Hire freelance writers

How to Get High Paying Freelance Writing Jobs

on May 2, 2007 in Freelance Writing Jobs
26
0

It's not as hard as many writers think it is to get high paying freelance writing jobs. The fact is that many writers, especially new freelance writers, sabotage themselves from the start. Do you?

Let's more specifically talk about freelance Web writing, how you can earn more, and what might be holding you back if you've been trying to earn more unsuccessfully. Here are a few reasons you might end up stuck in a writing rut (assuming you're a decent writer to begin with):

  1. You have no credentials or experience that allow you to specialize your writing. General writers, especially online, can only charge so much, and can only go so far. If you can't offer a specific skill or expertise that will cause enough of a demand on your time for you to be able to charge what you want or need to charge, then you need to change what you're offering.
  2. You're targeting the wrong market(s). For example, maybe you put yourself in a position where you're constantly having to compete against lower-rate generic writers from all across the globe. If undercutting them leaves you barely able to scrape by even with a full workload, then you're identifying the wrong competition and you need to find a better market to target.
  3. No one knows who you are. If you want to be a freelance writer, even on the Web, you have to be visible to your target client base. That's how you get gigs coming to you instead of spending all of your time searching for your next "fix."
  4. You don't know how to effectively market your services. As a writer, marketing can be just as important, and sometimes even more important, as your actual writing ability.
  5. You've built your reputation around cheap rates. If that's what you're known for, people won't be likely to suddenly start paying you more, no matter how good your writing is.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to get higher paying freelance writing jobs online:

  1. "Web writing" is not a market. It's a collection of markets. There are low-income sites that simply can't afford to pay higher rates. There are higher-income sites whose owners don't know how to effectively use higher quality content for their own purposes, so they won't pay more to have things expertly written. And there are high-income sites that are not only willing to pay higher rates to writers, but they need to pay for the highest quality content from niche expert writers to maintain their authority, repeat visitors, and deals with high-paying advertisers.
  2. It can be very difficult to raise your rates later, if you underprice your work early on. Set your rates where you ultimately want them (or close enough to it that raising them to that level won't be a drastic change). Then, you're always free to offer sales if you hit a slump to drum up business, but you don't fall into a trap of not being able to increase rates later.
  3. Your low rates and portfolio may be hurting your credibility. Higher paying clients aren't likely to take your work seriously if you charge too little and have a portfolio only filled with short, general, SEO articles for unknown sites.
  4. You can't always please everyone. A lot of writers feel like they have to make "friends" with every other writer they meet, and they seem to crave acceptance as a group (perhaps, b/c of the common notion that writing isn't "real work" from many people outside of the field). The fact is that every other writer (not to mention potential client) isn't going to like you. Some offer complementary services. Some are directly competing. Some will look down on you if they don't care for your work. Some will hate your style. Some will be envious if you succeed. Build a network of trusted writers, but don't worry if everyone isn't involved (the SFW group plus a few colleagues are commonly called a "gang" in one place where we network, but it certainly doesn't stop us - I'd rather be the one laughing to the bank than the one bitching about other writers earning more, especially when they're trying to help... what about you?). When it comes to your writing career, sometimes earning respect is more important than just being generally well-liked. Of course a combination won't hurt.
  5. It's OK to say "No." Too many writers have this notion that they have to accept every offer that comes in. That's not the case. There's nothing wrong with turning down clients if you have other work going on, if it's a problem for you morally, if the rates aren't acceptable to you, etc. If an offer comes in too low, you can always try to negotiate first.

