Freelance Writing: Let’s Talk Money

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Money is always that icky topic most creatives avoid, but in these times where so many writers and artists are furloughed, jobless and thrown into the pool of pitching hell, money is important.

I have been participating in Tim Herrara’s Sunday Zoom panels, Freelancing With Tim. One of his recent ones focused a lot on how to build your freelance income. Jenni Gritters talked about diversifying your income stream and not putting all your eggs with one publication, one editor, or even one area. This got me thinking about my own income streams. When I first started I really focused on personal essays thinking this was what I was most qualified to write- I did teach the art of writing them for over a decade. I was not having much luck placing them though and most of the publications paid pretty modestly. So, I started thinking about what else I had expertise in that I could tap. I owned a restaurant before teaching, I have a talent for suggesting the perfect book for someone, I am pretty well traveled and I am pretty passionate about toxic diet culture. So, I shifted to pitching and writing about these topics. And bang, I got contracts. And, money. And, bylines.

But, it can be exhausting to pitch 10-20 articles a week, do all the pre-research, write grafs and then hope they get picked up. So, I went back to the drawing board again and thought about other ways to diversify my income. Teaching is an area I have deep experience in, especially teaching writing, especially teaching personal writing. So, I pitched a couple classes to The Coop Workshop. They picked up my personal essay class. It will be virtual so anyone can take it safely. I really like their model. They keep 20% of the proceeds and the teacher/writer keeps 80%. The woman who started it was looking for a way to help out of work writers find avenues to monetize their skills.

My favorite part of teaching was personal essays- the rounds of revision, feedback sessions and getting to a polished final draft. Now I can teach this without having to return to the classroom. This will add to my income buckets I can draw from and has inspired me to think about other ways I can leverage areas of personal expertise. Virtual cooking classes might be on the horizon…

If you are a freelance writer, think about all the areas you have experience or knowledge in and how you can use that to broaden your income streams. Also, check out Jenni Gritters‘ and Wudan Yan‘s podcast, “The Writer’s Co-op Pod” for great advice and tips on advocating for better pay rates, building relationships, negotiating contracts, taxes and basically everything you want to know about building your freelance writing career. Also, it is free 🙂

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