Three Magical Words That Help Writers Earn More

It’s been a long time coming…nearly two years. But last week, it happened.

A prospect called to see if I could do some writing work for them. I took a deep breath, and then I uttered three magical words that unlock the key to making more money as a freelance writer.

Do you know what those words are?

“I’m fully booked.”

That’s right. At the moment, I am not spending time sifting through online job ads, obsessively trying to make new LinkedIn connections, or beating the street at networking events. I only had time to blog once for MALW last week, because I’m so busy. I have all the work I can handle, nearly all of it at very nice rates. I’m really overbooked, but I’m  hoping I can somehow figure out how to make the workload manageable again in July, once a couple of big new clients ramp up and get going.

It took a heck of a lot of marketing to get to this point, and later this week, I’ll tell you about what worked for me in marketing my freelance writing business. But for now, let’s return to the three magical words, and why they’re so important and magical.

What happens to your business when you’re fully booked?

You relax. The anxiety of starting each month with open time still on the planner is gone. I’m now starting each month with enough work booked to be confident I can pay my bills, and even take my family out for an occasional meal. Being more relaxed makes you more effective and creative, so your work gets done faster, allowing you to make more.

You gain confidence. It’s an ego-booster to realize you are in demand.

You get picky. In the depths of the recession, I took a lot of crazy assignments. One-off projects. Small-business clients with not much money. Quickie articles that paid $100. Stuff I never would have considered in 2007. Now, that’s over. If someone doesn’t fit my image of an ideal client, I can pass.

You start dropping clients. Now you can look at your client list and identify your biggest problem child — you know, the client that pays in over 90 days, is a whiner, never satisfied, wants a committee to edit your work, won’t return your emails for two days, or simply doesn’t pay enough. The next good client that comes down the pike, it’s time to swap that loser out. Repeat this process until you have only top-drawer publications or companies on your roster.

You become more valuable. When you’re fully booked, it’s like smoke signals go up. You start to attract great new clients. When you tell some prospects you can’t take them on because you’re too busy, they are impressed. You must be a good writer! They want to hire you even more. Sometimes, they offer you more money in hopes of getting you to kick someone else off your schedule to make room for their assignment. Sometimes, you say yes.

Your rate starts to rise. Besides all the reasons already stated above, your rate starts to go up when you’re fully booked because you don’t have to spend as many hours marketing (but don’t stop!). You have more productive, billable hours, so that translates to more income.

Are you fully booked? If not, maybe you want to take a look at my mentoring page and think about whether you could use a boost to get your freelance writing career moving forward. There’s a lot of work out there now — the economy is thawing, new magazines are starting, companies are ramping up marketing budgets, and now’s a great time to make new connections and find  new clients.

Photo via Flickr user Bohman

  1. e.lee says:

    I never thought that these 3 words could be so magical wow! It creates the impression of demand

  2. Thanks for another great post, Carol!

    I know exactly what it's like to have so many clients that you don't have time for personal projects and marketing, which is why I'm constantly changing my writing schedule. In fact, early this morning I shared my newest schedule with my blog readers. It's a schedule that allows me to focus on my clients and still have time for personal projects and marketing.

    You said you'd like to "make your workload manageable again in July," so I thought I'd refer you to the post I published on my blog this morning. Maybe this schedule will help you achieve your goal by July… and it may not, but either way, I thought it may be of some help to you. After all, your information has been a big help and inspiration to me, so maybe I can help you this time around. ;)

    The post: Time Management for the Busy Freelancer. Hope it helps!

    • Carol Tice says:

      All time management tips appreciated around here, Misti! Now if you could just come over and make my email not work for most of the day, I could really save some time!

      I went and took a look, and don't know if this type of schedule is for me. I have blogging clients I have to file for daily, so I can't really block out an entire day for marketing OR personal projects, much less 3 days a week for those! My article deadlines fall wherever my editors put them, so that also makes it hard to clear a whole day. And thankfully, I'm now at the point where I'm not needing to spend a whole day a week marketing.

      But maybe could help some readers…thanks for sharing it!

  3. Carol, Ah, yes, email. I usually exit out of my email before I begin work. Then after I'm done, I return to check my inbox. Of course this is hard for some to do, and at times, I have to force myself not to check it as often. ;)

    In regards to the schedule I suggested, you can always write the blog posts and articles ahead of time for your daily clients, and then use the schedule features to submit them when they're due — this is what I do anyway. Just a suggestion, of course. And my time management schedule may not be for everyone, but it never hurts to refer someone that may benefit from it. Furthermore, it can always be edited to fit the writer too. :)

  4. This is really inspiring information. I want to be able to freelance but I am a little chicken to even take on a first assignment. It is my goal to accomplish a few before the end of the year.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Go for it Kristi! When my Make a Living Writing e-book is out — I'm aiming for next month! — it can give you a step-by-step guide on how to break in. I put you down to hear about my discount deals. July is going to be presale month and there will be great bargains for everyone who's participated in my blog.

      Thanks for writing!

  5. Love all this information! I am at the place where I'm still trying to do my day job as a marriage therapist and my evening and weekend job of author, blogger, speaker and radio show host is taking up more and more time! Sooner or later one of them is going to win out!! May the author be victorious!

    Much love and light!

  6. Sheryl says:

    Interesting! I am always afraid to turn down work…and end up regretting it. But now, I’ll think of these 3 magic words next time I need to say no.

  7. Can you describe the qualities of a perfect client to yourself? You probably thought immediately of somebody in your business who’s the perfect client. Which is good because the first step in finding more perfect customers is to truly understand what a perfect customer should look like.

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