Practical help for hungry writers -- 700 useful posts for freelance writers looking to break in, move up, and earn more. Blogs mission is to help freelance writers make more money. To help writers find better-paying markets and avoid crazy-low rates. Writers of the world unite!
Want to be your own boss and make a living writing?
If you’ve got solid writing skills and even a little marketing savvy, you’re already ahead of the game.
But there’s more to freelance writing and running your own business than being a great writer and smart marketer.
For a lot of writers, it’s the how-to-run-a-business stuff that makes you go cross-eyed, causes your palms to sweat, or ignites a firestorm of anxiety and self-doubt. Sound familiar?
You might be a great writer, but how much do you know about attorneys, taxes, business licenses, and insurance?
It’s a rhetorical question. But if you’re already feeling a knot forming in the pit of your stomach, there’s a good chance you could benefit from a little help to be your own boss.
Fortunately, help is available. And if you know where to look it’s free or available at a low-cost to help you build your freelance writing business, move up and earn more.
Want to be your own boss? Check out these free business resources for writers:
In business to be your own boss…
If you’re a freelance writer, you need to know a little about how to run a business. But if you’re a little in the dark about all that suit-and-tie-kind-of stuff, don’t worry.
Help is just a few clicks away from a source you might not expect—your federal and local governments. All across the U.S. and throughout the world, publicly-funded programs are in place to help small business owners (and freelance writers) like you. And they’re free.
Whether you’re a new freelance writer who’s trying to get your business started or an experienced writer looking to take it to the next level, check out what your government has to offer.
Here’s a list of the kinds of things you can get help with to be your own boss and build your freelance writing business:
Legal information to walk you through the steps of establishing yourself as a business. Don’t be intimidated—for freelancers in most countries, the process is very simple.
Tax forms and guidance to save you from nasty surprises at the end of the year when you’ve got a pile of independent contractor forms to file for reporting your income and expenses.
Financing and loans for starting or growing your business. The startup expenses for most freelance writers are delightfully low. But if you need extra capital for training, outsourcing tasks, or office rental, some resources offer grants or low-interest loans to offset these costs.
Classes, support, and information on many aspects of running your business. Depending on where you’re located, this might include everything from a telephone support line to a blog to free, real-time classes and trainings about how to be your own boss, run a business, manage your money, etc.
Extras like mentoring, coaching, networking opportunities, and access to contacts or databases you might not find on your own. Show up to a business networking meeting, introduce yourself, and you might find your next client.
Business resources for freelance writers
On the list below, you’ll find links to government agencies in the largest English-speaking countries, beginning with the U.S. first. Use it as a starting point, then do your own research to see what else is available where you live.
CanadaBusiness, the main government website for business owners, includes information on starting a business, taxes, licenses, and grants. The government-sponsored Business Development Bank of Canada offers business loans and financial advice. And the Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada provides financing and research tools.
Enterprise Ireland, the government’s official business website, helps Irish businesses start, grow, and compete globally. The site includes information on funding and links to local Enterprise offices. You can also check out Supporting SMEs, a search tool to help you track down the government programs that best fit your business.
The Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises is your go-to source for information about government programs. The Small Industrial Development Bank of India may also be a useful resource, if you’re considering a loan to launch or grow your freelance writing business.
The government’s official business web page includes business plan templates, financing information, and plenty of tips and advice. New Zealand’s Support for Small Businesses is an eight-page PDF overview of government resources.
The business section of the gov.uk website has a wealth of information for new and seasoned freelancers, including a page for people who share the goal to be self-employed.” If you’re in the U.K., the government-run Business Support Helpline is a free resource that allows you to talk to a real business professionals on the phone.
Local and regional business resources for freelance writers
Most states, provinces or regions within a country have their own small-business resources. They’re often more personal and user-friendly than national agencies.
The internet is your best source for tracking down what’s available in your area. Search your state or region, plus “small business resources.” Outside the US, search your region plus “SME [small and medium-sized enterprises] support.”
Here are a few other ways to track down local government-funded resources:
Ask other business owners what’s available. Check with your fellow freelance writers, but don’t stop there. Also ask colleagues who run other types of businesses.
Check out your local chamber of commerce. Even if you don’t join, you might connect with people who can steer you toward government-sponsored business development programs. Or help you grow your network and land new clients.
Contact local colleges, universities, and trade schools. Many schools sponsor trainings or other programs to help business owners with planning, money management, marketing, compliance, and more.
Explore regional associations, online groups, and networking events for business owners or entrepreneurs. Someone in these groups may know of a resource that you overlooked.
Build your freelance writing business
There’s more to freelance writing than blog posts, articles, case studies, white papers, landing pages, and email marketing campaigns. If you really want to be successful, you need to treat freelance writing like a business. These resources will point you in the right direction, if you make use of them by doing the following:
Verify all information. Most governments aren’t known for their efficiency. Some have multiple business websites. Double-check that the information you find online is up-to-date and accurate. This is especially important when it comes to filing taxes or jumping through legal hoops.
Take advantage of programs for special populations. If you’re disabled, a veteran, a woman, or a member of a minority or indigenous group, there may be additional government-sponsored programs to help you launch and grow your freelance writing business.
Ask for what you need. The people who work in government small-business support programs are there to help you succeed. If you’re looking for workspace, access to a database for contacting prospects, website help, or something else, let them know. They may be able to point you to exactly the right resource.
NOTE: Feel like you’re stuck with low-paying clients that will never pay higher freelance writing rates? This post is for you. Enjoy! —Carol.
Want to make money from home as a freelance writer? I’ve got a question for you today, writers. How do you feel about your freelance writing rates and the clients you work with?
I ask because today’s topic is just that — the feelings we have for our clients. Because business isn’t all dollars and cents. It’s also relationships. Our clients are people, too.
