According to a survey by the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Service in the UK, in 2017 only 13.7% of authors earned their living purely from writing — and their median income was £10,437. This is below the minimum wage. In the USA, although it’s difficult to make like-for-like comparisons, it would seem that the situation is not very different, with most freelance writers earning less than $10,000 per year.
Indeed, when I’ve looked at the breakdown of income occasionally provided by writers, I’ve seen that they tend to supplement their income with other (related) forms of work. For example, they might offer coaching services, give talks or, like me, do training courses.
But if you want to write, and not earn your income from any other source, are you simply a dreamer, or is there a way of achieving such a goal?
Enter John Lynch and his book, How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer. One thing that the author makes pretty clear is that the goal of earning a living solely from writing is unlikely to be achieved without some hard graft: he works a full day, every day.
If you don’t think you have the staying power or willpower for such a work schedule, you would still be likely to boost your income by following the advice in this book. For example, as well as providing ideas about where to look for work, the author offers advice on what to write about: essentially what you know that most other people don’t. I think this is very good advice: if you sell yourself as a generalist, you’ll probably be able to get lots of work, but relatively poorly paid. A specialist, especially in a fairly niche area, is likely to be able to command higher rates.
He also tells you how to make yourself more in demand, by being better than many other writers and going further than you might think necessary. For example, bearing in mind the truth of Oscar Wilde’s observation that the only difference between the Americans and the English is language, he points out that writing for an American publication involves rather more thought than simply checking the spellings.
His writing style is, shall we say, robust. For example:
“…much of what appears on websites is ungrammatical rubbish.”
And, in a section entitled “What do you need to be a freelance writer?” he says:
“Forgive me for stating the obvious but in order to be a freelance writer you need, first of all, to be able to write.”
In my experience, many people seem to think they can write, simply because they can wield a pen or work a keyboard. That really isn’t enough.
The author also gives the reader examples of how he has approached specific writing assignments, and how he has sometimes missed the mark. Getting work, and getting repeat work, are also covered.
I will definitely be recommending this book in my writing course. If you want a practical, no-nonsense guide to how to earn money from your writing, this book is a good place to start.
How to make money as a freelance writer, by John Lynch (Amazon associate link)