I mentioned my income goals in my last post but what most people want to know is how much do freelancers make? So here is what I made NOT in the last financial year (since in Australia that would be from July 2021 to June 2022) but what I made in the last calendar year from January 2021 to December 2021.
A little explanation on the different types of work that I do as a freelancer
I have quite a few strings to my bow or services that I offer which confuses a lot of people. There are other duties that I take on that are voluntary but that people assume are paid gigs like my union role.
I also keep my accounts on a cash basis (ie. when money hits my account, NOT when the work is done, which would be an accruals basis) and so some invoices have yet to still come in (which is fine, they are all within payment dates).
So here is a list:
- Journalism – I pitch and write articles for publications on a freelance basis and sometimes also sub edit work.
- Editing – I edit and proofread manuscripts and other documents (basically anything publishable but not news related) for individual clients and publishers or organisations.
- Mentoring – I mentor clients through mentoring schemes with organisations or individually and this can be anything from providing feedback on pitches, helping them brainstorm things, helping them work out next steps for a book, project or a business to telling them when they are getting caught up and need a break or just to start writing. Sometimes all they need is a nagging aunty figure and if that is what they want they can pay me by the hour for it.
- Manuscript assessment – this is a service I currently take on through an organisation where I read through a manuscript and have a chat with the author about what the manuscript needs done to it next whether that is editing, rewriting, research or some other form of consultation.
- Speaking – I get a fee for appearing on panels and events and basically stating my opinion and experience on various things.
- Creative writing – I get paid for work that I submit to publications that gets published and I list it under this when it is creative work and not news or feature pieces or anything journalism related.
- Training – I get paid to run workshops on specific parts of freelancing.
Other income streams that help a bit include:
- Patreon – People pay to support me from as little as $1 USD per month and they get to see early drafts of my writing and other awesome behind the scenes and the money goes towards paying for subscriptions that I might need for work and towards other creators that I want to support.
- Twitch – This is not active as I have not reached the tier that allows you to get an income from it yet but when it does it will help me support other creators and pay for any small expenses in the business.
- Youtube – Again this, like Twitch, is not at the same level where I can derive any income from it yet but when it does, again it will go in part to supporting other creators. I have two channels on Youtube.
- Honorariums from particular projects I was involved in – these were small sums and will be donated to other organisations.
How much I made in 2021 with journalism work
I made $8919.99 AUD with my journalism work in 2021.
Surprised? So am I. Especially given that for many years I only made $10,000 AUD per year, to have such a large amount come from the journalism work that I did is amazing. It definitely makes me feel like I hit my goal to do more journalism work in 2021.
Percentage of my total income: 36.5%
Biggest client I had: The National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council. They put out a daily radio and online news bulletin in 22 different languages that updates people on public health information and safety around COVID-19.
My role was to sub edit the English bulletin early in the morning three days a week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before it goes to the producers who can translate and record it.
It is still ongoing and you can find the daily news bulletins here: http://www.facebook.com/nembc
I was paid three days a week and over the year that money significantly added up. They accounted for 87% or $7810 AUD of the journalism work I did and there are still some payments coming in for the last weeks of December.
My next biggest client: The Age paid me $839 AUD for an article I wrote on refugees and refugee policy and it was a commission so NOT one of my pitches.
How much I made in 2021 with editing work
I made $14,709.65 in 2021 with my editing work.
Percentage of my total income: 60.21%.
My biggest client: Affirm Press.
In November I got hired by Affirm Press to help them get all their books that needed to get to the printers by Christmas back on schedule. It was a short term full time six week contract for editing work and I quoted a weekly amount based on my hourly rate that they agreed to. The contract is over but some of the payments will only come in during early January which is not when I am writing this piece.
The total amount from Affirm Press should come to around about $11,000 when the final payments come in. In any case they were a significant chunk of the editing work that I did.
My next biggest client: This was an individual client who paid me a bit extra for an urgent job. After this came some work I got to do for publishers: Fremantle Press, Hachette Australia and Ultimo Press.
How much I made in 2021 with mentoring work
I made $450 in 2021 with my mentoring work.
This may seem odd but I have not actually had many mentoring clients and most of them wanted to work at a pace that allowed us to meet up monthly.
This ended up being just 2% of my total income.
How much I made in 2021 from my creative writing and speaking work
I made $200 and $100 respectively from my creative writing and speaking work.
The Victorian Writer which is the magazine for Writers Victoria published a piece of mine. I also was slated to speak on a panel and it ended up being cancelled.
How much I made in 2021 from my Patreon
I made $170 in all of 2021 from my Patreon patrons. It’s a bit unclear from Patreon’s stats as to whether that is in AUD or USD.
I am very grateful for the support. Shout out to my current patrons: Andrew, Tiara, Holly and Kathy. That money funded other creators such as Sonia Weiser who puts together the Opportunities Newsletter and Creatrix Tiara.
How much I made in 2021 from other sources
In 2020, I did get COVID-19 assistance via the Australian government’s Jobkeeper payment for about four to six months.
This ended before 2021 started and is reflected in my 2020-21 financial year income but not in my 2021 calendar year income.
COVID-19 had an immediate knock on effect as publishers shut doors, shrunk freelance budgets and turned off entire sections. As a generalist I managed to keep going but it was a bit tough.
How much I made in 2021 in total as a freelancer
I made $24,430 AUD in the 2021 calendar year.
This is the first time I have made this much in a year from freelance work alone. It is exciting, but I also want to highlight that this took me 13 years to get to this point.
That’s part of why this blog exists. I had to figure out a lot along the way and I don’t want anyone else to struggle in doing that at all.
If anything on this site helps you get to your income goals faster as a freelancer or helps you achieve a bit of financial stability then that is amazing.
For some people this is also extremely scary and bewildering. The minimum wage in Australia as of July 2021 should start at $40,175 AUD per year.
So I am freelancing full time and am still a way off from that.
But this is also why I continue to advocate for freelancers’ rights to fair rates for their work. We are not in a position to set our own rates to get minimum wage even though the law permits us to as companies refuse to pay those rates.
Right now, I am privileged enough to have some savings both here and overseas that I try to allow to accumulate and not access. And I try to live very frugally and at least in a financial sense, very simply so that the money I earn can be used as effectively as possible.
People may ask why I state this so openly when others may decide that not earning a sufficient amount means that I must not work hard enough. I want to state this openly because while I think freelancing and all that comes with it is a set of valuable skills to learn, I also don’t want people to, if they have a choice, opt to freelance without all the information about how hard it is, what the experience can be like and so on.
And of course, by no means does it mean that every freelancer has my experience but most of us do struggle and worry about the money. So yes, you may get lucky if you decide to freelance and I hope you definitely do better and get to your goals faster. But it would be remiss of me not to be honest about what it is like so you are as well informed as possible.
Thoughts? If you are a freelancer, how did your year go? What were your wins? Did you hit your goals? Let me know.