Do 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.