Some of the feelings we have for them are appropriate and useful feelings, such as enjoying a client’s easygoing personality or the feeling of satisfaction that comes from successfully completing a complex writing assignment.
But some feelings freelance writers have are sadly misplaced, and really hurt your ability to earn higher freelance writing rates. Check out what a couple of writers said to me recently, and I think you’ll start to see what I mean:
“My client is great and has given me a rave review on LinkedIn. I’ve worked with him for years, and continue to out of loyalty, even though the pay isn’t the best.”–Shari
“I’ve been writing for a ‘content mill’ and I do enjoy the work. It’s varied, the people who run it are genuinely lovely, and the man in charge has been happy to give me advice, and permission to email examples of work to clients, even though we publish without our own names on the work.
“Of course the pay is very low. I earn a penny a word (in the UK). But I have some loyalty to them, because they’ve really helped me out.
“I’m a qualified librarian (my degree is in English linguistics and literature, and my postgrad librarianship qualification is in information management). I can write well. Any suggestions?”-April
Yes, April, I have suggestions. Let’s start with this:
Don’t be misled
As you can see, some freelance writers are highly susceptible to the problem of misplaced loyalty.
We fall in love with our clients and stick with them, even though if they are radically underpaying us. When we should run for the hills instead.
We say they’re lovely people, even as they compensate us so little we couldn’t buy a bag of groceries with a week’s pay.
Let me drop the scales from your eyes, folks: While you are doggedly sticking with these clients out of “loyalty,” your client has no such similar feelings for you.
Try raising your freelance writing rates to an appropriate professional freelance wage, and you’ll see just how loyal your low-paying clients really are.
Then you’ll see this has been a one-way relationship all along. It’s you, being used by a crummy client. It’s a dysfunctional relationship like an abusive marriage.
It will only end when you decide to quit. Because the client has a great deal — a wonderful writer they’re getting for a song!
If they find another writer who will work for less, they’ll drop you in a minute. Make no mistake.
Why we cling
There’s one other point to consider about why writers hang onto to crummy clients.
Often, it’s because getting rid of them would mean admitting that you’re just spinning your wheels here. You’re filling your time with work that’s not paying your bills, and often isn’t even building your portfolio.
Also, that you need to be out marketing yourself to find better clients. If you really hate marketing, you tell yourself loyalty is the reason you can’t do any right now.
After all, loyalty is such a wonderful quality, right? You wouldn’t fault yourself for being loyal.
But you should, when it’s aimed in the wrong direction — one that could cost you your dream of earning a living as a freelance writer.
Where your loyalty should lie
Anytime you catch yourself experiencing feelings of loyalty to a low-paying client — wishing you had better clients but feeling you should stick with this loser just because they’re already a client, and you have all this history together…stop.
Take a step back.
And ask yourself this important question: Why are you in business?
I’d bet it’s to pay your bills, or to feed your family. The people in your life who depend on you — they are the people who deserve your loyalty.
Your business that helps those people is what you should be loyal to. If you don’t care about it and make it grow, nobody else will.
You need to act in the best interest of your business, before you run out of money and have to take a day job. That is priority one.
Otherwise, you’re not a business, you’re a charity. And soon you might be a charity case, too.
How to move on
Don’t delude yourself that nice people who underpay you are still good clients. They’re not. They are sucking the life out of your business and putting your freelance writing business at risk of failure.
I know…but they’re so nice! Maybe when you chat on Skype they are. But really, they’re screwing you.
Freelance writing rates exercise to drop bad clients
If you need to, here’s an exercise that may help: Put up a poster next to your computer with your low-paying client’s face and a little talk balloon that says, “I don’t pay you fairly, and I don’t care about you.”
Then remember that every minute you spend on a low-paying freelance writing client is a minute you’re not out finding the clients who will pay you what you need and deserve for your hard work.
Are misplaced loyalties holding back your writing career? Let’s discuss on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Has your writing income dwindled in recent years? If so, it’s a good bet you’ve been earning much of your money through article writing.
You may have noticed many local newspapers and magazines are shrinking their article wordcounts–and their pay. I meet a lot of sad former staff journalists who’re worried about how they’ll earn in the future.
That’s not an irrational fear, either. A recent study I did of about 250 established freelance writers showed 70 percent of them were article writers. And that article writing was one of their best-paid gigs.
What did that pencil out to, in dollars, this great article-writing pay? Nearly half said they earn under $20,000 a year from writing. Another 20 percent earned $20,000-$30,000. In all, most of these article writers weren’t earning much.
Gah! This makes me hopping mad.
That’s because article writing can be seriously lucrative — it’s the bulk of the work I’ve done as a freelance writer, including years where I earned six figures. But you have to know where to look for better pay.
I’ve got a list of a dozen great-paying opportunities for you to think on below. But before we get there, there are two important things that need to change for you to earn more: Your mindset and your marketing.
Dry your tears and find a niche
The biggest problem I encounter with starving article writers is that they are mourning a bygone world. The heyday of newspapers and print magazines has come and gone.
These writers stay stuck writing for pennies for the same outlets they’ve worked at for years, all while exclaiming, ‘Can you believe how bad rates are now? I can remember when I got $2 a word…wah wah.’
Writers are spending a lot of time on social-media chat boards bemoaning the state of print news and magazines today. And it’s a complete waste of your energy.
Reality check: The print world is undergoing cataclysmic change, and it’s never going back. I think great articles will still be written and wonderful stories told, but increasingly, they’ll be told online.
Process your grief and accept that for now, writing local news stories is not going to feed your family. Now, we can move forward to address the second big obstacle for article writers.
It’s that often you haven’t been working a focused niche. Staff journalists are often general-assignment reporters, taking any and all topics. That’s not a high-earning proposition in freelancing.
