3 Simple Ways to Find Better-Paying Freelance Writing Jobs

Surprised freelance writer earning great money onlineDo you feel like it’s a pipe dream to make a living as a freelance writer?

I hear a lot of comments like this from writers who are about ready to give up on their writing dreams.

They write me to say:

“It just seems like there aren’t any good-paying freelance writing jobs anymore.”

Have to say, I disagree. But whether you think freelance writing is a land of unlimited opportunity or a field no one can earn a living at seems to depend on your personal experience.

Just this past week, I referred a $150-a-post finance blogging gig to my Freelance Writers Den Junk-Free Job Board. And heard from a writer who’s found daily papers that still pay $1 a word. Another writer let me know she dropped a $30-a-post client and replaced them with one that pays $175.

My experience is that if you have the mindset that lucrative writing jobs are out there and you’re not going to stop until you find them, you can end up earning a nice living.

If you buy into the negativity that all articles are now worth $10, you won’t earn more. So ditch your pre-conceptions for starters.

Now, you’re ready to look for better pay.

What can you do to locate the better writing gigs? Here are three tips:

1. Swim in a smaller pool

Are you looking at mass job boards such as Craigslist, just like 10,000 other writers? Stop.

Instead, find niche job boards that fewer writers see, with jobs not all writers could do. For instance, I found some great business-finance gigs with Gorkana alerts. This marketing consultancy also puts out healthcare and media writing job alerts, too.

These more exclusive job listings can take a little sleuthing to turn up — they might lurk on a professional association website, or run on the back page of an industry trade publication. But it will be worth the effort, as the quality of the jobs offered will often be worlds removed from what you see on Craigslist. I got a gig writing for a major TV network’s website through a niche board.

2. Ask around

Get on a local writer listserv or go to local writer networking events. For instance, I’ve attended local Media Bistro live events in my town, and belong to a Seattle listserv, Women in Digital Journalism, that’s a gold mine of info about markets in my town. (These are also great places to get referral business, too.)

Especially for local markets, other writers in your town are the best sources to get the real dirt. Who takes six months to pay you? Who pays $1 a word?

Who’s growing, and who’s about to fold? Other local writers can be a great source and save you a lot of time. So find your local equivalent of these types of networking groups, whether virtual or in-person.

3. Think bigger

Instead of guessing who might be able to pay a decent rate, do some research to identify prospective markets that are likely to pay well. Remember, most writer jobs are never advertised — the business owner or editor is too swamped to wade through resumes or to even write an ad!

Many good gigs happen when you tap into the huge pool of hidden demand for writers.

How can you tell if a market can pay well? Your clue is that the organization has money.

Many startup online job sites have little or no revenue. To earn more, you need to move beyond these shaky operations to find more established, successful markets.

If you write for publications, get The Writer’s Market with online support, dial their search engine up to five dollar signs (the highest pay rate), and see what comes up. Make that your pitch pool, instead of whatever magazines you happen to see on your local newsstand.

You’ll find national publications with big circulations tend to pay better. Also good are niche publications that have a well-heeled readership (CEOs, doctors, lawyers, etc.)

If you write for businesses, research revenue and target bigger companies. Move up from whatever you’ve been focused on — if it’s been solopreneurs, find companies with a few employees. If it’s been $1 million businesses with one store or office, try $10 million ones with multiple locales.

The best pay is usually with companies with $10 million or more of revenue. My best client ever in terms of hourly rate was a $1 billion privately held consulting firm. It’s a myth that the Fortune 500 don’t hire freelancers — I’ve written freelance for several of them, so I can tell you they do.

I like to look for companies that sell a physical product or valuable service that they deliver in the three-dimensional, real world. Steer clear of websites whose only revenue is online ads and the only “products” are your articles. That model isn’t succeeding for most of the businesses that try it.

Also look for longevity. If they’ve been around five years or more, they’re likely profitable, and serious about marketing. And that means opportunity for you, at professional rates.

How did you find your best-paying freelance writing job? Leave a comment and tell us.

 

  1. Carol

    I suspect a lot of nascent writers don’t have the self-belief to approach the larger better-paying prospects – much like me when I first started.

