5 Ways Freelance Writers Can Earn More Without Marketing

Carol Tice

Happy writer gets more moneyHands up, writers — who loves to do marketing and reach out to new prospects?

Yeah. I thought so.

Well, here’s a piece of good news. You can earn more without having to talk to strangers, if you have a great client or two already. Or even a medium-good one.

I even have one tip you can use if you don’t have any freelance clients yet.

There are plenty of ways freelance writers can get more money without having to find any new clients. Here are my five favorites:

1. Ask for a raise

I recently got a heartbreaking email from a writer who had been writing for a business client for 12 years at $25 an hour. She had finally figured out that wasn’t a professional rate, and wanted to know how she might now broach the topic of getting a raise.

I wanted to cry. After 12 long years, it would probably be hard to talk this client into a higher rate now. Don’t let this happen!

Don’t ever go more than a year with a client without asking for a raise, at the very least a small one. I try to set up initial contracts to expire in 90 days so that I can ask for a raise in three months.

Remember, you are learning more about that publication or business as you go. That expertise makes you more valuable. It saves your client time and money not having to train up someone new on their audience or business all over again.

As it happens, November is the best month to ask for a raise — so go for it.

2. Get introduced around

You’ve got a contact at your client…but they may not be the only person who assigns work. Ask your editor or marketing manager to introduce you to others in their organization who might need a writer, and you could hit a gusher of additional work.

If you’re writing for a magazine, ask about other editors who assign for other parts of the magazine, or for that magazine’s website. At a big magazine, there might be a half-dozen editors or more. This is how I ended up blogging three times a week for several years for Entrepreneur — I was writing for the magazine editor, but asked around and found out another editor needed a blogger.

Even if your editor doesn’t provide an introduction, reach out and introduce yourself as a current writer for the magazine.

Also, most publications are owned by a publisher with more than one title. See if you can reach out to editors at sister publications. It’s an easy entree in the door when you write a query that starts, “I write for your sister pub X and have a story idea for you…”

On the business side, even medium-sized enterprises may have multiple silos, divisions, departments, affiliates, or marketing partners. See who your contact touches who might also need a writer and ask if you could get an introduction. If your contact likes your work, they’re often happy to oblige.

3. Up-sell your client new projects

If you’ve been blogging for a business for six months or more, it’s time to analyze their marketing and find more lucrative writing assignments they need done. Look for something that would help drive more sales.

Perhaps they should launch a newsletter, or their team bios need refreshing. Or you’re writing that newsletter, but they don’t have a blog, or should add videos you could write scripts for. Or the CEO needs speeches ghostwritten.

For instance, one business-finance company I was blogging for didn’t have a free product to give its blog subscribers. So I sold them a $1,500 white paper on how to find money for your business. Win-win — a stronger signup offer for the client that grew their blog readership, and more pay for me.

4. Expand your ongoing role

Clients with regular, recurring work for you are a great situation that you want to keep growing. For instance, if you’re blogging once a week for a client, maybe it’s time for them to up their frequency now that they’ve got some readers.

Remember my Entrepreneur blog? After a while, I sold the editor a new weekly column where I blogged about business-related reality TV shows.  Presto! Another several hundred dollars a month of ongoing revenue.

5. Publish your own products

Every freelance writer should be thinking about ebook topics they could publish. A short ebook on a topic you know can provide another income stream that helps you avoid desperation and taking crummy clients. If you have a strong title, Amazon may find you some sales without a lot of effort.

I’m trying to get more into this myself — have one short ebook on writing productivity I cranked out with Linda Formichelli that’s done fairly well. And I’m working away on more, including the replacement(s) for my old Make a Living Writing ebook, which I’m splitting into three new ebooks.

How have you earned more without marketing? Leave a comment and share your technique.


  1. David of THGM

    People come to me to write their blog posts, but writing them is not enough. Half the work is in the promotion, something I do very well. So that expanding role comes naturally and is very important.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, GREAT example of a role you can grow, David.

      After I did paid blogging for a while, I started selling $100-an-hour consulting to teach their team how to socialize posts. I don’t want to do Facebook updates for people, so that’s how I handled it. But yeah — writing the post is just the beginning.

      I like to say the blog post is like you’ve created a hammer. Then, somebody has to pick up and USE that tool. They have to push it out in social media and spread it around to get more traffic…definitely another roll you can upsell to blogging clients.

  2. Nida Sea

    Great post. I want to get into publishing my own products. I’ve taken your advice before, Carol, and inquired of others who would use my writing services within a single company. That tactic landed me four additional marketing managers to work for. Talk about some nice cash!

    It was a blast this year for me and I’m looking to do it again (and double my income) next year. I’m so glad I finally jumped into the information you provided on your sites (FWD and Make A Living Writing) a year ago. It’s taken me a long way so far. Now, I just need to get rolling with the rest of it. Thanks again! 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for sharing that success story, Nida!