You’ll earn much better going forward if you concentrate on 2-3 specific industries or topics. Think back on the types of stories you enjoyed most, or did a lot of. Did you meet a lot of tech-industry CEOs? Write about yacht-building, or strip-mall developers? Follow the money to focus your marketing and land the types of assignments that will pay well.
The big news is, many of those writing assignments won’t be for publications at at all. If you can get your head around re-purposing your article-writing skills to help businesses, you’ll find a serious gold mine of opportunities.
Here’s a rundown on a dozen better-paying approaches that have worked for many of my students. Some of these are projects for businesses and some for publications:
1. Try two thriving magazine types
If you’ve hitched your star to consumer publications, it’s time to diversify. Trade publications such as Ad Age or Builder magazine have been a bright spot in print, thriving thanks to their targeted audience, which still draws advertisers.
If you have an industry you know well, trades tend to pay solid rates and will assign you regularly if they like you. Another winning niche in traditional print is custom publications, company magazines such as Costco Connection or the airline and hospital magazines. You’ll write articles like you always have — it’s just that a company writes your check instead of a publisher.
2. Casablanca it
Have you written once for a great-paying magazine, but it never happened again? Here’s how that happens…
You get an assignment — at last! — from that great national magazine you’ve been targeting. You write and turn it in.
Then, you wait for the editor to drop a new assignment on you…and it never happens.
Instead, don’t turn in an assignment draft without a couple of new idea pitches for your editor. Keep growing the relationship!
There’s more you can do to grow this relationship, too. Have you asked to be introduced to editors at sister publications? Does that magazine have a book division, or do trade-show magazines on the side? Make sure you know all the possible ways you can maximize this connection.
Don’t think of any article-writing assignment as a one-off. Like they say in Casablanca, think of it as the start of a beautiful friendship.
3. Win the numbers (and pay) game
How many queries a month are you sending out, article writers? If the answer isn’t 30 — or more — you’re not pitching enough.
If you want to make publications pay your bills, you need to pitch a lot. Crank up the volume to keep the assignments steady.
Make this even more productive by aiming your queries at top-paying publications. Stop wasting time on ones that pay $100 an article. When I’m laser-focused on getting more article assignments, I take my online Writer’s Market search tool, crank it up to five dollar signs, and send my queries to top payers only.
4. Learn a new skill
I meet many starving writers who focus on writing personal essays. This is a niche that never did pay great. These days, thanks to the many free online platforms for personal stories, personal essays pay little to none.
The real money in article writing is mostly found in reported nonfiction. If you need to learn journalism skills, it’ll be worth your time to do it. A world of better assignments will open up to you, once you understand reporting ethics and build your interview and nonfiction article-writing skills.
5. Try the other journalism
In the past few years, big businesses have taken note of the credibility a magazine conveys — and they’ve decided to skip advertising in consumer pubs and get into the online-publishing game themselves.
It’s called brand journalism, and it pays great. Imagine doing exactly the sort of business reporting you’ve always done, except your check-signer is, say, AmEx or Dell, instead of Meredith or Hearst. In my experience, that’s basically the whole difference.
You can Google lists of companies doing brand journalism projects, and start to get a sense of who the players are. Then, sleuth out editors and pitch them.
I mean, do this only if you like earning $1-$2 per word. Because that’s the sort of rate range many brand-journalism projects carry.
6. Tell a happy story
Once you understand that businesses love writers with article skills, the next logical stop is writing case studies.
These are 1-2 page ‘happy customer’ stories, that explain why a business’s product or service is great and what it’s really like to use it. Case studies help companies sell like crazy — and bylines impress prospects here.
7. Write reports that subtly sell
If you’ve written long, involved articles that used research, check out white papers. These are reports on trends, emerging product features, or challenges an industry faces. (You can Google loads of examples.) They got their name because white papers began as simple typed reports, but most today include graphics.
As with case studies, white papers are an info-marketing sales tool. The sly conclusion of the white paper usually is that the sponsoring company’s solution is the best option. Other than that, this is basically a long, reported article (most white papers run 3-10 pages these days). Your interview experience is a serious asset here.
8. Bigger, better blogging
You may have noticed that 1500-2000 word blog posts are all the rage now. These are often highly similar to writing feature articles — most incorporate interviews and/or research.
The good news is pay rates for writing these for popular sites have been rising. I have coaching students who’re getting $500-$600 a post for repeat work. Beats what the local news pays nowadays, hm?
9. Downloading success
The other hot trend in blogging is content downloads linked within a longform blog post. The download is usually a useful report, guide, or resource list. The difference is, readers will have to put in their email to get this download. It’s basically a lead-generation tool. This isn’t harder to write than a feature story — they’re usually pretty straightforward.
That means your content-download project’s success can be quantified. And that means pay is usually strong for good writers who can come up with tasty download ideas.
10. Now this is special
The kissin’ cousin to the content download and white paper, special reports are another lead-gathering tool. They’re often what companies offer their blog subscribers. I get a bunch of them from the online-marketing blogs I subscribe to — probably you get some, too.
Study them, and then reach out to similar companies you see that don’t have a free report for subscribers. I did some research recently, and was surprised how many nice, mid-sized companies with pro-looking blogs didn’t have a report. Doesn’t look hard to turn up prospects for this. (Subscribe to my blog to see a report example.)
11. Go long (or even longer)
Writing books or e-books is the next natural step for writers with extensive article-writing experience. I know many writers who’re intimidated by moving up to the book-writing level. But books aren’t harder to write than articles — they’re just bigger projects that pay more.
Here’s the secret: Think of each chapter as an article. Stitch them all together and boom, you’ve got a book or e-book.
These projects tend to come through referrals, so start letting your network know you’re looking for thought leaders, CEOs and philanthropists who’ve got a book in them and need help.
12. Information, please
One of the simplest ways to leverage your article writing is to write web pages for businesses. Most pages on a typical site are conveying facts — telling the story of how the company was founded, what it does, announcing news developments at the firm, or relating the bios of the leadership team. In other words, basic storytelling.
