In my first month of taking freelancing seriously.
When I turned 28 in October 2020, I made a promise to myself that I’ll be self-employed before I’m 30. Four months down the line, I’m finally ready to take the plunge and quit my full-time job.
Income-wise, January 2021 was the best month of my life. I made $4,948 from seven streams of income. In this article, I’d like to discuss a detailed breakdown of my income streams and how exactly I managed to secure all of them.
Before we delve into the details, I want to take a moment to clarify the mindset behind writing an article like this. There are three reasons why I chose to be completely transparent about the money I make from writing:
- When I was starting out, videos by other content creators about their income breakdowns helped me make plans for my writing and entrepreneurial ventures. A special shoutout to Zulie Rane, Tom Kuegler, and Ali Abdaal for always sharing the details of how much money they make and from what sources. If my article inspires even a single person to give more thought to pursuing their passion, I would consider it worth all the effort. In essence, this is my way of giving back to the community.
- I plan to reveal my earnings each month. This will document my journey as a freelancer and serve as a record of how far I’ve progressed in my path and how.
- I want to document the power of writing consistently and how many doors you can open for your future just by showing up every day and refusing to give up when the odds seem to be stacked against you.
Watch the earnings reveal in video format here:
Stream One: Medium
I’ve been writing seriously on Medium since May 2020 and have written about 200 articles so far. In January, I made $918 from the platform — which is my best so far. After the tax deductions, this amount comes down to $780. Here’s how my stats look like:
- I wrote 14 articles in January and had about 60,000 views. All the articles were curated, ahem, chosen for further distribution.
- My top five highest-earning pieces were published in my own publication, Books Are Our Superpower, which has about 5,000 followers, whereas the stories published in publications with 100,000+ followers barely made $50. This goes on to show the follower count of the publication hardly matters. What matters is playing to your strength and giving your audience what they expect from you.
After you have a decent backlog of articles, you no longer need to write 30 articles each month. You can focus on improving the quality of the pieces you write and make sure that you keep learning something new with each piece you publish.
Stream Two: Commissioned Pieces
I wrote 2 articles for Better Humans in December 2020 and another one in January 2021, bringing the total to $1,500 (Better Humans pays $500 for each commissioned article they publish). After taxes, this amount came to $1,422.
Each of these pieces I wrote is super detailed, amounting to more than 3,000 words each. Writing, editing, creating images and polishing each of them took me about 14 hours, so the total time spent on them would amount to 42 hours. But this publication has such insane standards that getting an acceptance email from them feels like a tremendous achievement.
Pushing yourself and applying for publications that pay is a great move. Not only does it add a decent stream of income, but it also serves as a challenge and makes you grow as a writer.
Stream Three: Freelance Client
I never went looking for a freelance client. But they found me through Medium after reading one of my articles. They were so impressed with my work that they offered me a contract of $1,500 each month for ten hours of work each week.
I started working for them on 26th November 2020, so the total amounted to $1,750 until 31st December 2020. After taxes, this amount equaled $1,659.
The kind of work I do for my freelance client involves writing a few research-based articles each month. I also do some ghostwriting for minor projects and some video editing work. The standards they expect from me are high, but I’ve learned so much from working with them that the quality of my articles on Medium has improved immensely from November 2020 until now.
You never know which miracle might be down the corner. All you’ve got to do is keep writing and keep growing. The Universe will take care of the rest.
Stream Four: News Break
I took up a News Break contract solely because it promised me an assured sum of $1,000 if I published 12 articles each month. But as I spent more time on the platform, I learned the trick of writing clickbait titles that resulted in 200,000+ views on a single article.
A few days back, News Break updated their guidelines to offer a minimum of $25 base pay for each new article and a fixed income starting from $4 per 1000 views. This payout model is still pretty new, and it remains to be seen how things will evolve down the line.
I’ve made a detailed video of how to join the News Break creators program and how to edit and add your articles there. You can watch it here. If you’d like to join the platform and register as a creator, consider joining using my referral link.
