113 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Freelance Writing Income — Now

Aren’t you sick of the negativity out there in the freelance writing community? I know I am.

You know the spiel. Comments like:

The economy is still so awful, bla bla bla.

All articles are now $5 or less.

I can’t believe this Craigslist ad asks for three free samples.

The fact is, some freelancers are still earning a great living, and you can, too. But first, you’ll have to stop buying into the gloom and realize that what you earn is really up to you.

To help you take charge of your writing career, I put together a list of 100+ proactive things you can do right now to build your income:

  1. Tell your clients your rates are going up.
  2. Raise your rates for new clients.
  3. Raise your rates every year in the fall, to take effect the following year.
  4. Let your current clients and all your friends and former co-workers know that you’re looking for new clients and you’d appreciate their referrals.
  5. Grow your network.
  6. Write for more parts of your existing clients — does that publisher have other magazines? That company have other divisions?
  7. Have a writer website.
  8. Improve your writer website. Pro sites make a big difference in the rates you can command.
  9. Make it easier for people to contact you on your website. Kill that contact form, for instance.
  10. SEO your website. Get key phrases into your URL, headline, tagline, and copy.
  11. Solicit more testimonials from previous clients and add them to your site.
  12. Respond to full-time job ads you see and ask if they need a freelancer in the meanwhile.
  13. Read more widely so you can find more story ideas.
  14. Get a Book of Lists for your nearest major market, for a ready source of quality corporate leads.
  15. Get The Writers Market with online support, so you can research publications.
  16. Stop doubting yourself.
  17. Stop waiting.
  18. Stop worrying about what people think of you.
  19. Stop wondering where the shortcut is and start marketing your business.
  20. Stop writing for content mills.
  21. Stop buying into the revenue-share dream.
  22. Stop bidding on jobs where you’re competing with thousands of other writers. Opt out of the race to the bottom.
  23. Get a perspective on your writing obstacles. Then just make the time to write.
  24. Get out and meet live humans. People give you jobs, not computers.
  25. If you’re scared to go networking, bring a friend for support. Then, take it slow. The first time, just go and observe and smile a lot, and then go home. Next time, introduce yourself to one person.
  26. If there isn’t a good networking group in your area, start one and serve as the host. Great way to get known by a lot of people fast — because everyone thanks the host, don’t they?
  27. Create a “me” speech so you know what to say to people who ask what you do — after the part where you say “I’m a freelance writer” and then they say, “Really? What kind of writing do you do?” (Thanks to IJ Schecter for this one.)
  28. After you network, be sure to follow up and start building relationships with the prospects you meet.
  29. Send query letters.
  30. Send simultaneous queries, even when magazines’ guidelines say not to.
  31. Send more than one story idea in a single query letter. Ups your odds of success.
  32. Don’t wait to hear back on those query letters. Send more query letters immediately.
  33. If you don’t get results, learn more about how to write great queries.
  34. Do more research and find new markets. New online markets are emerging every day and new magazines are started.
  35. If you write for a print publication, see if they also assign articles separately for their website — and vice versa.
  36. If you only write for magazines, consider adding a few corporate clients to the mix. They tend to pay better and faster.
  37. Send customized prospecting emails.
  38. Make cold calls. Just grab the phone book, pick up the phone, call marketing directors and ask if they use freelance writers.
  39. Send direct mail postcards. Few writers do that, so you can really stand out.
  40. Drop your lowest-paying client, to make time to market and find better-paying clients.
  41. Get up earlier.
  42. Stay up later.
  43. Give up television.
  44. Get more exercise. You’ll be healthier and better able to focus and write.
  45. Take at least one full, 24-hour day completely offline each week.
  46. Take mini-breaks where you get up from your computer and walk around a bit.
  47. Take a class and learn a new writing specialty.
  48. Join a writer’s community and get support and feedback from peers.
  49. Stop reading Craigslist ads.
  50. Find job boards where the companies have to pay to post a listing.
  51. Find niche job boards for industries where you specialize.
  52. Get on LinkedIn.
  53. Stuff your LinkedIn bio with key words your prospects might search to find you.
  54. Find former editors on LinkedIn and reconnect. Let them know you’re freelancing.
  55. If your former editors are out of work, send them job leads. They’ll remember you when they get their next gig.
  56. Send InMails to people who’ve viewed your profile if they seem like prospects.
  57. Join LinkedIn writer groups — you can find jobs leads, support, and a sounding board.
  58. Get on Twitter and start figuring out how it works.
  59. Find editors and prospects on social media and pitch them.