    But unless they do, they’re never going to get out of first gear and will probably never make it full stop.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted..Why reading books sucks if YOU want killer copywriting gigs

    • Yes Kevin,

      This is very true. When I was in my early days of freelance writing back in 2005, I never even thought of approaching someone directly. I started with writing for revenue sharing websites after then shifted to content mills and maintaining my own blogs on blogspot.

      Then one day someone approached my through my blog and that day was a milestone in my freelance writing career.

      Actually most of the writers don’t know anything about whom and how to approach for High Paying writing jobs?

      Most of the nascent and even experienced writers bare perception that it is through content mills, bidding sites and some job boards that they can get the content writing jobs and to be very true we all know what compensation do they offer through these sources.

  2. I went to my local small-beat newspaper as a student looking for some practical experience to put on my resume for the harsh post-grad job market. They liked that I was local, and because they were small, I got to write 90% of the articles for their special publications that year and had my name on about four feature articles, all before I finished college. It’s a real shame that I didn’t have the confidence to leverage that experience more when it came time to look for a full-time job. Instead I had a confidence crisis right at graduation and left writing altogether, and it’s taken me years to work my way back to it, moving from admin to PR to editing. I don’t even think I know where those old print clips are any more. It’s really quite sad, looking back.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Here’s my tip: FIND THEM.

      Newspapers have morgues. They keep at least one issue of every paper they put out. Because they’re part of the historical record. And because they make money on reprints! And they could give you one. ;-)

      If the newspaper gets bought out or merged with a competitor, the new combined paper…still likely has the morgue of the old one.

      And there’s no such thing as clips that are too old. They show you can write it.

      • That’s the plan! They have a big shelf of all their old papers bound in leather in their news room. I might have to drop in and ask if I can have a look. First I’m seeing if my original copies are buried in the basement at my mom’s though! :-)

        Thanks for another great post, Carol! I wish your blog had been around ten years ago. It may have stopped me before I derailed.

  3. Willi Morris says:

    Yay! Playing bigger. Love it, Carol! I linked to how I accidentally fell into my local writing gig, but the tips on networking with local writers was really key for me.
    Willi Morris recently posted..How to Begin Your Freelance Life: My Story – Part 1

    • Yes Willi,

      Playing big is the only strategy that proves game changer at the end. At first I would like to congratulate you as you are celebrating the completion of 1st year of business on 12th SEP. Now the big deal in our freelance writing business is networking with other writers in our fraternity. Most of the nascent writers bears a perception that why do other writer would like to help them with prospective client leads? But I would like to say that this is completely wrong perception.

      Yes, it is not that that perception is absolutely wrong, there are lots of writers out there who are generally working for content mills and low paying clients who are never willing to help others about the earning source leads as they are earning very low and bear a fear in their mind that sharing information would increase competition and decrease in earning.

      But if you are targeting to do networking with successful writer’s league then the scenario is completely 180 degree opposite. Here everyone is very much co-operative in helping each other because everyone knows the benefits of networking. Most of the writers are swamped with orders and they are often overloaded and would like to share their work pressure with their peers. Hence there is very friendly exchange of client’s information.

      So, playing big and hitting proper networking is the only answer to become successful and get High Paying Freelance Writing Clients.

  4. Hey Carol,

    Great advice, I just got the 2014 Writer’s Market and it’s an incredible resource. Thanks for the details on researching and contacting bigger companies. I”m definitely putting that advice into practice.

    So far, my best leads have come through my LinkedIn profile. I recently got my first finance client who contacted me through LinkedIn and then reviewed my web site.
    Heather Georgoudiou recently posted..The Good Life and Hard Times of Embracing Your Creativity: A Lesson from Nina Simone

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Heather — Enjoy the Writer’s Market! I’m still freaking out about being on the cover for the second time…I was sure he’d never feature me again after last time. It’s surreal when I’m in a bookstore and pass by it. ;-)

      And…I have gotten so many great leads with that 1-2 punch of LinkedIn profile and writer website. Glad to hear it’s working for you too!

  5. Daryl says:

    Great advice Carol!

