Rule 8 Of Profitable Writing

Writer For Hire Click here to start at the beginning of this series on making more money as a professional writer.

Today we’re going to look at an aspect of the job that feels more like running a business than like writing — but don’t panic. Being a professional writer means you run a business. It’s just that most freelance writers don’t act like it.

Business experts from Mike Gerber to Tom Callos agree that the statistics driving your business are your most important tool for long-term success. They’re the vital statistics that tell you how healthy your business is, and the better you monitor them, the more money you’re going to make. That’s why Rule 8 is…[pwal id=”22050264″ description=””][/pwal]


Earlier in this series, I talked about sales numbers in your writing business — about how you had to work those numbers to get enough business to keep doing this for a living. This one is about your personal  numbers, about designing your lifestyle and funding it by writing alone. You do this by asking a series of questions.

A. How much money do I need every month?

B. How much do I make from each piece I write?

C. How many pieces do I need to write to make my monthly nut?

D. On average, how many queries do I have to send to get a number of assignments equal to c?

E. What is d divided by 20?

Let’s look at these one at a time.

A. How much money do I need every month?

Expand this to ask “how much money do I  need every month to ___________?” At first this should be “….every month to quit my day job?”  Later, you’ll change what’s in the blank to reflect more aggressive financial goals. This should be a number, but if you trim back on your budget that number doesn’t have to equal your current monthly gross pay.

B. How much do I make from each piece I write?

You’ll get paid different amounts for different articles, but take the most common amount you receive. Don’t use an average, because your highest-paying work will often be enough higher than others to skew your numbers. If you’re not writing professionally yet, use $25 for this number. Don’t write for less than that.

C. How many pieces do I need to write to make my monthly nut?

Divide the answer to A by the answer to B. If you needed $2,500 a month to quit your day job and made $50 per article on average, you’d need to write 50 articles a month. Don’t worry. That’s only two a day.

D. On average, how many queries do I have to send to get a number of assignments equal to c?

This one relies on your experience more than any other aspect of working your numbers. Figure out your “rate of return” on queries. Is it one in ten? One in twenty? Whatever it works out to, apply the ratio to the answer from C. If you got one assignment for every five queries, that means sending out 250 queries every month.

That seems like a lot of queries, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re turning them out in five minutes each. Also, as you land deals you’ll find that your ratio goes down in a hurry. Editors like working with “repeat offenders.”

E. What is d divided by 20?

This gives you the number of queries you’ll send every work day, assuming a 5-day work week and 4 weeks in a month. In our example, that means 12.5 a day. Call it 13. Some folks like to do it just like that, setting aside two hours every work day for sending out queries. Other assign a single day of the week for just sending out queries.

The Bottom Line

The pay process for freelance writing is, well, constipated. Your effort isn’t immediately attached to your income. By using these numbers and working them daily, you can keep an income stream flowing that will let you live the life you want, doing the work you enjoy the most.


2 thoughts on “Rule 8 Of Profitable Writing

  1. Solid advice Jason. Something I’m redoing for myself right now. If you’re a freelancer, you have to set goals and keep track of what you actually earn per hour. I think you quickly realize that using time efficiently is essential to making your monthly “nut”.

    Something else to consider… How much money should I hide from myself each month for those times when the lead funnel is dry? Building a nice pad to cover slow times can make a big difference in your stress levels and your ability to write effectively. You may not have a lot of overhead, but knowing you can cover the basic bills for 2 months is a great relief.

    Now I have to go read 1-7.. 🙂


    • Hey John. Thanks for the comment. This is one of the hard lessons freelancers have to learn if they want to keep being freelancers.

      That pad question is great, and not a way I’d considered looking at it. My family can cover basic living expenses off my wife’s income…so if I’m dry one month, it just means we don’t go out to eat as often. On the other hand, I aim for 20% above how much money we _want_ each month, and save extra.

      On the other other hand, I haven’t failed to meet an income goal since 2009…but that’s more about marketing than it is about budget….

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