Tired of counting every last penny of your freelance income?
Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re only worth $10 for a 500-word blog or better assignments aren’t available. It is 100 percent possible to earn a decent salary working as a freelance writer online, but you need to know where to start.
I started freelancing as a broke college kid who needed money to pay the bills. Faced with the alternative of working at McDonalds or Starbucks, I threw myself into paid online writing. My first big assignment paid just under $900 for 300 blogs (300-500 words each). Working at a rate of two blogs an hour, I was only netting $6/hour before tax—not even minimum wage.
We can call it “paying my dues” or “a great learning experience,” but it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. In fact, I wasn’t certain I ever wanted to take on another freelance contract again.
Too many great writers spend long hours in front of their computers churning out content for pennies on the dollar. I know—I’ve been there and done that. When content mills like TextBroker still offered hundreds of paid assignments on a daily basis, I would crank out 30, 40, and 50 pieces of content over the course of my workday. I was earning somewhere in the vicinity of $500 every week, but I was burnt out, exhausted, and ready to give up.
Whether you’re still slaving away for a net salary that barely rivals the minimum wage or you’re simply ready to boost your total income, use the following three keys to start earning more immediately. I know this advice works, because this is the same strategy I’ve used to grow my own freelance income over the years.
1. Determine How Much You Need to Earn
This principle sounds a lot less powerful than it actually is, but it could radically redefine your freelance trajectory. How much is your work worth to you?
Writers with little experience online often turn to their clients for prices. When my first client offered $900 for 300 blogs, I jumped at the chance. My work should have earned me much more than $3 per piece, but I didn’t know the true value of my content.
Not sure what to charge? Try this simple approach: track the amount of time you spend on your next writing assignment. Say you’re writing a blog, for example. Use a time tracker to count every minute you spend exchanging emails with your client, formatting your post, researching and writing. A simple 500-word blog can easily gobble up an hour or more of your time—how much is that time worth to you?
Maybe you’re comfortable earning $10/hour. Perhaps you’re trying to replace a $40k annual salary, in which case you’ll need a good deal more. You get to determine how much you need to earn and price your work accordingly.
2. Stop Accepting Underpaid Contracts
I didn’t start earning a decent living until I stopped accepting underpaid contracts. This is so stinking hard when you need to put bread on the table, but you cannot allow yourself to keep undermining your earning potential. Don’t waste your time and energy churning out content for a few dollars.
If you’re at the beginning of your career, you’re probably lacking a lot of the experience high-paying clients demand, which can make it particularly tricky to get paid appropriately. Fortunately, there are ways to get around this challenge. For one, if you’re not already doing so, start blogging immediately and get active on social media. This will help you build some clout and attract new clients.
3. Rethink your Entire Approach to Freelancing
I started freelance writing like many others looking to earn money online—I performed a Google search for “paid writing.” At first, I didn’t understand there was a world outside of content mills and sites like Upwork (formerly oDesk) and elance.
Ready to start earning real money? Start training yourself to become a better freelancer. Devour the blogs of industry experts like Carol Tice and Tom Ewer. Invest in training materials that will make you a better web writer. Remember, just because you write well doesn’t mean you write well for the Internet. Learn how to pitch. Apply for any and every opportunity you see. Network with other freelancers. Build a client list, rather than working through an agency.
4. Hike Up Your Rates
For most of us, learning to successfully freelance takes time. When I look at the work I was creating five years ago and compare it to my current assignments, I can easily see how I’ve grown and progressed. And with that progression comes a natural rise in pay.
When you’re negotiating with new clients, nothing prevents you from shooting for the stars with your pricing structure. You can quote a single sentence at $200 if you so desire, but it is important to gauge the market value of your work. If other writers selling similar services are underpricing you but hundreds of dollars, you’re going to struggle to land new clients. If you do want to price higher than the standard market value, be secure in your reasoning for doing so. Do you offer additional benefits other freelancers don’t provide, for example?
Raising prices for existing clients proves trickier, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s impossible. I told one of my largest clients recently that I needed to raise my rates, and I justified my request by explaining why it was necessary. He responded positively and even offered me MORE money than I requested. I’m earning almost 30% more than my original rate, and my client is happier than ever. Win-win.
5. Say Goodbye to Fear
What if I never land another contract? What if every other writer out there underprices me? What if my current clients say no to my rate increase? What if, what if, what if…
Develop confidence in your work and stop fearing the worst. Fearing the worst will keep you earning $6/hour. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Have any tips to earn more money? What changes have you made over the course of your freelance writing career?