Making a Living as a Freelance Writer

A guest post by Dennis E. Hensley, PhD, Director of the Professional Writing major at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.

During an interview some years ago, I asked singer Johnny Cash, “Is it true you used to make a living by picking cotton?”

Cash scowled. “I made an existence picking cotton,” he corrected me. “No one makes a living picking cotton.”

I sometimes feel that same way when people look at me with amazement and say, “Wow! You make your living entirely from freelance writing, eh?”

Depending on how a career and its cash flow are going at the time, any freelance writer could give a variety of responses to that question. At certain times of the year, such as royalty statement day, a writer is flush with funds. Other times, he or she may only be making an “existence.”

Overall, however, I have survived rather well since turning to freelance writing full-time many years ago. And, through trial and error (read that “fail and terror”), I have become more efficient each year at money management.

My goal has always been to help writers live more comfortably on the money they earn as writers, particularly if their desire is to depend substantially on their writing income for sustenance. In the coming months I’ll share money-management and time-management tips on this blog to help you succeed.


Adapted from Writing for Profit by Dennis E. Hensley [Thomas Nelson, 1985; revised 2003]. Learn more about the prolific Dr. Hensley’s writing, editing, and public speaking credentials at


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