The 30 Day Marketing Boot Camp for Freelance Writers

5 Signs You've Landed a Great Freelance Writing Job

on January 21, 2010 in Freelance Writing

If you decided to search for freelance writing jobs right now, you would probably find thousands of them advertised. Many of those writing jobs are crap (and that's putting it nicely) to the bulk of writers here. After all, do you want to get paid $.001 per word (yes that's 1/10 of one cent per word)? Do you want to work for $.05 per word? Or would you rather get paid $.50 per word or more to blog, or a dollar per word or more for features? Do you want to write original content in your area of expertise, or are you okay rewriting the work of others for a quick buck (knowing you're likely guilty of copyright infringement for doing nothing more than creating a derivative work)?

The garbage gigs and the decent gigs really aren't that difficult to separate. But just in case you're still waiting for the good ones to come along, here are some signs you've hit the freelance writing jobs jackpot:

1. You're being fairly compensated.

How much is that exactly? I don't know. Nor do I care. The actual number will vary depending on where you live and what your cost of living is. But if you're not being paid enough to cover all of your bills, pay your taxes, have something left to grow the business, and still have enough for your health insurance, retirement, and other benefits, you're not there yet. Keep trying.

2. Your clients know how to communicate.

When you truly love your clients, that's certainly a contributing factor to a great freelance writing gig (although it doesn't make the job cut it by itself). If a client can tell you what they want rather than give you the "I'll know it when I see it" speech, you're on the right path.

3. You have few, if any, edit requests.

There is nothing wrong with getting edit requests from time to time. If you're getting them constantly though, you're doing something wrong (unless you're in a niche like magazine writing where they're more the norm). Maybe the client has communication issues about what they really want up front, you're not asking them exactly what they want up front with the right questions about their target audience and such, or they're just control freaks who will always think they could have done a better job, so your work will never be good enough. That last group can be scary, but they're few and far between. Great clients and great gigs involve having all of the information up front so you know exactly what's needed and you can turn it around with minimal edits needed. Anything else cuts into your potentially billable time elsewhere.

4. Your client respects you.

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If the extent of your client's communication is "write this and get it back to me," you might not have the worst gig in the world, but it could be better. When your clients respect you enough for being a specialist in your niche or industry that they ask for your honest opinion, that means a lot. That's not to say they should take advantage by asking for unpaid consulting all the time, but if they want your opinion once in a while go ahead and give it to them. You'll remind them why they hired you in the first place, and when you see them truly value and consider your thoughts you'll feel a level of appreciation not all freelance writers get to experience. Enjoy it when you have it.

5. Your client keeps coming back.

The only thing better than having a great freelance writing job is having a great long-term freelance writing job. If the client keeps ordering more work, or if they set up a long-term contract up front (and they satisfy the other elements like decent pay and no obsessive or excessive edit requests), you've got a great gig on your hands.

What other factors tell you that you have a great freelance writing job lined up?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers,,, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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  1. Dan Smith January 21, 2010 Reply

    Those last two points are by far the most fulfilling for me personally.

    There’s no doubt that having a well paid gig is fantastic and helps make the job more enjoyable, but having a client who occassionally asks for advice or keeps coming back for more work makes writing all the worthwhile.

  2. Jennifer Mattern January 21, 2010 Reply

    Just don’t put the pay too low on your list. Remember, we’re talking about professionals here and not the hobby writer crowd. So without the pay, you don’t really have much of a “job” at all. And while being asked for advice is usually a great thing, there are definitely those clients who will happily ask constantly without paying for your time (as in hours expected every month). As for those who keep coming back for more? That’s the best in my book too. There’s something very rewarding about being truly invested in a client’s success, not just because you can contribute cheap content that alone doesn’t do much for them, but when your work consistently brings in significant results (like a press release landing them major media coverage or a sales letter bringing in six figure sales). It’s nice to see the “value” concept actually quantified like that from time to time.

