Thanks to Google’s thirst for unique and frequently updated web content, there’s plenty of work available for freelance writers today. But, as you may have discovered, not all of it is well paid.
In fact, a lot of freelance writing work today can be very poorly paid, and it’s easy to find yourself competing for projects that can end up bringing in less than minimum wage.
So what’s the answer? Accept it as just the way things are? Give up and find another job? Or approach your job hunting from a different angle, and learn how to sniff out the better-paying contracts and build a stable of reliable professional clients?
If you’re committed to making a proper go of freelance writing, Hannah Martin, freelance copywriter and founder of Talented Ladies Club, shares six tips to help you boost your income as a freelance writer.
1) Fish in the better-paying ponds
You only have to spend a few minutes on job sites like People Per Hour to discover, rather dishearteningly, that people are willing to work for very little money. And, if you’re using these sites to find work, these are the very people you need to compete against.
This leaves you with two obvious choices: offer even less to try and win work at any cost, or look for somewhere new to source work.
The truth is that most established freelance writers don’t rely on auction-based job sites like these for their work. When you’re up against hungry new writers willing to work for almost nothing just to get experience, or writers from other countries with vastly different living costs (and therefore expected salaries) you’re never going to earn a decent amount of money for your efforts.
Instead, experienced freelance writers usually spend time hunting down their own reliable sources of well-paid freelance writing work. Depending on what kind of writing you specialise in, we’ve put together a list of some sites you may like to try out:
2) It’s not what you know – it’s who
Like many careers, finding well paid freelance work more often than not comes down to who you know. When you compete for work on job sites, or are pitching articles cold against other writers, the client has no idea whether or not you’re the best person for the job, and certainly feels no loyalty towards you.
However, the people who know you will be able to vouch for your diligence and professionalism to potential clients, and more than likely know at least one person or business who needs a writer – whether it’s to craft sales materials such as brochures and emails, to update web copy, or to provide well-written articles and blog posts.
So before you resort to pitching for poorly paid scraps of work online, send everyone you know a quick email explaining that you’re now freelance and available for work if they need help. And remember to ask too if they can forward your details to anyone they know who may need your services, or pass their details onto you.
If you’re on Facebook or Twitter you may want to post an update or tweet about your availability. Don’t underestimate the potential of your own personal network. Even if you can’t think of anyone directly who could hire you, a friend, relative or old colleague may well have been chatting to a contact last week who needed a freelance writer.
3) Grow your network with face-to-face introductions
It’s not just online that you can build your network. Most successful freelance writers understand the importance of extending their circle of professional contacts, and rarely miss an opportunity to network in person.
Every town in the UK will have a number of local business networking opportunities, from national networking groups, to local events organised by Chambers of Commerce and other business organisations.
Events will range from weekly breakfast or lunch meetings, to more structured monthly affairs – and they all offer an unrivalled opportunity to meet new local contacts. And the really great thing about networking events is that everyone is there for the same reason, so it’s quite acceptable to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know, give them your sales pitch and hand them a business card (if the thought of networking makes you nervous, you can get some confidence-building tips here).
The key to making a success of networking is understanding why you’re there (to find new clients and spread the word about your work), practising your short sales pitch, and remembering to take along some business cards. If you are handed business cards from other people, make sure you follow up your meeting with a short email. Even if you think they themselves aren’t useful to you, you never know who else they know who may need a freelance writer.
4) Make sure you’re selling yourself as a freelance writer
You may know what a brilliant writer you are, but what do potential clients think? And how can you let them know? If you want to break through to more lucrative freelance writing, you need to position yourself as someone of value, who is worth paying more for. And probably the best place to start is your LinkedIn profile.
You’d be surprised how many people overlook this free opportunity to advertise their freelance skills and attract new clients.
So take a long look at your profile and ensure you’re not missing any tricks. Have you updated it recently, or does it still tell people you’re employed at your past position? Have you chosen a professional-looking photo? Do your headline and summary describe what you do, using the right keywords (eg freelance writer)?
One good tip when looking at your profile is to write for the work you want – so if you really enjoy researching and writing blogs and online articles, focus on this. Also, think about what sector or industry you want to work for. Do you enjoy writing on a broad range of topics, or do you want to establish yourself as a specialist writer for a particular niche?
Once you’re happy with your LinkedIn profile, look at other opportunities to present yourself. Is your CV well-written? Are you sure you’re not making one of the most common CV mistakes? (If we’ve got you worried, you can check here!)
If you have the skills or budget, consider investing in a website showcasing your writing experience. You can include testimonials from happy clients and even samples of your work.
5) Get a high profile client and the rest will follow
The best way to convince potential new clients that you’re the writer for them – and worth the rates you want to charge – is to get the seal of approval of a big name. Doing just one small job for a well-known brand can really help you to convince other companies that they’re right to trust you with their projects.
But how do you get that job? It’s actually much easier than you may think – just find the right person to approach. While the main marketing or editorial department may outsource all their work to large agencies or high profile freelancers, most companies will have smaller departments, publications or offshoots of their website that are easier to get a break at. And often once you’re proved yourself with one job or contract, they’ll be happy to send more work your way.
And once you’ve worked on one project for them, you can justifiably name drop to other potential clients, and help to improve their perception of you and your abilities – and give you access to more rewarding contracts.
6) Get qualified
If you don’t have any professional training or a long history as a professional writer, you may want to consider investing in some training. With the right skills, you can charge more for your services, and move into more lucrative copywriting or specialist social media writing.
Here are a couple of online courses to get you started:
- The Copywriting Apprentice is a well structured, professional course that will give you a solid training in the skills you need to become a freelance copywriter – it even explains how to find clients.
- The City & Guilds-accredited ITQ Social Media Qualification will teach you how to become a social media expert, with a thorough grounding in the industry – and guides you through building your own WordPress website to attract clients.
These are just six of our ideas for how you can break free from poorly-paid copy and content farms, and find your own, better-paying freelance clients. Do you have any to add? What’s worked for you? And what hasn’t?
Hannah Martin is co-founder and Editorial Director of Talented Ladies Club, a website packed with practical advice for freelance mums (and dads).