My So-Called Financial Life


Pondering how to become a full time freelance writer at a remote Sierra Nevada waterfall

So here is a fun little exercise courtesy of the team over at MatadorU that asks you to hypothesize how many articles you would have to sell in order for you to quit your job and freelance full time. To do this of course, you have to take stock of your monthly expenses, assess your current writing income, and brainstorm ways to make up the difference. While I feel most freelancers already have a general concept of this in their heads, it’s good to write it down and get it laid out on paper.

So, without further adieu, here’s a glimpse into the financial life of a rogue American vagabond.

Monthly Expenses of a freelance writer/boat captain/tennis instructor

Rent: $600

Utilities: $50

Student Loans: $350

Roth/Investments: $250

Cell Phone: $85

Food: $100

Car Insurance: $30

Gas: $50

Netflix: $17

Miscellaneous: $200

Insatiable Travel Habit: Whatever is left…


Total: $1732

Where I can cut expenses:

Really, nowhere. I already live a remarkably simple existence, and to shave from anywhere would be counterproductive. I suppose I could begin eating oatmeal for every meal (again), but seeing as I’m married my level of cuisine/life amenities stays at a slightly more elevated level than when I was a hapless bachelor. Let’s say I really could pinch a little bit and get it down to $1600/month. Let’s move forward with that and see what happens. Of course, this leaves no income left over for travel, but I suppose we’ll start with how much it would simply take to survive at my current comfort level.

Freelance Writing Income (estimated)

Staff blogger for Gadling: $500

Advertising sales on Kyle the Vagabond: $75

Still need: $1025

Ok, so that’s my number. Accounting for set writing positions I already hold, I need to generate just over $1000/mo from freelance articles to break even in life.

Online sites that I have written for in the past/plan to write for in the future such as Matador and Boots N All pay an average of $40-$60 for an article.

My highest paying publication, Journey, pays $.75/word, and paychecks average between $250/$300 an article. I would love to get more articles for them.

I have pitched print publications such as Alaska Airlines Magazine, Sunset, and Nat Geo Traveler, but have yet to have any success. Solution: Keep trying.

Other publications that are within my reach that I would love to approach are: Wend, WorldHum, Afar, Budget Travel, Hana Hou, Go Nomad, Outside, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications found on my Travel Publications that Hire Freelancers list.

Cons: Of course, this entire exercise has an ironic Catch-22: The one thing I am lacking (but working on) in pitching all of these publications is time, due to the fact that I already work a full time job and am the (voluntary) head of a non-profit organization. Of course, if I quit my job, then I would have more time to pitch these publications, which may (or may not) work in my favor. I am also going to be going back to graduate school, which I’ve heard, isn’t exactly free. I also live without health insurance, which I’ve heard is probably a bad idea.

Pros: I somehow manage to spend 4 months out of the year unemployed and traveling, which aside from providing me with a wealth of content, allows time for me to make my own schedule. Also, in the last year I have added nearly $600 of monthly revenue that I didn’t have previously, so I’m moving in the right direction.

Solution: Focus more. Make more contacts. Up the effort on social networking. Create efficient/productive schedule. Get a better workspace. Establish set hours. Think less, do more.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Carl September 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Hey Kyle,

You also forgot one other consideration: taxes! And it’s even worse as a freelancer because of self-employment tax. So really you would theoretically need to make even more to break even. Also, for the interesting locals I am interested in hearing about, there are definitely some more travel expenses. That being said, I really believe that if enough people saw/heard/read what you are doing, they’d watch, because of your personality.

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