Feeling like you’re in the middle of a freelance work freakout?
You know…the horror-movie type of freakout where the lead character is running around screaming, tearing their hair out, and making rash decisions.
For writers, it might look something like this…
You’re desperately trying to get freelance work. You’re worried about your current clients. Maybe you’ve been ghosted by a solid prospect ever since COVID-19 hit. Or that check you were expecting for a project still hasn’t shown up.
If you’re having one of these freakout moments, it’s time to take a step back. Clear your mind. Think. Go for a run. Now is not the time for making hair-on-fire decisions.
In fact, you can still make a good living as a freelance writer. And it doesn’t have to take years to get there.
Freelance writer Jessica Mehta hit the six-figure freelancer goal as a relative newbie. Want to know how she did it? Check out these surprising tips to move up and earn more.
Meet freelance writing pro Jessica Mehta
Jessica Mehta spent a decade working for non-profit organizations…until something happened. Her program lost funding, and she was out of a job. So she packed her bags for Costa Rica and launched a new career as a freelance writer.
“I sent a goal to make six figures,” says Jessica. “It was a completely arbitrary number at the time. But I made it within about a year and a half.”
Today, Jessica is an award-winning freelance writer, poet, author, and founder of the freelance writing service Mehtafor. Her next book: You Look Something: an indigenous coming-of-age novel will be released April 28. Fun fact…she’s also an amateur boxer and certified yoga instructor.
We caught up with Jessica in a Freelance Writers Den podcast, and learned some surprising things from her about how to be a six-figure freelance writer.
Here’s what she had to say:
1. 15 cents per word is good if you do it right
Think about it like this. If you can write a 1,000-word article in 15 minutes, you could bill $600 an hour.
Jessica: A typical rate for a lot of the clients I work with is 15 cents per word. I’m working 25 to 30 hours a week writing for clients. It’s not always writing about something I’m passionate about, but it’s a great income. After years of doing this type of work, you get a system down. I typically have 10 or 15 clients at any given time, and a lot of those are tech clients.
- How many clients do you have?
- What’s your hourly or per-word rate?
2. You can find great clients on job boards
Where do you find freelance writing jobs? After a few years working as a freelance writer, Jessica gets a lot of referral work. But in the beginning she landed well-paying assignments from some surprising sources.
Jessica: I really have two main sources I use to look for clients. Craigslist using SearchTempest to filter jobs by writing gigs and telecommuting. It takes less than 10 minutes a day to go through that. I also look at jobs on FreelanceWriting.com. On average, I apply for 5 gigs a day this way, and I’m getting what I need from these.
- Have you used Craigslist or other job boards to find well-paying freelance work?
- How many potential clients do you reach out to per day?
3. Your typing speed matters a lot
Ever wonder how to write faster, get more work done, and bill more hours? Knowing your niche and your clients well makes a difference. So does your typing speed.
Jessica: The last time I took a typing test, I scored 120 word per minute with very high accuracy. I’ve also written for most of my clients for at least two or three years.
For example, Best Western wants all their landing page content for 2,500 hotels rewritten with new keywords every year. After writing almost the exact same thing 5,000 times with different words, I do it almost on autopilot.
- How many words can you type per minute? Test yourself, and practice to get better.
- Are you getting faster after on-boarding a new client?
4. A simple cold-pitch template actually works to get clients
Wondering how to get clients and more freelance work? Writing a customized letter of introduction or query is a proven way to connect with editors and marketing directors. But it’s not the only way.
Jessica: When I’m doing a cold outreach, I copy and paste a cover letter with a link to my website and writing samples. I get a reply over 90 percent of the time. I know there’s a lot of advice out there that says you need to write a customized or tailored pitch, but I’ve not found that to be true or necessary.
Just keep it short and sweet. Introduce yourself and highlight your experience. Include a link to your writer website. And provide direct links to your work from your portfolio in a bulleted list. I do play around with these a little, depending on the type of business I’m reaching out to. Most prospects go straight to the portfolio samples if they see something they like, and often don’t even read the cover letter.
- Do you get results from template pitches?
- Do you have a writer website or portfolio of work online?
- What’s your response rate? (Yes, No, or Maybe, is better than silence)
5. SEO writing is alive and well
If you thought SEO writing was dead, you’re not alone. The days of keyword stuffing mixed with crappy content to try and game the Google algorithm are over. And the few still trying to cut it with this type of content generally pay writers a pittance. But that doesn’t mean you should skip over clients that want SEO content
Jessica: I see SEO as a constantly evolving set of best practices, that will for the immediate future, exist in some way. As long as search engines exist, business are going to want to rank at the top of the page or first page of results. Content is a critical way of doing that. And almost every single business could use your help as a writer.
- Is SEO writing one of the services you offer?
- How does it pay compared to other types of writing?
- Do you write SEO content for clients?
Proof there’s more than one way to be a six-figure freelancer
“Interesting.” It’s a phrase Carol Tice used repeatedly during the interview with Jessica. Some of these strategies aren’t the path Make a Living Writing typically recommends to move up and earn more. But if it works, don’t fix it. You don’t need to freak out, because there’s more than one way to be a six-figure freelance writer.
Are you having a freelance work freakout? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.