“How Much Do You Make With That Writing Thing?”

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on March 24, 2010 in Work at Home Parents
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Not only is it hard for people to articulate what I do, but they often don’t believe it’s a worthwhile undertaking. I’m a freelance copywriter – a “real job” by most people’s standards once they know what it actually is, but it’s often referred to as “that writing thing you do.” Whatever. I can handle the confusion, but for every person who can’t seem to figure out what I actually do, they are burning up to know how much I make doing it.

Money Matters: Private or Public

I’m not the norm when it comes to money matters. I don’t really care if anyone knows what I make. I know others feel differently, of course. I think my laid-back position comes from the teaching side of my life. The whole world knows what I’m “worth” as a teacher since the rates are posted in cute little tables that have to be approved by the school board. One newspaper in my area even lets the public search an online database of teacher salaries to learn how much of their tax money is spent on administrators and teachers.

So when someone comes to me and asks me how much I make teaching, I can bust out my handy table and show that that with my Master’s degree and eight years of teaching experience I make an impressive $47,917 per year. But they don’t care about that – everyone knows teachers are generally underpaid for what they do. They want to know how much I make writing not because they are judging me, but instead are hoping that I’ll share the golden secret of HOW to make that amount working 3 hours a day. (They often forget I work 3 hours a day, six to seven days a week - without vacations.)

Sharing Income

I’ve seen a few blogs where writers disclose how much they make to others in hopes of inspiring new writers to drop the low-paid gigs and move up. A few of us who contribute to this blog played around on a joint blog once trying to reach six figures in a year. Others share their monthly income and project load to inspire others and show their improvement. I don’t normally do that. But I might now. Why?

  • I have no shame.
  • I really don’t care – the IRS already knows how much I make, or will on the 15th of next month.
  • Too many people think making $500 or $1,000 a month is outstanding – which it is if you’re working at less than minimum wage.
  • Writers are often discounted by webmasters and other professionals who don’t realize the difference between the pros and those who…aren’t.
  • If I make a big post about how much money I make writing, I can just steer people here when they work up the courage to ask me how much “something like that writing thing pays.”
  • I’m a bit proud of myself, really. I work only in the evenings after a very full day of other responsibilities and have done rather well for myself.
  • Hell, maybe someone out there can see how much a WAHM can actually make when she markets her skill as a real service-oriented business.

Skip the drum roll.

In 2009, I made a net profit of $55,482.33.

Not bad for a little “part-time writing thing.”

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Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

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12 Comments

  1. Terez Howard March 24, 2010 Reply

    First let me say, congrats to you. As a fellow WAHM, your story is inspiring. I entirely agree with your last bullet point about marketing. Even if a person is a superb writer and reliable freelancer, without marketing, she’s nothing. That goes for any business. Big businesses are big because they are great at marketing. Small businesses are successful for the same reason. Getting people buzzing about your business is key.

  2. Jennifer Mattern March 25, 2010 Reply

    You go girl! I’m often amazed at how many WAHMs are just tickled to earn a few bucks while they stay home with the kids, while they could be doing so much more for their families and still have even more time with the kids if they’d only stop playing around with content mills and started treating their writing like the business that it is. By all means, for those just doing it for fun, more power to them. But for those who claim it’s all about doing the best they can for their family, hopefully your story will show at least some of them that their “best” right now could be sooooo much better.

  3. Diana March 25, 2010 Reply

    Sha Bang. That IS inspiring and thanks for having no shame.

    Now here’s a question for you, since you’re into sharing and I’m into asking…

    How exactly do you find 3 hours per day, every day for writing in the midst of teaching, mothering, etc.? Cleaning lady, laundry service, high tolerance for zero sleep???? I’m all into making the serious cash, since I get how to run a business for profit and all of that. I’m just struggling with actually slotting the time in for said serious business every day. Share your secrets, pretty please…

  4. Wolfster March 25, 2010 Reply

    I have a follow-up question, too, and this is just curiosity.

    If you are earning more while only working a few hours per day on writing vs less money while working most of the day if not more (teaching0, why don’t you shift over to writing completely?

    You would then have an additional 8 hours if not more to work on a writing business and it would certainly be for a much higher per hour rate.

