It’s entirely possible to make a six-figure income as a freelance writer, as long as you have skill, speed, and ambition to spare. You may not get famous writing SEO-rich content for corporations, but it will pay the bills and may even allow you the time to pursue your own creative projects.
If you want to turn your writing skills into an actual career, however, better steer clear of trying to make it happen in New York. It’s a one-hundred-percent employer’s market there.
Study the available writing positions around the country, whether they involve telecommuting or not, and you’ll notice that New York has both the most ads and the worst payment rates per word, hour, project, or as a salary. It’s simply a function of supply and demand: New York has been a haven for writers for so long that there are hundreds of applicants for even minimum-wage writing positions.
Reserve New York for a vacation of hop on/hop off tours, fine dining, and club hopping. This is not where you will make it as a writer.
Where the money is
The ultimate dream for a writer is to work on projects you like (the odds are against your loving them), on your own time and on your own terms. “Your own terms” is most likely on your couch in yoga pants at whatever time of day suits you.
It’s a career that lets you tap into your natural skill set and visit the gym class at odd hours. It’s completely feasible, but not if you let a “prestigious (non-paid) internship at a NY magazine” distract you.
The highest demand for writers is for the least glamorous work. This might be preparing government RFP proposals or writing landing-page jargon for a tech company that has oodles of money to spare.
Now, there’s zero shame in employing your talents to pad your bank account. In fact, it’s what a smart writer will do, and the appeal of “exposure” is highly overrated.
If you want to marry New York and writing, pursue travel writing and write off those East Coast plane tickets on your tax returns.
Know your worth
Any professional needs to know what he or she is worth per hour, whether you get paid a salary or by the word. Figure out what your worth is, which is best calculated as the average between what you need to survive and what you think is a fair rate for your skill set and experience.
Sometimes you’ll have to accept jobs that are at or below your survival rate, and sometimes the cash will flow in. Either way, you need to practice saving and frugal living.
New York can teach you how to do that when you visit — there are bargains, such as the incredible street fare — but the city will never make you a wealthy writer.