How I Made $10,000 in a Month By Snarking on Furniture and McMansions

By Rachel Presser

There once was a girl from the Bronx who had to schlep to a miserable job at a tax law firm in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Manhattan.

Seven days a week was the torture in the ground floor of a high-rise co-op where the gentry routinely frothed at the mouth about having to pay taxes like the little people do, and a talking Ronald Reagan doll greeted them at the front door.

It was, as you can surmise, hell on earth she had to tolerate for a paycheck. Yay capitalism.

Had her future self from five years later suddenly appeared at the darkest hour and said, “Guess what! You’re not only going to get out of this place and have a ridiculously awesome life beyond your wildest dreams and never have to schlep to a desk job ever again, but you will have a low six-figure income comprised of several moving parts. One day, you will get an insane windfall complaining about McMansions.”

Well, this article wouldn’t have been written. Because that girl was me and I would’ve died from a spleen rupture after laughing so hard.

But the proof is in the pudding, what with this essay on why McMansions are the human centipede of housing among many others that would be posted.

So, if you’ve read my prior work on Freedom with Writing, you’ll know there’s one thing I really hate. And it’s looking for work. In fact, I built an entire infrastructure predicated on not having to look for work because it can get so time-consuming! And that takes away time from working on my games, my own writing outside the purview of editors and content sites, spending time with my friends, petting toads, and anything else I’d rather do than slave in front of the computer all day.

But like it or not, sometimes you do have to actually look for work. It’s just the nature of the beast. You can build an infrastructure that brings people to the theme park, but sometimes you need outreach when advertising isn’t bringing people to the gate.

I just think you need to be more selective about where you look, and what you apply to.

Because when you’re responding to a casting call or ad, it’s likely to put you in a position of having less bargaining power than if the client approaches you about what you’re selling with an open wallet. (I got into how you can increase your bargaining power at the individual level in this past testimonial.)

But when your “getting the work to come to you” infrastructure doesn’t seem fruitful at the moment, it’s going to lead you to looking at casting calls. Which is actually how I wound up doing what the title said. Although I have to correct it, I made MORE THAN $10,000 in a single month from one client alone.

And there’s a few takeaways from this I’m going to tell you upfront:

  • Sometimes you have to go outside your niche and take a leap of faith.
  • Making a good living as a writer, or any other digital hustler or content creator, involves a push-pull dynamic between having enough clients and getting damn good rates.
  • Don’t be afraid to dream big! But also don’t fly too close to the sun, depending on the situation.

Finding the Right Places and Taking a Leap of Faith

I found this client on WriterAccess. I never want to rely too heavily on one platform or client, but I wrote an entire book for Freedom with Writing about how to navigate the wide world of web content and becoming a happy bottom feeder with it. And admittedly, my earnings on WriterAccess tanked a lot in the last few months likely due to a mix of staff changes, many of our long-time clients going out of business or hiring in-house for content creation, and so on. Other long-time writers confirmed the same thing with me in the past few months. Things started to stabilize again come spring this year, but I always kept a finger on the pulse of the casting calls and fortunately my comrades started seeing more regular new clients and one-time windfalls.

And in the book, I get into how WriterAccess offers the most money-making opportunities for writers compared to other content sites based on site architecture alone with a combination of managed service, casting calls, and clients being able to individually message you.

One of the pieces of advice I also give in the book is “if you look in a garbage dump, be prepared to find garbage”. If you have to look for work, the absolute last place you want to look is a content mill that really thinks $0.03/word is a princely sum or those horrendous clients on Upwork and the like who will back-and-forth you to death over seriously thinking you should write a 1,000-word article for $5 and they could’ve written the damn thing themselves in the time it took to argue about your rates.

Ultimately, one of the chief takeaways from that book I wrote (fine, I’ll stop promoting it from this point on! But go buy it, it’s worth the money, trust!) is that one of the keys to building a stable digital living is finding a niche.