    I hear that a lot.

    “There aren’t any decent paying clients”
    “The going rate is 1 cent per word”
    “Freelance work is drying up”

    These people are obviously just looking in the wrong places for work!
    In particular, they aren’t pitching anyone for work, but just sitting back and just applying for jobs that they find on overpopulated job boards and bid sites.

    Definitely, you have to think bigger to get better paying clients.

    I’m still relatively new, but currently my best paying client came through a comment I made on another blog, who then clicked through to my site and liked what he saw!
    Daryl recently posted..7 Reasons Why Writers Shouldn’t Rely on Popular Revenue Sharing Sites

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think it’s unappreciated what a thoughtful blog comment can do, Daryl. You know Jon Morrow got his Copyblogger editor job that way.

      One of THE most common comments I get is, “There is no career in this, because I keep applying to online job ads and not getting the gig.”

      So many writers think if it’s not on Craigslist or Elance, it doesn’t exist!

      But they are just the underworld of freelance writing. You’re always free to climb up to the surface and rejoin the normal world of freelancing, which was around before the Internet and is still around today. That’s the world where writers pitch clients proactively with their marketing, find pent-up unfilled need for writers, and get great-paying gigs.

      Most writers don’t seem willing to make that climb, as it involves a lot more effort than simply throwing a resume into a job ad email.

      But you do reap what you sow in freelance writing.

    • Yes Daryl,

      Valuable comments are one of the best ways to draw potential client’s attention. And since you have already been benefited from this who knows this better than you.

      And those who are really not expecting any future in this freelance writing domain they are definitely reaching to the same job board where thousands of writers are always in a queue for few job advertisement published there. So, the advertisers are always swamped with job appeals and writers are always in a queue and the obvious result is no job or low paying job.

      Swim in the smaller pool as mentioned by Carol is this post and few other strategies as comment posting, social networking etc will definitely help you reaching your goal.

  6. Karen Finn says:

    Hi Carol, Thanks for this encouraging post. My best clients have also come to me via LinkedIn, so it definitely pays to have your profile as up-to-date and complete as possible. One client found me because we both used to work for the same company, even though we’d never met: I’m based in the UK and she’s in India! She did a search of ex-employees of our mutual ex-employer and found me. She’d already decided she wanted me for the job because of that connection, and she was willing to pay over her budget to make sure she got me. Other top clients have come from word-of-mouth referrals. So yes, I agree that there are plenty of great paying gigs out there. Thank you again for giving me the confidence to ask for a decent rate. One of my mid-paying clients has just become a top-paying client because I finally mustered up the courage (thanks to you!) to ask for a 50% raise in my hourly rate. And guess what? She didn’t even bat an eyelid.
    Karen Finn recently posted..Talk of relaxing UK Bribery Act as GSK denies China corruption accusations

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow, that’s a hefty raise! And a sign that you are underpricing yourself. ;-)

      Love hearing about the LinkedIn wins! When writers tell me they haven’t bothered with it, I just think it’s sad. Because LI is the phone book of the 21st century for all freelancers and consultants who want to get hired. Why would you not be in it? You can get pretty far with it on the free level, why not do it? And look at the success stories just in these comments from people with a profile.

    • Yes Karen,

      LinkedIn is really a place for professionals, where it becomes really easy to search like minded people and networking with them and asking them for any job requirement and tap your luck on some of the High Paying players of the industry. And once you are into the league of high paying client, the rest works with words of mouth.

      This is one of the best strategies adopted by most of professional writers.

  7. Erika says:

    I agree – the good paying clients are out there! I consider myself “successful,” and I am pretty sure (although it’s embarrassing to admit) I have NEVER gotten a writing job from answering an ad.

    My best clients are from (1) networking with past clients and colleagues (2) people finding my website through a Google search.
    Erika recently posted..It’s not all about you…

    • Carol Tice says:

      I actually have gotten clients through job ads…and when I analyzed them, I saw they were never top-caliber in terms of pay or how enjoyable they were to work with either. And that’s when I stopped answering online job ads!