I’ve got one coaching student currently bidding an 80-page site rewrite. That should be an $8,000-$16,000 project, depending on complexity and deadline. And all you do is use the basic reporting and storytelling skills you learned as an article writer.
Re-purpose your article writing for $$$
As you can see, article-writing skills are in high demand. Salesy stuff is out of style and info-marketing is big. It’s really the best time ever to be an article writer.
If you’re thinking, ‘But I don’t know how to write case studies, or ghostwrite books!’ that’s OK — you can learn.
These projects pay well (and secret spoiler: They’re fun!). But you’ve got to kick the newspaper and local-mag habit to move up. Hopefully, this list gives you some ideas that’ll help you find better article clients.
Then you can write a happier story about what you get paid.
Where do you earn best from article writing? Let’s discuss on Facebook and LinkedIn.
• Erica Schmidt Jabali is a creative director at YDraw. She’s worked with famous brands like Disney, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor and Gamble and others.
• Andrew Follett is the founder of DemoDuck, a Chicago-based company that builds handcrafted video content for businesses. He has written hundreds of video scripts for companies small and large, including clients like Lowes, Netflix, DropBox and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Want to learn more about video script writing? Find out how to get started in this Q&A:
Q: What steps do you go through in creating a video for a client?
A: Follett: We start with a creative brief to determine what they’re looking for, who the audience is, the problem they’re addressing, the solution, and the call to action. Then we have a kickoff call to make sure we’re all on the same page. From there we go into a concept phase to determine the creative direction. We create an outline, and then we jump into scripting.
Q: Do the writers come up with the visual concepts?
A: Jabali: Yes, our writers are completely responsible for the artistic vision of the video and they work with the client to finalize it. Then it goes to artists who actually create the visual component.
The scene plan often takes longer than the script itself. Having a little bit of an artistic background or a creative ability to envision something is critical to a successful script.
Q: What are rates for writing video scripts?
A: Follett: That’s a tough question. For freelancers, we usually pay a flat rate. It can vary depending on the writer, their experience level, the type of video, and the length of the script. For a basic two-minute explainer video, the rate might be between $250 and $700. But it depends on the client and the complexity of the project.
Q: What types of videos do you create?
A: Jabali: They cover the gamut. We do marketing videos for clients’ web pages or social media channels. We write a lot of product releases and explainer videos that companies will send to potential clients. Companies also contract with us to do internal videos, trainings, and tutorials.
We have all different types of video offerings that might meet those needs—everything from traditional white board animation all the way to 2D, 3D, and interactive videos. Interactive videos are incredibly fun. It’s like the pick-your-own-ending books we used to read as kids—you get to actually interact with the video.
Q: How long do the scripts need to be?
A: Follett: 150 words is equal to about a minute. A lot of clients are shocked at how short 60 seconds is.
Q: How do you hook your audience quickly and get them to stick around?
A: Jabali: There are several strategies. Say something unique or funny, do a play on words, or start with a powerful visual. Or start with a problem the viewer might be having.
The opening line for one of our videos was, “Do you ever look at your desk chair and it screams scoliosis?” That was a hilarious way to start a video on desk chairs. Being dramatic is always effective.
My best videos are the ones where I sell myself the product. You have to write what would entertain you. That’s where you start.
It comes down the writer listening to the client and getting to know their ideal customer. There isn’t one perfect way to begin.
Q: How do you set the right tone for each video?
A: Follett: Most people don’t want something that sounds like a hard sell. Pretty much every single client wants the same thing—fun, but professional. We try to write as conversationally as possible. We’ll read the script out loud and make sure it’s not coming off stiff or awkward.
We use short lines and make everything concise. No jargon. We try to make it simple enough for your grandma to understand.
Q: What sort of background do you look for in writers?
A: Jabali: Our writers come from all over. I’m a teacher by trade and I welcome former teachers. But we have people from all different industries. One of our best writers comes from a technical background.
There’s no specific background we look for. It comes down to who we already have on our team, what kind of clients we’re attracting, and what holes we need to fill.
Narrative alone is only half the video. So writers have to be constantly thinking in creative images and understand the art component as well.
Q: Do writers need to learn video editing software?
A: Follett: Not at all. Very few of our writers have tangible video experience. As Erica said, our writers come from all different types of backgrounds. But the writer does need the ability to think visually. They have to understand the budget and the capabilities of the creative team.
Q: What other qualities do writers need to succeed in this niche?
A: Follett: It can be a difficult niche-service to hack. Not every writer is suited. A lot of people start the process and realize, “This isn’t for me.”
It can be very time consuming for the wrong writer. Typically, a good writer can bust out a first draft in just a couple of hours once they get the knack for it.
Writers need to have a good handle on mechanics and be incredibly creative, willing to create brand-new concepts for every client. You need to think very quickly and have lots of ideas.
Anywhere you go, anything you do can be a source of inspiration for videos. You have to be a person who looks at your whole life as a potential inspiration.
The secret to video script writing: Explain it to your grandma
Video script writing doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. In just about any niche, most video content works best when it’s easy enough for your grandma to understand. Keep it simple. Be creative, and you can add this to your writing skills and services to move up and earn more.
Are you interested in video script writing? Let’s discuss on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Maria Veres is a freelance writer based in the Oklahoma City area. She contributes regular Q&A blog posts to Make A Living Writing
Well, we develop new content every month in Freelance Writers Den — and after 7 years, the virtual shelves have gotten crowded.
From time to time, we move some podcasts to our basement archives. These are great, classic trainings, but they’re no longer available in the Den.
Just because…300+ hours of trainings is enough! Don’t want to overwhelm members with too much stuff.
