Could This Lucrative Niche Help You Kick Content Mills?

Carol Tice

By Sarah Russell

Creative agency team working togetherTake a second to think about your ideal freelance writing client. 

Chances are it’s somebody who pays well, who respects the value that freelance writers bring to the table, and who has a steady stream of projects (and, consequently, income) ready to send your way.

In fact, this dream client might not be a magazine editor or a business’s website – it might be an agency!

Although some freelancers hesitate to pursue agency work, fearing they’ll be paid lower rates, I have a different view.

Agency work has enabled me to go from content mill writer to well-paid, full-time business writer. 

If you’re curious about working directly with agencies, here’s what you need to know:

Working with agencies

First of all, recognize that agencies come in many shapes and sizes, including traditional advertising agencies, PR agencies and digital marketing agencies, among others.  Depending on the agency and/or client, you could find yourself handling any of the following projects:

  • Website marketing copy
  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Press releases
  • Print marketing materials
  • Ghostwritten trade publication articles

Typically, these projects will be paid in one of two ways: by the hour or by the project. 

For example, you might receive an hourly rate to complete a well-researched whitepaper for one agency (I’ve earned $75-$100/hour for these types of projects), while another firm might pay you a set fee to complete two blog posts a week for a client’s website (I typically make $75/post).

A quick poll of writers in the Freelance Writer’s Den indicates that my experiences aren’t unique.  Linda Formichelli shared that:

I’ve done some writing for the health marketing division of Edelman, the biggest PR agency in the world, for a few clients of theirs. The pay was stellar — on one project I earned $1,200 for one day’s work on a rush job. Fastest $1,200 I ever made!”

Erika Gimbel, of Fine Point Writing, shared similar experiences, stating:

“I’ve had agencies get in touch with me via my website and have done project work with others — all for $100/hour. Once I took a leap and quoted $125/hour, and the agency said yes without a beat.”

These experiences highlight a few of the different benefits of working with agencies as a freelancer:

  • Better pay than writing for content mills – Agencies tend to markup their client prices, giving them more wiggle room to pay you professional rates.
  • Clients tend to respect the value of freelance writers – Most agencies work with business clients, so they still value the skills and expertise that good writers bring to their projects.
  • Steady stream of income and projects – Frequent client turnover means plenty of fun opportunities to learn about new clients, their industries, and their products and services.

Of course, agency work isn’t all unicorns and sunshine.  Writer Jenny Schermerhorn found some agencies don’t offer spectacular rates:

I sent out an LOI to an ad agency in my area, and they just got back to me today.  They want me to come in and do some work for them (yay), but when I told them my rate (65-100$ per hour) they said ‘Oh, that must be your client rate, not your agency rate, that’s what we charge.’”

There are some definite downsides to working with these types of clients:

  • Middlemen can take a bite out of your pay – If the agency charges its clients low rates, chances are you’ll be asked to negotiate your fees as well.
  • Ghostwriting makes it difficult to build a portfolio – Taking on too much ghostwritten work for agencies may make it difficult to build the type of portfolio you’ll need to attract better clients in the future.

How to get agency gigs

If you’re interested in working with agencies as a freelance writer, there are two ways to find this type of work: apply to listings on popular job boards or contact agencies directly.

In general, applying via job board listings is the easier approach, as current postings indicate that the agency is actively looking for new writers. In the past, I’ve found agency work using the ProBlogger Jobs Board and Carol’s “Junk-Free Job Board” inside the Den. 

However, if you’d rather not sit around and wait for new job board listings, you can always contact agencies you’d like to work for directly. Choose your agencies carefully based on your background and the type of work you’d like to do.  Once you’ve attracted one agency client, leverage your experience to find similar well-paying clients.

Applying directly to agencies might not result in any immediate job offers, but having your materials on file with the right person can lead to calls down the line.  Over time – and with consistent follow-up – becoming an agency’s “go to” freelance writer can be incredibly lucrative.

Got questions about working for agency clients? Ask in the comments.

Sarah Russell is a full-time web content specialist and freelance blogging coach.  Get more of her powerful business-building strategies at Write Your Revolution or grab her “Escape the Content Mills” guide.

35 Comments

  1. Jim

    Sarah,

    Freelance writing is a new idea for me. I’m working on my own blog, but needed some cash on the side. My first freelance gig just started yesterday. I was contracted to write 400 word articles for an SEO company. The pay is $8 per blog post ($.02 per word). Is this a fair rate? I’m new at it, so I don’t yet know how quickly I’ll be able to kick out the posts.

    What is a fair price per word rate for relatively new writers?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Jim

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Jim –I’m not Sarah, but I’ll take a stab.

      That may be a fair price for “SEO writing”…but that’s not a kind of writing you can make a living at if you live in a 1st world country. There are lots of resources on here about how to earn more and find better types of writing and better clients. Hopefully you’re a subscriber and getting the Marketing 101 series, which will help you learn to market your services and proactively find clients, beyond the Craigslist ads.

    • Jim Coleman

      Thanks Carol, I appreciate the feedback.

      Jim

  2. Sandra Harriette

    Are Contently and Scripted agencies?

    • Carol Tice

      Not in the traditional sense…more like online marketplaces. And my sense is rates there are far lower than you’d find with a good agency.

      They are middlemen though, which is one reason rates aren’t great. Finding your own clients directly is always the best shot at good pay, but agencies can offer steady work. So it’s a trade-off.

  3. Lindsay Wilson

    I got my start in editing by working for an agency! They are definitely worth checking out. I find that staff at agencies (PR in particular) are usually super busy. They were always glad to hand something off to me to check whether their grammar made sense – it was one less thing to think about. It worked really well for editing – I hadn’t even thought about them as a niche for writing.

  4. Amel

    Thank you for this informative article.

    Translation agencies are another potential source of steady income. I work with many as a translator, but they are usually also in constant need of editors, proofreaders, and (sometimes) writers…in all languages, I might add.

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