As freelance writers, most of us get paid by the word. To earn more money, you need to either raise your writing rates or be more productive. If you’re not happy with how much money you make as a freelance writer, then this article is for you.
Unlike what a lot of gurus will tell you, there’s no secret to making a decent living as a freelance writer. It comes down to negotiating rates you’re happy with and being able to find clients that are worth your time.
In this article, I’ll break down the four things you need to do to increase your freelance writing rates. Let’s start by talking about going where the money is!
1. Specialize in a Profitable Niche
You don’t make the same amount of money by doing odd jobs here and there as you would being a medic or a lawyer. As a freelance writer, that same logic applies. If you’re a ‘generalist’ that writes about everything, you won’t be able to command high rates in most cases.
The best-paying freelance writing jobs require you to have experience in the right niches. By ‘the right niches’ I mean markets where there’s a lot of money. Some of those freelance writing niches include:
- Content marketing
To give you an example, insurance firms are among the highest spenders when it comes to online advertising. A single click can cost a business around $54, which means they’re willing to spend big money on ads and content to bring in new clients.
The smaller the industry, the fewer chances you’ll find well-paid jobs there. If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, you need to decide where you want to focus your efforts. That way, you can start to build a portfolio full of highly-specialized content and get more experience.
2. Diversify Your Client Base
Depending on one or two clients severely limits the amount of money you can make as a freelance writer. When you have a limited client base, the only way you can increase your earnings is by raising your rates. Raising rates for existing clients is much more difficult than negotiating better terms with new ones.
Diversifying your client base is also the best way you can protect yourself against dry spells in work. The more clients you have, the less likely it is that you’ll ever find yourself needing to get extra work in a hurry.
Whenever you’re looking for more work, it pays off to ask for a bit more than you think you might get. The way I do it is I revisit my rates once or twice each year and use those numbers when looking for new clients. That way, you can give yourself a raise every now and then, which only makes sense since you should be honing your writing skills.
3. Negotiate Different Rates for Each Client
One of the best ways to build a sustainable income as a freelance writer is to be flexible when it comes to your per word rates. Some freelancers will outright turn down work if it doesn’t pay their desired rates. That’s not a bad thing, but in some cases, it can play against you.
As a freelance writer, you should have a minimum rate, but the vast majority of the work you do should be at higher prices. You want to save that minimum rate for work that you know you can do with ease.
Let’s say, for example, you have a client that wants to pay you $0.06 per word for a 1,000 word article, but you usually charge $0.08. If you can do that work in an hour or two, you command an effective hourly rate of $30-60 an hour, which is pretty darn good. By being a little flexible, you secured an extra job that won’t take you all that long
If that same amount of work takes you multiple hours due to its complexity and how much research you need to do, then it makes sense to set a higher rate.
Ideally, your client portfolio should be a mix of work you can do relatively easily and more complex projects. How much you charge each client depends on that level of complexity and what your output is.
4. Don’t Waste Your Time on Low-Paying High-Effort Jobs
As a freelance writer, your biggest enemies are projects that take too much time and pay you below market rates. A lot of new writers fall into the trap of working for agencies that offer them a high volume of work, but at terrible rates (content mills).
It should go without saying, but that’s not a situation you want to find yourself in. Even if you’re getting paid enough to get by, this type of job doesn’t leave you with enough time to find better clients.
Worse yet, content mills usually don’t enable you to build a decent portfolio and you may be expected to turn in content that’s difficult and boring to write. In my experience, those content mills are one of the main reasons why so many freelance writers burn out.
If you’re currently caught in such a situation, you need to break that work relationship as soon as you’re able to. If you have the time for it, start hunting for better freelance writing work right away, and build a diverse client base. Once you have more clients under your belt, you should be in a position where you can turn down a job that doesn’t pay you well enough.
Freelance writing is a hard job, but you get full freedom to negotiate higher rates and decide when and where you want to work. A big part of your success depends on how much effort you put into negotiating rates and keeping clients happy, though.
If you’re unsatisfied with how much money you’re making as a freelance writer, here’s what you need to do to change that:
- Specialize in a profitable niche.
- Diversify your client base.
- Negotiate different rates for each client.
- Don’t waste your time on low-paying high-effort jobs.
Do you have any questions about how to increase your freelance writing rates? Let’s go over them in the comments section below!