3 Basic Reasons Many Freelance Writers Are Broke

Carol Tice

3 Reasons Many Freelance Writers Are Broke. Makealivingwriting.comBy Carol Tice

Three years into the economic downturn, gripes about pay are still common among freelance writers. But there are still a lot of good-paying assignments out there.

So why aren’t you making more money? In my experience mentoring writers, there are three main reasons:

#1. You’re not marketing. When I talk to writers who’re stuck making $10,000 or $20,000 a year, I usually begin by asking them about their marketing. Are they not getting responses to their queries? Feel they don’t do well at in-person networking? Need help with their cold-calling skills?

The answers are always the same. It isn’t that they need help improving how they do these things – they simply aren’t querying, aren’t networking, and aren’t cold-calling. To sum up, they’re not marketing their business, aside from perhaps shooting the occasional resume to an online job ad.

To earn well, you’ve got look constantly for new and better clients to keep your slate full. This is also how you raise rates – you find better-paying clients, and then one day you look at your roster and realize you’re so busy you can drop the lowest-paying account.

If you’re actively prospecting, you get more new clients and can drop low payers faster, leading to higher average pay. If you’re writing for $15 an article, it’s because you’re not taking the time to market your business and find better-paying markets.

#2. You’re getting assignments instead of building relationships. New writers often get so excited about having an assignment that they forget an important freelancing rule: Every assignment should be, like they say at the end of Casablanca, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You should link in social media to that editor so that you never lose track of them, even if they change jobs.

When you turn in your story, don’t let the relationship momentum die. You should be ready with two or three additional story ideas. If you don’t have ideas, at least ask the editor what their needs are coming up. Instead of a one-off, try to turn each relationship into a steady gig.

#3. You’re not reselling. One great way to maximize your earnings is to take each story idea you have and sell it multiple places. Personally, I’ve recycled story ideas so much lately I’m dizzy.

I’ll write about a business topic for a Canadian conglomerate, then a U.S. magazine, then a corporate Web site, then a U.K.-based business blog. Reselling accelerates earnings because you leverage the research and expert interviews you did once across many paychecks, making you more efficient.

You can interview one source and sell the story to their university magazine, a business magazine, a local newspaper…and so on. You fit more articles into each year more easily, you bill more, you make more.

What’s it all boil down to? Up your marketing game and do your writing assignments more efficiently. Then, your income is bound to rise.

This post is part of the e-course How to Move Up and Earn More over on The Freelance Writer’s Den. To read and view the other 25 posts and multimedia presentations in this course, join the Den.



  1. Jane

    The concept of recycling content is great. Of course, it has to be done properly for sure. Otherwise the articles might sound as if they came out of a spinner. Otherwise, it is a great way to get more exposure and money in very less time and effort.

  2. Ayo Oyedotun

    Great post Carol.

    The reason I can’t stop reading your posts is that, you practice what you preach. We actually need to take freelancing as a serious business instead of keeping one leg in and the other out.

    Thank you Carol.

  3. Michael

    Absolutely, Everything we do online comes down to building strong relationships that lasts. It’s not easy getting those clients in the first place, why lose them to another freelancer when you can convert them to repeated clients.

    We don’t have to assume the work is over, business setup never ends. Someone you worked for today maybe needing a bigger project tomorrow. One thing though I picked up from this awesome post is that we should handle and deliver each gig on time, and quality.

    Once this is done, earning more is just a stone-throw.
    God bless you

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