A freelance writer in one of the private Facebook groups I’m part of posed the question to the group about how writers calculate their “actual” annual salary, factoring in how much they are earning, health insurance costs, self-employment taxes freelancers pay in addition to the tax bracket rate you’re in, expenses you can deduct for your business, and those hours you don’t get paid for, like writing blog posts, marketing, finding new clients, book keeping, and so on.
I thought it was a great question and one I could lend my experiences with to help others set better freelance goals in 2018 and beyond.
A few years ago, I used to aim for an average of $250 a day when I was living in my Manhattan apartment. That was probably because the part-time, in-house gig I worked at paid day rate of $250 so I wanted to make at least that when I was home freelance writing the other three days. I calculated my monthly expenses for rent, health insurance, utilities, groceries, and basic bills put me around $2,800/month that I needed to spend, so while that $250 was gross pay, I factored it was really about $175 after taxes.
Now that I’m freelancing full time at home—and admittedly in a much less expensive living situation—I realized I wasn’t tracking this as much. I didn’t need to hit that number necessarily in order to sleep better at night. Now, my target goal is more of a three-month range. I use a Google spreadsheet where I track “Articles/Projects I’m working on” and “Invoices Out.” I used to try to have those both equal to about $15,000. That might mean I’ve been waiting on some invoices for a few months that paid X, and I’m working on articles that are due six weeks from now that pay Y, but overall, when those two sections are in the $15,000 range for a three-month period, I feel okay with where I’m at financially.
I suggest you identity a financial number that you’re aiming to earn monthly or quarterly and keep an eye on that so you know when you need to work on drumming up business. When I notice that all of my freelance assignments have been paid and I’m a little light on work, I know that I need to start pitching editors ideas. (I can show you how to turn your article ideas into paid assignments in my freelance writing e-course. Enroll today!)
If you want to make six-figures as a freelance writer, it’s possible to do, but you’ll need to aim for a higher hourly rate and higher-paying assignments, or, commit to working more hours in order to reach a goal of making $100,000 as a freelance writer. You’ll need to try to earn about $2,000 a week (for the entire year) in order to reach that goal. If you are only taking on $100-writing assignments, you’re going to have to do a lot of writing to hit that goal.
Even experienced freelancers don’t like to think about paying quarterly taxes, but once you’re freelancing full-time it’s a good idea (maybe even required). Small business owners and entrepreneurs know, it feels even more painful to have the pay the government out of money that’s already been deposited into your bank than when it comes out of your check automatically. In the past, I’ve paid between $2,500 to $3,000 quarterly in estimated taxes. (Beware these time management mistakes.)
The question of whether freelancers should ever take on lower-paying assignments is a popular one explored online, and I think it depends on how much time you have and the rate being offered. Remember, print magazines often pay a higher rate, but the writing and editing process can take a long time, and then sometimes you don’t get paid until the issue goes to print or it’s officially on newsstands. This means you might not see the $3,000 check for that assignment you turned in to your editor last February until August. I don’t think beginner and intermediate freelancers should only hold out for larger, higher-paying assignments unless they have a large safety net. This is where having a few steady clients with projects you get paid for monthly helps keep you afloat.
What’s your daily rate goal? Or, do you have a weekly or monthly freelance quota you try to hit?
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