  5. Jennifer Mattern March 25, 2010 Reply

    Wolfster, I can’t speak for Rebecca, but she did note recently on another comment here that she still teaches because she’s in it to help the kids. Unless I’m mistaken (and correct me, Rebecca, if I am), she works with at-risk students. So as a teacher, I have to imagine that can be not only frustrating but incredibly rewarding at times.

  6. Author
    Rebecca March 25, 2010 Reply

    @Terez – Thanks for the support and good luck with your project!

    @Jenn – Thanks :) It’s also important to remember that you best can be relative. My best after being fully engaged for 12 hours in other duties isn’t the best I could do if I woke up and went right to work, so I have to be forgiving at times and schedule a combination of “heavy” and “light” days to build in some padding.

    @Diana – It’s not easy, but basically you have to choose what gets done and what doesn’t. I put the boys to bed around 7, take a shower and take care of the dishes and such. By 8 I’m working and most night I’m off the computer again by 11, midnight at the latest. It’s gotten much easier now that the boys are old enough to play alone for a bit while I take care of household chores on the weekends or after we get home from school.

    So just about every day it’s up before 7, mothering/teaching/household until 7:30ish, work from 8 until midnight at the latest and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. You’ll notice there are lots of things that aren’t on the list like hobbies and relaxation, but it’s the nature of the business and I’d rather relax and play with my kids during the weekends and after school anyhow.

    To make something like this work, you have to be absolutely dedicated to schedules and compartmentalization of the day. I use the phone to check email throughout the day and my clients know that I work nights so I might not be especially available during the day. I’ll be able to keep up this routine for years until my kids go to bed closer to 8, but I’m a big, big believer in early bedtimes and early to rise for the kiddos – brain power, better learning, etc… which is the crux to what I do.

    @Wolfster – That would make absolute sense if I was most interested in money and growing this business primarily. As it is, I get to do two different careers that I love for the sake of the job not the income they generate necessarily, so I do both.

    I actually walked away from a potential 6 figure income consulting with a Big 5 firm years ago to teach because I would do it for free. Fortunately, I don’t have to. I teach because I love to teach and that’s my criteria for a career – I have to enjoy what I do, a paycheck’s not worth it. It’s really just that simple. As it is, you noticed my joint income from the two is over 6 figures, so I do okay and get to enjoy what I do every day, all day. Plus I get summers and Christmas off to just spend the day with my kids as I please without worrying about growing the business more than usual. Limiting my time like this gives me a chance to do things I enjoy and it forces me to work smarter. Which is fun for a “I-Love-a-Challenge” girl like me.

  7. Author
    Rebecca March 25, 2010 Reply

    @Jenn – Yes, I teach at an alternative high school. The majority of my students are “at-risk” and have already failed once in a traditional high school setting. These are special kids that are hard to teach if you’re into desks, rows and worksheets. Fortunately I’m not, so I love it and we have a good time.

  8. Jennifer Mattern March 25, 2010 Reply

    “Best” is absolutely relative. I was more comparing the “oh my god, $30k per year for a constant full-time cram session w/ content mills is sooooo amazing for WAHMs” mentality to the fact that these folks who are serious about it can do so much better. There aren’t enough WAHMs out there giving them the specifics as an example though, so thanks for being one of those who was willing to. :)

    On the education front, to this day my favorite classes were those involving lawn lectures on a sunny day and field trips to Lowes (in the engineering days, so it really was useful lol). :)

  9. Author
    Rebecca March 25, 2010 Reply

    Lowe’s FTW! I’m a Lowe’s devotee with the household projects I have. We don’t go to Lowe’s, but every student has a laptop in class and my courses are based on contemporary literature and projects. We use lots of glue and markers, too.

  10. Jennifer Mattern March 25, 2010 Reply

    I love both Lowe’s and The Home Depot, but Lowe’s is closer (practically around the — very long — block) and they usually have what I need. I just went there for most of my painting stuff over the last couple of weeks. Back in school I just remember we needed pvc pipe, optical sensors, and an LCD display unit (invented something for a local nonprofit — very cool project). Oddly it was presenting the final prototype on the city TV news that originally sparked my interest in PR, which ultimately led me to writing fulltime. So for those who are less than delighted by that fact, they can blame the good folks at Lowe’s. :)

    Glue and markers are always fun. Do you know what I miss from my childhood days? Rubber cement. lol

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