Depending on who you ask, being a freelance writer is either the best job in the world or something only desperate college students do. The answer you get, of course, depends on how much money that person is making.
Overall, freelance writers are a poorly-paid bunch. It took me a lot of trial and error before I figured out how much I should charge and where I could find clients willing to pay those rates. If I’d known better, I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble from the get-go and gotten to the ‘fun’ part of freelancing much faster.
In this article, we’ll talk about why freelance writers struggle to get good rates. Then we’ll go over how much freelance writers earn on average and how you can match and beat those numbers. Let’s get to it!
Why Freelance Writers Struggle to Make a Living
Finding freelance writing jobs isn’t all that complicated. However, finding jobs that pay well and making a full living from it is another matter entirely. We can break down why that is in three points:
- The market is saturated. If you post a job opening for a freelance writer, you’ll get dozens if not hundreds of applicants in most cases. Many of those applicants will be under-qualified and a lot of them will offer to work for sub-par rates.
- Most jobs are not long-term. Finding projects that will keep you busy for months can be difficult, which means you always need to be on the lookout for more work.
- You don’t have enough clients. In most cases, if you want to make a living as a freelance writer, that means dealing with multiple clients and projects at the same time.
A lot of freelancers like to blame people who are new to the business for driving down how much freelance writers earn. Typically, newbies are more likely to accept low-ball offers to pad their portfolio or because they don’t know any better.
When it comes to freelance writing, in particular, there’s no shortage of exploitative businesses that prey on workers from emerging economies.
The thing is, if you’re competing with writers for that type of work, then you’re going about it all wrong. Your ideal client understands the value you bring to the table and as such, they’re willing to pay higher rates.
For more high-end work, the competition is much less stiff. New writers or those who can’t string two sentences in English aren’t going to take work away from you. At that level, you’re competing with freelancers with years of experience, tons of bylines, and great portfolios.
Even so, I’ve run across plenty of talented freelancers who struggle to make ends meet. Most often, that’s because they don’t understand they need to work on a client pipeline to keep business coming in.
To put it another way, the only time you should stop pitching new clients is when you know your schedule will be full for months to come. If you still have time to take on more work and you want more money, then the solution is to keep trying to bring in new business.
How Much Do Freelance Writers Earn?
Ideally, any client you sign up should be willing to pay the rates you set. In practice, though, most clients will have a specific budget in place and it’s up to you whether to take it or leave it.
A while ago, we published a full guide on how much freelancers should charge per word. Here’s a quick look at what some of the most common numbers are, depending on your level of experience:
Generally, most jobs I find online want to pay their writers rates within that ‘Entry Level’ tier. At the top of that tier, you’d be making $60 per 1,000 words. If you want to earn $2,000 per month at those rates, you’d need to write about 33 articles of that length or 8 pieces per week.
That’s certainly doable, depending on how fast a writer you are and how much research you need to do. However, I don’t know a great deal many writers that can keep up that output without burning out. To put it another way, most people who call themselves freelance writers don’t make a sustainable living from writing alone.
That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it doesn’t mean that freelancing for a living isn’t possible. It just means you need to be practical about your approach, which means:
- Increasing your rates periodically
- Always looking for jobs that pay better.
As a rule of thumb, you never want to depend on a single gig as a freelancer, even if it’s a long-term position. That is unless you have plenty of savings in case the project falls through.
Ideally, you’ll work for a combination of clients and negotiate individual rates for each of them. Personally, I give much better rates to clients that send work my way consistently because it means less time spent hunting for projects.
A lot of experienced freelance writers will tell you not to touch projects that pay below ‘Experienced’ or ‘In Demand Expert’ rates. However, that advice only makes sense if you are, indeed, an in-demand expert. At that level, where you have hundreds of bylines and an extensive client network, work will probably be pouring in on its own just by recommendations alone.
Where to Find Freelance Writing Jobs that Pay Well
Finding the best freelance writing jobs is a topic that deserves its own article (or a full series of them). Personally, I don’t like to spend much time on platforms such as Upwork, although it’s one of the better sources of writing work if you know how to navigate its system.
My favorite approach is to keep up with writing job boards and look out for any jobs that fit my profile. There a ton of fantastic boards for freelance writers, so it’s just a matter of checking up on them often and sending in pitches.
If you’re more of a go-getter, you can also try your luck at sending cold pitches to potential clients. There are a lot of businesses that can benefit from having a talented writer on staff and a lot of them might say yes if you can sweet-talk them into it.
Overall, there is plenty of work online for talented freelance writers. However, if you want to beat the numbers and make a living in this field, you need to be very aggressive when it comes to finding work and negotiating rates. Otherwise, you’ll just be freelancing to make some extra money, which isn’t terrible if that’s what you want.
Online work, in general, attracts a lot of people that – to put it delicately – have no clue what they’re doing. However, even talented freelance writers with a lot of bylines often struggle to get paid the rates they deserve. Usually, that happens because they’re looking for work in the wrong places.
There are a lot of clients willing to pay freelance writers well. However, to land the best jobs, you need to come prepared. That means having a kick-ass portfolio, plenty of bylines, knowing how to negotiate your rates, and writing great pitches. Then, it’s all a numbers game where you keep applying for jobs until your docket is full.
Do you have any questions about how much you should be charging as a freelance writer? Let’s go over them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.