing while taking care of the kids. Her focus is more on technical writing then blog writing. Still in a similar manner I was shocked at the amount of opportunity out there in this space.
Great post and thanks for having Holly guest post. This was inspirational. I just started on the process of blogging (almost 1 month) and find just writing is part of the fun. I think I am more like your husband in that the number of views really gets me excited, though I am sure $$$ would also.
I have a cousin who recently left her 9 to 5 job to pursue writing and teaching creative writing. She has started seminars, self-published a book, etc. My family looks at her like she has gone off the deep end but in my mind I know she is probably doing just fine through free lance writing. Your post made me even more certain of that! Thanks for keeping the dream alive.
What a different world we live in today… to think you can actually quit your 9-5 job and make (good) money on the internet. Well, really sitting at home (or a coffee shop) or traveling or wherever you feel like writing! My blog is still less than a year old and I definitely didn’t start it with the intentions of growing it big enough to quit my day job. I would assume most people don’t start blogs thinking it will get that big… but some do! Great work and thanks for sharing your insight.
Thanks for the guest post, and for showing us more about what’s possible with earnings freelance income online. It’s funny, I never thought about it but I really appreciated your point that “every word on the internet was written by someone” – obviously this is true, but I hadn’t thought about the exciting implications for budding freelance writers! Thanks again for sharing your perspective.
This is terrific Holly! There are a lot of people out there telling people who like to write that “you can do it too” and quit your job and make six figures. But you share so many more details and I appreciate that. It isn’t “easy” to do – you still work (hard), but it is much more on your own terms. Whenever I read Club Thrifty I think that too. Even making a lot more money, it sounds like you are careful with spending and that you make smart purchases. I put your work in a different “league” than many others and it isn’t a surprise that you are featured here too. Thanks for sharing and for encouraging some of us more hesitant writers to keep at it!
Great post Holly! I didn’t realize there were so many freelance writing opportunities out there. It makes sense though as nearly every company has an online presence and they need writers to churn out content.
I started my blog just a few months ago after reading so many of Sam’s posts that convinced me I could do it. The process of creating new content and watching growth each weak has been really enjoyable. Thanks for sharing your story!
I’m a web designer, so my industry is a bit different. Anyway, a lot of this advice applies. I am glad to see more people earning a decent income with their writing skills, this means that client don’t always want content mill articles and great quality ALWAYS sells.
Keep up the great work, it’s been an inspirational article.
*Very* well written post Holly. I can see why you’re doing so well!
That said, I think some of your numbers are pretty optimistic. You might be cherry picking some of the “best case scenarios” here…often called survivorship bias.
I have a blog that gets around 35,000 page views per month, and I can attest that I make *no where near* $20k per year. I’ll be luck if I see 1/20th of that in 2016.
Good thing I don’t do it for the money. :)
I definitely think it’s optimistic. Not everyone succeeds. That’s true with anything!
Wow, great article, Holly! I had no clue that you could earn that much as a freelance writer. Congrats on all of your success!
As a newer blogger, I’m fascinated to see all of the ways to earn income. Sam does a great job shedding light on these streams too and it helps to keep me awake late and keep moving forward. It’s great to hear you had moments where you wanted to quit, but in the end persevered. That’s the difference between someone like you who gets to where you’re at and those that don’t.
Thanks for the inspiration and the peak into the world of freelancing. :)
Congrats Holly on your fantastic success! Thanks for sharing some perspective on how to start-up a freelance writing gig and best of luck with your course.
As for me, I can barely keep up with the writing for my own site, let alone picking up work for someone else!
I know how you feel. My husband does most of the work on our site. I don’t think I could keep up anymore!