Working your own terms as a freelance writer is great. You can rise late, you can take long lunches, and you can work from anywhere.
There is just one problem.
You still need to get the work down and if you don’t have the discipline to sit down in the chair, make calls and do the work on your own terms, you won’t get paid.
If you’re going to become a freelance writer, your goal should almost always to be to get paid for your work.
Becoming a professional writer also means valuing your services and charging appropriate rates. Some aspiring writers may balk at writing for profit, but a plumber, an engineer or a web developer wouldn’t work for free, and you shouldn’t either.
The only real exception is if you’re writing to raise your profile and build your email list, for
Well, you have decided to be a freelancer. What’s the next step? The freelancing world is so competitive.
There’s no shortage of freelancers. Why would anyone hire me?
Well, the fact is that there is a shortage of quality content writers and the demand for quality content is growing exponentially as more and more companies need to dive online to survive.
It’s the right connection that matters.
Let me ask you a question. “Being a freelancer, what content can you write about?” If your answer is any topic, you may need to rethink.
You are looking for clients who can pay you hundreds of dollars. Aren’t you? Now, wear the shoes of those clients. Are they looking for expert-written content or generic content at that rate? Obviously, they are looking for top-notch expert-written content. So to get good gigs, you need to be an expert in a specific niche.
You can’t be an expert on every topic imaginable. If you write on any topic imaginable, you are likely to land on clients who also require generic content and pay peanuts.
Choose a topic you are passionate about to be a freelance writer. Are you passionate about traveling, fishing, golfing, finance, marketing, WordPress, programming, hiking, etc? Well, it’s time to become a writer in your field.
You can demand good paycheck as you are experienced and passionate about these fields. You are not a $5 freelancer who is clueless about hiking and rewriting the content.
That’s the beauty of having your passion as a freelancing niche.
I know it hurts a lot to be a niche freelancer. You get that “fear-of-missing-out” kind of feeling, but resist it for your success.
The concept of niche freelancing is less tapped. Leverage it, and become an authoritarian freelancer in your passionate niche.
Start a blog
Starting your own blog is very important for getting a kickstart in your freelancing career. I’m not asking you to thrive to make money out of your blog (if that’s the case, it’s good). The main purpose is to showcase your online presence and maintain your portfolio.
As a freelancer, the majority of your clients would be bloggers and Saas companies. When they notice that you have your own website, and are writing great content according to the modern web standards, it would be a great first impression.
The moment your prospect client notices that you are running a website and putting actual content on it, the slim chances of them hiring you will become.
Here are five methods you can follow, as well:
1. Don’t quote an hourly rate
Most writers, when a prospect asks them for pricing, say something like, “I charge N1000 per hour and I estimate this will take four hours, so the total will be N4000.”
Instead, quote a project rate that will get you the hourly fee you want.
So, if you estimate a project will take you four hours, don’t tell the client you’re charging N2000 per hour for four hours — just tell her that to write that case study on how her company’s banana slicer is more accurate than the competition’s, you’ll charge N8,000.
Telling prospects your hourly rate opens the door to clients micromanaging your time. If you write fast, like me, you’re penalized by earning less. Also, if your rate is higher than usual, it can scare prospects away.
Remember, you’re not selling hours — you’re solving a problem for the client.
2. Write blazingly fast
One time a writer friend watched, jaw hanging open, as I completed an 800-word article in 30 minutes. I was getting paid $400, and I had spent another 60 minutes on two interviews — so my hourly rate was $266.
Writing at a breakneck pace is my number one secret when it comes to earning more. After all, if you’re charging project rates instead of an hourly fee, the faster you write, the more you earn.
Practice writing the first draft of that blog post, article, or newsletter as quickly as you can, and go back to edit and fill in any holes afterward. With experience, you’ll get faster and faster.
And as your writing improves, your first draft will be pretty much your final draft.
3. For the love of all that is good and holy, stop
One of the biggest snafus that keeps writers from earning more is that they research more than is necessary — which cuts into their hourly earnings.
Say you land a gig to write a profile of a successful fast food outlet for a restaurant industry newsletter for N30000.
Here’s how most writers would approach the project:
- Interview the owner by phone. (One hour.)
- Drive to the restaurant, even though it’s 50 miles away, and have a meal there. (Four hours.)
- Research the history of their signature meal. (Two hours.)
- Check a dozen cookbooks out of the library and learn about the various methods for creating the meal. (Two hours.)
- Look up statistics on the fast food industry, including number of outlets in Nigeria, average profits, how many workers they employ, etc. (Three hours.)
If the writer then takes four hours to write the profile (because she hasn’t learned to write fast yet), And guess what? She won’t use 90 percent of the facts and information she so painstakingly gathered.
Do as much research and prep work as you need to get the job done well.
For example, interviews typically take me 20–30 minutes, and I research the subject online just enough that I don’t sound like a moron in those interviews.
Experiment with researching less to see how much you really need to do. The result will probably shock you.
Afraid you’ll miss something huge?
The secret is to start your projects as early as possible — no procrastinating — so you can be confident that if you do need more research, there’s plenty of time to get it done before your deadline.
Caveat: This is not an excuse to do shoddy research and write weak copy! You need to learn to be fast and good, which is an achievable goal.
4. Offer master-level value
Yep … if you want to get master-level rates, you need to offer master-level value.
What do you offer that no one else can do? In what amazing way do you make your clients’ lives easier and better?
Figure out what makes you worth N5000 per hour, then make sure prospects know about it.
For example, when you quote a high price to a prospect, don’t just put the amount out and let it lie there. Let the client know exactly what you’ll offer for that amount.
Here’s the difference:
For the banana slicer case study you described, my fee is N20,000. Would you like me to go ahead with this project?
Prospect: “What?! The other writer quoted N10000.”
For the banana slicer case study you described, my fee is N20,000. For that amount, I’ll:
- Interview you and your best customer separately by phone. I’ve interviewed over 500 people for my client projects, so I know exactly what to ask and how to ask it.
- Research your company, your banana slicer, and the competition’s product to help inform my interview questions and add concrete details to the case study.
- Write up a 750-word case study in a fun, conversational style that readers will enjoy.
- Send you a keyword-rich headline that’s optimized for search engines and social media — and that will attract clicks.
- Revise the case study until you’re thrilled with it.
Would you like me to go ahead with this project?
Prospect: “Wow! The other guy was charging just N10000, but this writer will turn out a far better product and help me make more sales.”
5. Use shoe leather
Inbound marketing is great and all, but if you rely only on your website and LinkedIn profile to bring in clients, you’ll be dealing with a lot of tire kickers and prospects who want to pay you in exposure. (You know, people die from exposure.)
Also, forget about most freelance job boards, bidding sites, and Craigslist. Clients who are willing to pay premium prices aren’t hanging out there.
Instead, pound the pavement to find and approach clients who you’ve
pre-qualified. Look for businesses with at least N10 million in profits to start — those are the ones who can pay you what you want.
Then, reach out to these prospects in whatever way you feel you’re best at, whether it’s cold calling, snail mail, or emailing a customized letter of introduction.
So while other writers compete in a race to the bottom of the barrel for el cheap-o clients, you’ll be heading right for the top — towards your target rate.