by Luana Spinetti
I’m a happy freelance writer now, but it wasn’t like that when I started in 2009.
Low on self-confidence and not a native English speaker, I was so sure I didn’t deserve high pay for my writing that when I got the chance to become a regular niche blog contributor in 2011, it felt like a big honor.
For over a year, I worked my butt off to write for two IT blogs that paid me peanuts — as low as €1 and $5 per article. But I needed clips, so I put in every effort to research, write and edit at the best of my possibilities.
In the end, my posts were all well received by the readership. Perhaps I really deserved to get paid more for my work.
Initially, I considered asking for a rate increase, but I immediately discarded that option, because I knew these clients just couldn’t pay me more. Instead, I used the clips I got from these clients to find better clients.
Why I didn’t drop my low payers
There were a few concrete reasons I hung onto these low-paying blogging gigs:
- Their readers bring in targeted traffic. My low-paying clients maintain reputable blogs with a loyal readership that appreciates and follows my work, sending high quality targeted traffic — and possible clients — back to my own websites.
- A solid, professional friendship. Both of the blog owners were open to discussion and exchanging resources since the beginning, a trait that helped build the foundation for reciprocal trust. These clients are no longer just people who pay me for work — they are business partners and interesting buddies.
- Good source of niche news, reports, discussions and case studies. I lost count of the many business and learning opportunities I encountered thanks to my low-pay clients. Their help and support has been crucial to my advancement
- Great exposure. Most of my current high-paying clients are loyal readers of my low-paying clients’ blogs. One of them contacted me from my contributor posts and comment replies.
- Not too time-consuming. I don’t spend more than eight hours a week on the low-pay clients, so they won’t rob precious time from queries, pitches and assignments to magazines and clients who can afford to pay me more.
- Article ideas I can reuse. For every post I contribute to the low-payers, a lot of ideas get discarded, but never wasted. I use them ‘as is’ or re-spin them for publications that can pay me $30 to $300 more.
- Referrals. Word of mouth really works!
How low-pay clients help you get good pay
If you give low pay assignments enough attention and spend some time to research the topic at hand, they have as much power to attract high paying clients as elite magazine articles. However, you should always monitor time spent on each low-pay article and keep your available hours free to pitch higher paying pubs.
Another secret to get the most out of these low pay gigs is to network a lot: Share your work on LinkedIn and Twitter and link it to relevant comments on niche blogs.
Only get low paying clients that count
Don’t rely on content mills to find your low-paying clients, because mills are not reputable and you need clips from reputable clients to fuel your business.
Pick a nonprofit in your area, a niche blog you like, or a community magazine. What counts is that the clips are relevant to your niche and provide value to the readership. When it comes to creating useful clips for getting better-paying gigs, writing for Demand Studios and other content mills can’t help you.
Luana Spinetti is a freelance writer, artist and blogger based in Italy. She recently drew an inspiring 5-page comic on a beginner freelancer’s life for the readers of her blog, Writer’s Mind.