When I started out as a freelance writer, I knew nothing about finding clients that pay well.
I started with bidding sites and general job boards, because I thought it was easy money. But I quickly discovered you can’t build a successful career as an article writer if you’re only earning $5 per article.
It was clear I needed to make more money for each article.
So I stopped hanging out on the bidding sites and targeted higher-paying writing jobs. In one year’s time, I went from earning $5 dollars an article on bidding sites to earning $900 for a feature article.
How? Here are the steps I took:
After starting at the bottom of the barrel in pay, I had nowhere to go but up, right?
And I did. I used testimonials and clips from bidding sites (published and ghost-written clips with the appropriate permissions) to apply to potential clients on job boards. This change in my marketing approach quadrupled my average pay per article from $5 to $20.
Although I had a tiny victory in raising my per-article rate to $20, I knew I had to keep learning to command professional rates. I looked for a way to set myself apart myself from the competition.
My first approach was to learn Associated Press Style, the leading compendium of writing conventions that newspapers and magazines follow. Taking the initiative to learn AP Style using the latest guide, online resources, and my clients’ unique style guides showed I was eager to learn and a quick self-study.
I used that knowledge — and my testimonials — to reach out to editors at trade publications and online magazines. This shift put me into the $.10-a-word range, ramping my income up to about $50 per article.
Learn and improve
One trick I used to find my writing weak spots was to run my articles through Copyscape, comparing the draft I turned in with the final version. Comparing lede to lede, nut graf to nut graf, and so on, Copyscape highlights what clients kept — and what I needed to improve upon.
I also asked editors for feedback on what I did right and, more important, what I did wrong. This was helpful because the editor pointed out things I missed. I learned more about the publications’s voice, better ways to introduce quotes, article depth, and details on the intended audience.
Build a portfolio
Creating a portfolio gave me more confidence to quit bidding sites completely and rely only on reputable job boards that pay professional rates.
After a year of perseverance and prospecting to clients, I made a pitch to a nonprofit organization, and got an assignment for a $900 feature article!
This win came from my pitch to Best Friends Animal Society. The story focuses on how therapy dogs saved U. S. soldiers from physical/emotional disabilities (PTSD), and how the soldiers saved the dogs from being euthanized. A topic close to my heart — and a great fit for my chosen nonprofit.
How have you worked to earn more as a freelance writer? Share your tips in the comments below.
Thomas Hill is a freelance writer specializing in legal, personal finance, pet, and business development topics.