Ever wonder what the formula is for earning higher freelance writing rates?
It’s easy to think it’s some secret list of ingredients you can only get with years of experience, fancy degrees, or an incredible network of connections.
But if you’re just starting out, that seems about as realistic as finding a pot of gold or a magic potion to turn back the clock so you can start over.
It can get frustrating. Spend too much time simmering like that, and it creates a chemical reaction of self-doubt and negative thinking that can taint your freelance writing efforts.
Fortunately, there’s a simple formula you can follow to boost your freelance writing rates (mine jumped by 900 percent).
Want the formula to grow your freelance writing business?
Observation: Freelance writing rates
When I came across the world of freelance writing in 2014, it seemed like the perfect line of work for me: a math teacher with writing skills.
I formulated a hypothesis that I could find clients willing to pay decent freelance writing rates. Then I started experimenting. But that didn’t exactly turn out as expected, because I didn’t know the formula.
Have you tried a long list of experiments to find freelance clients and make a living writing?
I spent the first few months in content-mill-land. At first it seemed like a good place to start. Research and submit an article. Get paid. Have money in my Paypal account within a few hours.
Sounds pretty good, right? There was just one problem with this observation.
The freelance writing rates I was charging were hardly a life-changing sum. Twenty-bucks for another article on roofing in Geronimo, Texas? It didn’t take long to realize I needed a better formula to earn higher freelance writing rates.
What about you? Are you working for content-mill wages and struggling to find decent gigs?
I started asking a lot more questions about freelance writing rates, and found the Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success and the Freelance Writers Den. That was kind of my “eureka” moment that gave me a new formula to follow.
Follow this freelance writing formula
I began to systematically follow the formula Carol recommends. And you know what? It wasn’t long before I started getting repeat clients and making $100 to $200 per article. Then I scored my highest paid article to date, $500 for a 1,000-word piece in a national trade publication.
Evidence that when you follow the right formula, you can earn pro freelance writing rates. Here are the five ingredients you’ll need:
1. Niche focus
Forget about writing about everything for everyone. Find your niche.
- What type of businesses and industries are you interested in?
- Do you have experience, education, or training in a specific industry?
Those are two questions that can help you narrow your focus and find your niche. Once you do that, you’ll find a whole new world of professional clients willing to pay pro freelance writing rates for a variety of communications materials like:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- White papers
- Sales page content
- Internal communications
- Landing page content, and more.
Observation: Match your knowledge and experience with the needs of clients in your niche, and your freelance writing skills will be valuable to them.
2. Marketing strategy
I didn’t have a marketing plan when I started my first freelance experiment. I just signed up for work on a content mill and started churning out content for anyone willing to pay me, even if it was in pennies.
And that’s not a formula for freelance success.
Skip the mass job sites and go directly to the clients themselves. Connect with potential clients with a a well-crafted letter of introduction or multi-query pitch.
Observation: An effective letter of introduction or query requires upfront research to customize your initial contact, but results in much higher response rates and conversions than a template approach. And these aren’t the only marketing strategies you can use to find great clients.
3. Curiosity of a journalist
You don’t have to be an expert in the subjects you write about. But you do need to know how to find experts, conduct interviews, and get original information and perspective, that you’ll never find spinning articles for a content mill.
Observation: As a good interviewer, you’ll have an edge over writers that only use online research. It’s also fun to connect with people at the top of their field and learn what’s happening in your niche.
4. Writing chops
If you’re stepping into freelance writing from another industry or career (I was a math teacher), you may need to polish your writing skills a bit to move up and earn more.
No, you probably don’t need to go back to school, take course after course, or buy every book about freelance writing. (That’s actually the formula for procrastination).
But you do need to learn how to write, edit, and polish a professional piece. Here’s how:
- Study your client’s website, blog, or marketing materials
- Get to know your client’s audience or target market
- Know the niche, and your client’s voice and style
- Read niche-focused blogs, articles, and content
Observation: When you can show a client you know their niche, understand their business, and have the writing chops to connect with their customers or readers, they’ll happily pay you for it.
5. Consistent action
After a ton of failed experiments trying to figure out how to find clients willing to pay higher freelance writing rates, taking consistent action may be the most important part of the formula for freelance success.
Instead of focusing exclusively on income goals, set process goals and get to work. For example:
- Send 50-100 letters of introduction per month
- Write 5 query letters a week
- Connect with 10 new people a day on LinkedIn
- Make a regular appointment to meet with a mentor or accountability partner to discuss your progress
I’ve devoted hundreds of hours to writing letters of introduction to contacts in my niche. And not every pitch got a response or landed me an assignment. I’ve also learned a lot from mentors and other more experienced writers. Consistent effort helped me land higher paying freelance writing gigs, including clients I never expected to work with outside my niche.
Observation: If you don’t start testing, experimenting, and taking action to grow your freelance writing business, you may create a toxic combination of self-doubt and negative thinking that can blow up in your face.
Replicate freelance success
If you’re trying to figure out the right mix of ingredients to raise your freelance writing rates, use this formula to move up and earn more. Or create your own by getting started, making observations, and improving your process.
Scott McKinney is a South Carolina-based freelance business writer who specializes in the technology and training industries.