Diana Kelly Levey

How Can Freelancers Make Six Figures a Year?

Two women sharing a computer at a cafe.

May 3, 2024

The question of how to make six figures freelance writing is a common one on Quora, Reddit message boards, and freelance Facebook groups I’m a member of. I recently saw one user post: “What freelance skills and online skills can make me $100k per year freelancing?” and shared my answers there, so I thought it would be beneficial for my freelance writing tips blog readers to learn how I became a six-figure freelancer so you can follow these steps for a six-figure freelance writer salary.

Once you start researching topics on freelance writing, running any freelance business or a side hustle, you’ll notice questions and answers about “how to make six figures working from home” all over the internet.

Everyone seems to want to know how to hit the “six-figure freelance” Holy Grail, earning a six-figure income.

Sure, it’s a nice freelance writer salary but it’s also important to keep in mind that there’s a big gap between earning $100,000 a year and a $900,000 freelance writer salary.

Many solutions will make it sound ridiculously easy if you buy their product or program, quit your job, and your bank account will soon be flush.

I don’t recommend people quit their jobs to start freelancing full-time unless they’re financially ready. (In fact, I encourage readers and freelance writing students to ask themselves these money questions before going full-time freelance.)

In my opinion, being “ready” to quit your job would include making at least 1.5 times your salary with your freelance income (self-employment taxes are a b*tch), having a few higher-paying anchor clients, being prepared to pay your own health insurance (or be on a partner’s plan), and contribute out of pocket to your retirement account. (You also need to be okay with the lonely aspects of being a freelancer and handling rejection over and over again, but I digress.)

If you’re nowhere near those six-figure freelance benchmarks or are just starting out as a beginner freelance writer, that’s totally okay.

Learn how to earn money freelancing while working a steady gig.

Six-Figure Freelancer: 6 Steps to Earning $100,000 Freelance Writer Salary

I have reached the six-figure freelancer income pinnacle a few of the 11 years I have been full-time freelancing (and made over $80,000 other years), so I’ll share what worked for me to earn a six-figure salary writing during those years.

1.  Things six-figure freelancers do: Use freelance anchor clients to reach this salary.

Whether I worked two days in an office and juggled a full-time freelance client list or I maintained steady freelance “retainer” clients I could count on for monthly and quarterly income, having a few anchor clients helps you make a solid salary freelancing.

Get a freelance contract in place so you know you can count on that business as part of your six-figure freelancer salary. It’ll help you decide whether to turn down other low-paying assignments and decrease some of your freelance marketing efforts so you can concentrate on these high-paying freelance clients.

2. Tap into your network to earn that six-figure freelancer salary!

Tell friends, family, former colleagues, and anyone you know who has a business and can use your services that you’re taking on freelance work. Relationships are an important part of freelancing and cultivating them weekly should be part of your marketing plan.

One of my top freelance writer LinkedIn tips? Look at your LinkedIn connections and see if any of your former colleagues moved to a new job that could use your freelance services. I do this task whenever I need to drum up new freelance work and it’s almost always paid off in clients that contribute to my six-figure freelancer income.

Sometimes “checking in” for 30 minutes twice a week can be enough. Personalize each email or LinkedIn message you send.

3.  Keep networking and marketing–even when you’re busy. 

This six-figure freelancer success tip is easier said than done but freelancers who make six figures are constantly marketing. (I aim to send at least 15 emails a week with either article pitches, follow-up emails or introductions to new clients. )

Although “marketing” means different things to different freelancers, for me it means I’m checking in with previous clients, sending editors pitches, finding new editors to pitch to and researching new consumer, B2B, and B2C markets I could write for.

In the U.S., many companies start working on next year’s budget around September, so it’s smart to have your clients thinking of you for the following year’s projects, as well as if they have to spend money at the end of that year. Clients reached out to me in November and December and assigned me a few thousand dollars of work because they had to use up their budget. (You’ll also need to know how to write an article pitch that wows the editor.)

4. Six-figure freelancer pros know how to turn down low-paying jobs. 

This tip is of course for an experienced, already skilled freelancer. If you are just starting out, and are building up your portfolio and client list, you might need to take on some lower-paying jobs to gain experience. That’s okay for a time!

For someone like myself who was working in magazines and digital media for nearly a decade before I went full-time freelance, I can remind my clients that they are paying for about 15 years of freelance experience when I quote my higher freelance rates. If I said “yes” to daily assignments that only paid $50 each and took too long to work on, I wouldn’t have the time or energy when the better-paying gigs came along. Know what you’re worth and stick to it.

If a potential client I’m talking to isn’t able to pay my rates so I can earn at least $100 an hour freelancing, I try to refer them to someone else who might be interested in completing the assignment. (Here’s how much magazines pay freelancers.)

I recently turned down an assignment that wasn’t worth the time and effort it would take. But I wanted to say no politely. Here’s what I sent to the editor:

I don’t think it’s a fit for my business model at this time but it was nice to meet you. Let’s stay in touch in case something changes on either end with rates and bandwidth.

The editor was nice and gracious and happy to stay in touch.

5. Turn in excellent work to earn a high freelance income.

This should go without saying but having a great reputation as someone who turns in good content and clean, professional work on time and addresses a client’s needs is a surefire way to get repeat assignments. Securing more work from high-paying clients will help you reach that six-figure income goal. Here’s advice on how to write great content. Remember, practice makes perfect (or at least good) so keep at writing in order to improve your writing skills.

In fact, pitching new ideas to editors soon after you turn in work will help you earn more money towards your six-figure freelancer salary. It’s one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind with your freelance clients so they’re ready to send you another assignment and give you steady freelance work. Maintaining regular clients is one of the best ways to build a solid freelance writer salary.

(These article pitch examples will help you craft excellent pitches)

These are just some of the types of tips I share with students in my self-directed, e-course on “Get Paid to Write: Become a Freelance Writer” on Teachable.

Learn skills and lessons on how to become a six-figure freelancer. If you are looking for one-on-one freelance coaching help to help you reach your six-figure freelance salary goals, learn more here.

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