How Long Does It Take New Freelancers to Earn a Living Wage?

Writer holding a cup of coffee, at desk with laptop and calculator

I recently had someone ask me …

"Bob, if I were to start a copywriting business, what realistically is the range of income I could earn in my first three months? Six months? Year?"

I don't have a firm answer for him derived from statistical analysis of a large body of data.

But based on my four decades in the field, here is what I have observed, taking your current salary as the starting point.

A reasonable goal would be to have your gross income from your first year of freelance copywriting 25% more than your current annual salary.

For the second year of full-time freelancing, doubling or tripling your earnings is quite possible, unless you are already making a huge paycheck at your current company.

From the third year on, you can expect to gross an annual income in the six-figures.

Of course it depends on many factors, such as skill level, talent, aggressiveness, prospecting, selling, and client service.

But the numbers I have given seem, in my observation, to be attainable for copywriters who work at it and dedicate themselves to the craft.

Writers earning both less and more are plentiful. You'll find your own pace once you get going.

The problem is, fear prevents many of us from ever getting started. Which means your income is at the discretion of the boss who decides your salary.

And one more thing to consider … When first breaking in to freelance work, you should give yourself a protective shield against debt collectors and overdrafts at the bank.

How? By saving enough money to live on for six months or a year before venturing out into the freelance copywriting world.

With this financial cushion, you'll ride any ups-and-downs in your business with less stress.

Freeing yourself from money worries takes the pressure off, which can improve your work by allowing you to concentrate on copywriting vs. focusing on your bills and the size of your checking account.

(For stories of how AWAI members made the journey from zero to well-paid writing, go here.)

Do you have any questions about how to get started as a writer? Please share in the comments so we can point you in the right direction.

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Published: February 18, 2020

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