How I Earn $30,000 a Year as a Part-Time Freelance Writer

Written By Julie Wilson

Writing was always a dream of mine. Until I was in desperate need of Christmas money and came across an advertisement for a writing service (aka: content mill) looking for writers. The dream quickly became a reality. I signed up, submitted a writing sample, and began receiving writing jobs. They were far from the glamorous jobs I had envisioned, but they added up and Christmas was a success.

Over the course of a year, I averaged $1000/month in earnings. Here are a few of the writing jobs I picked up:

  • Writing catchy clickbait headings
  • Crafting legal blogs about medical malpractice
  • Creating business profiles for hundreds of retirement homes
  • Documenting case studies in standard formats

Although I enjoyed the extra cash and developed relationships with a few clients, the demands of the content mill were unrealistic. I had to get out.

My Challenge

I experienced three main challenges while working with writing services.

Poor Communication. Content mills are designed to extract content from writers, while protecting their clients. In other words, the content mill will go to any length to keep writers from communicating directly with clients. This makes writing difficult when the writer needs clarification or a deeper understanding of the job. Having to go through customer service reps and chat messaging to understand the scope of a job sets writers up to fail. And when I failed, I did not get paid. Even though the client had possession of my work and was likely using it.

Impossible Deadlines. When a writer accepts a job, the clock starts ticking. Most deadlines were automatically set for 24 or 48 hours. It didn’t matter if the job required clarification from the client, or if my daughter had a softball tournament. The deadlines were not discussed; they were assigned. At times, I was forced to reject jobs because of impossible deadlines. The client was disappointed and wanted to know why. I later learned that clients tried to adjust deadlines to accommodate my schedule, but the inflexible platform would not allow it. And if I missed a deadline, I received a “strike.” Too many strikes and I would be fired. Just like that.

Low Pay. I mentioned before that I submitted writing samples when I applied to the writing service. The service evaluated the samples and assigned a level to my writing. The higher the level, the higher the compensation. I was assigned the highest level, which was four-star. A four-star writer received 6.6-7.6 cents per word. THIS IS THE MOST A WRITER CAN EARN! That is unacceptable. Keep in mind that most writers are assigned a two-star level, which only pays 2 cents per word, so I guess I was one of the lucky ones. My average blog post was 500 words, so I earned $33 for an average post. And then there were edits and rewrites galore. Since I was unable to speak to the client, it was tough to get it right the first time. Spoiler alert: I typically earn $75 for a 500 word post today.

The bottom line is that content mills do not care about the writer or the client. They can’t because for them to earn a profit, they must process jobs like an assembly line. Quantity is prioritized over quality every time, which is every good writer’s worst nightmare.

My Solution

I began to plan my escape. I created profiles on Upwork and Contently and sat in line with thousands of other broke writers, but then it hit me. I discovered a large pool of potential clients that desperately needed my writing skills and just didn’t realize it yet. I began to create a list of every service I had used in the past year. This list included my hair stylist, chiropractor, water service, landscaper, pool service, auto mechanic, dermatologist, and Crossfit gym. I sent out this email:

“Thank you for providing such great service! I am on your website right now and notice that your blog has not been updated in a while. Adding regular blog content is a great way to improve your website’s discoverability and get in front of more potential customers. Over the past year, I have been crafting content for businesses like yours and I would love to write for you, also. Since I have first-hand experience with the high-quality service you provide, I can start with sharing my testimonial in the form of a blog post.

My pricing is pretty simple. I charge $75 for a 500 word post, $112 for a 750 word post, and $150 for a 1000 word post. But, if budget is an issue, I am open to working out a barter arrangement. Let me know if you are interested and give me a call. I can also conduct some keyword research and write website content if you want to improve your website and drive more traffic.”

I sent out 30 of these emails with a few personal touches added for each service. Then, I waited.

The Results

Over the course of the next week, I received five emails and three phone calls. Four of the services were interesting in bartering and four wanted to pay me on a monthly subscription basis. Two clients hired me to research keywords and rewrite their website content in addition to creating monthly blogs. Here is the income breakdown from that first batch of emails:

  • Local fishing charter company: Complete website rewrite at $350 plus $75/month for a blog post.
  • Hair stylist: Two blog posts per month at $75/each.
  • Water service: One blog post per month in exchange for water service. Value: $50/month
  • Chiropractor: One blog post per month in exchange for monthly therapeutic massage. Value: $85/month
  • Landscaper: Two blog posts per month in exchange for monthly landscape service. Value: $150
  • Crossfit gym: Two blog posts per month in exchange for membership. Value: $110
  • Dermatologist: Two case studies per month at $150 each.
  • Local party rental company: Complete website rewrite at $275 plus two blog posts per month at $75/each.
  • First Month Income: $1695
  • Monthly Recurring Income: $1070

None of these clients had ever been contacted by a writer. I had no competition and already had an established professional relationship. Since that first month, I have been hired for additional website rewrites. Using this same technique, I have grown my part-time writing income to over $30,000 annually.

A serial entrepreneur, mother of three, and dedicated freelance writer, Julie holds an MPS in Publishing from The George Washington University. She is a regular contributor to several print and online publications including Mobile Cuisine and Golf Car Advisor. She is obsessed with helping those with entrepreneurial spirits travel the path to self-employment and her blog, is dedicated to this mission. Julie can typically be found in line at the vegetarian food truck or at a high school sporting event. Reach out to her at


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