Now, for the first time ever, we’re making those Basement Tapes available to the public in a flash sale for just $29. Here’s a peek at the five podcasts in this Basement Tapes offer:
Making Money as a Ghostwriter with Kelly James Enger: Longtime Renegade Writer Linda Formichelli hosts Enger for a chat on breaking into this lucrative field.
Motivation and Productivity for Freelance Writers: Linda gets productivity tips from expert Max Wirestone and Mini-Habits author Steven Guise.
The Business of Freelancing with Princess Jones: Linda talks about how to run your biz right with the successful blogger/author.
How to Write Case Studies with Casey Hibbard: Den Mother Carol Tice (a/k/a me!) talks with the top case-study expert on how to break in, writing tips for case-study excellence, and how to price these projects.
Freelance Writers Den Success Stories: Listen in while I get four successful Den members to spill all the details of how they’ve become more productive and grown their income.
Yes, for the first time ever, we’ve made a hand-selected cache of our finest Den events available for nonmembers to learn from, for just a few days only.
Interested? Share your mini-essay below in the comments to win make your copy of the Den Basement Tapes free. Or to win Den membership access and/or useful e-books. Look forward to reading!
What was your most hellish freelance writing job? Describe it in 100 words or less in the comments below (or on Facebook or LinkedIn) for your chance to win our essay contest prizes.
Are you sick of those dry spells that make you go back to begging for work as a freelance writer?
It happens. One day you’re flush with work, cranking out copy, and making a decent income. And then you realize your freelance marketing efforts haven’t been all that great.
Projects come to an end. You get paid. And then you’re scrambling to find more clients that need a freelance writer.
Been there? Done that?
If you’re that kind of freelance writer, it can get exhausting. It’s kind of like trying to make your way across a desert without any water. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you want to be a fully-booked freelance writer, there’s a few things you can do to always have a steady stream of work. The marketing techniques I use as a freelance writer have helped me increase demand, raise my rates, find better clients, and make more money.
Ready to end the freelance-client drought once and for all? Here’s how:
1. Write epic content
The best-paying blogs and businesses aren’t looking for fluff. They’re looking for 1 of 3 things:
Education and how-to posts
If you’re writing something to share with the world, make sure it does one of these three things. I’ve had blog owners contact me asking if I’d write for their site simply because they saw this epic step-by-step post.
If you’re going to blog on your own site, or you’re writing for clients, do your best work. Your byline or link can help send more client work your way.
For example, if you’re writing a how-to post, add screenshots, data, or examples to prove your point.
That’s the difference between being an average freelance writer who gets a one-and-done assignment, and the freelance writer clients keep sending work to.
Which would you rather be?
3. Do a good job, and make sure everybody knows about it
When you do something to stand out, it makes a huge difference. And people should know about it.
As a book editor, I work a little differently than most. Instead of just fixing typos and grammar, I help authors improve their voice and style, and connect with readers. And it’s a game changer.
One New York Times best-selling author asked me if he could write a testimonial about my work as an editor. Of course! This one testimonal helps me get more clients and solidified my rate increase for all future editing and writing projects.
Don’t have any testimonials? After you complete a project for a client, ask for a testimonial via email, LinkedIn, or another platform you prefer. Then promote the hell out of it. Do a good job, and make sure everybody knows about it.
4. Self-publish a book
There’s no better way to show you’re an expert in your niche than writing a book. Seriously, you can do this. And you don’t need an agent, a book contract, or a publisher.
When I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to keep earning money while I took time off. So I wrote a book.
It’s a perfect example of why writing is one of the best jobs for pregnant women or anyone who wants flexibility. I published my book before the baby came, then enjoyed earning money through book sales even while I took time off.
Not only will self-publishing e-books give you another income source, it will boost your credibility to write for bigger clients too.
5. Find bigger clients with more ongoing work
How much time have you spent writing a single query letter and shopping it around to different magazines to land an assignment?
There’s nothing wrong with this type of writing. Great magazine writing gigs pay $1/word or more. But it’s usually a one-and-done kind of assignment. And then you have to start the pitching process all over again.
If you want to write for magazines, great. But if you want an easier way to stay fully booked as a freelance writer, focus on finding clients who will have ongoing work so you can spend more time writing…and less time pitching.
Cold pitching prospects by writing a letter of introduction, or connecting via LinkedIn is a smart strategy to land more clients. Resources like the Junk Free Job Board in the Freelance Writers Den can also help you find clients with ongoing content needs.
6. Use data to write about high-traffic topics
What are your ideal clients talking about? Or if you’re writing for a client, what should you write about to increase audience engagement and drive traffic.
Don’t guess. Instead, use free tools like BuzzSumo.com or SocialCount.co to find which posts and topics your target readers love and share the most.
When you use data to pick your topics or key phrases, and then write an epic post with lots of useful information, you’ll increase your reach and be seen by more people. And some of that traffic will come back to you in the form of prospects who want to hire you.
You never know when a new freelance writing opportunity will present itself. Be open-minded.
A one-off job could turn into ongoing work. Maybe a writing assignment will turn into an editing, ghostwriting, or speaking opportunity.
I’ve had book editing jobs turn into blog editing, blog writing, ghostwriting, online course writing/editing, and speaking gigs.
Evaluate your current clients. Is there potential for more work? Or have you asked your current clients for referrals? Opportunities to move up and earn more are everywhere. You just need to look and be open-minded to discover them.
8. Do it scared
Virtually all of the milestones in my freelance career involved taking risks to do things I wanted to run from for fear of failure. But I believe if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing.
What are you afraid of? Failure, making more money, charging higher rates, or working with big-name brands or clients? Face your fears and do it anyway.
Pitch an idea with a query letter
Send an LOI
Make a connection
Learn to use data and analytics
Write a book
Pitch a guest post
Ask for referrals
Be a fully-booked freelance writer
You’ll only know what you’re capable of if you keep hustling and reaching outside your comfort zone. That’s how you become a fully-booked freelance writer. Consistently do these eight things and you’ll never have to scrounge for work or write for pennies again.