  8. Halona Black says:

    Carol, this is such a great confidence booster! I’ve been a freelance writer since May of this year and have been lucky to do it full time. I’ve been working with smaller companies and trying to bulk up my writing samples so that I can approach the multi-million dollar companies. I was starting to get burned out because it is too much time and effort for very little money. It just dawned on me during the last few weeks that if I could attract larger clients and make more money, I wouldn’t have to scramble to do $25 SEO articles AND constantly market to find new clients. So, Carol, your advice gives me renewed energy. Thanks!
    Halona Black recently posted..Why Your Healthy Brand Needs a Blog

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sounds like you’ve done the math, Halona! Bigger really is better when it comes to freelance clients. ;-)

    • Hi Halona,

      I have started my freelance writing career same way like many others who start working for low paying clients but gradually developed strategies that helped me bagging High Paying Clients. The most important thing is that at first you need to believe that there are really lots and lots of clients are there who are really looking for quality content and ready to pay handsome for that. The only thing is that you need to develop your strategies so that it is not you who keep looking here and there for the clients, instead develop your strategy in such a way that the clients attention will get drawn towards you.

  9. Yes Carol, you are right. The real freelance writing business starts with your own confidence in delivering the best content and the belief that there are lots of clients out there who are absolutely ready to pay what you deserve.

    Most new comers in this field lack this approach. I never mind admitting that when I was new in this field, even I have done the same mistake and started my writing career writing for some content mills but soon realize that it will take me no where and will soon destroy my creative writer inside me.

    Hence, I took risk and start browsing for real clients. And the best result starts coming when I hit the market who are selling real physical products as you have mentioned in your blog.

    Today I am successful as a freelance writer and have many High Paying Freelance Writing Clients.

    Even I have wrote an eBook – “How To Get High Paying Freelance Writing Clients?”. The eBook is based on my experience, my mistakes and strategies that can help the writers to get high paying projects. The eBook link is available on my blog.

    So, the basic thing that any writer should understand that writing for content mills or low paying projects will do no good to them and they are doing nothing but spoiling the market and creating more hurdles to overcome for themselves and others too.
    Amit | Digital Creative Network recently posted..Social Media – How Uncontrolled Use Can Ruin Your Freelancing Career

  10. Aimee Kunau says:

    I love this post! This resonates so loudly with me and what I’ve been thinking about client acquisition. It isn’t about the reactive way to get clients – answering ads, content mill work, etc. It’s about being strategically proactive: “What companies do I want to work with and how? Where do I find them?” Formulating a plan of income level desired, niche or specialty, and ideal client profiles help to formulate a winning gameplan. Not saying I’ve never answered a freelance ad, but to really reach that next level, you have to step out in confidence and faith and leave your comfort zone. I also think consistency in prospecting is key – spending time filling the pipeline with potential clients and referral sources. Success isn’t so much a destination, but a habit.

    • Yes Aimme, that’s very true. Success isn’t reaching the destination, it is a habit, it is the journey. Most of the nascent writers, even those who has already spent several years never dare to stretch their comfort zone and they just keep replying those low paying job ads, keep bidding low and competing with other writers to grab any client and that’s ridiculous. This not only spoils the content writing market but the output is flooding the internet with poor content.

      I am not trying to say that every one working for low paying gigs churns out non-sense but after all when it comes to pay their bills they start picking more project than their capacity and this definitely reflects with the deterioration of content quality. In the war between quantity and quality, quality often face defeat.

      I think, these writers should first start believing that bidding sites and low paying writing job boards are not only the source of freelance writing jobs. They should believe that there are high paying clients available who are desperately seeking quality writers and then only the situation will get change and that will also encourage more and more clients to make decent payments and we all will enjoy better working experience here.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m not saying I haven’t answered online ads either, Aimee! I’ve been there. But what you say is all true — you need to be proactive, have goals, reach out, make it happen.

  11. I had joined a local writers’ group and during one meeting, a man came in, waving a newspaper, announcing, “These people are hiring writes,” and I wasted no time contacting the publisher. It wasn’t my best paying gig, but 11 years later, I am still a regular writer for the same publisher and that kind of residual income is good.
    Mary Brotherton recently posted..A HANC Bucket List

    • Hi Mary,

      Though it is always a good strategy to keep a backup client who offers regular job but if you think that the job does not offers the actual amount that you deserve then my opinion is that you should re-think again.

