7 Ways Freelance Writers Can Find Better Pay – Right Now

Are you wondering where the good-paying freelance writing jobs are hiding?

I’ve written on how to earn more and move up quite a bit. But clearly, it’s not enough. Writers need more information on where the good-paying jobs are.

After my dissection of Demand Studios’ IPO filing, one DS writer on another chat site asked me to stop criticizing DS’s business model and instead, “Lead the people to high paying, lucrative writing assignments. I couldn’t find them.”

So today, I’m going to tell you how to find better-paying clients this very month.

It will require radical action on your part. But if you do it, you are highly likely to change your situation and start earning a better hourly rate.

First, think about where have you been looking for writing work — on online job boards? On bidding sites? On content-mill dashboards? On some combination of these three? (Or, substitute whatever it is you’ve been doing to find writing gigs that hasn’t translated to earning well.)

OK. Here is the experiment to try: Don’t look for work in any of those places.

For a whole month, don’t ever go on those sites, for a single minute.

I can hear you freaking out from here. What will I do? I won’t have any money!

And maybe for one month, you won’t. (If you don’t have one month’s reserves to use in advancing your writing career, read this.) But if you want to put more money in the bank between now and the end of the year, it’s time to change how you look for clients.

At the risk of stating the obvious, if you keep doing what you’ve been doing to market your writing business, you will probably keep getting the same result.

Try something else. Try new, more active ways of marketing your writing. Go where fewer writers are looking.

Look for clients who are not interested in paying the least they can. Instead, they’re interested in getting writing work done that’s amazing.

How can you find these clients? Here are seven proven ways to consider for finding good-paying writing work:

1. SEO your writer Web site. I recently had a Fortune 500 company hire me at $2 a word after finding me through a Google search for “Seattle freelance writer.” (Go ahead, do that and see what happens. I’ll wait. Interesting, huh?) More and more major companies are simply letting their fingers do the Web searching when they need a local writer. Learn more about how to get found online here.

2. Pick up the phone. Make a list of companies in your city that you know are doing well, take a look at their existing marketing materials, come up with an idea for a marketing piece they could use in addition to those (white papers? a brochure? case studies? a blog?), and just call them. Ask for the owner at a smaller company, the marketing manager at a larger one. Introduce yourself, and ask if they use freelance writers. Everyone I know who does this says that somewhere in 20-30 calls, they get at least one client, at professional rates.

3. Meet live humans. Leave your desk and go to networking events. Go to one daily if you can find that many. Meet many people and describe the type of writing work you are looking for. Making in-person connections is a powerful way to find good clients. I’ve rarely attended a networking event without coming away with at least one good new job lead.

4. Find high-exposure writing opportunities. Get your work onto the highest-traffic, most popular, well-regarded sites you can, even if it’s for free. I get a lot of clients who call me after reading high-visibility articles and blogs I’ve written previously. Write quality, and you can find yourself on the front page of big Web sites. When that happens, prospects will call.

5. Query. I know — it’s so old school! But you know what? Query letters get writers really good-paying assignments in both on- and offline publications. I’ve gotten $6,000 in assignments off a single query. Study your targets, and send them story ideas that are perfect for their audience. If you’re not getting results, learn more about how to write great queries.

6. Build your online networks. OK, here’s one thing you can do online — use your social networks to actively put the word out about the kind of clients you’re seeking. Make new connections and chat them up about what they do and who they know. Find every editor you have ever worked with and learn what they’re doing now. Search on LinkedIn for publishers and companies you want to target. Contact them through LI with InMail, through connections, or just by giving them a call. DM people on Twitter. I’ve met two new editors on there recently that have given me assignments.

Just as I was writing this, I got a friendly message on LI from a Seattle writer-friend — he said he’d had a project fall through and was looking for fill-in work, had I heard about any jobs that I didn’t want? Nothing pushy, just a shout-out that listed his expertise areas. I don’t know of anything this instant, but I thought he was so smart to proactively put that out there. I’m fully booked, so I might well hear of something I’d pass on and could refer him. Bet he gets a gig through that great outreach!

7. Write and market your own products. I’m prepping an e-book for sale, and most smart writers I know are doing the same. If you hate pitching editors, spend your free time creating products that could be an ongoing source of passive income for you.

If you aren’t earning well, maybe it’s time to break out of your old habits. Reach out in new ways. Change your marketing strategy. Find what works for you and brings you the writing work you really want, the kind that pays a real, living wage.

Try it, and maybe a month from now, you’ll find you don’t need to go back to your old prospecting habits, because you have better-paying work.

What forms of marketing are finding you good-paying writing jobs? Leave a comment and let us know.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection. About 50 of my WM posts, 35 more posts from my old CarolTice.com blog, and much of what’s appeared over the years on Make a Living Writing are all available organized by topic in the Freelance Writers Den. Learn more:

Photo via Flickr user AMagill

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25 comments on “7 Ways Freelance Writers Can Find Better Pay – Right Now
  1. LA Reddon says:

    Great ideas, Carol! Here are a few more things you can do online.

    Twitter – Search “copywriters” and see who’s hiring. Search “recruiters” and see what kind of talent they’re seeking for their clients.

    LinkedIn – Ditto for recruiters and job postings here. I discovered that Toronto (my nearest metro) is especially short of web copywriters plus freelancers of all types to cover off summer vacations. It’s Christmas in Retail Land, so there can be lots of catalogue, flyer, POP and seasonal work for major chains. Also, there’s a HUGE demand for French copywriters as opposed to translators and proofreaders.

    MediaBistro.com – this is an online job site of sorts but the people who shop here expect to pay for talent. I recently got a 1-yr premium membership for only $55 and within a week, I’d landed a fascinating job at a great rate with potential for more work.

    Happy (freelance) Independence Day weekend! (Canada Day, too…)

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi L.A. —

      Thanks for sharing those additional tips! I definitely should have added to check the tweetstream for jobs. I’ve actually created a list of Twitter writer-job posters you can follow.

      I LOVE trolling LI for the full-time jobs and then asking if they also use freelancers. To me a job opening in most publications means a crisis behind the scenes…and additional freelance budget for now. Their job listings are QUALITY — companies PAY to put those on there, so it really screens out the flakes and gives you a great listing of interesting prospects. I got a nice client last year that way.

      Love hearing how you use your bilingual skills to earn more.

      Also happy to hear that paid level of MediaBistro paid off for you…I haven’t heard a lot of success stories in that area before, so I always wonder if that’s worth it. I know you get their pitch guides, but I’ve heard they can be sort of dated.

      • Lisa C. says:

        Wonderful tips…as usual, Carol!

        My best-paying client found me on LinkedIn. He had just moved to St. Petersburg and didn’t know local editors. He contacted me out of the blue. Not long after I started working for him, he suggested raising my pay by $5 an hour.

        And don’t forget to pay it forward. When this client had too much work for me, I referred him to a friend of mine who transcribes cases in family court. Not only that, but she worked with me for several years and I knew I could rely on her to meet deadlines. Boom! He is sending her work when I’m overloaded.
        Lisa C. recently posted..Do left-handers and women with large breasts have greater cancer risk?

        • Carol Tice says:

          Hi Lisa —

          I too have gotten some very good gigs through my LinkedIn profile. Stuff it with relevant terms, all!

          It feels great to be able to send other writers good gigs, doesn’t it? I’ve been lucky enough to be in that position quite a few times in the past few years, and I love it when I’m able to refer writer friends and mentees to gigs.

          Another option is to submit the overflow need to the LinkedIn group Writeful Share…set up just for that.

  2. vonnie says:

    Hey Carol,

    So glad you do these informative reposts. I swear whenever I’m procrastinating about the job search, you have an inspiring post that invigorates me!

    Question: I was getting ready to send some emails to sites I’d like to write for, but then realized that we’re coming up on a holiday weekend. Should I wait until after July 4th so my emails won’t get lost in the shuffle?

    Thanks.
    V
    vonnie recently posted..5 Articles to read before signing your first writing contract

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Vonnie —

      It’s an interesting question…we actually had a big discussion about this issue back in December here.

      Linda Formichelli of Renegade Writer (who’s also my awesome Blast-Off group coaching partner), who’s been in about 100 publications, says you send queries when they’re ready. Don’t get into the game of wondering if it’s a “good time” for the editor.

      Some editors take their laptops on vacation and catch up on email…some won’t look until Tuesday. I tend to get a complex about these things, but I think Linda is right…just keep sending.

  3. Kymlee says:

    Carol,

    You’re so right about avoiding the job boards. Trolling job boards left me frustrated and after six months, I gave up. There are so many people competing for those jobs that its easy to get overlooked ever with extensive experience and superb samples. I think the tip that worked for me the most was to reach out to my network. In fact, none of my current assignments are a result of applying to job board ads, but rather reaching out to my network. I recently launched a new guide on About.com, a result of going back over and over, looking at their available topics and then applying for a topic I could write on with expertise. It required a lot of work up-front, but its a long-term gig with high exposure possibilities (as tip 4 suggests), so I’m excited.

