Freelancers do what they do for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is to make a living. Some writers have been going at it for years without seeing a desired monetary return on their efforts. As if rejections aren’t depressing enough, the lack of checks coming in the mail can make them wonder if they missed the career boat. Still, other writers seem to enjoy consistent financial success. How do they do it? Find out as five successful freelancers share the keys to their success.


Writers like Amy Sutton have found success by specializing in writing about one high-paying topic. Sutton, who brought in over $50K last year, receives the majority of her income from writing health and medical pieces published by a variety of magazines, websites, health care companies and newspapers.

Specialty subjects often pay well due to the challenging matter of supply and demand. Says Sutton, “Although I enjoy writing about my specialty subjects, I also write about them because they pay well and because there’s not as much demand for the writers.” Truly enjoying your area of specialty is helpful, and as you write more and more articles about it, your reputation as a knowledgeable writer in the subject will grow along with your bank account.


While some writers succeed by specializing, others succeed by diversifying their efforts. Tina Miller’s income exceeded $25,000 last year, in part due to her willingness to diversify her writing. The highest percentage of Miller’s income came from business and corporate writing, writing for trade publications and subcontracting for advertising and PR firms, but she also added to her income by writing feature articles for magazines and by writing a book.

Miller not only diversified the type of writing she did, but she branched out into different writing-related disciplines as well, including editing, teaching online courses and handling total project management duties for some of her clients. Says Miller, “By doing this, I am never tied exclusively to the success or economic trends that might impact just one industry, and I am qualified to write for a vast number of clients or publications versus just one niche market,” all valid points to consider when seeking greater financial gain.


Nothing gives a freelancer a feeling of security like building a reliable list of clients who supply a regular workflow. Shirley Kawa-Jump, a marketing writer who has made between $50 – 75K for the past three years, enjoys this type of security. Says Kawa-Jump, “I have a few clients on retainer who pay me a set amount each month, and I give them a set amount of hours of work. That really helps me stay on budget and maintain a certain level of income.”

Health and medical writer Serena Gordon also found success by establishing relationships with a couple of editors who consistently gave her assignments. Writing only 20 hours a week, Gordon was able to bring in over $25K the past two years. Specializing in her high paying subject area is also helpful to her. Though a major client recently suffered cutbacks that affected her income, she has the experience she needs to confidently go after new jobs in that area.


Many writers have learned that one of the biggest keys to success is self-marketing. Essay writer Carmen Leal credits her success largely to her ability to market her work and herself as a professional. “Marketing is essential because this is not a case of ‘if you write it they will buy it,'” Leal notes. “If you write, following all the rules and you market it well, they will buy it.” Leal has successfully self-published and marketed three books, which have helped her to establish her credibility as a writer and also gave her a forum from which to speak, thus adding to her income-generating abilities.

Serena Gordon has found success by taking a proactive approach to marketing herself. “Most of my work hasn’t come from queries,” says Gordon. “Instead, I send a resume with some clips.” After providing this information, she follows up shortly thereafter, thus keeping her name fresh in editors’ minds. She received one of her first health-writing jobs this way from an editor who needed an article written on a very short deadline. Gordon happened to be at the right place at the right time to get the assignment.

If you want success, it is out there to be had. Follow the lead of these writers who have made it happen. Whether you choose to diversify or specialize, look for repeat business opportunities and take advantage of creative self-marketing techniques. Using these keys, you too can open the doors of success in your writing career.

Lisa Beamer is a freelancer and writing instructor from Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in both print and online publications including FamilyFun, Christian Home & School, Pregnancy, and GeoParent. You can contact Lisa via her web site at: