3 Reasons Why Writers Don’t Earn More

By Carol Tice

Gripes about pay are an epidemic these days in the writing world. But there’s still a lot of good-paying assignments out there. So why aren’t you making more money? In my experience mentoring writers, there are three main reasons:

#1. You’re not marketing. When I talk to writers who’re stuck making $10,000 or $20,000 a year, I usually begin by asking them about their marketing. Are they not getting responses to their queries? Feel they don’t do well at in-person networking? Need help with their cold-calling skills?

The answers are always the same. It isn’t that they need help improving how they do these things – they simply aren’t querying, aren’t networking, and aren’t cold-calling. To sum up, they’re not marketing their business, aside from perhaps shooting the occasional resume to an online job ad.

You’ve got to constantly be looking for new and better clients to keep your slate full. This is also how you raise rates – you find better-paying clients, and then one day you look at your roster and realize you’re so busy you can drop the lowest-paying account. If you’re actively prospecting, you get more new clients and can drop low payers faster, leading to higher average pay. If you’re writing for $15 an article, it’s because you’re not taking the time to market your business and find better-paying markets.

#2. You’re getting assignments instead of building relationships. New writers often get so excited about having an assignment that they forget — every assignment should be, like they say at the end of Casablanca, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You should link in social media to that editor so that you never lose track of them, even if they change jobs.

When you turn in your story, don’t let the relationship momentum die. You should be ready with two or three additional story ideas. If you don’t have ideas, at least ask the editor what their needs are coming up. Instead of a one-off, try to turn each relationship into a steady gig.

#3. You’re not reselling. One great way to maximize your earnings is to take each story idea you have and sell it multiple places. Personally, I’ve recycled story ideas so much this year I’m dizzy. I’ll write about a business topic for a Canadian conglomerate, then a U.S. magazine, then a corporate Web site. Reselling accelerates earnings because you leverage the research and expert interviews you did once across many paychecks, making you more efficient. You can interview one source and sell the story to their university magazine, a business magazine, a local newspaper…and so on. You fit more articles into each year more easily, you bill more, you make more.

What’s it all boil down to? Be willing to go out and actively look for better-paying clients, and do your writing assignments more efficiently. Do that, and your income is bound to rise.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.

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