I hear from hundreds of freelance writers each year, many of whom
are not entirely happy with their careers.
And they fall into two distinct groups:
>> The first group is freelancers who are primarily pursuing
their literary or journalistic calling.
They mostly write plays, poems, movies, novels, nonfiction books,
articles, essays, short stories, screenplays, and whatever else they
are passionate about.
They love what they do. And find it fulfilling.
Only problem is: most writers in this first group tell me they
are hardly making any money … and are barely getting by.
>> The second group is freelance writers who pursue high-paying
These assignments include technical articles for scientific and
medical journals … white papers … long-form direct response sales
letters … video sales letters … web sites … speeches … and many
other lucrative gigs.
Most of the writers in this group who reveal their income to me
say they are earning $100,000 to $200,000 a year or more.
As a result, they can afford to live in a nice house in a good
neighborhood … pay tuition for their kids at Ivy League colleges
… take great vacations at five-star resorts … drive late-model
luxury cars … and build a big enough IRA to retire secure for
Only problem is: many tell me that, while this commercial writing
pays the bills, it doesn’t fulfill them artistically.
The solution for both groups is simple. I call it “the 80/20
formula for freelance writing success.”
The formula says you spend 80% or so of your time on high-paying
projects for commercial clients — and the other 20% on your
literary, journalistic, and artistic writings.
By spending 80% of your time on high-profit writing, you earn
enough money to provide well for your family — while remaining
freelance and avoiding having to work at a 9-to-5 job for someone
But by spending the other 20% of your time writing for fun and
artistic fulfillment, you also get to write the things that
matter most to you.
And because of your cash flow from the high-paying 80% of your
work, you don’t even need to make a dime from your more literary
endeavors — although for some of us it does in fact generate
additional, and in some cases even significant, cash flow.
By the way, the magic of the formula is that you spend some time
writing what others will pay you a lot of money to write … and
some time writing things for your own pleasure, self-expression,
and amusement — whether they pay well, poorly, or not at all.
There is no magic, however, about the actual ratio. You can
adjust it to fit your temperament and needs. For instance, I do
90/10, not 80/20, and that works for me.
Full disclosure: the great advantage I have is that I actually
love writing the high-profit stuff — in my case, copy.
Some writers do. Others not so much. But the 80/20 formula works
in either case. Try it!