    Thanks again for the great tips and the affirmation that I’m on the right track.
    Kymlee recently posted..Of Mourning, Lost Time and Last Words

  4. Many of my writing gigs I got through my family. I told everyone in my family what I do and what client I’m looking for. Then, as they go a about their day, they ended up meeting people who needed my service and recommended me.
    Brandon Yanofsky recently posted..Why Jews Make Great Business Bloggers & What You Can Learn

    • Carol Tice says:

      Brandon OMG that linked post is HILARIOUS…hope no one’s offended but if you ARE Jewish like us it’s soooo funny…but I can’t get your RT to work! Shareaholic not liking me this morning. But it’s good enough to go over to Bitly. Thanks for a needed laugh!

  5. Carol,

    I think you might have mind-reading abilities.

    I spent all day yesterday querying jobs I found listed on online job boards. I know it’s not your recommended method, but I did manage to find a fun magazine writing assignment a couple of months ago that help me land my magazine debut. And the pay wasn’t bad—considering I’m used to writing for Demand. (Which I am writing for to get the bills paid, while looking for something better.)

    So yesterday, I had a mini-freak out…worrying that my query letters were horrid and I need more experience in this and more experience in that. Okay, so it wasn’t really a bad freak-out—but a session of self-evaluation. I know what I need to work on and I started making a list of what I need to work on—now I need to get to work.

    This post could not have come at any better time for me. I am so tired of writing for DMS—getting $5 or less per hour, once I take the time to research and write a great piece. Then thanks to DMS having too many cooks in the kitchen—editors, that is—things are constantly getting changed that either doesn’t follow guidelines or removes pertinent information. I realize that every editor does this, but at DMS, you don’t get an explanation of what was changed and why (at least not all the time) and you unfortunately have to deal with editors that may not have any background info on the writing topic—which I assume doesn’t happen to often when you write for other clients. Either way, I’m done with DMS as soon as I don’t need them to pay my bills.

    I’m still reading over your post and all the links you included—and I’m hoping to have the extra cash to order Query Letters That Rock this week after bills and groceries and car repairs and…all that jazz.

    And now that I’ve ranted a little—let me just say: Thank. You. And know when I’m saying that, that I say it with so much gratitude. I love following your blog—you have so much to offer and I’m honored to be able to learn from someone as successful as you. I just can’t wait to get started in The Writer’s Den!

    Sorry about the length of this comment—just really inspired by this post. Let me ask one question before I quiet down for a bit:

    I live in a very rural area—with no major cities nearby. What should I do about optimizing my writer site when I build it? My closest cities are Lexington, Ky (2 hrs away) and Huntington, WV (1 hr away). I’m also close to the larger town of Ashland, Ky (40 min) and the small town of Grayson, KY (15 min). We’re planning a move closer to the Ashland area within the next couple of years—should I make myself an “Ashland Freelance Writer” or even though I’m not in Huntington—I’m rather close and could probably get more clients that way? What’s your opinion?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Sarah —

      Well, thanks for making my day.

      I gather you’re not the only one tired of writing for Demand. It seems like a big part of my gig here is helping people move up from there.

      Maybe you saw my post about Why Freelance Writer Job Ads All Pay Crap…good stuff to bear in mind.

      On the SEO issue…I might go with “Kentucky freelance writer” in your case. But the real answer is — DO THE RESEARCH on Google’s keyword tool.

      Compare a few searches on your local geography and see what people search for. We did this with my husband’s business-video site and it was very educational. We were thinking Seattle Web Video…but we learned NOBODY searched on that. They searched on http://www.seattledigitalvideo.com …so that’s what we took.

      Everybody skips the research, and then they end up with the wrong key words. I once had a freelance writer proudly tell me that she ranked at the top of a search for her name.

      I had to tell her that sadly, no one is searching for your name…they’re searching for something with “freelance writer” in it! Or copywriter or business writer, ghostwriter, or whatever’s relevant to your business.

      PS — once you pick a term you’re going to include in your tagline or URL or whatever…get to know the writers at the top of your search. I’m friends with all of the folks with the savvy to be on top of my search with me. They tend to be other smart writers who’re good to network with.

      • So, I’ve ran into a small hiccup. There was no competition results for any of the phrases I researched–including kentucky freelance writer. The only results I got when I did a regular google search was job board sites. I’ve decided to go with kentucky freelance writer though–and I’ve already claimed the url http://www.kentuckyfreelancewriter.com–per inspiration from boisefreelancewriter.com

        I hope to get the page up and running within the next week–even though it will be pretty basic for now. It’s better than not having one at all–like I did before reading this post yesterday.

        Thanks for the help.
        Sarah Porter-Pennington recently posted..Dealing with Client Criticism

        • I am completely with you on the DS thing. And I thought that WAS a good gig – and it is! BUT – when you spend time on an article that’s about the best way to detox or “how to lose 100 lbs eating fat-burning foods” – and then get edits back saying it needs to be specific to 100 lbs and then rejected – um – hello?! tell me where the research journals are for 100 lbs. specifically…ugh, anyways, sick of them. Now, i know why they are called “run of the mill”.

