Freelance Work Freak-Out? 5 Surprising Tips from a Pro

Surprising Tips to Get Freelance Work. Makealivingwriting.comFeeling like you’re in the middle of a freelance work freakout?

You know…the horror-movie type of freakout where the lead character is running around screaming, tearing their hair out, and making rash decisions.

For writers, it might look something like this…

You’re desperately trying to get freelance work. You’re worried about your current clients. Maybe you’ve been ghosted by a solid prospect ever since COVID-19 hit. Or that check you were expecting for a project still hasn’t shown up.

Sound familiar?

If you’re having one of these freakout moments, it’s time to take a step back. Clear your mind. Think. Go for a run. Now is not the time for making hair-on-fire decisions.

In fact, you can still make a good living as a freelance writer. And it doesn’t have to take years to get there.

Freelance writer Jessica Mehta hit the six-figure freelancer goal as a relative newbie. Want to know how she did it? Check out these surprising tips to move up and earn more.

Meet freelance writing pro Jessica Mehta

Freelance Work: Jessica Mehta

Jessica Mehta

Jessica Mehta spent a decade working for non-profit organizations…until something happened. Her program lost funding, and she was out of a job. So she packed her bags for Costa Rica and launched a new career as a freelance writer.

“I sent a goal to make six figures,” says Jessica. “It was a completely arbitrary number at the time. But I made it within about a year and a half.”

Today, Jessica is an award-winning freelance writer, poet, author, and founder of the freelance writing service Mehtafor. Her next book: You Look Something: an indigenous coming-of-age novel will be released April 28. Fun fact…she’s also an amateur boxer and certified yoga instructor.

We caught up with Jessica in a Freelance Writers Den podcast, and learned some surprising things from her about how to be a six-figure freelance writer.

Here’s what she had to say:

1. 15 cents per word is good if you do it right

Think about it like this. If you can write a 1,000-word article in 15 minutes, you could bill $600 an hour.

Jessica: A typical rate for a lot of the clients I work with is 15 cents per word. I’m working 25 to 30 hours a week writing for clients. It’s not always writing about something I’m passionate about, but it’s a great income. After years of doing this type of work, you get a system down. I typically have 10 or 15 clients at any given time, and a lot of those are tech clients.

  • How many clients do you have?
  • What’s your hourly or per-word rate?

2. You can find great clients on job boards

Where do you find freelance writing jobs? After a few years working as a freelance writer, Jessica gets a lot of referral work. But in the beginning she landed well-paying assignments from some surprising sources.

Jessica: I really have two main sources I use to look for clients. Craigslist using SearchTempest to filter jobs by writing gigs and telecommuting. It takes less than 10 minutes a day to go through that. I also look at jobs on On average, I apply for 5 gigs a day this way, and I’m getting what I need from these.

  • Have you used Craigslist or other job boards to find well-paying freelance work?
  • How many potential clients do you reach out to per day?

3. Your typing speed matters a lot

Ever wonder how to write faster, get more work done, and bill more hours? Knowing your niche and your clients well makes a difference. So does your typing speed.

Jessica: The last time I took a typing test, I scored 120 word per minute with very high accuracy. I’ve also written for most of my clients for at least two or three years.

For example, Best Western wants all their landing page content for 2,500 hotels rewritten with new keywords every year. After writing almost the exact same thing 5,000 times with different words, I do it almost on autopilot.

  • How many words can you type per minute? Test yourself, and practice to get better.
  • Are you getting faster after on-boarding a new client?

4. A simple cold-pitch template actually works to get clients

Wondering how to get clients and more freelance work? Writing a customized letter of introduction or query is a proven way to connect with editors and marketing directors. But it’s not the only way.

Jessica: When I’m doing a cold outreach, I copy and paste a cover letter with a link to my website and writing samples. I get a reply over 90 percent of the time. I know there’s a lot of advice out there that says you need to write a customized or tailored pitch, but I’ve not found that to be true or necessary.

Just keep it short and sweet. Introduce yourself and highlight your experience. Include a link to your writer website. And provide direct links to your work from your portfolio in a bulleted list. I do play around with these a little, depending on the type of business I’m reaching out to. Most prospects go straight to the portfolio samples if they see something they like, and often don’t even read the cover letter.

  • Do you get results from template pitches?
  • Do you have a writer website or portfolio of work online?
  • What’s your response rate? (Yes, No, or Maybe, is better than silence)

5. SEO writing is alive and well

If you thought SEO writing was dead, you’re not alone. The days of keyword stuffing mixed with crappy content to try and game the Google algorithm are over. And the few still trying to cut it with this type of content generally pay writers a pittance. But that doesn’t mean you should skip over clients that want SEO content

Jessica: I see SEO as a constantly evolving set of best practices, that will for the immediate future, exist in some way. As long as search engines exist, business are going to want to rank at the top of the page or first page of results. Content is a critical way of doing that. And almost every single business could use your help as a writer.

  • Is SEO writing one of the services you offer?
  • How does it pay compared to other types of writing?
  • Do you write SEO content for clients?