  60. Do some sleuthing to find out if there are niche social-media platforms where your prospects hang out. Join them, too.
  61. Explore emerging social-media hangouts such as Google+ to see if they’re useful for finding clients.
  62. Write an ebook and sell it. Then, help clients do it.
  63. Send bills out more promptly. Often the payment clock ticks from the day they get your bill.
  64. Get cool business cards that say something about your unique writing skills. Bring them with you everywhere.
  65. Make a special offer on your business card, such as a free consult.
  66. Consider getting a t-shirt or magnetized car sign that advertises your writing.
  67. Experiment with Facebook or Google ads for your business.
  68. Whenever you’re out shopping or at a doctor’s office, look for customer magazines. Read, pitch them — you already know their products.
  69. Read all the company newsletters and magazines you get at home. Pitch them.
  70. Learn to write hard stuff — write about actuarial forecasting or software development. Find the niches where they can never get enough good writers.
  71. Learn to write sales copy. Helping clients make more money will always pay well, and there’s always a need.
  72. Learn about lucrative types of writing such as white papers and special reports.
  73. Put on free classes for your prospects, either online or in person.
  74. Create a free, informational report to give your prospects with writing or marketing tips. End with your contact info or a special offer.
  75. Create a newsletter your prospects can subscribe to, in order to stay in touch.
  76. Donate your writing services to a charity auction — you’ll meet a prospect, and get some good PR.
  77. If you need more clips, find somewhere legit to volunteer. I once wrote for my regional library system’s newsletter, for instance.
  78. Collaborate with designers and other related-industry professionals. Refer each other business.
  79. Cut your expenses. Then, you’ll feel less pressure to take low-pay gigs and have more marketing time.
  80. Know and take advantage of every home-business tax break. Keeping more of your money has the exact same effect as earning more.
  81. Consider using a co-working space for the networking and synergy with other business owners working there.
  82. Track prospect nibbles that haven’t panned out yet, and keep following up. Send them articles of interest — anything to keep the connection.
  83. Have a marketing plan.
  84. Analyze your current client base, and how you got each client. Which marketing methods paid off? Do more of that.
  85. Analyze your daily activities, and eliminate things you do that aren’t resulting in income.
  86. Query better-paying magazines.
  87. Pitch bigger companies.
  88. Join professional writer organizations and volunteer. Great way to get known and referred.
  89. Get listed in online resource guides of service providers and professional associations in your target industries. Often, it’s free.
  90. Ask for the gig.
  91. If the job gets bigger, ask for more money.
  92. Don’t work without a contract.
  93. Be sure your contract defines your payment terms — when you will be paid.
  94. Make initial commercial writing contracts for only 60-90 days — then negotiate a better rate when it expires, based on your growing knowledge of the client’s business.
  95. If you’ve only sold first rights, resell your articles.
  96. Recycle unused parts of interviews you’ve done into new stories.
  97. Write more than one article off the same set of research, for noncompeting markets.
  98. Ask interview sources what else is going on in their industry. Leave with another story idea.
  99. Don’t overreport. You’re not going to be able to fit eight sources into a 500-word article.
  100. Learn to write to length. Less rewriting means time saved, and more income potential in the year.
  101. Every time you turn in an article, be ready to pitch another story idea.
  102. Land government contracts. Get qualified to bid directly or save the paperwork and connect with agencies that are bidding contracts — often, these are big projects at decent rates.
  103. Look for ongoing projects. Even regular blogging gigs can add up to big revenue, and let you start each month with some pre-booked revenue.
  104. Offer new clients that have the potential for ongoing work a one-time discount on a small, first project. Get that client in the door, make them love you, and line up a steady source of revenue.
  105. Enter free or low-cost writing contests — it gets your work in front of editors who might hire you.
  106. Write at your most productive and creative time of day.
  107. Do the writing-biz task you’re in the mood for now, instead of the one that’s “top priority.” You’ll be more efficient.
  108. Write blog posts in batches.
  109. Plan out blog posts with a scheduling tool such as WordPress Editorial Calendar.
  110. Put a “hire me” tab on your blog, so people know you want gigs.
  111. Remember your blog is a writing sample. Have a clean design, show you understand social media, and write every post like it’s a $1-a-word magazine assignment.
  112. Keep idea lists, so you always have more ideas to pitch if an editor asks.
  113. Outsource time-consuming tasks that rob you of productive writing time.

(Yes, there are a few affiliate links in there, for products I have used and highly recommend.)

What have you done to grow your freelance writing income lately? Leave a comment and tell us your tip.

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