What’s holding you back from being a fully-booked freelance writer? Let’s discuss on Facebook and LinkedIn.
You might be using traditional methods likes queries and letters of introduction.
But are you tapping into social media channels to connect with more people?
Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter get a lot of love for helping freelancers connect with prospects and land freelance writing jobs.
But they’re not the only social channels out there you can leverage to get more work.
Ever heard of Reddit?
It’s cleverly branded as “The front page of the Internet.” This social media site has an estimated 12 million users, and they’re not all looking for funny cat videos.
In fact, with just a little bit of effort, you can use Reddit to connect with people in your niche to generate leads and land freelance writing jobs.
If you’re good at storytelling and like to write, you can do this. It’s not that hard. Here’s how I got over 30 leads on Reddit with a single post:
The niche universe of Reddit for freelancers
What’s your freelance writing niche? Tech, financial, health, non-profits, real estate?
Some niches for freelance writers are more lucrative than others, but there’s no shortage of niche industries, business and publications that pay pro rates.
So where do you find your ideal clients and more freelance writing jobs? Some examples include:
Letters of introduction
Social channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter
And then there’s Reddit. This often-overlooked social channel can be a lead-generation outlet for freelance writers.
Here’s why: subReddits. subReddits are the collection of passionate mini-communities inside of Reddit for almost any niche you can think of.
There’s even a subReddit for Underwater Basket Weaving, although it only has 5 community members and two total posts. So it’s probably not a niche to find good freelance writing jobs. But some of your ideal clients may be on Reddit.
Good Karma attracts freelance writing prospects
When you write an effective LOI or follow-up with a prospect, it’s a good practice to add value, provide insight, or share something useful. And Reddit works the same way using Karma.
Karma is a point value displayed on the upper right hand corner of your profile and visible to all Redditors. Having high Karma gives you credibility that will help you stand out as the freelance writer in your niche.
FYI…Redditors in general are very wary of marketers, business owners or anyone who appears to be using the site to direct sell.
How to get good Reddit Karma
To create some good Karma for yourself, be helpful, add value, and share information that will benefit others. Follow these three steps:
1. Find your niche on Reddit. Personally, I’ve found the best results by going to Google first. (Search: Niche + subReddit), instead of using Reddit’s internal search function.
2. Choose a few subReddits in your niche to follow. Or use the subReddit search to find industries, topics, and trends, your ideal clients care about.
3. Comment on Reddit posts by adding value, insight, resources, advice, etc. (People will upvote your posts, your Karma score will grow, and you’ll build credibility. Aim for a Karma score of 500, and you’ll be ready to use the Reddit storytelling strategy.)
The Reddit storytelling strategy to generate leads
It can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to reach a Karma score of 500 or better. You’ll need to spend a little time contributing to a few subReddits in your niche, but it’s worth the effort.
Reddit content marketing for freelance writers
It’s no secret that content marketing is huge for building a fan base, a following, creating brand awareness, and generating sales.
And it’s a great strategy freelance writers can use on Reddit to connect with prospects.
My content marketing niche is fin-tech. I niched down to a subReddit on entrepreneurship and website investments where potential prospects, bloggers, online business owners, marketers, and developers hang out.
You probably already do this on your writer website, your blog, or when you guest post on another site in your niche as a form of marketing. And it works in a similar way on Reddit.
When you write about something your ideal clients care about, teach them something, or help solve a problem, it’s a good way to build credibility and attract leads. Here’s how to do this on Reddit:
Plan it. Think about a story you could share that would add value in your niche (without selling).
A mini-case study
Useful tips, tools and resources
Insight on a niche trend
A client success story
A relevant personal experience
Think about your target audience. Use your copywriting skills to address a pain point, tap into emotion, and be engaging. Spending a little time in a niche subReddit will help you get to know your audience.
Be yourself. Write genuinely from the heart. Be honest, conversational, helpful.
Results and follow up
After sharing a brutally-honest story in this Reddit niche, I received over 672 upvotes. I also received dozens of direct messages and over 30 emails from prospects that may be worth $3,000 to $50,000 in contract work.
When you start getting DMs and emails from people on Reddit, follow up. Respond to every single message, email and comment. That’s where I’m at now after using this storytelling strategy.
Use Reddit to connect with prospects
It’s a place to start a conversation, learn more about a prospect’s business, target audience, content needs, make connections, and ultimately land more freelance writing jobs.
Have you used Reddit to land freelance writing jobs? Let’s discuss on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Stacy Caprio is a freelance blogger and content marketing consultant. When she’s not writing or helping clients, she runs, reads, and plays with dogs.
It’s been said that great writing isn’t about the writing — the magic is in the rewriting. None of us write a perfect first draft, so the buffing-and-polishing stage is where your piece goes from ‘yawn’ to fascinating. Over my 12 years as a staff writer, I learned some basic editing steps to take with my writing that reliably improve my work. Applying these to my articles over and over is really how I built my writing skills.
When you correct a writing error over and over in the rewrite phase, you get tired of having to make that effort, right? So you start incorporating the fix into your first draft. Soon, your work needs less rewriting. You get faster at knocking out your draft — and your hourly rate goes up.
Recently, one of my mastermind graduates asked to use her coaching time for a writing critique. Going over her draft with her reminded me of how many simple rewrite tricks I’ve picked up over the years.
It’s actually easy to spot and fix common writing errors in your own work, once you know how.
So, here’s a guide to seven ways to improve your writing skills with second-draft fixes:
1. Start at 10,000 feet and go down
Too often, we start picking apart our writing at the sentence or word level. How many times have you spent hours rewriting the first line or paragraph of an article you wrote, while the rest of the draft waits unwritten? Yeah, me too.