There are some things you think you’ll do only for money. But they end up teaching you some tricks that might prove to be super valuable down the line.
Stream Five: Paid Course
In December 2020, when I made my first $1,000 off Medium, I launched my own course where I’d teach new writers to make their first $100 by writing on Medium. I did some promotion in December, but I was struck by the imposter syndrome in January that stopped me from talking about the course online. My reasoning was: there are so many writers making more money than me. Why would someone purchase a course from me and not from the Medium titans?
With a lot of self-control, I finally let this mindset go and started talking about my course on my social media. As a result, ten new students signed up, and I’m so excited to see where this journey takes them. However, that’s a story for another article.
In January, I had one new student join who signed up for the course by paying in installments. They paid about $50 to sign up, which was pretty good for a month with zero promotion.
If you plan to become a writerpreneur and sell your own digital product, you have to promote yourself. You can’t let the “Why would people buy from me?” mindset stop you from achieving your financial goals.
No matter where you are, there will always be someone more successful than you. That doesn’t mean you haven’t got any value to offer. Your journey is unique, and if the lessons you learned helped you, they would definitely help others. There’s no shame in talking about yourself. Always remember that.
Stream Six: Paid Blog Posts
I wrote one blog post for Himalayan Writing Retreat, one of India’s most respect online resources for writers. They pay on a per-word basis (in Indian Rupees, and the exchange ratio is crazy). I made about $33 for the 2450-word article.
This isn’t a very lucrative stream of income as their requirement rarely exceeds one article each month. But I do this because their editors really challenge me to bring out the best in my writing. Also, they have a huge network of Indian writers and published authors. It’s a privilege to have my name up there among such a celebrated group of people.
Not all things you do should be for money. You should try a few avenues because you enjoy them and others because they help you build connections.
Stream Seven: Book Sales
Many of my readers on Medium don’t know this, but I’m the published author of three books. I stopped doing publicity for my books because it’s been a long time since I published the last one, and book marketing can be an exhausting business.
However, I still sold enough copies in the Indian market with zero marketing to make INR 270 (about $3). Not a life-changing amount, but definitely an ego boost. It amazes me that people are still interested in buying my books when I’m no longer talking about them.
Every avenue might not be lucrative. But you do some things to satisfy your soul. For me, writing a book is definitely one of them.
Summing up, here’s a chart representing my seven sources of freelance income in January 2021. As you can see, there are four major sources currently: Medium, commissioned pieces, my freelance client, and News Break.
In February, I plan to increase this even further. Here’s how I plan to do it:
- Write at least 20 articles on Medium and publish enough of them in major publications and about 5–6 in my own. This should push my earnings up to $1,000, but that’s not in my control again.
- Push my course more and attract a few high-paying clients.
- Take up a few editing projects and charge on a per-word basis.
- Work for another freelance client (I’ve already signed the contract, and I’m super excited to see where this one goes).
- Focus more on Quora and try to make my Space more lucrative. Currently, it has 500,000+ followers and earns about $0.04 each day — not a viable option at all.
- Hire a few freelancers to design my posts, edit my posts, and cross-post content on other platforms — which would free up my time to pursue other creative outlets.
Quitting my job is a hard decision because it has a lot of emotional value to my parents (I’m working in a place my father had dreamed of being in his youth — quitting it would break his heart, but I’m trying my hardest to be compassionate in convincing him). But freelancing is so rewarding; I’m willing to give it all I have.
This was the first in a series of posts I plan to produce each month. They give me a lot of clarity on where I currently stand and where I intend to be in the future. I understand that a lot of my income streams don’t depend on me. Ultimately, all I can do is write quality content and improve as much as I can. Yes, it will take a lot of work, but it’s an investment in myself more than anything else — a risk I’m willing to take.
I create content in many different forms related to self-improvement, body-positivity, and feminism on several other platforms. Join my email list to make sure you don’t miss out on anything new.