  3. Dan Smith January 21, 2010 Reply

    Don’t get me wrong, Jenn, I firmly believe that writers need to work with clients who are going to provide them with both a respectable and appropriate level of pay. I think I probably seemed to skim over the pay part initially as I’m lucky enough to have one client that provides a decent percentage of my earnings who I have worked with for several years and I tend to focus on satisfying that client by offering advice, etc where requested, rather than on the amount of money that they pay me.

    Re-reading that, maybe I take that client’s pay for granted? Time to do a little thinking!

  4. Carol Tice January 21, 2010 Reply

    You’ve hit on the secret a lot of well-paid writers don’t talk about Jenn…they don’t end up having to send many queries, because they get a steady stream of assignments from existing clients. Every story turned in should be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

    Carol Tice
    Make a Living Writing Blog: The 7 Habits of Highly Successful New Freelance Writers:

  5. Wolf Shadow January 21, 2010 Reply

    There is one more characteristic of a great freelance gig: a client who pays on time (within a few weeks. I really appreciate clients who do those and I make an effort to continuously work with them.

  6. Mitch January 21, 2010 Reply

    You know, I love writing blogs, and I have a couple of blog clients, but I’m starting to wonder if my rates are too low. I grade how much I charge based on how many articles a week I’m going to give them, and the per article rate goes down if they request more, but to tell you the truth if they pay for the package where they’re getting the most number of articles that I offer, it doesn’t amount to much money after the fact.

    Then again, I only guarantee 200 words, though I usually write more than 400 words per article. It’s never even entered my mind to think of charging more for blogging; that’s a shame.

  7. Jennifer Mattern January 22, 2010 Reply

    Clients who pay on time are absolutely a part of great freelance gigs. I don’t think about that much because I bill up front for most projects, but that’s a great addition to the list!

    Mitch – I used to offer bulk discounts too (stopped with this year’s price changes). While I won’t kick existing clients off their older negotiated rates (which still work out close to the new rates anyway)I won’t be taking on new clients with bulk discounts. Those kinds of discounts can eat into your bottom line. We’re not talking mass retailers here where you can buy in bulk and pass on the savings. We’re talking about a very finite amount of billable time available in the writer’s schedule. And I can’t justify devaluing that. So I’m leaving discounts to other areas such as by-lined work (my base rates are set on ghostwriting) and for clients who are willing to negotiate for fewer rights if they want lower prices, so I retain the ability to make up the difference elsewhere with that work (for articles and blog posts, not for business-specific commercial writing).

  8. Jake P January 22, 2010 Reply

    For me, the clear “tell” is my instinctive reaction when my phone rings and I see the Caller ID. Am I happy to see it and pick right up, or do I recoil in horror and let it go to voicemail? It kind of ties into your #4, I think.

    As far as #3, there’s a line between edits-that-make-it-better and edits-for-the-sake-of-changing-things-so-I’ve-gotten-my-money’s-worth. A great client never crosses that line.

  9. Anne Wayman January 22, 2010 Reply

    Good list, and Jake, that’s a great ‘tell,’ and one I recognize.

    Another characteristic is the ability of the client to respond to my discussions about money – how much I charge, how I collect, when I collect, etc. etc. etc. That has become as important to me as the client’s ability to communicate what they need from me in terms of writing.


  10. Xpat January 22, 2010 Reply

    great list! and as Wolf mentioned, a client who pays on time is another factor to consider..

  11. Jennifer Mattern January 22, 2010 Reply

    Jake – I’ve only had two of those clients that I can recall, but I know exactly what you mean. That feeling of dread that would overcome me when their names would appear in my inbox or caller-ID was insane. Way too stressful, and I’m happy to say I no longer take on their projects. Fortunately most of my clients are fantastic folks, so it’s rare, but it does happen.

  12. Rebecca January 22, 2010 Reply

    I offer content packages, but I don’t consider them a deduction of my normal rates. My packages are more like bundled services which appeal to my target market. The rates offered aren’t reduced much from my standard rates but they offer additional value and upsell to some degree, actually bringing me more work from clients. Many of my content packages are my most popular requests.

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