July 19, 2016 ()
This is What a Freelance Writer’s Salary Looks Like
This graph represents the salary of a freelance writer and journalist over the past three and a half years. To be more precise, it represents my salary over the past three and a half years, starting from the day I quit my steady job at a content production startup to pursue a freelance writing career in January of 2013, through the end of last month.
Obviously the numbers have been removed, I don’t want to reveal my exact earnings, but the volatile nature of the work is plainly visible. As you can see it’s been a bumpy road, filled with high peaks and deep valleys, but the trend line running through middle is what’s most important, and it’s heading in the right direction. For those curious and perhaps considering counting the individual lines in the graph I can save you some time; the trend line has more than doubled since it’s starting point.
That, to me, is the most significant conclusion I draw from this graph. In spite the volatility, how many other jobs present the possibility of doubling one’s salary in only three years? In fairness the starting point was fairly low, that’s probably obvious. Freelancing is a tough job and that first year is particularly challenging, but I’ve still come a long way in a short amount of time. Though I don’t know how much money I’m going to earn each month, the annual growth that I’ve been able to achieve is rare in any industry, but especially in the current environment for journalists and writers.
When it comes to the daily realities of not having a steady income, however, it requires a lot of financial limbo, a lot of restraint and a lot of running to the mailbox in hopes of seeing your next paycheque hiding within. You fall into psychological traps, like when I convinced myself in March and April of this year (where I experienced a massive increase in earnings) that I was simply reaching a new normal. Then I got hit with a dose of reality in May, when I had the worst month of my career, from a salary perspective, in nearly two full years. Such is the life of a freelancer.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a crazy way to live, and it certainly makes financial planning a challenge, but I’ve got a pretty good system in place to keep peaks and valleys a little closer to sea level. Learning how to save constantly and spend cautiously, keeping organized financial records and always being prepared for the worst are just as important skills to a freelance writer as the craft of writing itself.
Being a great writer is about one-third of the equation. Being an entrepreneur and an accountant are the other two necessary components of maintaining a successful freelance writing career. Unfortunately, few writers are trained in those areas, but when your monthly salary starts looking like The Rocky Mountains, you’re forced to pick them up pretty quickly.