Tips From a $50K Per Year Part-Time Freelance Writer
For this article I wanted to profile a former Weekend Writer who made $50,000 per year
writing part-time while also working a full-time job. I was astonished when science and
technology writer John Borchardt shared his successful earnings number with me. I knew I
had to know more about how he managed to earn such a high amount part-time when there are
so many full-time writers out there who don't manage to earn that much! Here's the scoop:
John started his writing career back in 1987. He was working full-time as a technical
manager in the oil and energy industry and frequently read industry trade magazines. One
day he saw a call for articles in a trade magazine, Industrial Chemist; the pay was $300
per article. With all of his industry knowledge, John got to work writing his first article
for the trade, sent it off, and three weeks later received a surprise check in the mail.
He went on to write two more articles for the magazine and realized he was hooked on
writing freelance articles. He began querying science and technology-related publications
and Web sites and soon had a steady stream of clients and income. He broadened his scope
to other types of magazines and soon realized freelance writing wasn't as easy as he
thought at first.
He struck gold in the mid-1990s when he started writing articles for a Web-based
science magazine that paid very well. He wrote hundreds of 350 - 500 word articles for the
site racking up to earnings of $50,000. "My best year I wrote 199 articles," says John.
Unfortunately, the Web article well dried up in 2001 - 2002 when the dot com bubble burst.
But John continued to write for print trade magazines. In 2000 while still writing
part-time he got a book contract and wrote "Career Management for Scientists and Engineers,"
which is still in print.
In 2004 he decided to take the leap to full-time freelancing and hasn't looked back.
Doing so enabled him to take on corporate writing projects without worrying about
conflicts of interest with his employer. So, what can Weekend Writers of today learn from
John's success? Here are some tips:
Develop a specialty: John capitalized on his science and technology industry experience
and expertise and parlayed that into a lucrative writing business. You can do the same by
exploring trade publications and Web sites that are focused on your work experience. Or,
if you want to write about a niche outside of your work experience, you can do that too.
Just make sure you are passionate about your specialty because you'll spend a lot of time
researching and writing about it.
Write for the Web: While the dot com boom days are long gone, there are plenty of
writing opportunities for writers on the Web. You may not find a site that will pay you to
write the number of articles that John wrote in the late 90s, but many sites and blogs
need quality content from good writers. A word of warning: There are a number of "writing
mill" sites out there that let anyone with a keyboard submit articles for very minimal
payment. You'll never reach a high earnings level writing for these kinds of sites.
Instead, target established sites that vet their writers for quality and sound reporting
and pay reasonable fees.
Don't Burn Bridges: Even if you hate your current job, try hard to remain in good
standing with your employer - they could become your first client if you ever decide to go
full-time freelance. John turned his former employer into his first client and still
writes for them today - five years later! If you burn bridges, that could result in lost
Denene Brox is a professional freelance writer and content consultant. She is the
author of the e-book, The Weekend Writer: Launch Your Freelance Writing Career
(Part-Time). She started her career as a Weekend Writer in 2005. Her work has appeared in
more than 20 publications and web sites including Heart & Soul, Minority Nurse, Community
Banker, MyBusiness, QSR, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Visit her online at
The Weekend Writer