Proof there’s more than one way to be a six-figure freelancer

“Interesting.” It’s a phrase Carol Tice used repeatedly during the interview with Jessica. Some of these strategies aren’t the path Make a Living Writing typically recommends to move up and earn more. But if it works, don’t fix it. You don’t need to freak out, because there’s more than one way to be a six-figure freelance writer.

Are you having a freelance work freakout? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.

300+ Hours of Trainings. One Affordable Price.

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17 comments on “Freelance Work Freak-Out? 5 Surprising Tips from a Pro
  1. Bime Fabrice says:

    I really need a freelance job please help, I’m an undergraduate jobless I need an online job

  2. Tabai Komboye says:

    I have been writing for quite some time now and have never tried my hand at free lance writing. I would like to but would appreciate a guiding hand on how to go about it.

  3. Julia Tell says:

    I think this is an interesting perspective and it makes me not feel so bad about the .26 a word client that I love because the writing is soooo easy and pretty regular. But it is great to realize that with certain types of work, a lower per word rate can be fine if the work is steady and you’re willing to crank it out. Not that I want that to be all I do, but it is certainly part of my decent-paying work—it’s just not hard thinking. Sometimes, that is nice. And the money works out.

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Hi Julia. Low-rates per word + steady work in volume probably isn’t sustainable for the long-term. But it’s possible to start there and then replace those lower-paying clients as your portfolio, experience, and efficiency improve. Lots of successful freelancers have started this way, and get out as soon as possible.

  4. Joy West says:

    I have to admit I’m a little anxious because I am a new writer. I was able to get writing gigs at a steady pace in 2019 but when the COVID-19 shutdowns began this year, the demand for freelance writers seems to be going down. I understand that dry spells happen but with so many people out of work, I’m just wondering if clients don’t want to hire writers or request work until they can see which way the economy is going to go or what the new normal will look like after the pandemic.

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Hi Joy,
      I kind of think the demand for writers is going up with COVID-19. People are spending more time online now than ever before. Sure, some clients are pulling back budgets on content, but others are ramping up. Keep marketing and reaching out.

  5. Bob – I agree – I’m thrilled when I write 500 words an hour but I think she was just making a point. You can speed things up if you put your mind to it.

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Good point. I don’t think high-volume writing is sustainable or enjoyable for the long haul. But it’s one way to jump in to freelance writing and start making money.

  6. Bob Andrews says:

    I gotta’ be honest with you…..when I read something like “If you can write a 1,000-word article in 15 minutes…,” my mind takes me back to my many years of buying all those pitches from AWAI programs. I don’t understand how anyone can possibly write a 1,000 word article in 15 minutes. I spend several hours working on a 400-600 word blog article, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with my typing speed, which is pretty darn good (my dad was my high school typing teacher!). It’s just the time to come up with an angle, do the research to get some good data, get an outline going, try to say something that hasn’t already been said a billion times on the topic, all the editing, etc., etc. I’m not saying it’s not possible…I just can’t wrap my head around it ever happening for me. I’ve actually gone down to ZERO work during this time, so I’m spending my days marketing and sending out pitches, hoping something pops up soon.

    • Carol Tice says:

      People working for content mills do it all the time, Bob! Of course, the quality level is completely different. That’s the secret. There’s no rewriting, no proofing, just spit it out. Not how a lot of us want to operate. 😉

    • Gina says:

      I’m with you. Basically we’re saying back to slave labor turning out crap because we’re at the mercy of the fear-based economy.

      • Evan Jensen says:

        Hi Gina. The great thing about freelancing, is that you don’t have to work for low-paying clients. High volume work at lower rates is one way you could do it. But not the path most freelancers want or prefer. Pretty interesting to learn about how Jessica makes this work.

    • Diane Young says:

      Yeah, I think Jessica’s “If you can write 1,000 words in 15 minutes…” brought a lot of us up short. I hope she meant to say “could” instead of “can”. Linda Formicelli is the only person I know of who could even come close. My sister could type almost 125 words a minute on a MANUAL typewriter, almost breaking the World’s Record at the time. Her typewriter became a machine gun in her hands. I can do a pretty steady 60 words, with maybe a small pop at the end. Free Grammarly points out any errors. Snap. A time saver.
      Speed isn’t the answer for most of us. It’s consistency. Type at the speed that’s most comfortable for you. If you only type 20 words a minute and only have an hour, but you can type steadily without stopping for an hour, that’s 1,200 words on the page. Don’t stop for anything unless the house is on fire. You will reach your goal and in your own sweet time. Seriously. A timer is helpful if you can’t hear it ticking. Just be consistent and your word count will soar.
      Yeah, I know this wasn’t supposed to be about typing speed, but we
      can’t let a remark about typing speed intimidate us.

      • Evan Jensen says:

        Anyone younger than 30 has probably never touched a typewriter. Kids these days…LOL. What’s great about freelancing, typing speed, writing, is that you can always get better, no matter where you’re at.

        Your advice: “Don’t stop for anything unless the house is on fire,” reminds me of a mantra by Carol Tice: “Become an unstoppable force and don’t give up until you find the clients you want, and have all the work you need.”