I wasn’t always a freelance writer. In fact, I used to be a brainy corporate accountant who made a six-figure income. But I wanted out in a bad way. And I made up my mind that I could earn a living by booking well-paying freelance writing jobs.
Here’s how it all went down. I raided my 401(k), a very un-CPA-like thing to do. I bought a townhouse, renovated it and flipped it. Pretty smart, right? But I still needed freelance writing jobs lined up before I could quit my day job. And not the content-mill kind.
So I joined the Freelance Writers Den. Then I went through the bootcamp, “Learn to Write White Papers,” by Steve Slaunwhite. That was my light-bulb moment. White paper writing was the perfect match for my skills and goals to get freelance writing jobs that paid pro rates. Without hesitation, I named my new business “Savvy White Papers,” and launched my website.
With that done I busted my butt until I had a $250/hr contract in my hand and a check in the bank. Want to know how to land freelance writing jobs that pay top dollar? Here’s how I did it:
Finding your first client
It wasn’t a sexy process. I scoped out companies that earned between $5 million to $50 million in annual revenue, and spent a decent chunk of money on marketing. Selling a functional product at a high cost was pretty important too.
My need to bring home the bacon drove me to quickly blast out 126 LOIs (letters of introduction) which resulted in…nothing.
Learn from tracking your marketing efforts
Well, that obviously didn’t work, smarty pants. I plugged my corporate accounting training into my freelance business. I started tracking every move I made on an LOI tracking sheet. It was my home-grown way of showing myself progress before money from freelance writing jobs started coming in.
And I used it to identify prospects, find the right people to contact, and track the response rate to LOIs (which pretty much sucked at first).
I wised up and finally figured I needed to solicit companies related to my background for freelance writing jobs: accounting, fraud, and tech.
Remarkably, the very first company I contacted became my first client (106 days, 33 emails and 2 phone calls later). I lured them in with an email I sent to [email protected] with the catchy title of “[for James Smith, VP of Marketing] Need a White Paper Expert?”
Be confident: Quote pro rates
I had read a ton about value pricing so I created a menu for specific writing pieces and thought I was prepared for the scary pricing discussion. But James had a different idea. Before getting to the actual writing, he wanted me to meet with his PR firm, brainstorm with his staff and help him decipher survey results.
Those activities screamed ‘consulting’ to me and when asked, I gave him a $250/hr rate. I was floored when he said, “That seems to be about right,” and asked me to work on retainer for 10 hours a month.
Things worked a little faster with my second $250-an-hour client. It took only 91 days, 22 emails, and 2 meetings. Amazingly, the winning pitch had also gone to a generic email address ([email protected]). “[For John Doe] Freelance Writer/Fraud Examiner for hire” did the job of getting to the owner of the startup who had recently received venture capital funds.
I followed that up with a phone call and later re-wrote their entire website in 14 hours, just in time for their first trade show.
Brainy strategies to get freelance writing jobs
In the world of corporate accounting, the number crunchers are always looking at data to help C-suite leaders make decisions. It’s a skill that served me well when I was an accountant. But it’s been even more useful to help me track, measure, and analyze my efforts to land well-paying freelance writing jobs.
Want to know what I learned in the process? Here’s what worked:
- Pitch prospects in your niche. Both clients had customers that work in fields I’m intimately familiar with.
- Present yourself as a pro (even if you don’t have any clients yet). My company name established the anchor point of my pricing. Companies expect to pay handsomely for great white papers.
- Keep the conversation going with prospects.The number of emails exchanged might seem insane but many asked or answered fairly quick questions. I kept the conversation going and follow up was essential in both cases.
- Customize LOIs. I made my emails personal, not cookie-cutter. I wanted prospects to know that I researched their businesses and was the best person to work with them.
- Charge pro rates. I charged consulting rates, not writing rates for my first few gigs that led to freelance writing jobs. The feedback and insights that I provided my clients about their products, marketing materials, training videos, and such, went well beyond what a typical writer provides.
- Do your homework to find profitable niches. I discovered a virtual gold mine in marketing to trade show and webinar sponsors. I found that they had already heavily invested in marketing and needed materials for events and lead generation. Take a closer look at the niches you write in and look for the type of businesses that have the revenue to pay pro rates.
For the most part, my day-to-day work as a corporate accountant was pretty straightforward. There was a process for everything (and a paper trail). And that’s a smart way to run your freelance business. I put this process in place to land well-paying freelance writing jobs, and it paid off in more ways than one.
Smart writers keep marketing
The finish line isn’t reached when you’re done with a writing project. Smart writers keep marketing. I keep in touch with my clients and leads throughout the year. For example, when they win awards or get press releases into big publications, I send them an email to congratulate them. And I look for opportunities to add value, like sending along an article, resource, or information that can help them in the future.
If you want to be a smart writer who charges $150 to $250 an hour, develop a strategy, be persistent, and know the value that your writing and knowledge brings to your clients. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the stack of business cards exhibitors gave me at a trade show in Las Vegas proves there are plenty of highly-paid freelance writing jobs out there. The $49,000-plus that I’ve deposited into my bank account from my very first client is pretty convincing as well.
What strategies have you used to land well-paying freelance writing jobs? Leave a comment and tell us how you did it.
Freelance writer Tammy Farrell is a busy mom, CPA and self-described furniture junkie. Grab her free email course on getting B2B clients at SavvyWhitePapers.com.