Now let's get into the nitty gritty a little bit. You probably want to know the "how" behind finding higher paying freelance writing jobs, right? Here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Crunch the numbers properly from the beginning. Freelance incomes are NOT the same as an income from an employer, because you have to account for not only your living expenses but additional expenses (such as covering all of your own insurance costs), plus additional taxes (self employment taxes in the US). If you underestimate what you need to earn, you'll never be able to set your rates effectively, and you'll either struggle to earn enough, or you'll be working so much just to earn enough to get by that your quality of life will suffer.
  2. Build a Real Business Site and/or Portfolio. Detail what specific services you offer, what some of your credentials are (whether it be your work experience in an industry, a degree, past writing clients, etc.), and offer some samples of your work. A portfolio doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be "yours." For example, don't create an AC page and call it a portfolio... that's just a collection of inexpensive writing you've done for one client... not a portfolio (it always amazes me how many writers want me to look at their portfolio to give them advice, just to be directed to a content producer page).
  3. Choose a specialty. Any way you cut it, most of the time specialists earn more than generalists. If you choose to simply "specialize" in general SEO Web content, you won't earn much, no matter what you do. So make sure your specialty meshes well with your income goals, and make sure you have some kind of credentials or background to back up your work as a specialist or expert in certain subject matter. Some writers feel that being a generalist will lead to more, or better, work or that clients will think they're a better writer for it. Sometimes it may work out that way. However, you need to keep something in mind... most people don't pay a lot of money just for a "writer." They're paying for specific expertise in an area that their readers are interested in, but expertise that they don't have (or can't articulate well) themselves.
  4. Pick up some basic marketing skills. You could be the best writer out there in your niche and not make a dime, while a so-so writer is making a small fortune. Like it or not, being a writer involves a lot more than just writing. You're running a business (or "career"), and that involves administrative work, marketing, etc. If you can't handle the business side of being a writer, you'll have a heck of a time trying to up your earnings or recognition. Writing isn't a dumb luck game. You can take courses in marketing, pick up some textbooks for fundamentals, etc. Just learn the basics at a bare minimum. You need to establish your competitive advantage, and you need to know how to promote it.
  5. Get networking! The best freelance writing gigs and writers' markets aren't usually advertised. You won't find them posted on forums or freelance marketplaces or job search sites. Even the markets you'll find listed online are far from the whole lot. Keep in mind... the easier it was for you to find a gig or market listing, the easier it was for everyone else as well, and you'll have more competition to deal with. If you expect to earn high rates by hanging out on forums all day, you're in for a shocker. Get busy meeting other writers, editors, and others who can offer you referrals. Get to know industry professionals (especially local), so you can pitch them privately on services that you offer. If you lack the confidence to do that, start working on it. Again, writing is a business. If you want a career that's simply going to let you lock yourself away in your office, bedroom, or whatnot all day away from people, then stick to the low-rate gigs. Higher profile or private company work involves networking.
  6. Start your own blog or website. If you can demonstrate to publishers that you not only can write well on a subject, but that you know what appeals to their audience (and have the stats to back it up), you're well on your way to landing some higher paying freelance writing gigs. Your own site may not seem like a great portfolio piece, but it's often much better than a collection of really basic SEO content for sites no one knows about. Blogging about writing itself also happens to be an excellent way to network with other writers, and blogging can be a good starting point for establishing yourself as an expert in a niche.
  7. Subscribe to WritersMarket.com. It's cheap, and you'll earn the fee back generally just by landing one or two gigs at most. It's an excellent resource for finding online and offline writers' markets, including online consumer and trade publications in your niche that you may otherwise not know about.
  8. Always be honest, and don't simply serve as a "yes man." Like I said previously, you can't always make everyone happy. A lot of writers keep their mouths shut about writing and industry issues, because they're afraid they'll be viewed negatively. You'd be amazed at the difference between low-paying and high-paying clients and what can get you gigs. Given, know your industry on this one. For example, if you're writing for Christian publications, you may want to be a bit more reserved than someone looking to write for Rolling Stone. Honesty and bluntness can lead to quite a bit of work, and it works towards establishing and maintaining your reputation among clients and colleagues.

I'm sure you can think of other tips to share in teaching other writers how to get high paying freelance writing jobs, so feel free to comment. In the end, it's a case of the good old "dress for the job you want, and not the job you have." In this case, "dress" for the gig you want (act like you deserve the gigs, and do things to demonstrate that even before you have them). If you act like a typical $5 / article Web writer, constantly advertising cheap rates, turning out the same kind of content, etc. you'll never be looked at as anything else.

Thanks for sharing!
Tweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInBuffer this pageShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail to someone
Short URL: http://3bm.co/qpsumU

Advertisement

26 Comments

  1. Pam May 3, 2007 Reply

    As someone who has just dabbled in trying to freelance over the years and who tends to shy away from the marketing side of things, I know I need to refer to this again and again. Thanks!

  2. don felix odoh May 3, 2007 Reply

    hello friend, thanks for your insightful tips above. with a high degree of perfect precision it captured my present situation.the only piece i can call my portfolio is an unpublished work that i just finished writing.the title of the book is DAILY GOAL.i have started writing the second book titled GOAL BRIDGE.my major intention is to specialise in the subject of GOALS and its dynamics.pls need info on writers networking and how i can tap into freelance market.

  3. Ronak Shah June 4, 2007 Reply

    Hi Jenn,

    This was absolutely what I was looking for.

    Great work Jen.

    The point is “networking” and I wish if you could enlist certain “networking” sites that would help budding writers as entrepreneurs to maintain full fledged writing business.

    I know dp and allfreelancing apart from absolutewrite.

    Now, it’s really essential for all of us to have a common place where all the clients are registered and we can easily find them, do you know any such places other than networking sites, I mean, forums?

