I originally started this blog with the concept of “passive income” front and center. Therefore, I can’t blame you if you think it’s somewhat ironic that I’m looking into freelance writing as a way to supplement my other online income sources.
After all, freelance writing is anything but passive – you are paid as direct compensation for writing that you produce. If you’re not actively doing any writing, you’re not making any money (okay, so this is basically like any other “normal” job).
So, as I entertain the idea of becoming a freelance writer in some capacity, I need to determine if it’s worth my time. Let’s figure it out together.
Trading Hours for Dollars vs. The “Passive Income” Model
This is the name of the game for most work you’ll do in your life – hours for dollars. You put in the hours, and there’s a direct correlation to the amount of money you earn. In the case of article writing, let’s say it takes you an hour to write 1,000 words, and a 1,000-word article (from you) is valued at $20. You’re basically going to earn $20 an hour.
If you contrast that with a similar task in the “passive income” model, the math becomes a lot more complicated, with many more variables involved. Let’s say you own a blog that earns income through pay-per-click advertising. On day one, you write a 1,000 word article – because you have no readers (yet), you won’t earn any immediate income from this article.
Somewhere down the line, you’ll start receiving traffic to the article, and people may click on your ads (which is revenue for you). Let’s assume your ads have a click-through-rate of 1% – for every 100 visitors, one person will click the ad. And let’s assume your earnings-per-click is $1.00. To earn that same $20 that you earned in the “freelance writer scenario” above, you’ll need 2,000 visitors for that one article.
For a random article on a blog with moderate traffic, 2,000 visitors can be a lot, but then again, if you write an article that goes viral, you can receive tens of thousands of visitors. And on top of that, people can visit the article forever, so your earning potential from that single article is theoretically unlimited.
It sure seems like I’m making a strong argument for the passive income model. But let’s look at the ugly side of it (a side that many of all are all too familiar with) – you spend an entire month writing 20 articles for your blog. Each article is 1,000 words, so you’ve spent 20 hours on this project over the course of the month. Thanks to the magic of search engine traffic, three of the 20 articles start ranking well for some long-tail keywords and each receives 20 visitors per day. The other 17 seem to fall into a black hole, only read by your regular readers (about 50 visitors per day, none of whom click on your ads).
You’re 20 hours in the hole, and if my math serves me correctly, one month of traffic to those three popular articles generates $18 for you (60 visits/day x 30 days x $1/100 visitors = $18). After the first month, your rankings die off, you lose motivation, and you stop writing for your blog. And you’ve earned all of $20, give or take a few bucks. Had you been a freelance writer instead, your 20 articles would’ve generated around $400.
Obviously, it’s not so simple. You write for your own blog with the hopes that it becomes successful enough to outperform the freelance writing equivalent. The upside is much higher, and you always have the potential to earn money during periods of time when you don’t have time to put in any work. In addition, you don’t have to worry about meeting specific client demands.
But the fact remains, you will have to consistently put in work up front (and spend time promoting and maintaining the site, at least in the short term). Arguably, income earned from your own site really isn’t “passive” at all during its early stages, until you get to a point where it runs without much input from you (either you’re done adding to it, or you outsource all the work).
Why I’m Interested in Freelance Writing
Although freelance writing can be a grind like any other job, there’s a lot about it that interests me.
First of all, you can essentially control your destiny. Assuming you are a good writer, you can set your own rate (within reason), choose which clients you want to work with, and decide when you want to work. If you want to make more money one day and you have the motivation, you can find more writing assignments.
In time, you can potentially make a lot of money. Some of the best freelance writers are pulling in $100+ per article for the types of articles that take 1-2 hours to write.
Finally, I think freelance writing can actually help my other blogging/authority site projects. I’m not sure how others feel about this, but for me, the ability to write is almost like a muscle that needs to be worked and strengthened. When you find yourself in a good writing “rhythm,” it becomes easy to produce larger quantities of content in shorter periods of time. You become more efficient, and writing doesn’t feel like as much of a grind.
I’m hoping that if I can get into the habit of writing more frequently, it’ll actually improve my blogging output.
Guess What? You Can Do Both
As I’ve alluded to above, you can find room for both “passive income” site/blog projects and freelance writing. In fact, having these side projects allow you to be more picky with your freelance writing, and only work with clients who you enjoy working with (and are willing to pay whatever rate you command). You have the flexibility to turn away the garbage work, and in turn, have time to work on your blog/niche site/whatever.
My biggest challenge is going to be making time to do all of this. As is it, I barely make the time to write for the sites I currently own (with the exception of this blog). Part of that is because I haven’t had the motivation. I’m hoping that the direct rewards of freelance writing will fuel the motivation and make me more productive overall.
You can probably expect to read more from me in the near future about freelance writing, as I explore different sites that pay writers, and different strategies for improving your income through writing. It’s definitely a “new chapter” in my online business, which I’m very excited about.
How has your experience been with freelance writing? Please share in the comments below!