And I pretty much did that: tax and financial writing still makes me decent bucks and game writing comes and goes, but I still get lots of clients in the corporate space interested in game developers’ perspectives on things. Actual game writing, opposed to a games-related column or technical writing for the industry, would merit a whole other article. Some game writers use their content work to segue that into narrative-related work in the industry, me, I’m a happy bottom feeder who uses my earnings to subsidize my own indie projects. No wrong way to go about it, you can get some nice royalty checks if you get signed onto a project that promises them and you tough it out til the end. I’d rather own my IP and be subsidized by my strong per-word rates I’ve mostly gotten in tech and finance, but now also get in ranting about why I hate glass luxury towers in my city.

So the big question becomes: when do you step outside of that niche? How do you do it?

I’ve definitely pitched publications that fell outside my niche and those pitches would get ignored. Even ones in my fields too! But that’s a whole other dynamic compared to content platforms. While you have to take a leap of faith there, I still save my time and energy pitching for publications where the pay is awesome and I’m super passionate about the project. Because in the content world, you’ve got FAR more willing buyers than mastheads with very little space for freelance contributions who will run potential columnists through a harsher gauntlet. But despite having more degrees of freedom per se, going outside your niche can be a scary prospect even for content work.

Admittedly, there are certain things I would try on WriterAccess that I wouldn’t necessarily try on other platforms. This is partly due to that infrastructure that doesn’t pigeonhole as harshly as others, and having more chance for a human touch from the account managers in some cases. When you’ve built a relationship with account managers, editors, and other people all over this business, it definitely opens more doors than trying to get in the more mechanical and algorithmic way. Read: it’s more likely to get those doors open at all.

So when I was browsing the casting calls as I’m wont to do while waiting for the bus or taking a break from other work I have to do, the headline screaming “Interior design writing- will pay 35-50 CPW” immediately stuck out to me. I took a look at the casting call and saw it was also a managed account, which aside from that pay rate, is an indicator that the client has resources and isn’t going to fight about rates. It also meant I’d have to go through an account manager with the site first and not the client right away which in my case, was another boon.

That’s the most important bit of text from the casting call I applied to a month ago at the time of writing.

Well, I maintain a huge following on Twitter on account of my morbid political humor and frequently use it in my writing when called for. So I was curious and figured for that kind of money, I definitely had nothing to lose by applying. Here’s the sentence that landed me the account and over ten grand.

The first company I mentioned is a real estate company that frequently does enormous batches of crowd orders on WriterAccess, a lot of short pieces mostly meant to populate blogs for various apartment complexes. They pay the standard Level 5 rate so I’d get $18.90 a pop and would pluck a few at a time because hey, it’s nice to get a $75-130 boost once in a while that I can finish in about an hour or less. The second company I did some work for when they initially hired me to write about mortgages and the tax implications of exotic financial products, but they’d be like “Hey, we’ll throw you another $50 if you can include 500 words or so about how to pick the right wall decorations for your new house.”

So, interior design wasn’t my devoted niche but I had a little experience in it and since this was a WriterAccess client where I didn’t need to worry about proving I wrote these pieces– the account manager could clearly see how much home living writing I did–but in either case, I wasn’t asked for samples and was sent a test a few days later, which you can read: Why Chesterfield Sofas Are Ugly!

I always go the extra mile for my prestige clients, but I figured “Hey, I should really try to knock it out of the park here.” Apparently, I knocked it out of the entire city limits because we’re suddenly talking a regular column. Woah, Nelly!

And now’s the time of the article to get naked! (Financially naked, that is.) 

$10,000 is an attention-grabbing number– it got your attention even more than the “get naked” part, didn’t it?– that often gets associated with scams, like those things in your spam filter that say “I made $5861 working at home and you can too!” But I have to laugh because I *have* made far more than that working at home.

And it’s the truth that I got more than 10 grand for complaining about McMansions and tacky decor from the 70s I couldn’t stand, and then THE most joyful piece of paid writing I’ve done in my entire career: getting paid to write about and look at pictures of TOADS! (That’s like, beyond dreams to me.)

