Freelance Income Report: Q1 2020

I honestly love reading how different freelancers make money in a given month, so I’m going to do regular reports on how my income breaks down. If it’s helpful to you, great! If not, it’s helpful to me and I think it’s important to be transparent and realistic about where your money comes from if you give advice of any sort to freelancers about how to make more money.

This first report will be Q1 2020, future ones may be monthly.

An important note: the totals here are all pre-tax, so the actual take-home is only about 75% of what's listed. I make this calculation in my payment tracking spreadsheet and keep the tax money in my business bank account so I don't have to scrape up potential thousands by when tax time rolls around.


Month 1. My last day at my SEO agency job was January 22. Just prior to that, I had gotten an SEO editing gig for ClearVoice, a freelance writer platform, so this was my major focus in the remainder of January. (I was also taking a break to recharge after many stressful months at this job.)

SEO editing for this project means identifying relevant keywords, ensuring they are used consistently throughout & rewording where needing, updating subheadings to include keywords, writing a custom title tag and meta description, and any other SEO updates that are needed. It is not proofreading, copyediting, or any higher level content editing.

Work Completed

  • ClearVoice SEO editing: 24 pieces, $322 total

Note: This doesn’t break down to a perfect amount per piece, as the length and difficulty of each article I edit varies greatly, so they all have slightly different pay.

January Earnings Total: $322

During January, I also applied to a bunch of freelance postings, set up profiles on ClearVoice, Writer Access, Upwork, and other similar sites, and started compiling lists of prospects to pitch.


In February, I continued my SEO editing work with ClearVoice, which scaled up, and got approved for Writer Access, where I spent probably too much time writing things for a very low per word rate. But it got me familiar with the platform and resulted in some endorsements and “exceeds expectations” ratings, which have helped me get higher paying jobs more recently.

I also did a bit of SEO work for my old agency, just one-off keyword research projects for various sites.

The last piece of paying work was a test piece for a Website Planet, a web tools review site that I applied to through ProBlogger or one of those types of job boards.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Work Completed

  • ClearVoice SEO editing: 36 pieces, $419.28

  • SEO keyword research for agency: 20 hours @ $40/hour, $800 total

  • Writer Access blogs: 5 pieces, $107.47

  • Website Planet: 1 500 word piece, $95.30 (supposed to be $100, darn those PayPal fees!)

February Earnings Total: $1422.05


March was exciting, because it felt like all the groundwork I laid was finally paying off. All my money is unfortunately going to pay off fixing my car bumper, but it was still a month that felt like I was actually earning enough to consistently live on.

SEO editing for ClearVoice continued to scale up, and I took on a producer role with them, where I project manage and edit assignments for certain clients. (Earnings from one client are included in the March total, the other is not as the project is stretching into April.)

A big chunk of my March earnings again came from my old agency, this time in the form of 20 guest post articles that I got paid $100 each for (equivalent to $0.10 a word).

I also did a second trial piece for Website Planet (if this sounds excessive, not to worry—I now have an official weekly gig with them at $0.16/word).

Lastly, I did more work on Writer Access, including a weekly gig writing show notes/blog post summary of a podcast, a keyword research project, and a longform piece that turned out to be a big headache and definitely not worth the money. The benefit there was practicing writing longer form content (upwards of 5,000 words), which is helping me in the producer role for ClearVoice and in a hopeful April/May project, which is 2 pieces ranging from 15,000 - 25,000 words each.

Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  • ClearVoice SEO editing: 56 pieces, $672

  • ClearVoice producing: 5 pieces (1600 - 5000 words), $840

  • Guest posting: 20 articles (1000 words each @ $0.10/word), $2000

  • Website Planet: 1 article, $95.30

  • Writer Access: 7 pieces + a client call, $693

March Earnings Total: $5,280

Even I’m surprised at the rate at which my earnings have increased so quickly. I don’t expect to continue this rate of growth into April, and honestly I don’t really want to: This is enough to cover my expenses and the point of freelancing is that I don’t want to stress myself out working too much.

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