Does it seem like it’s taking forever to get your freelance writing career to where you want it?
While some writers have the knack of getting clients in weeks flat, you still struggle to make enough income.
And time is short, and the bills keep coming. For many writers, a clock is ticking. If you can’t figure out how to make an income, soon you may have to scan the classified ads and find a day job.
What makes some writers build a real income fast, while others can’t seem to cover the gas bill with their writing?
Over the years of coaching more than a thousand writers, I’ve found there are three basic things freelance writers who ramp their earning rapidly are doing that starving writers don’t do.
Those three things are:
1. Use What You Know
I often meet former professionals — lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, nurses — who are switching to freelance writing.
To them I say “Great — you have a built-in lucrative niche you can get started with, where you have demonstrated expertise.”
The only catch? Many of them say, “Oh, but I don’t want to write about X. I want to write about [homeschooling/raising Schnauzers/quilting/battling mental illness/other low-paying niche here].”
There are two factors at war in the world of freelance writing — the desire to follow our writing bliss and write about whatever we feel passionate about this week, and the desire to make this a full-time living.
In general, they don’t both go together. At least not at first.
To earn the most the fastest, identify the best-paying markets where you have expertise, and write on those topics. You know the hot-button issues, the lingo, the experts to interview. It’s like water rolling downhill.
If you don’t like that niche, switch later on, once you’ve established a base of good-paying clients. That will give you the breathing room to explore other topics.
When your business plan out of the gate is, “I want to dabble and write about whatever I want,” that is not the straight shot to the big cash. Sorry to break it to ya.
2. Use Who You Are
Many freelance writers labor under the misimpression that they know nothing of value to the freelance marketplace and so cannot command good rates.
The complaints fall into three main categories:
“I’m too young.”
“I’m too old.”
“I’ve been out of the marketplace too long.”
But whoever you are, there is a way to capitalize on your uniqueness.
Turn what you think of as a weakness around and realize that whoever you are, there are magazines written for your demographic, and companies trying to sell you stuff.
Been staying home raising kids and now you’re back to working? Career transition is a popular magazine topic and there are companies that help people change careers and re-enter the workforce, too. All potential clients.
What you read, where you shop, those corporate newsletters you get in the mail — those are your easy, obvious markets.
Think how many products and magazines there are aimed at 20-somethings! And also how many now market to the over-50 set. If that’s you, then you are tapped into the mindset that client wants. You speak their language.
Stress that when you pitch, and you’re on a fast track to landing clients who will pay well for your inside line on their audience.
3. Do a Lot of Marketing
I know. This one seems obvious.
But I have this same conversation with every writer who isn’t earning well. It goes like this:
Me: “Oh no, you’re broke? Well, tell me about what marketing activities you are doing now, so I can think about what new approaches you could add to earn more.”
Writer: “Actually, I haven’t really been doing anything to market my writing.”
I’m not kidding. Same thing, every single time.
Many writers are waiting for the luck fairy to bring them freelance writing gigs. I recently talked to a writer who said she’d taken my classes and followed my blog for over two years…but she had yet to take the first step to market her writing and find clients.
Why, why, why?
Freelance writing is a business, just like opening a hardware store. Would you expert a hardware store to survive if it never placed an ad, had a grand opening, put up a ‘sale’ sign, sponsored a Little League team, or got the owner to a Chamber meeting? Of course not.
Yet magical thinking pervades the world of freelancing. Many writers believe we’re different because we’re creative, so gigs should fall from the sky.
But that isn’t what works — at least not quickly. What works? Marketing. Boring, unsexy, old-school marketing.
I meet few writers who are consistently marketing who are broke.
No one’s saying you have to make cold calls. If you hate that, send emails or do in-person networking. Build an amazing writer website and LinkedIn profile.
And if you don’t get a response, learn more about marketing.
Make a commitment that for you, marketing is like brushing your teeth — it’s something you are going to do every day. Because you’re building a business, and that’s what businesspeople do.
What all three of my tips have in common is they are the easiest and most reliable, proven way to get to a decent freelance income.
And they all go together. Actively marketing what you know and who you are, to the most likely receptive markets that pay well. That’s what people do when they’re serious about building substantial freelance writing income, right away.
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