Shutterstock Alissa Kumarova
This article first appeared on Dollar Sprout.
I’ve been a freelance writer since 2011, but I consider the first five years of my career to be a practice round due to my lack of success.
During those years, my annual salary was in the low five figures.I was terrified to go back to freelancing for a living after landing a full-time writing job.I assumed I was simply inept at it.Then I was fired.
I was laid off in December 2021 and only had about one freelance assignment every other month.
But this time, I stepped up my freelancing game, and in less than 90 days, I went from making almost nothing to matching my full-time salary.
If you’ve mastered the fundamentals of being a freelance writer and want to make more money, follow these steps to increase your value and attract more clients.
Learn how to write for the internet.
Some of the highest demand for writers comes from content marketing and online publishing.Writers are needed for blog posts, social media marketing, email marketing, e-books, and landing pages.
If you have a background in print journalism or creative writing, brush up on how to write for online platforms such as search engine optimization (SEO) and social media to greatly expand the number of gigs you are eligible for.
Create a niche for yourself.
I attribute a lot of my quick client acquisition to my focus on writing about personal finance, which is a highly sought-after niche.I’d spent five years working full-time in the field, honing my expertise in difficult subjects.
I didn’t want to specialize at first because I enjoy writing about a wide range of topics.However, identifying myself as a personal finance writer and leveraging my vast knowledge base helps me attract clients looking for that knowledge.It also encourages my network to consider me for referrals.
Finance, health, and law are all lucrative fields with plenty of writing opportunities.They all cover complex topics that have a significant impact on readers’ lives, so writers and editors’ expertise is essential.
I don’t have a certification like a Certified Financial Planner or a Certified Public Accountant, but those would give you more authority and increase your value as a niche writer.In addition to experience writing about law, many legal blogs want to see a law degree or education.
Make yourself referable.
Over the years, I developed strong relationships with editors and fellow writers through full-time jobs and freelance side gigs.
I’ve never been good at networking.Instead, I built relationships based on the quality of my work: I submitted clean copy on time, met deadlines, and proposed good ideas.When my friends and coworkers found out I was looking for work, they were eager to refer me to clients and pass on opportunities.
Put your whole heart and soul into your work, regardless of how much you are paid.Showing up and doing an excellent job will earn you referrals, allowing you to be picky and confident in negotiating higher rates.
Rates should be flexible.
Setting freelance rates is a delicate balancing act.I chose my initial goal based on what I knew from colleagues and freelance writers with whom I’d worked as an editor.I turned down a few offers from prospects who couldn’t match it because it was too high.
But then I received an offer from a website for which I knew I’d enjoy writing.It offered all freelancers a set rate, which was half of my target per-word rate.But it also provided an endless supply of assignment opportunities, allowing me to spend less time pitching and looking for new work.
A low rate with the promise of a steady stream of work may be more profitable than a high rate for one-time or sporadic assignments that you must spend unpaid time securing.Build that difference into your rates so you don’t miss out on good opportunities that don’t meet your high standards.
Work is based on earnings rather than hours.
As a freelancer, you have a few options for scheduling your days.
- Commit to working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.muntil 5 p.m.m(or any other predetermined period of time)Even if you’re in the middle of a project, stop when the timer goes off and resume the next day.
- By tasks Make a daily to-do list and cross items off as you complete them.
- By earnings Aim for a daily dollar amount that you can live off of and work until you reach it.
I schedule my days around my earnings because it allows me to earn the most and increase my earnings over time without increasing my hours or workload.
Working toward a daily goal of a dollar amount helps me prioritize my work and see when I need to rebalance my workload by letting go of overburdening clients and reaching out to new prospects.
Make some calculations.
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This was one of the most important steps I took in my third month of freelancing to increase my income by 70%.Early on, I was doing a lot of content management work that took up to 20 hours per week, and I was filling in the gaps with a few writing assignments.
I quickly realized that tracking the hours spent on each project helped me see that writing had a much higher return on investment.
Keep track of how much time you spend on each project to determine your hourly rate.You’ll be able to see which projects are profitable and which are a waste of time.
A good rule of thumb for determining a target hourly rate is to double your full-time hourly rate.If you want to make $50,000 per year, the hourly rate for a full-time job would be around $24.Aim for about 48 hours of freelancing per week.