That’s not the fast way to create a strong final draft. Instead, try to spit out your whole first draft, quick as you can.
Then, begin your rewrite with the big picture. Read each paragraph and ask yourself, “Could this paragraph be cut?”
Often, we go off on side trails, or write a paragraph that doesn’t do much beyond recapping something we’ve said in an early paragraph. Chopping entire deadwood grafs out first saves you editing time.
Don’t feel sad about what you cut out — often, you can develop those side trails into new articles! So it’s not all bad news.
From there, proceed to look at your writing more closely.
2. Prevent reader dropoff
Once you’ve cut dead paragraphs, proceed to checking the first and last sentences of all your remaining paragraphs. First sentences need to be interesting, and last sentences need to smoothly pave the way to the opener of the next paragraph.
If you’ve made some cuts, you may have some ironing out of transitions to do here.
Many writers have a habit of writing sentences in a particular structure — say, three long, connected clauses.
Or maybe you split up many sentences with a set of dashes — as I’m doing here — to inject a related thought mid-sentence. If that middle clause is long, sometimes readers start to lose the drift of your main thought. Use with caution.
Perhaps many of your sentences have a parenthetical phrase (hint: that gets annoying).
Do many of your sentences ask a question? Or end with an exclamation point! That starts to feel a bit amateurish.
Analyze your sentence-construction habits. Then, change it up. Readers will stick with you longer and find your piece more interesting.
4. Hunt and kill word tics
We all have words we use too often. Mine are “just” and “really.”
With this problem, I find it’s easier to just let it slide in the first draft. Then, do a quick pass through your piece in editing to hunt and remove most of the instances.
Get a thesaurus if you have to — but find other words to use that vary your language. It’ll keep readers more interested.
5. Trim your quotes
Many new writers are scared to boil down quotes. But remember, as long as you keep the gist of what the subject said, you’re okay. Most experts actually hope you’ll buff up their quotes and make them sound more intelligent than they really are.
Great quotes are short and punchy, not long and blather-y. One sentence can be amazing. Think of the quotes as the part of the article or blog post that people would want to tweet out to their friends.
Remember, you can always paraphrase the rest of what was said, as a setup to the quote.
You can quote me on this: “Short quotes are awesome and memorable.”
6. Stop just being
Passive and complex past-tense verbs are the enemy of good writing. Yet, they so often crop up in our first drafts. Even worse, I find new writers pack multiple ‘being’ verbs into a single sentence.
As in: “He was thinking about going to the store and getting a beer.”
Instead of: “He thought he might walk to the store and grab a beer.”
Passive verbs can often be cut:
As in: “She was getting tired of being the only one doing the work.”
Becomes: “She was tired of doing everyone else’s work.”
When it comes to verbs, think immediacy and action.
7. Inject personality
Your final stop in a good rewrite is to look at your word choices, especially the adjectives. They set the tone of the piece and reveal the personality or vibe.
Make a pass through your draft and just look at all the descriptive words and phrases. Do they convey the tone you wanted? If not, it’s time to tinker.
Improve your writing skills to earn more
I hope these rewrite tips give you a system for evaluating your draft that makes rewriting go faster.
Strive to speed up your writing process to improve your hourly rate. Especially if you write for publications, efficient writing will be key to earning well.
What rewrite tricks do you use to make your work better? Let’s discuss on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Short on time? It can be easy to think you’ve got too many thigs on your to-do list to start writing.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home freelancer or working a day job and writing on the side, carving out time to start writing or marketing your services can be a challenge.
There’s a long list of reasons (aka excuses): Meetings, kids, email, laundry, phone calls, grocery shopping, writer website updates, etc.
You’re thinking you need an hour or more of time to start writing, finish an assignment or spend time marketing to land more client work. But that hour never seems to materialize. It happens.
Plans change. Someone pukes on the ride to school. Your toddler won’t go down for a nap. Or your designated writing time gets annihilated by some other priority.
If I waited around for a day when I got all the time I planned for writing, I would never get anything done. I had to figure out a better way. Here’s my simple strategy to hack 15-minute blocks of time to start writing:
Start writing: How to hack 15-minute chunks of time
As a writer and educator with two kids under the age of four, there is just no way I can depend on my schedule being my own.
That whole story with the puking and no naps, that is my real life, and it all happened yesterday.
In a perfect world, you could hide away for hours at time to write without distraction. Projects would be completed according to your planned deadlines. You’d maximize every minute of the day, but it doesn’t always work like that. Stuff happens.
Fortunately, I figured out a way to be more productive by making the small, often-wasted parts of my day more useful.
You can get a surprising amount of work done in small chunks of time, even in as little as 15 minutes. It takes a little bit more organizing, but investing in this time can salvage hours of usable work periods that would otherwise disappear.
Here’s how to hack 15-minute chunks of time to start writing:
Know your working style
Does research for an article take you a long time? Or maybe you’re a whiz at getting the information you need, but struggle to get those first words on the page.
Knowing how you work is vital in making use of those small periods of the day. When you know how you work, you can plan for maximizing small chunks of time. This approach can work two ways:
Keep it simple. If you struggle with a task, like writing or researching, knowing you are going to work on it for just 10-15 minutes may make it feel less daunting. A few work periods like this and your big task could be complete.
15-minutes of focus. If you know a part of your writing is easy, jumping into it for 15 minutes will be a breeze, and you can easily churn out work like this with a few sessions per day.
Know your project
If you look at an assignment as one big project, it’s always going to feel like a huge task that seems impossible. (Cue rolling on the floor in agony, doubting your skills as a freelance writer.)
Break it down into baby steps
Instead, break the project down into baby steps. This can be hard if it’s your first time tackling a new project. But it’s worth the effort.
Use your experience to deconstruct your workload until you start to see all the little steps it takes to complete a project (research, outline, writing, editing, etc.).
