As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer in some capacity. In the 90s, when I graduated from college and before the internet of things, I had no idea how to make that happen. I became a social worker. Working for Big Brothers Big Sisters was very rewarding, but the pay was low and the hours were long. To supplement my income, I presented at seminars and wrote occasional grants. I had no formal grant writing experience, and I’m not even sure that we won any of the grants, but I made extra cash.
Twenty years later, content writing comprises a little more than half my income. Although I was aware of grants available to writers, I had not touched a grant since the 90s. One morning, I received a phone call. A one-year-old, local non-profit agency needed a grant writer, and a friend recommended me.
Regardless of my limited experience with grant writing, I was hired. Apparently local grant writers are difficult to find, especially for a new agency. I believed in the organization and wanted to help, but I had no idea how lucrative it would become.
How It Works
Initially, I agreed to a “per project” fee, to ensure a good fit for everyone. We were awarded the very first grant I wrote, and my fee was $500. The grant took me about four hours to write, so I was very excited for the next proposal. After a month, the Board of Directors approved me as a permanent grant writer and the agreement looks like this:
•A retainer of $500/month for one year, subject to an increase with a 50 percent award rate.
•Bonuses paid for awarded grants equal to five percent of the award amount.
•Researching and recommending grants each month is part of the job.
Over the past few months, I have tracked hours spent researching and writing grants, as well as time spent on planning calls with the Executive Director. On average, I spend twelve hours per month on this job. My average monthly income to date is $1200, or $83/hour. This amount will increase, as I am on track to write nearly one million dollars in grants this year. My monthly hours will increase as I write larger, more complex grant proposals. If my award average is 50 percent or higher, my estimated income will be $37,000 for the year, equating to well over $100/hour, even with increased hours.
A Few Words About Ethics
Most grantwriter associations have determined that commissions based on percentages of awarded grants is unethical. And, more importantly, grants rarely allow funds to be used to pay a grantwriter. Agencies must fundraise to cover operations expenses, such as grantwriting. In my case, the agency budget includes my retainer, which compensates me for hours spent, even if a grant is not awarded. The budget also includes bonus money to be paid out for awarded grants. The percentage is used as a bonus guideline; however, my grantwriting fees are never paid directly from a grant.
When I dreamed of being a writer, I did not dream of blog and grant proposal writing. Writing opportunities can pop up everywhere. Even though my writing career hasn’t included bestselling novels and coast to coast book tours, I am influencing the world with words. The income has been great and it feels good to know that my writing skills are helping to fund an important cause.
Bio: Julie Wilson is a serial entrepreneur and regular contributor to several publications, including the “How To Start Up Business Blog,” Golf Car Advisor, and Mobile Cuisine. In addition, she puts brands on the map with content centric marketing plans.