      I think a lot of writers tend to get all comfy with the one editor they know and never ask — who else does that editor know? With consolidation in publishing, most print editors are part of a publication family. And companies have different departments and divisions you could get to know that could be another source of assignments.

  3. M. Sharon Baker


    Having a strong LinkedIn profile is working well for me. I’ve had five new prospect meetings in the past two weeks alone, all from marketers looking for writers.

    I’ve also asked my good clients if they knew of anyone else outside of their company that could use help with their writing, telling them I needed another firm to round out my roster.

    A referral last year resulted in more than $10K of business this year.

    Selling new clients additional work is one we will be talking about in the PR bootcamp. That’s how I earn consistent retainers.

    • Carol Tice

      Can’t wait to get started later today on the bootcamp, Sharon.

      I think so many writers feel uncomfortable asking editors for referrals…but the fact is no one is offended by that request, and everybody likes to have a big network and feel they ‘know’ people and resources they could plug others into.

      At this point I get reach-outs from LinkedIn pretty much every week. Keep that profile updated, folks!

  4. Laura Reagan-Porras

    I did ask an editor for a raise just last week. I got a 35% increase and an assignment. Love the other ideas. Thanks.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on, Laura!

      Writers need to remember they become more valuable as they learn a company’s business, or a magazine’s readership. It’s easier to use you instead of hiring another writer they have to train from scratch…and that should be worth more money to you.

  5. Terri

    This post is great reminder that a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. Sometimes we just have to speak up and say what we want whether it be new clients, a raise, etc. I need to get back to doing that. I used to think of asking current clients about potential new clients may sound greedy or desperate. But now I know it really is just another way to network.

    • Carol Tice

      You know, I don’t think it sounds greedy or desperate. I think it sounds PROFESSIONAL. That’s what freelancers who take their business seriously do — they’re constantly putting out the word to get more leads and choices in their client base so that they end up with the best projects.

  6. Margie MD

    Maintaining relationships with editors and clients is so important for repeat business. I like to keep in touch every now and then by sending a short and sweet email to remind them that I’m there, but make it a little personal. It doesn’t even have to involve outright asking for more work, but oftentimes results in the editor saying, “Hey, I’ve got a story I need in two weeks–can you do it?” (Umm, yes!) It’s a marketing move without feeling like one.

    • Carol Tice

      LOVE that! It’s true, sometimes editors are scrambling around wondering who could write what — and you just happen to stick your head in. I think that’s how I ended up with 8 $600 articles about logistics and shipping…I just asked if they need anymore after the first one, and it turned out they had a sponsor for a huge package. They would have taken 4 more from me but I burned out!

  7. Devangini

    Thank you for that wonderfully insightful post. I have recently acquired a new client and am looking to add new ones to my portfolio. I must admit that while I have not quoted as per the volume of work, it is still a departure from the content mill projects I almost took up again (after having sworn off of them a year ago), because things weren’t looking so good until this new client came around. Anyways, that should (hopefully) be history now that I have snagged that first big client who is also giving me the power of the byline:) Thank you for your invaluable advice – been following your work for months.

  8. Holly Bowne

    I have nothing constructive to add, but just wanted to say thank you for this helpful post! (And all the great comments so far as well.) I’ve been a big chicken about asking regular clients for a raise. But you’re right, I need to treat my business AS a business. There’s no way I would have stuck around any of my previous office jobs if I never got raise!

    • Carol Tice

      Exactly. I recently heard from one writer who’d been writing for a client for 12 years without asking for a raise. Crazy!

      Luckily, now is the perfect time to raise rates…see that link in the post about November and just follow the steps.

  9. Rob

    Good timing! I needed a reminder. I did that last year and earned 25% more as a result. Two clients cut back their monthly allocations, but that was okay because I earned just as much from them but had more free time for a couple of new clients that came my way.

  10. Grace

    Nice post, Use some free e-books, and attract users to subscribe to your blog, is a great thing, it can substantially increase traffic of blog, as you say, if you have your own products, to get a great income.

  11. Ruth

    One thing I would add: Give yourself a raise… by not charging hourly when you can avoid it. My project rates are loosely based on what I want hourly, plus some. I don’t like getting into discussions about why I cost a certain amount hourly and how many hours it takes… That conversation alone is a time suck and time is money!

    Btw, I’ve found this to be a REAL problem working with nonprofits who would pay $X00 for me to write a $X,000 grant application, but don’t want to hear anything about $100/hour since few people in nonprofits make that and typically don’t see writers as on par with, say, their accounting or legal counsel.

    Flat project fees are also an incentive for me to work smarter. Because I know I can’t work indefinitely on something (and the client knows it too!) I get more done in less time, which means I make more per hour.

    • Carol Tice

      Absolutely…project fees are where it’s at. I love your point — just having to talk about and justify hourly rates kills your hourly rate! So avoid. 😉

      My point of view is what I make per hour isn’t the client’s business, generally.

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