Diana Kelly Levey

How Can Freelancers Make Six Figures a Year?

man using laptop making six figures a year

April 13, 2020

The question of how to make six figures freelance writing is a common one on Quora, Reddit message boards, and freelance Facebook groups I’m a member of. I recently saw one user post: “What freelance / online skills can make me $100k per year?” and shared my answers there, so I thought it would be beneficial for my freelance writing blog readers learn the steps to take to get to a six figure salary or become a six-figure freelancer.

(Remember, it’s not too late to set freelance goals you’ll actually reach.)

Once you start researching topics on freelance writing, running any freelance business or a side hustle, you’ll notice questions and answers about “how to make six figures working from home” all over the internet. Many solutions will make it sound ridiculously easy if you buy their product or program, quit your job, and your bank account will soon be flush.

I don’t recommend people quit their jobs to start freelancing full-time unless they’re financially ready. (In fact, I encourage readers and freelance writing students to ask themselves these money questions before going full-time freelance.)  In my opinion, being “ready” to quit your job would include making at least 1.5 times your salary with your freelance income (self-employment taxes are a b*tch), having a few higher-paying anchor clients, being prepared to pay your own health insurance (or be on a partner’s plan), and contribute out of pocket to your retirement account.

(You also need to be okay with the lonely aspects of being a freelancer and handling rejection over and over again, but I digress.)

If you’re nowhere near there or just starting out as a beginner freelance writer, learn how to earn money freelancing while working a steady gig.

Here are Steps to Becoming a Six-Figure Freelancer

I have reached the six-figure writer income pinnacle a few of the six years I have been full-time freelancing (and made over $80,000 other years), so I’ll share what worked for me to earn a six-figure salary writing during those years.

1. Use anchor clients to reach this salary.

Whether I worked two days in an office and juggled a full-time freelance client list or I maintained steady  freelance “anchor” clients I could count on for monthly and quarterly income, having a few anchor clients helps you make a solid salary freelancing that you can layer on with other projects. Try to get on a retainer agreement if you can so you know you can count on that business as part of your six-figure freelancer salary.

2. Tap into your network.

Tell friends, family, former colleagues, and anyone you know who has a business that can use your services that you’re taking on freelance work. Relationships are such an important part of freelancing and cultivating them weekly should be part of your marketing plan. Discover common Pricing Mistakes Freelancers Make.

3.  Keep networking and marketing–even when you’re busy. 

This is easier said than done but freelancers who make six figures are constantly marketing. Although “marketing” means different things to different freelancers, for me it means I’m checking in with previous clients, sending editors pitches, finding new editors to pitch to and researching new consumer, B2B and B2C markets I could write for.  In the U.S., many companies start working on next year’s budget around September, so it’s smart to have your clients thinking of you for the following year’s projects, as well as if they have to spend money at the end of that year. I’ve had clients reach out to me in November and December and assign me a few thousand dollars of work because they had to use up their budget.

4. Say “No, thank you,” to low-paying jobs. 

This tip is of course for an experienced, already skilled freelancer. If you are just starting out, and are building up your portfolio and client list, you might need to take on some lower-paying jobs to gain experience. (That’s okay for a time!) For someone like myself who was working in magazines and digital media for nearly a decade before I went full-time freelance, I was able to remind my clients that they were paying for that experience when I quoted my higher rates. If I said “yes” to daily assignments that only paid $50 each and took too long to work on, I wouldn’t have the time or energy when the better-paying gigs came along. Know what you’re worth and stick to it. If a potential client I’m talking to isn’t able to pay my rates, I try to refer them to someone else who might be interested in completing the assignment. (Here’s how much magazines pay freelancers.)

5. Turn in excellent work.

This should go without saying but having a great reputation as someone who turns in clean, professional work on time and addresses a client’s needs is a surefire way to get repeat assignments. Securing more work from high-paying clients will help you reach that six-figure income goal.

In fact, pitching new ideas to editors soon after you turn in work will help you earn more money towards your six-figure freelancer salary.

How to use social media to get ahead with freelancing.

These are just some of the types of tips I share with students in my self-directed, e-course on “Get Paid to Write: Become a Freelance Writer” on Teachable. Enroll today and learn skills and lessons on learn how to become a six-figure freelancer.

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