      I am not saying that you should leave that client, but you have to believe that there is really High Paying Freelance Writing Clients are there who are ready to pay that you deserve. The all you need is to be confident enough to deliver them the quality they are looking for. And for that the very first thing that you have to learn is to chalk out a strategy of how to find those high paying clients.

      Please note that most of the High Paying Freelance Writing Jobs are never advertised. At least I have never seen such jobs in any advertisement. The reason being simple. Whenever any job is advertised anywhere, there are lots and lots of applicants started shooting mails to the advertiser for hiring them. So, the advertiser get swamped and under such condition it does not makes any sense that he would ever think to pay what you deserve, rather he would always like to offer peanuts and will try to reap the benefits.

      But believe me there is no dearth of High Paying Clients. Even the league of High Paying clients is growing bigger as the days passing by.

      The all you need is to know how to reach them rather how to draw their attention towards you. It is always better to attract someone towards you instead of reaching them.

      If you need any help in this regard, don’t hesitate to contact me. I just love to share my experience with everyone.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hey, sometimes those lower-paid easy gigs that you know like the back of your hand can really fill in the gaps in your schedule. I had one that paid $300 or so for feature articles, which for me was quite low, but the stories were fairly easy to do and hit the front page of Yahoo a lot, so there was really massive exposure. Kept it for a couple years just for that.

      There are always considerations beyond pay, like exposure and what you need to add to your portfolio to steer your career the direction you want. I know a lot of writers who’d kill to have print newspaper clips like that!

  12. Linda H says:

    This is a great post filled with great information. I’ve heard a lot of writers say there’s no money in freelancing, and I seldom get much support when I tell people I’m a freelancer. They tell me to get a “real job” because there’s no money in it. I love this post because you’re right, Carol, there is money in it if you find the hidden markets that pay.

    And having a great LinkedIn profile is a great key to getting there. Since updating mine I’ve been approached by four companies needing freelance writers. Two were low-paying, but two are proving to be good resources. It’s exciting. Ironically I know of one lead service who charges, but every ad is from a Craigslist somewhere in the states. Normal listed pay is $10-$15/article and some are excited to offer $50 for a 500-word blog. I made $150 for a 500-word blog and considered that low.

    These are great tips, Carol. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Linda,

      I liked your confidence. Despite of no one supporting your cause, you are still believing that “Yes You Can” and that is the very first thing that is required when you are in Freelance Business.

      Yes, there is no dearth of money in this content writing business, in fact I would like to say that online content writing is in it’s nascent state till now. With the new online trends the demand for content writers will be going to increase even more and those who are in this field right now will reap more benefit due to their experience. Still there are only handful of countries that are using their services online and are in need of content writers to promote themselves online but days are coming when under developed countries are joining the race and they are preparing themselves to compete the existing global market to make their own space.

      So, just hold the steering and keep pressing the accelerator gradually and someday your Freelance writing business will be on speed track with Full Throttle open.

      And one more thing, updating own LinkedIn profile is not enough, just try to network with more, even more and check out whom your networking peers are working for. Check out those company profiles and approach them.

      Best of Luck.

      • Karlene says:

        Ed Gandia interviewed an expert on content marketing a few days ago. This expert said content writing is in demand.

        I have always feared cold calling, but I took out my big girl handkerchief and cried, then got my act together and decided that I won’t fear cold calling.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Karlene, there’s no law that you have to find clients from cold calling! I personally have never done it.

          If you’ve taken my marketing 101 course, you know there are a lot of different ways to reach out to clients.

          Certainly online articles, web pages, white papers, blog posts, etc are in growing demand. But if you hate cold calling, consider sending well-researched prospecting emails instead, or going to networking events…lots of ways to connect. Also having a strong writer website and LinkedIn profile can send clients to YOU…main way I get clients these days.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Loving all the LinkedIn success stories people are sharing! Thanks for adding yours Linda.