          Freelancing is NOT my full-time job. I could only wish. But my debt, student loans and bills say otherwise. So I can only write a couple articles a day maybe. If I knew I could have steady, great income – I’d love to pursue my dreams just to write.

          I’m stuck on a couple of things though – blogging (frustrating when I wonder if it’s wasted time to write up posts and comment on other’s sites – especially with the traffic the “real” bloggers get) – and also when doing the freelancing and blogging – I don’t have time to pursue my own writing desires (i.e novel, etc. that seems like a vast ridiculous dream anyways).

          Thoughts?

          (Great site by the way – glad I followed a link here from a blog!)
          Baking ‘n’ Books recently posted..Quick! Top 5

          • Carol Tice says:

            Hi Baking —

            Glad you found my blog!

            I always think it’s funny when people say their high overhead means they have to keep their day job rather than freelance. I make twice as much as a freelancer at this point as I did as a staffer, and am the sole support of a family of five living in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the U.S. (or so Money magazine keeps telling us :-)

            The starving writer thing is sort of a myth if you’re willing to market your business…which is why Peter Bowerman called his book The Well-Fed Writer (you can see more about how I learned to earn more from him on my Useful Books page).

            It’s hard to answer the blogging issue…but if you’re serious about learning how to earn off your blog I highly recommend A-List Blogger Club…I’ve belonged for nearly a year now and it’s really not an exaggeration to say it totally changed my life and helped me see how to earn from my blog in ways that felt comfortable to me and not sleazy. More on them under Products I Love.

            As far as ongoing support for a freelance writing career, check out my new community, Freelance Writers Den. Doors open in just a few weeks, and fewer than 200 slots remain before I close the doors for a while.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Sarah — I see some page 2 results on that search that have individual people.

          But the thing you wanted to look for is how many people do each of the searches, not just whether other freelance writers are on top of them.

          Looks like you’d need an Adwords account on there to see enough detail on the search differences in your key terms, but I think we can assume more people are searching for your state than for a small town. Sounds like you’re headed in the right direction…and certainly, I’m with you — any site is better than no site. We all start somewhere, and then we keep improving.

  6. Hi Carol, your seven proven ways to find better paying writing jobs is very revolutionary to me. Dwelling on it and knowing that you have proven these seven ways through your experience, there’s no reason that they won’t work for me. I will try it out and who knows my proving ground would yield additional ways. Thanks a lot. Your posts are helping me a lot.
    Jonan Castillon recently posted..Tags & Tag Cloud – Its Value to Online Writing and SEO

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Jonan — my pleasure!

      This is actually a post I did a while back when I was in my crazy yearlong guest stint posting weekly on WM Freelance Writers Connection. Seems like these basics are still useful to folks.

      Just a little taste of what I’ll have in the Den.

      The thing about blog posts, I’ve learned, is they disappear down the blogroll and get hard to find. That’s why I can’t wait to have the Den up — all this material will be organized by themes, so if you want to learn about marketing, or breaking in…boom! You can go to a whole set of courseware that’s all about that topic.

  7. Joseph says:

    Hello again, Carol. I appreciate your take on marketing for writers, probably because I’m more of a marketer than a writer. It’s easy to think that you need to get all of your business online, but that’s not true. There’s a business park across from my apartment complex, and I’m convinced that if I knocked on every door I’d get more business than I would sitting in front of my computer for a week. Maybe I’ll do it soon. If I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Driving the business park is a strategy I had one writer share with me a while back. It’s really a GREAT idea — these are the low-glamour businesses that don’t have a storefront…and they don’t get hit as much. Write down their names, go home and look at their websites…see what they’re missing…and make your pitch.

  8. Pinar Tarhan says:

    Well, I am kind of allergic to making phone calls, especially if it is cold-calling.
    So I really love it when guidelines shout “No Calls Please!” :)

    And I know I need to find some time to better-seo my writer’s website (it is optimized, but I need to add a few more touches to customize it), and I do numbers 3-6 on a regular basis. After I reach a certain number (of published articles), and a target level of audience, I might consider 7:)

    P.S. I loved Susan Johnston’s book from your bookshelf.
    Pinar Tarhan recently posted..9 Awesome (Free & Paid) Places to Find Market Guidelines

  9. Rosanna says:

    Hi Carol,

    I know you from A list blogging, where I am a newbie. I am sure your comments in this blog post reflect your experiences. My purpose in writing this comment is to present to you the reality that not all freelance writers have the luxury of time as you obviously have – some have to juggle a career with free lance writing. Also, there are some off-beat writers like me who freelance for the love of it. I won’t go to details. anyway, your blog post inspired me to blog about my feelings about my own freelancing career. If it’s of any interest to you:

    http://melismaticwriting.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/writing-anew/

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