You don’t have to be the best writer to make a living writing, but you do have to get paid for what you do write. Even a great writer can starve, if she doesn’t know how to land paying work. Earning more money can be as simple as changing how you go about getting work.
Why Taking Control of Your Writing Career Earns You More Money
There are two ways to make a living writing: You can do a lot of work for a low rate. Or you can do less work but for a better rate. The first way often involves working on projects where you accept whatever pay the client sets. This is often the route of writers who let others do their marketing for them. They prefer to go to job boards and sites like elance.com and guru.com, and cull through tons of listings. They are happy to do that because the job listings are all right there, on a platter, as it were. Getting work this way means they don’t have to market themselves. They just show up on the boards and pick out the jobs they want to bid on and bid away, often bidding themselves right out of decent pay.They can take on a lot of projects this way, as long as they are willing to accept poor pay.
The second way, though initially more difficult or intimidating, can produce much better results. It’s the second way that I want to show you today. The second way involves marketing your own writing business and letting clients come to you. The beauty of this approach is that you’re not one of hundreds of writers responding to one ad, bidding on one project. You’re not stuck accepting whatever paltry sum the ad writer wants to pay, like $5 or $10 an article. The beauty of this approach is that clients come to you and they ask you what your rate is. They agree to pay your rate.
Go out and market your own writing business. Get over the initial reluctance to talk yourself up or to put yourself out there, and you can start raking in a lot more money. In this case, the choice is pretty clear: Take the seemingly easier way and simply hop on over to a job board and pick out a job to bid on. Or take the potentially more difficult way and develop your own marketing. One way protects your ego by making sure you don’t have to market yourself and possibly face rejection, but it will ensure you are a slave. The other way opens you up to the possibility of rejection when some element of your marketing doesn’t work, but it has the potential to give you the freelance life of your dreams.
Getting paid — well — for your work is possible.
Here are 5 ways to get paid for what you write.
1. Work Your Connections
No doubt you already know people who need your services or who know people who do. So check in with them. Do you know any business owners? What about leaders of organizations? Is there an editor in your email contact list? What about somebody who seems to know everybody? Potential clients can come from anywhere within your network. And don’t underestimate your network. It’s probably larger than you think. In fact, the typical person in America has 634 people in their network, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. So you may not talk to them every day (most people have two or three close friends or confidantes), they are people who are in your network. They are your contacts. They include your doctor, your old high school classmates, the people you worship with, the people at your old job, etc. So if you are launching or growing a freelance writing career, look at your network with new eyes. See who it is you know offline and online and let them know what you are up to. Somebody in that network wants to pay you to write. I talk more about this in my forthcoming book, Connect and Conquer: Grow Your Business, Organization, and Career Through Online and Offline Relationships. (You can join our mailing list here, to get news and information about the book.)
2. Post Ads for What You Do
Many freelance writers have tiny (or nonexistent) marketing and advertising budgets and they aren’t terribly interested in spending money on promoting their businesses. But setting aside some time or money (or both) to tell your target audience what you do can help bring in the dollars. This is the thing: Nobody is just going to walk up to your door and shove money into your hand and ask you to write. You’ve got to let people know who you are there and keep reminding them. You can post paid ads in publications or on sites that serve your target audience, but you can also post ads for free. Yes, for free. We’ve done both.
We’ve used paid advertising and we’ve used free advertising to get clients for our book ghostwriting, editing, and design business. The free site we have used is Craigslist. Yes, that’s right, Craigslist. Craigslist can be a scary place for a writer looking for work, but that is because most writers looking for work on Craigslist go about it the wrong way. They spend countless hours searching ads posted by people who want to hire writers for pennies. (Those job boards, again.) That’s not the way to do it. Instead of searching ads of people who have decided they want to pay you less than what they’d spend on a Happy Meal, take control of the situation and tell them what you will do. Post your own service ad sharing information about what you offer — the type of copywriting, ghostwriting, editing, etc., that you do and your pitch. You don’t have to compete to be the lowest-priced option. Write a good enough ad, and you compete based on the value you bring.
I know this can be an approach that works, because it has worked for us. We’ve landed four- and five-figure deals as a result of our free Craigslist ads. Our clients that have come through Craigslist have included speakers, a medical director of a specialty clinic, life and career coaches, consultants, business owners, and others. We’ve landed clients who have gotten cheaper quotes, but they signed on with us instead because of the value and expertise we could provide, based on our experience.
3. Write Blog Posts
Show off your expertise and court your target client through your blog. Write about topics that would be of interest to your client. For instance, if you write for small businesses and want to do their social media, brochures, blogs, etc., then do blog posts related to concerns for small businesses — 3 Ways Social Media Can Boost Your Bottom Line, 7 Strategies for Adding to Every Sale, How to Get Better Clients with Your Next Brochure. This does two things. One, it positions you as a resource, someone who knows what she is talking about. And two, it lets the business owner know why he/she needs what you are talking about. Once the business owner realizes that he/she needs what you are talking about (social media help, strategies to boost sales, a new brochure to get better clients), it’s a very short distance to asking you to do the work.
4. Do a Great Job and Ask for More Business
Good work begets more good work. Don’t just do the assignment with an eye toward getting it over and getting paid. Do it with an eye toward being a resource for your client. What does your client need? Do you work without hand-holding? Do you produce the quality of work the client expects? Do you make working with you easy? Make sure your business practices and work product will endear you to clients. Clients who have a good experience with you are more likely to come back for more. So ask them for more business when the project winds down or shortly thereafter. And similarly, ask them to refer others to you. Sure, there are some pain-in-the-behind clients you can’t wait to get rid of and really aren’t interested in working with again, but for the most part, you should enjoy your clients and the work, and you want them to enjoy you. So make that enjoyment pay off in a tangible way, more business.
5. Hook Up With a Kindred Soul
One way to help grow your writing business is to team with someone who has complementary skills. Maybe that could be a graphic designer or a Web designer. You two can refer business to each other, as clients of one might naturally need assistance of the other. For instance, your graphic designer friend might have someone who needs a brochure designed, but the graphic designer may not be a copywriter. You could team up and land the project together. When I first started out running a writing business, I offered only writing services. A celebrity client asked me several times if I could handle the entire project — writing and design — but I could not. I eventually expanded the business, thanks to marrying a man with design experience! Today, our company is a full-service solution for people who need to publish books for their businesses. We can write, edit, design, and even manage the print production of the projects!
You don’t have to know how to do everything, but consider partnering with someone (or several) who can add to what you offer.
These are five ways you can get freelance writing clients on your own terms. You don’t have to settle for bidding for low-paying gigs at job boards or content sites. Take control of your writing career and court the type of clients you want to work with and let them come to you.