Here at All Freelance Writing we talk a lot about freelance writing rates and being paid what you're worth. Our primary mission is to help writers who want to grow and improve their freelance writing careers. But wanting to earn more isn't enough. You have to deserve it.
Feeling that you're worth more is only half of the battle. Don't get me wrong. It's important. You probably won't start commanding higher freelance writing rates if you don't feel that your time is worth more than what you're being paid now. It starts with you. It just doesn't end there.
How can you "deserve" higher freelance writing rates?
It goes back to something else I talk about a lot here -- value. Let's say you got caught up in the extremely low-paying markets at a penny per word or less. You're far from the only one. You probably also aren't the only one who would love to earn more. But many of those writers never will, and they shouldn't.
Extremely low-paying markets are often full of freelance writers who really aren't qualified to write for a living. I'm not talking about new writers who simply made a bad business decision by targeting the wrong markets either. I'm talking about the type that can barely string a few sentences together. Maybe they just swipe content from another site and reword it (copyright infringement in some countries if you don't have a license or the copyright holder's permission). Maybe they know absolutely nothing about the topics they write on, and their articles amount to little more than regurgitated Wikipedia content. These writers are going to struggle to earn more than they currently do, because they don't offer true value to clients with bigger budgets for higher quality work.
Let's hope you don't fall into that group. Here are a few things you can do to demonstrate increased value to clients that will show them you really do deserve to be paid more than rock-bottom rates:
- Choose a specialty. -- If you'll write about anything and everything you're less valuable to most businesses paying top dollar for freelance writers. Generalists might thrive in lower-paying markets, but big-budget clients often expect someone who's knowledgeable in their niche or industry, or in the writing style (such as writing effective ad copy targeting a female audience).
- Get some reputable clips. -- Here's a newsflash for you: the work you do for a penny per word can make you look like a joke in higher paying markets. You don't want that work representing you. Once you show clients that you're willing to be taken advantage of, why on earth would you think they'd happily fork over the big bucks? Many of these clients won't even look at you if you haven't worked similar jobs on the reputation scale. Don't have any reputable clips you're thrilled to show off? Consider doing some work for a local branch of a well-known nonprofit. It's good PR for your freelance writing business, and a clip from a known organization looks infinitely better in your portfolio than a bunch of cheap content for MFA (made-for-Adsense) sites like content mills and slapped-together niche sites.
- Build more credentials. -- Whether you're writing for a penny per word or significantly more, you might have maxed out your earning potential based on your current experience and credentials. Building more credentials is one way to add more value to your work. Let's say you write about small business issues, but your freelance work is the whole of your experience in running a business. That's perfectly fine if you're talking about those types of business issues. It doesn't make you qualified to write for people targeting more traditional small businesses though. They're not the same thing. A certificate in entrepreneurial studies, a business administration degree, or an MBA could certainly help to close the gap.
- Evaluate the competition. -- If you want to raise your rates, now is a good time to do a basic SWOT analysis (where you map out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats when compared to your competition). Doing this lets you see where you stand on the value front compared to competitors, so you'll get a better idea of whether your work is worth more than theirs or not in the eyes of prospective clients. Just make sure you compare yourself to the people you want to compete against rather than the lower-rate writers you're already in competition with.
- Create an elevator speech. -- It doesn't matter that you offer greater value than the competition if you don't know how to convey that to potential buyers. An elevator speech is a short description of what you do -- short enough that you could give the pitch on a brief elevator ride. We'll be talking more about elevator pitches tomorrow, and running a contest based on them through the end of this year. Check back then for more information about how to create one.
Remember, it's never enough to think you should be paid more. You not only have to deserve it, but you have to show clients why you deserve it.