    Reply soon.

    Regards,
    Ronak S.

  4. Andrew October 2, 2007 Reply

    As a beginner to the field of freelance writing, although not to writing, I must thank you for these tips. I’m an accomplished sales person, and have a fair knowledge of marketing, but your thoughts have helped solidify my thoughts on the industry

    I had never heard of writersmarket.com, and for this I thank you. I’ll be giving that some serious thought in the coming weeks.

  5. Usha October 7, 2007 Reply

    Beautifully explained Jenn!

    Having been into freelance writing for the past year, taking up gigs at DP and Elance, I feel I’ve reached a stage where I need to grow and get better paying work. The big question of how to go about it has been answered by you.

    I don’t believe I’ve underpriced my work, charging anywhere between 0.02 – 0.04/word.

    My confusion at this point is specialization. What do I specialize in? Sounds weird, doesn’t it? I love writing about anything related to internet marketing (being an internet marketer myself), health, success. and motivation. This is something I need to figure out before going ahead with your idea of a website.

    I love reading your comments as they are always astute and insightful.

    Thanks

    • dear god April 20, 2010 Reply

      I would not turn on my computer for 4 cents a word??? Seriously???

  6. Dana January 30, 2008 Reply

    Excellent advice, Jenn. Being a successful freelancer requires you to not only be a writer but be very entrepreneurial and wear many hats (marketing, accounting, sales, etc.) and you have to master each of these skills by continually learning.

    Excellent post!

  7. Erin January 31, 2008 Reply

    One of my biggest fears is that I will never be able to move on from the $3/500 words gig that I have now because it takes up so much time just to break even (though I do love being able to write about so many subjects that I never would have thought to explore) and this post has been very inspiring! Thanks!

  8. Salman April 21, 2008 Reply

    I am nofullstop from DP whom you gave the link to this post. I must say you truly have given me second hope when it comes to making money using my writing experiences. Even though you have 9 years of freelancing experience and me just 1.5 still I think I can start of at much better rates than the normal 6 bucks per article which I am charging currently.

    The advantage which I have is that I am already earning enough from my two blogs by selling advertising etc. and so I do not have to worry about money. I will be joining accenture in a couple of months and that will help my bank balance a lot.

    Thank You for the insightful post. I have bookmarked it and will keep a track of how you are doing business as I will need a person to look to so as to come out of that image of the 6 buck writer.

    I hope I will create a nice network of writers, editors etc which will help me in this journey and I am sure you will be the first one in that list.

  9. ramamurthy August 15, 2008 Reply

    yes, your advice is good.some guys forget even freelance journalists are entitled to some respect.What is the fun in offering a cent or two for a 500 word piece.they could as well have it for free.

  10. graduate writing jobs January 12, 2010 Reply

    Your advice is great! Addition to freelance writers find more customers to increase your income.

  11. Jennifer Mattern January 12, 2010 Reply

    The idea is not to take on more customers, it’s to find customers who pay what a writer is worth. You could take on dozens of crap jobs to “increase your income,” but that’s not smart business, and you’ll eventually burn out and fail. It’s not sustainable. Charging what you’re worth and knowing how to find clients willing to pay your rates is the smart way to succeed in freelancing.

  12. Anne February 24, 2010 Reply

    Over the years, I’ve landed some fantastic, high paying clients. Some of them have become good friends and we go to lunch when they’re in the area. One thing they say time and time again is that they chose me because I didn’t complain about their demands when I started with them, I do all the work myself and will never deal with sub-contracting and I submit work at least a day before the deadline to allow for any editing that might be required. What you say in blogs, on Facebook and the likes can be a turn off for many of them, just as much as hiring someone else to do the work and then trying to pass it off as being your own.

    • Jennifer Mattern February 24, 2010 Reply

      That said, what you say in blogs is equally a turn-on for prospective clients. Many of my clients come to me specifically because of my blogs and the personality / style. You just have to remember that you can’t appeal to everyone (nor should you try to). For me that means that I have no interest in attracting clients looking for “yes men” types. For others, they’ll look for exactly the opposite because they’d rather just be told exactly what to do and then do it.

  13. OnlineWritingExpert April 2, 2010 Reply

    As a freelance writer it is essential to always “over deliver” and you will have clients for a lifetime. The apt term in marketing, refers to “not only meeting the neeeds but both surprising and delighting the client.

  14. Shashank September 30, 2010 Reply

    This article of yours published more than 3 years back is I think a bible for ambitious writers all over. Thanks for such an inspirational piece of work. I am adding this blog to my favourites!

Add comment

By using this comment form you agree to the site's Comment Policies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *

CommentLuv badge