Because of medical issues among other things, and having to contend with the sometimes-annoying, sometimes-wonderfully dependable payroll cycle at WriterAccess, the sum I’d earn getting 30.1 CPW after the house’s cut was split among three payments in the payroll cycle [with one incoming at the time of writing].

(This was technically early July’s paycheck but I finished the jobs in late June.)

So those are my payments from PayPal, though if you wanted to do detective work you could ask for transaction IDs to get PayPal to confirm that this is indeed not a scam!

After separating out payments from other clients I made $729.93 total from the Chesterfield sofa piece and the other piece I wrote when the column kicked off, spent two weeks grinding to get $8,355.46 in “pre-loading” tons of articles to get published, and then finishing up the last two in that batch for the next payroll cycle at $1,205.51. Rather than wait for the next paycheck to go out, I decided to just screencap it as-is because anything else I do this pay period will be for other WriterAccess clients, since we mutually agreed not to hop to the next batch until late August. This comes to $10,290.90.

Like I said, there’s a push-pull dynamic when it comes to making a living digitally. You want to always have options and be hustling, and that means learning when to say yes and no. Sometimes we still say yes to things we shouldn’t have if money was tight– it happens to the best of us! One of the first things I tell both the public and my coaching/consulting clients is that I can have five-figure months then be scraping the couch cushions for $1,800 the next month. That doesn’t even cover rent in a lot of places now.

If you want to not be chained to your desk, you have to strike a balance of having enough clients to diversify your risk but few of them that also pay a very good rate like 30+ CPW.

But remember what else I said about not flying too close to the sun? I never like depending too much on just one client or platform, that’s too much like employment to me and I DO NOT LIKE JOBS. You lose a job, you’re so screwed as all your income is gone. However, there’s nothing wrong with prioritizing your time and calculating your risk on a client that’s offering the best pay at the moment. I had over $10K in progress and l definitely wasn’t picking up 10 CPW articles that were in my article request lists here and there even though I get 10 CPW is a goal for newer writers.

The next batch of furniture-snarking goodness will be a lot smaller, stabilizing at 8-10 pieces per month for the same pay rate but aiming for a shorter length so I’ll be averaging about $3,200-3,600 per month from this client unless circumstances change. Which is always possible in web content, but you still ultimately have more control over it than you do with masthead kind of writing–especially if you’re able to keep the security of a column by having a large social following or other factors that help the publisher as much as they help you.

While I was told that my audition piece was liked the best out of the other writers that were tried out, having over 5,600 rabid Twitter followers absolutely worked in my favor here. It’s a mutually beneficial agreement that also got me a by-line which usually doesn’t happen in web content that the end client owns. Getting a by-line opens up more opportunity and I now curse myself for pitching an architecture magazine before getting this column, because I now have infrastructure-related work to be published that architecture mags will like.

(By the way, once you start getting by-lines, set up an Ebyline account if you’re making it into large publications and Contently for virtually everything else. It’s faster and easier than doing it on your own website and both these places offer free portfolio hosting and ways to find new clients!)

Sometimes you’ll take that leap of faith where you go outside your niche and send a pitch that gets ignored, or winning a casting call that pays $50 once or sporadically. Other times, you take a leap of faith and wind up getting a five-figure sum that precedes a monthly amount which would annualize to $38-42K per year for doing about one-third the work a job paying that much would demand.

Writing is still a business and you need to treat it as such! Hell, you might even make MORE than what those emails in your spam filter tell you that you can make working at home. And if you’re still not sure how to get there, why not stop by Clarity and set up a call with me?

Rachel Presser is the proprietress of Sonic Toad Media and Consulting. A writer, game developer, business consultant, content strategist, and friend to amphibians, Rachel also gets snarky about McMansions and furniture at Home Stratosphere on the reg. Follow Rachel on Twitter for leftist toad rants and check out her portfolio on Contently.


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