People are always shocked when I tell them I’m a full-time freelance writer. Invariably, they want to know how much I make and how I can afford to pay my bills on the money I make from writing. I don’t blame them.

Before I started writing full-time, I was one of those people completely oblivious to the fact that writing was a legitimate source of income. But when the subject comes up, what’s the right way to answer the question?

Very few people need to know the exact dollar figure that you bring in every month. Among that limited list of people are your spouse, your accountant, the IRS, and potential creditors and lenders. Friends, neighbors, and people who are just curious don’t really need to know. I typically just tell these people that I make enough to pay my bills every month and have some money leftover to save and have fun with.

You could tell them your annual salary range, rather than a specific weekly or monthly income. For example, “I make in the $50Ks”. Or, you can name a job with a comparable salary, “I make about as much as an elementary school teacher.” Also, giving your goal or ideal writing income can take some of the pressure and judgment involved with giving out your real salary. "I'd love to make $60,000 a year. I might make it this year."

When people find out you make (what they consider) an enviable amount of money from writing, they’ll want to know how they, too, can be come writers. And we all know how easy it is to make money from writing, much less handhold someone else to freelance writing success.

On the flip side, when you don’t make a lot of money from writing, then you get unsolicited criticism and suggestions from people who don’t understand the nature of the freelance writing business. Sometimes it’s better not to talk about it at all.

Before you give specific dollar amounts, consider who you work for. Contracts with clients and advertisers may limit what you can disclose about your earnings. You risk losing money if you start talking, and especially blogging, about how much money you make. If I talk about an income source, I use percentages, e.g. 25% of my income comes from direct advertising sales or 75% comes from client work.

I appreciate writers and bloggers who post their income because it shows earning potential and lets me know I know I’m not crazy to have a six-figure writing income goal. Before you post your income for the world, talk to an attorney or accountant to see if there are any legal implications involved. The last thing you want is to lose clients or be sued because of a lack of discretion.

How do you respond when people ask how much you make?

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LaToya Irby is a full-time freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Alabama. She primarily writes about personal finance, freelancing, and other self-employment topics.