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Can I make a living as a freelance writer?

Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk


Dear Mentors,

Can I make a living as a freelance writer?


Writer Maven


Dear Writer Maven,

Absolutely, you can! I work as a ghostwriter for small businesses and make more now as a freelancer than I ever did working fulltime for an employer.

But it takes time and hard work to make it happen.

I’ve found that one of the hardest ways to make a living as a freelance writer is pitching articles to magazines, newspapers and online media. Ironically, that’s what a lot of writers try first. I assure you that there are plenty of other freelance writing tracks within the business world that offer the potential for better and more consistent income.

Look at marketing and sales, grant writing and other areas. Without knowing what type of freelance writing you’re interested in, I can tell you the most important attributes you need to make it as a freelance writer in any field is consistency and reliability. Those attributes trump even being an inspired, talented writer! Take a good, hard look at yourself and ask yourself why you’re freelancing in the first place. If it’s because you have trouble with deadlines, processes and self-confidence as an employee, you’re going to have a tough time. Those are the very attributes you need in spades to be your own boss and to keep clients happy. 


LuAnn Glowacz


Dear Writer Maven,

The answer depends on multiple factors. A full-time freelance writing career isn’t the easiest road to riches, but people less talented than you are doing it. Much depends on how driven, strategic and prepared you are before you get started: 

Driven: Are you entrepreneurial? Do you believe in yourself and your ability to market and build a business? 

Strategic: What do you want to write and for whom? Why you? Why now? Do those niche markets pay well? Are you leaving a job or industry that can give you enough work to keep you financially afloat? 

Prepared: What do you need for monthly income? Can you lean on savings as needed? Do you have a website? An updated LinkedIn presence? How are you planning to build connections and maintain a following? 

Do your research: gather plenty of input from Freelance Austin members, work with a WCA mentor and consider a consultation with a trusted business coach. 


Karen Aroian


Dear Writer Maven,

I hear versions of this question frequently, as there are many people who would like to cash in on their writing skills or passions. 

Sadly, some have unrealistic expectations and dreams. For example, not everyone who is passionate about international travel will become a published – or self-supporting – travel writer. As Karen Aroian points out above, business sense is an important element in building a successful career. 

By the way, we each get to define our own version of “success.”

The “successful” freelance writers that I know rely on many skills in addition to their writing. They connect with the right clients, follow instructions, meet deadlines and often supplement their words and reporting with photos, graphics, marketing acumen, data analysis or SEO. 

They use legal contracts, file quarterly taxes, track expenses and send invoices. (Not fun, but necessary for professionals.) 

I’m not trying to discourage you, but please approach this career choice with eyes wide open. Good luck and keep us posted!


Sandra Kleinsasser