As a freelancer, you must set higher goals because you are not compensated for every hour you work.You devote a significant amount of non-billable time to tasks such as writing pitches, researching publications, searching job boards, writing proposals, and meeting with prospects.
If you are self-employed and do not have a spouse who can provide coverage, you will also have to pay more taxes and purchase your own health insurance.
Clients who eat up your time should be dropped.
I broke up with a client who had demanded a lot of my time for a low hourly rate after realizing I could earn more money writing than managing content.
My hourly rate increased by about 40% when I filled that time with other clients.As a result, I was able to earn more money while working fewer hours.I was hesitant to lose that client who promised as much work as I wanted, but I knew I could put my time to better use.
Be aware of inefficient work that wastes time that could be spent on more profitable work, and don’t be afraid to drop clients in favor of better opportunities.
Clients who waste your time with non-billable work, such as those who require complicated invoicing, email you at odd hours, micromanage every assignment, expect multiple rounds of revisions, or are otherwise disorganized, should be avoided.When calculating your hourly rate for that client’s projects, factor in the extra time.
Don’t put your faith in pitches.
Shutterstock Viktoriia Hnatiuk
My biggest blunder as a freelancer was believing that pitching was the only way to get work.
As a new writer, sending a one-off pitch to a high-end magazine or newspaper, or to blogs, is a great way to get an assignment.However, writing for a living is a difficult task.
Concentrate on locating clients who can provide ongoing writing work and are looking for a long-term relationship.Small businesses, as well as niche sites that require expertise, such as finance, health, or legal blogs, frequently operate in this manner.
Alternatively, by doing an excellent job on one-time assignments, you can turn them into ongoing work.
After one successful assignment, follow up with another pitch.Once an editor realizes how great you are, let them know you’re available for work.Most websites have a wish list of articles they’d like written, and once you’ve proven yourself trustworthy, they’ll gladly pass them on to you.
Look for gigs in the appropriate locations.
Shutterstock Photo Have a nice day
You might have relied on broker sites like Upwork and Textbroker as a new freelancer to find places to get paid to write.Clients on those sites, on the other hand, are frequently looking for the cheapest rental and aren’t as concerned with quality.
You have more options for gigs now that you have more experience.
- MediaBistro JournalismJobs, for example, is a high-quality job board.Mediagazer.com and com
- To help clients find you, create a portfolio and work with me page on your own website and link to it from your social media profiles.
- Join writing organizations such as the Freelance Writers Den Editorial Freelancers Association or the Society of Professional Journalists, which host vetted job boards and allow you to post yourself as available for hire.
- Make use of your network and let colleagues who admire your work know you’re available so they can refer you to potential clients.When you have the opportunity, try to repay the favor.
- Join Facebook groups like The Freelance Content Marketing Writer and The Write Life, where editors post quality opportunities for freelance writers.
Acquire a basic understanding of technology.
Clients will value you more if you are easy to work with, and if you are tech savvy, you will be less of a headache than someone who clients must handhold with every new piece of software.
Learn how to use the basic technology you’ll come across as a freelancer, such as
- Google Hangouts and Zoom for video conferencing
- Trello and Asana are two project management tools.
- Microsoft Word and Google Docs for word processing and collaboration
- WordPress (and Wix for some small businesses) content management
Sign up for writing newsletters.
Shutterstock Images of Monkey Business
Newsletters for writers are a convenient way to stay up to date on writing opportunities without having to scour job boards all the time.Additionally, they frequently include a wealth of writing advice.
My go-to newsletters for unique writing opportunities are
- C’s FundsforWritersClark, Hope
- Susan Shain’s Where to Pitch
Make contact with new customers.
Milan Ilic is a Shutterstock photographer.
It’s easy to rely on job boards or Facebook posts to find new clients when you’re a new writer, but you’ll make more money if you find clients on your own.
Find startups in your field using sites like Crunchbase.Send them emails outlining your services and how your writing can help them grow their business.
Set a calendar reminder for a quick check-in and a link to your most recent article in a few months.
Even if you never hear back or get a lukewarm response, it’s crucial to follow up.You never know when a company will require freelance assistance.It could happen in six months or a year.
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