Distracted Writer

The Distracted Writer: Earning A Living Between The Daydreams

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

A Guest Post by Ryan – My fingers hover above my elegantly designed keyboard as I prepare to launch into what I know will be both a profitable and creativity stimulating session of writing. My expression is serious, braced what is likely to be a multi-hour conquest into the world of freelance writing.

The world is waiting to hear what I have to say, and I am prepared to serve them a heaping dish of what they are demanding.

Unfortunately for me (and perhaps for those imagined readers), this scenario is not taking place in reality, but only in the fantasy world of my widest ambitions as I drive towards yet another trip to my local bulk grocery store.

I have to snap myself back into reality once again and realize that the dollars and cents (and perhaps even a little clout) that can be earned through writing doesn’t manifest itself through idealized thinking.

It only comes through concentrated willpower and a singular focus to make that particular day of freelance writing count.

If you are reading this and have ever wondered to yourself what the day-to-day life of a freelance writer is REALLY like, I hope to shed a little light on the subject for you.

The events that I described above are a classic example of how days all too often get away from me, and how the overall dream of earning money from your own writing talents and skills is actually something that requires just as much effort as many traditional jobs, and sometimes even more than that!

I Didn’t Know Someone Could Really Earn Money Online

As I entered either my Junior or Senior year of college, I briefly reconnected with a former high school classmate. It was the typical quick, catch-up chat held over social media. He asked how things were doing and what I had been up to.

I mentioned that my only source of income at that time was through online writing, and he commented that he didn’t realize that it was legitimately possible to earn real money online through writing.

His comment caught me off guard as I was a number of years deep into paid online writing at that point and hadn’t stopped to think about how foreign this concept could be to an outsider.

I was receiving regular bi-weekly (this would later be updated to weekly) pay from a consistent pool of work, I had published a few residential income articles on various websites that were also earning some minimal income, and I was beginning to dip my toes into other websites to diversify my income even further.

One of my posts had even been seen by over 10,000 unique viewers, an accomplishment that I was quite proud of.

However, it did all come back to that question of how it was even possible for someone to earn an income through writing online.

I took the approach that most who begin in online writing take, and that is to start with the websites that have the lowest bars to entry, aka the content mills. These are websites that accept nearly anyone who can string a sentence together and pay a minimal amount of money per accepted piece.

They are not glamorous by any means to those in the know, but they still seem to impress those who have never written for money before. To me, they opened up a whole world in and of themselves.

Swimming In The Content Mill Pool, And Staying

Content mills are the starting point for a lot of writers, and they can be thought of as the kiddy pool of swimming as it were. There are bigger oceans to conquer out there, but you are never going to get into those bigger waters until you have mastered the basics of swimming in the first place.

This is the logic that governs the vast majority of what most writers who stay for the long-term do.

My journey inadvertently took a different, though I would argue still highly lucrative, path. I primarily remained in the content mills for years. I was always open to other opportunities of course, and I took them from time to time when I could verify that said opportunity was either interesting, lucrative, or both, but mostly I stayed on the grounds that I already knew.

What kept me tethered to where I had started was that the money became easier and easier to accumulate in less and less time. Two big factors played a role in this. The first was that my average typing speed increased from a ho-hum 30 words per minute to a thin part of the bell curve 80-85 wpm today.

The second factor was that it became easier and easier to recognize client patterns and what they expected from me. I knew what they were looking for when they submitted work to be done, and it was easy to churn out that work for them at a lightning-fast pace.

The per-hour rate that I was able to generate soared from perhaps $8-$10 per hour in the early days to an astounding $30-$40 per hour in more recent times. This amount of money is significant to most, and it is certainly significant to someone living in the part of the country that I do.

Why I Never Start With Earnings, But Why They Are Important

You just heard what I can typically expect to make in a solid hour of freelance writing, and you might have had to wipe the drool off of your face.

Some might be ready to tell their boss to “shove it!” and walk out the door of their office job today and begin to earn a much better living with freelance writing just from hearing what I had to say there, but I strongly advise against that.

Allow me to explain why I don’t typically discuss per-hour rates as an opener with those who express interest in freelance writing for themselves.

The first thing to understand is that while $30-$40 per hour is certainly a possibility for me at this stage of the game, it is far from what I budget as an expectation for myself at the beginning of the month.

It is far too easy to begin to extrapolate that if you can earn $40 per hour times 40 hours per week that you can quickly generate a $1,600 weekly income for yourself. That would be around $77,000 per year!

However, you need to roll back those expectations very quickly.

To get to the point where $30-$40 per hour is even on your radar, you must first put in the time to establish a diverse basic of writing income streams that are legitimate, pay on time, and have consistent amounts of work available.

It is difficult to find the combination of those three things in lockstep, and you are probably going to go through some trial and error before getting it right. Other people from the freelance writing community can be good resources, but they sometimes lead you astray inadvertently, so it is best to do your own research.

Once you have some websites or clients that you can reliably go to for work, you must begin to hone your craft. Expectations at this point are at such a point that it is not unreasonable to think that you may well be earning minimum wage or even less per hour for quite some time.

Writing and typing don’t come naturally to everyone, and it is easy to get bogged down on your first few assignments as you try to come up with the perfect pitch. The biggest thing here is to try not to get discouraged.

It is best to begin writing when it is not your sole source of income or something that you are relying on. This will give you the time you need to build your writing muscle.

I no longer write as my sole income and haven’t since I left college in 2013. It remains a side-passion for me that helps to pay the bills. I still budget in some writing earnings per month that I expect to hit, but we are talking in the neighborhood of $500 or so for the whole month.

You can probably do the math there and realize that I am not putting in anywhere close to full-time hours to hit those goals. I am not even sure that I am physically or mentally capable of putting in those kinds of hours on writing anymore.

I have been freelance writing for money for 11 years now, and there is only so much bandwidth that a person has. I say all of this to say that even when $30+ hours do eventually arrive, you may find yourself only capable of doing a handful of them in a given week.

Finally, I do want to say that I consider it to be pretty important to discuss and disclose some of my earnings information at certain points when someone I know expresses a legitimate interest in freelance writing for themselves.

I want to set realistic expectations for them to be sure, but I want them to understand that it really is possible to earn online.

I once spoke to someone who I became familiar with through the writing community. She expressed an interest in learning more and I directed her to a source that I knew she could begin her journey on.

It’s been so long ago now that I don’t even recall her name and we lost touch, but she reached out to me perhaps 18 months after our first correspondence simply to say that she was managing to earn about $20 per day with writing and that it had changed her financial well-being for the better.

That was one of the proudest moments I have had as part of this community.

The Writing Community Is Diverse, Feel Free To Step In

It is clear to me that much of this piece has revolved around the earnings side of writing online and some of the hard facts and figures. I also understand clearly that this is not the only reason that people get involved with online writing.

There are plenty of people who are only seeking to polish a craft or to express themselves in a creative way. The money could simply be a bonus to them, or they may not even be compensated for their work at all.

From time to time, I dabble in unpaid creative work myself (I.E. check the piece you are reading), but cold hard cash has definitely been top of mind for much of my writing time.

The point is, the writing community is diverse and has plenty of goals, desires, and targets that they are aspiring to. They also have a whole variety of methods for reaching those outcomes.

It is a welcoming community that has plenty of resources for all regardless of what your particular goal is. If you have ever been nervous to try it, there is no time like the present. With so many people at home right now, there is definitely some room to polish up on a new hobby/skill.

By: Ryan@ExpiredOvaltine

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