The trouble with poor planning. The first time I wrote an online course for one of my best clients, it took me forever to complete. I didn’t fully understand all the pieces and how they came together, and that cost me more time than necessary. Fortunately, I learned from that mistake.
Do this: Before you start a project, list out all the types of tasks you need to complete. Research, interviews, writing, editing, etc. Then work from the list. Breaking down a project like this makes it a lot easier to start writing and get work done in short chunks of time.
Know what’s next
If you’re not organized or looking ahead, it easy to waste a lot of time figuring out what needs to be done, instead of actually writing. If everything is a priority, then nothing is. Sound familiar?
Plan for success
Creating a plan so you know what to do next helps eliminate the time suck, and maximize even 15-minute chunks of time with tasks like:
Write the lede and first couple of paragraphs for an assignment
Creating a list of all the small tasks you have to complete may sound like more work, but think about this time as an investment in your productivity.
Ever hear the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Little things such as researching a single source, and knowing what small tasks that come after, can help you avoid wasting time trying to figure out what to do next.
Stick to a task list, and you’ll also be less likely to sift through content-mill sites looking for work, feeling sorry for yourself, wasting time on Facebook, or watching cat videos on YouTube.
Master the 15-minute work session
Once you have a plan in place, you can turn 15-minutes chunks of time into highly-productive work sessions (you may even want to use a timer) like this:
1-2 minutes: Review your task list for a project. Pick up where you left off and get started.
10-12 minutes: Focus on one task for this short block of time. Research, write, edit, brainstorm, etc.
1-2 minutes: Make a note of your next steps to prepare for your next 15 minutes of productivity.
Make time for writing to move up and earn more
We all have busy lives. There are a million things that can and will interrupt your work day. If you don’t do anything about it, those interruptions can invade your writing time and hurt productivity. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By getting to know your work style, your projects and your tasks, you can reclaim your time and stay productive, even in 15-minute sessions.
Freelance marketing might feel like a chore. But it’s kind of important. If you don’t do it, you don’t eat. The good news, you can learn to love freelance marketing like I did.
When I first got back into freelancing after years of being a staff writer, I didn’t have to do much freelance marketing.
I called many sources at companies I’d covered at writing for a local business journal, let them know I was freelancing, and it kind of rolled from there.
I called a couple local magazines, pitched them, and got assignments. I answered an ad and found myself writing Web content for a $1 billion corporation.
Looking back, it was a golden time. My career ran easy, like water flowing downhill.
But if you’ve ever sat back and done little to no freelance marketing, you know it’s not a sustainable way to stay fully booked.
It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way. And I don’t want you to end up in the same situation.
Here’s how I learned to love freelance marketing to move up and earn more:
The trouble with neglecting freelance marketing chores
It never occurred to me that I wasn’t always going to be fully booked. Landing assignments seemed almost effortless.
Then came an economic downturn that started to really take hold. My editors began getting laid off, publications changed, and companies stopped developing content.
I realized I needed to get out there and get serious about freelance marketing. I needed to make new connections and find new clients.
If you’re just starting out, or you’ve been flush with work and now those clients are gone, you know exactly what I’m talking about. What’s the solution?
If you want to grow, get hooked on marketing
At first I thought, “Ugh!” I’d never really sold anything to anyone. But over time, I kind of got hooked on the marketing side of my business. I discovered that in a weird way, it’s fun. No, I’m not kidding.
Now, I enjoy this side of my business, too — maybe not as much as I do writing, but marketing is no longer a dreaded chore for me.
You can learn to love marketing, too. Here are my tips:
1. Keep the online job-ad searching down
At first I wasted hours a day browsing the online job ads, before developing a system for scanning them fast. Now, if I’m looking over online ads, I only taking time to reply to the best prospects. Generally, online job ads are not a source of high-quality leads, so limit your time here, and free up more time for better marketing methods.
2. Learn more about marketing
If you don’t know a lot about marketing, learn. Take a class. Read a book. This is not mystical knowledge. The information you need is out there.
3. Develop a marketing plan
Don’t go in a million directions at once. Take a 3-6 month period, decide what you’re doing, and then consistently do it.
4. Meet live humans
Whether it’s in-person networking, cold-calling, or informally shmoozing up shopkeepers in your town, remember that computers won’t give you a writing gig — only people. If networking makes you nervous, you can learn how to do it.
5. Try different methods
I have done in-person networking at a half-dozen different organizations’ events, some cold-calling, sent queries, answered job ads, used LinkedIn features, promoted my writing on Twitter, built my presence in natural-search results for key words, and more. See what works for you.
6. Approach it like a scientist
Think of your marketing as an experiment. Track what you do and evaluate the results. This helps you take a little bit more dispassionate attitude toward putting yourself out there.
7. Think of it as a game
Instead of feeling all vulnerable and scared, try to detach yourself emotionally from the process. Instead, think of it as a game of Chutes and Ladders. You go here and there, rolling the dice, trying different moves. When you get a win, it’s like Yahtzee.
8. Be impervious to rejection
Learn not to take it personally when you don’t get a gig. Seriously. You want to drop that attitude. It’s just business. Have a businesslike approach to marketing.
This is the most important thing to know. Sending one query letter is not a marketing plan, it’s a waste of time. Know that you will likely have to go hard at it on marketing for at least several months before you start to see the results you want.
I had a revealing conversation with one writer online about a strategy I used that got me a great, $1-a-word new client. She said she’d tried that once and it hadn’t worked. I said, “Oh. I tried it 30-40 times, and it worked once.”
Moral: The persistent marketer gets the gig. So keep going, if you’re serious about writing for a living.
Do your freelance marketing chores
Personally, I marketed aggressively — like mad, really — for about 18 straight months, gradually rebuilding my customer base until I became fully booked. Now, I’m dropping clients and can pick and choose the ones I want again. It feels great, and I know marketing got me here.