How a $5 Article Writer Landed a $900 Article

Carol Tice

How to land a $900 Article Writing Gig. Makealivingwriting.comWhen I started out as a freelance writer, I knew nothing about finding clients that pay well.

I started with bidding sites and general job boards, because I thought it was easy money. But I quickly discovered you can’t build a successful career as an article writer if you’re only earning $5 per article.

It was clear I needed to make more money for each article.

So I stopped hanging out on the bidding sites and targeted higher-paying writing jobs. In one year’s time, I went from earning $5 dollars an article on bidding sites to earning $900 for a feature article.

How? Here are the steps I took:

Leverage experience

After starting at the bottom of the barrel in pay, I had nowhere to go but up, right?

And I did. I used testimonials and clips from bidding sites (published and ghost-written clips with the appropriate permissions) to apply to potential clients on job boards. This change in my marketing approach quadrupled my average pay per article from $5 to $20.

Differentiate

Although I had a tiny victory in raising my per-article rate to $20, I knew I had to keep learning to command professional rates. I looked for a way to set myself apart myself from the competition.

My first approach was to learn Associated Press Style, the leading compendium of writing conventions that newspapers and magazines follow. Taking the initiative to learn AP Style using the latest guide, online resources, and my clients’ unique style guides showed I was eager to learn and a quick self-study.

I used that knowledge — and my testimonials — to reach out to editors at trade publications and online magazines. This shift put me into the $.10-a-word range, ramping my income up to about $50 per article.

Learn and improve

One trick I used to find my writing weak spots was to run my articles through Copyscape, comparing the draft I turned in with the final version. Comparing lede to lede, nut graf to nut graf, and so on, Copyscape highlights what clients kept — and what I needed to improve upon.

I also asked editors for feedback on what I did right and, more important, what I did wrong. This was helpful because the editor pointed out things I missed. I learned more about the publications’s voice, better ways to introduce quotes, article depth, and details on the intended audience.

Build a portfolio

Creating a portfolio gave me more confidence to quit bidding sites completely and rely only on reputable job boards that pay professional rates.

After a year of perseverance and prospecting to clients, I made a pitch to a nonprofit organization, and got an assignment for a $900 feature article!

This win came from my pitch to Best Friends Animal Society. The story focuses on how therapy dogs saved U. S. soldiers from physical/emotional disabilities (PTSD), and how the soldiers saved the dogs from being euthanized. A topic close to my heart — and a great fit for my chosen nonprofit.

How have you worked to earn more as a freelance writer? Share your tips in the comments below.

Thomas Hill is a freelance writer specializing in legal, personal finance, pet, and business development topics.

40 Comments

  1. Gina Gardner

    Hi Thomas,

    I hope you still get this since it is October and the last comment was posted in January.

    I have just one quick question. I am new to freelancing and so I am trying to build up my clips and samples. I currently have little to show since most of my writing experience has been for business needs such as reports (lots of them), some marketing materials like press releases and brochures, and content for two websites. Would starting out with a content mill be a good idea to get my foot in the door in order to gain testimonials and samples?

    I would like to gain more experience, but I also need to support my family. I’m anxious to get the balling rolling and really use my talents.

    Thanks! I loved this article.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Gina —

      I advise NO ONE, no matter what their situation, to start out with a content mill. It gets your foot in no door you want to get inside of. Often, that’s ghostwriting as well, or done in situations where you don’t know who the end client is, and doesn’t generate samples or testimonials.

      Here’s the good news — your copywriting work you described above gives you legit samples! Just get a testimonial from THOSE clients, put up a writer site that has them in your portfolio, and start pitching your prospects. Lots of us have work we’ve done that doesn’t carry a byline — but unless you signed a nondisclosure agreement, you can certainly claim them as samples you wrote.

  2. Kanyuira Johnstone

    please ma friends help me to know how am supposed to start as a freelancer because i don’t have a clue and yet am very very good when it comes to writing………am a kenyan

    • Carol Tice

      Kanyuira — based on what you wrote, you’re probably not fluent enough in English to earn as a writer in this language. I can recommend the book How to Not Write Bad by Ben Yagoda for working on your English grammar.

      I hear from many English as a Second Language writers who are hoping to make their living writing in English, and only those who are extremely fluent will be able to do so. I don’t want to give anyone false hopes about this.

      If you are interested in learning about freelancing, you can check out my ebook The Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success. The steps it outlines for getting your first clients can be applied in any language or country. Consider writing in your own language, for businesses near you, as a way to get started.

  3. dailytut

    Building the portfolio is not an easy job at all. You have highlighted all the essentials to become a great article writer with best income 🙂 Thanks and going to follow your advices.

    Robin.

  4. Stacey

    Reading your storey Thomas made me feel the same way many of these stories make me feel: sad at first that someone else got sucked into a content mill then happy when they got out!

    I am so happy you’re acheiving your writing dreams and now have an awesome portfolio behind you! Good on you!

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