  13. Linked In is proving to be really helpful for me at the moment. I’ve just started dipping my toes into corporate writing and I’ve already connected with a huge FTSE 100 corporation that’s very keen to hand off quite a bit of work to me. Linked In continues to be an underutilized resource by freelance writers.
    Mridu Khullar Relph recently posted..How I Found Five Additional Hours in My Work Week

    • Carol Tice says:

      Totally agree there…I’ve connected with 3 Fortune 500s through my LinkedIn profile. People would be amazed at who uses LI as the phone book to find freelancers!

    • G. Trigg says:

      LinkedIn’s been a tough one for me. For the past several years my LI profile’s been that of a software developer. Right now I’m kind of trying to do both. Software development pays more, but I really want to do more writing.

      This blog certainly has me thinking about what I should be doing to my LI profile now that I’ve decided I want to freelance and do more writing.
      G. Trigg recently posted..Why I’m Choosing to Freelance

      • Carol Tice says:

        I know a lot of new freelancers who have this conundrum, and it’s sort of not cool to have multiple LI profiles, the way it is on other platforms. My only tip is to include both types of work you do, and gradually make it more and more about freelancing as you go.

        Put the thing you WANT to get gigs for as the primary thing to start getting leads in that area.

  14. Mia says:

    I think what my problem is when i search for sites or places to apply for jobs
    the ones I find are the ones that rank up higher so more people know about it and then
    there is more competition.

    More and more people are working from home now and making it harder to start up now.
    It is not impossible and I agree with you article.

    Thanks
    Mia recently posted..Play and learn French

  15. Ashley N. says:

    I am not really looking for a gig per se, because with three under four at home an output commitment would be too much for me to keep up with. Every once in a while, though, I do some research and write a really good article on my own time that I think could really earn me some money if I knew where to send it. Take the article I just outlined about bullying, for example. I know it’s good and I am not afraid to pitch it, but I know Google won’t help me find the best-paying venue. What tips do you have for me?

    • Carol Tice says:

      My tip is: It’s hard to sell articles you sit down and write yourself, in a vacuum, and then send off to magazines or online websites, without an assignment from an editor. Write a query and get your idea assigned, and then write it when you have a contract to get paid.

      The thing is, an article done with “some research” and your own opinions about things is not usually a well-paid article situation. That’s generally an op-ed that runs for free in the opinion section or letters to the editor or something like that. Most good-paying articles involve interviewing experts and other “real people” types who’ve experienced your topic personally, and your opinion isn’t part of the story. The opportunity for paid essay/opinion work is fairly small and it’s highly competitive.

      This is something we talk about a lot in 4-week Journalism School that’s a tough leap for many bloggers who’re used to spouting their own opinions and hitting “publish.” It’s a different type of writing that pays well, from what you may be used to.

  16. Love Deuce says:

    When I was still starting this freelance career as a writer, I booked several clients all at the same time for a week just to get paid for $150-$200 a week. I still don’t have any idea how the business in this career runs, but it actually helped me gain experience, especially getting big time clients before.
    Love Deuce recently posted..NYPD To Talk To Dead Baby Hope’s Father

  17. In my personal experience, the better paying freelance gigs come from writing industry and technical articles. Some of the lowest paid writing… travel and lifestyle articles. While I haven’t landed a $1 a word client yet, I have had pretty regular work for a .60c a word + expenses magazine. Sure, I was writing on forklifts, supply chains and logistics (which is not my area of expertise) but if I only wanted to write about thinks I like, I’d have to accept I’d get paid less.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Speaking as someone who spent five glamorous years writing about hardware stores…I’m with ya!

      I don’t agree though that particular industries always pay low. There are $1 a word travel markets…they’re just very competitive to get in. And big national women’s lifestyle magazines pay $1 a word and more, too.

      But there is a TON of good-paying work writing about specific industries, and the more complicated the better. I’ve done well writing about many aspects of business finance myself.

  18. Daisy Lucy says:

    Hey guys,
    I am new here but I have been in freelance writing for about 2 years now. My main sources for writing gigs have been online companies and bidding sites. I would like to move away from this and start making it big. Could you direct me to the right places where I can start getting clients? Thank you

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