Freelance Writers: Busy, but Broke? 4 Reasons Your Output Exceeds Your Income

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Brown Banks.

There’s no doubt about it. The thrill of a byline is intoxicating. In fact, for many, it’s like falling in love again and again. I remember the first time I went into a supermarket and saw my name and feature piece in a popular magazine on the display rack; I went nuts. I was hooked. That was more than a decade ago.

But, “romanticizing” the writing business is where many of us get in trouble. And let’s face it: love don’t pay the bills! For this reason, if you want to have a more prosperous, profitable writing career, you’ll need to get your head out of the clouds, stay grounded and operate with a more strategic approach.


In the infancy of my writing career, I was being published everywhere: in national newsstand magazines, local newspapers, blogs, anthologies…you name it. I was in my glory.

“So, what was the problem with that?”

Glad you asked. … I was busy building a “platform” without proper regard for building my “bottom line.” I didn’t have clear goals. Essentially, I was always busy … and almost always broke. Perhaps you are too.


How to become a successful freelance writer

If anything I’ve said so far resonates with you, you’ll want to heed the following hard-earned freelance business lessons to “work smarter, not harder“ and earn more cold, hard cash for your long, hard work.

1. Writing for Exposure: Why It Keeps You Poor

Sure, in the beginning, writing for “exposure” is needed to perhaps build a portfolio, make important connections with editors, and hone your craft. But, it needs to have parameters, as well as a limit.

Ultimately, it has to make sense.  For instance, if upon reflection you discover you have more “exposure” than a Playboy Bunny, with nothing to show for it, you’re definitely going about things wrong. Hello? Here’s a better way.

Write for free if it advances your career goals (i.e. guest posting at prominent sites to increase your Google Rank, to break into a new field, or if it supports a cause that you are deeply passionate about). Don’t do it to make rich companies richer. Don’t do it without a deadline. There’s great validity to the expression: “Time is money.”

The more you write for free, the less time and energy you have to pursue projects that can build your business, your reputation, and your bottom line.

2. Not Choosing Projects Wisely

All creative gigs are not created equally. For example, content mills may provide steady work, but often pay minimum wages for maximum yield. For optimal success, choose wisely.

Align your skill set and passions with good paying assignments in lucrative fields with reputable businesses. Some good options here are copywriting, SEO writing and ghost writing.

3. Operating without Clearly Defined Goals

Imagine traveling on a journey to a new destination or unexplored territory. Without a road map or G.P.S. system, you’ll likely have detours, waste gas and resources, and take longer to arrive. The same holds true for your creative journey.

What is your “intended destination?? Where do you see yourself next year? What’s your reason for blogging?  When we don’t have clearly defined goals, we lose sight of our vision; lack a progressive game plan; have numerous false starts; and tend to feel overwhelmed by taking on too many things without achieving desired results.

Not to mention, through trial and error and trying to find our way, we typically spend wasted money on classes, books, products, services, memberships and gadgets that fail to give us the expected return on our investment. Sound familiar?

4. Not Marketing Consistently

Writing and marketing should go hand and hand. Marketing is to writing what commercials are to household brands. Still, most writers would rather create than advertise and sell their work. But not doing so can prove detrimental and well … to put it bluntly, dumb. According to Danny Ivy of Firepole Marketing:

“Without marketing, odds are that nobody will be reading your work, and even if they do, you won’t be making any money off of it.”

Here’s Another “Ah-Ha” Moment … 

Personally, I find that marketing is similar to exercise. In order to keep at it, you have to find a “routine” that you enjoy and can be consistent with. For example, if you can’t warm up to “cold-calling,” placing ads on other sites might be more to your liking. Or guest posting on other blogs might be a better option.

Whatever you prefer, do it on an ongoing, regular basis. Make it a part of your daily or weekly activities. Also, get in the habit of tracking the effectiveness of different strategies to determine what works best for you and your freelance business.

Keep these timely tips in mind as we approach the final quarter for 2016. Instead of being broke, you’ll be breaking new records with your writing income this year!

Have You Ever Been a “Busy, but Broke” Freelance Writer?

Share how you turned it around in the comments section below. Or, if you’re still in this destructive pattern, share your thoughts on what you think you need to do to get out of it. Are you guilty of any of the things Jennifer mentions here?

jenniferbrownbanksAbout the Author: JENNIFER BROWN BANKS is a veteran freelance writer, content creator, ghost writer and award-winning blogger. She helps writers and businesses increase their fan base and their bottom lines. She teaches online classes at Coffeehouseforwriters.com and operates a popular blog at Penandprosper.blogspot.com.

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P.P.S.: Have a Freelance Experience to Share? We’d Love to Hear It. Submit a Guest Post.

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    1. Thank you for the tips!

    2. I appreciate your insight and tips, Jennifer. Thanks for the timely encouragement!