113 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Freelance Writing Income — Now - Make a Living Writing

113 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Freelance Writing Income — Now

Carol Tice | 74 Comments

113 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Freelance Writing Income. Makealivingwriting.comAren’t you sick of the negativity out there in the freelance writing community? I know I am.

You know the spiel. Comments like:

The economy is still so awful, bla bla bla.

All articles are now $5 or less.

I can’t believe this Craigslist ad asks for three free samples.

The fact is, some freelancers are still earning a great living, and you can, too. But first, you’ll have to stop buying into the gloom and realize that what you earn is really up to you.

To help you take charge of your writing career, I put together a list of 100+ proactive things you can do right now to build your income:

  1. Tell your clients your rates are going up.
  2. Raise your rates for new clients.
  3. Raise your rates every year in the fall, to take effect the following year.
  4. Let your current clients and all your friends and former co-workers know that you’re looking for new clients and you’d appreciate their referrals.
  5. Grow your network.
  6. Write for more parts of your existing clients — does that publisher have other magazines? That company have other divisions?
  7. Have a writer website.
  8. Improve your writer website. Pro sites make a big difference in the rates you can command.
  9. Make it easier for people to contact you on your website. Kill that contact form, for instance.
  10. SEO your website. Get key phrases into your URL, headline, tagline, and copy.
  11. Solicit more testimonials from previous clients and add them to your site.
  12. Respond to full-time job ads you see and ask if they need a freelancer in the meanwhile.
  13. Read more widely so you can find more story ideas.
  14. Get a Book of Lists for your nearest major market, for a ready source of quality corporate leads.
  15. Get The Writers Market with online support, so you can research publications.
  16. Stop doubting yourself.
  17. Stop waiting.
  18. Stop worrying about what people think of you.
  19. Stop wondering where the shortcut is and start marketing your business.
  20. Stop writing for content mills.
  21. Stop buying into the revenue-share dream.
  22. Stop bidding on jobs where you’re competing with thousands of other writers. Opt out of the race to the bottom.
  23. Get a perspective on your writing obstacles. Then just make the time to write.
  24. Get out and meet live humans. People give you jobs, not computers.
  25. If you’re scared to go networking, bring a friend for support. Then, take it slow. The first time, just go and observe and smile a lot, and then go home. Next time, introduce yourself to one person.
  26. If there isn’t a good networking group in your area, start one and serve as the host. Great way to get known by a lot of people fast — because everyone thanks the host, don’t they?
  27. Create a “me” speech so you know what to say to people who ask what you do — after the part where you say “I’m a freelance writer” and then they say, “Really? What kind of writing do you do?” (Thanks to IJ Schecter for this one.)
  28. After you network, be sure to follow up and start building relationships with the prospects you meet.
  29. Send query letters.
  30. Send simultaneous queries, even when magazines’ guidelines say not to.
  31. Send more than one story idea in a single query letter. Ups your odds of success.
  32. Don’t wait to hear back on those query letters. Send more query letters immediately.
  33. If you don’t get results, learn more about how to write great queries.
  34. Do more research and find new markets. New online markets are emerging every day and new magazines are started.
  35. If you write for a print publication, see if they also assign articles separately for their website — and vice versa.
  36. If you only write for magazines, consider adding a few corporate clients to the mix. They tend to pay better and faster.
  37. Send customized prospecting emails.
  38. Make cold calls. Just grab the phone book, pick up the phone, call marketing directors and ask if they use freelance writers.
  39. Send direct mail postcards. Few writers do that, so you can really stand out.
  40. Drop your lowest-paying client, to make time to market and find better-paying clients.
  41. Get up earlier.
  42. Stay up later.
  43. Give up television.
  44. Get more exercise. You’ll be healthier and better able to focus and write.
  45. Take at least one full, 24-hour day completely offline each week.
  46. Take mini-breaks where you get up from your computer and walk around a bit.
  47. Take a class and learn a new writing specialty.
  48. Join a writer’s community and get support and feedback from peers.
  49. Stop reading Craigslist ads.
  50. Find job boards where the companies have to pay to post a listing.
  51. Find niche job boards for industries where you specialize.
  52. Get on LinkedIn.
  53. Stuff your LinkedIn bio with key words your prospects might search to find you.
  54. Find former editors on LinkedIn and reconnect. Let them know you’re freelancing.
  55. If your former editors are out of work, send them job leads. They’ll remember you when they get their next gig.
  56. Send InMails to people who’ve viewed your profile if they seem like prospects.
  57. Join LinkedIn writer groups — you can find jobs leads, support, and a sounding board.
  58. Get on Twitter and start figuring out how it works.
  59. Find editors and prospects on social media and pitch them.
  60. Do some sleuthing to find out if there are niche social-media platforms where your prospects hang out. Join them, too.
  61. Explore emerging social-media hangouts such as Google+ to see if they’re useful for finding clients.
  62. Write an ebook and sell it. Then, help clients do it.
  63. Send bills out more promptly. Often the payment clock ticks from the day they get your bill.
  64. Get cool business cards that say something about your unique writing skills. Bring them with you everywhere.
  65. Make a special offer on your business card, such as a free consult.
  66. Consider getting a t-shirt or magnetized car sign that advertises your writing.
  67. Experiment with Facebook or Google ads for your business.
  68. Whenever you’re out shopping or at a doctor’s office, look for customer magazines. Read, pitch them — you already know their products.
  69. Read all the company newsletters and magazines you get at home. Pitch them.
  70. Learn to write hard stuff — write about actuarial forecasting or software development. Find the niches where they can never get enough good writers.
  71. Learn to write sales copy. Helping clients make more money will always pay well, and there’s always a need.
  72. Learn about lucrative types of writing such as white papers and special reports.
  73. Put on free classes for your prospects, either online or in person.
  74. Create a free, informational report to give your prospects with writing or marketing tips. End with your contact info or a special offer.
  75. Create a newsletter your prospects can subscribe to, in order to stay in touch.
  76. Donate your writing services to a charity auction — you’ll meet a prospect, and get some good PR.
  77. If you need more clips, find somewhere legit to volunteer. I once wrote for my regional library system’s newsletter, for instance.
  78. Collaborate with designers and other related-industry professionals. Refer each other business.
  79. Cut your expenses. Then, you’ll feel less pressure to take low-pay gigs and have more marketing time.
  80. Know and take advantage of every home-business tax break. Keeping more of your money has the exact same effect as earning more.
  81. Consider using a co-working space for the networking and synergy with other business owners working there.
  82. Track prospect nibbles that haven’t panned out yet, and keep following up. Send them articles of interest — anything to keep the connection.
  83. Have a marketing plan.
  84. Analyze your current client base, and how you got each client. Which marketing methods paid off? Do more of that.
  85. Analyze your daily activities, and eliminate things you do that aren’t resulting in income.
  86. Query better-paying magazines.
  87. Pitch bigger companies.
  88. Join professional writer organizations and volunteer. Great way to get known and referred.
  89. Get listed in online resource guides of service providers and professional associations in your target industries. Often, it’s free.
  90. Ask for the gig.
  91. If the job gets bigger, ask for more money.
  92. Don’t work without a contract.
  93. Be sure your contract defines your payment terms — when you will be paid.
  94. Make initial commercial writing contracts for only 60-90 days — then negotiate a better rate when it expires, based on your growing knowledge of the client’s business.
  95. If you’ve only sold first rights, resell your articles.
  96. Recycle unused parts of interviews you’ve done into new stories.
  97. Write more than one article off the same set of research, for noncompeting markets.
  98. Ask interview sources what else is going on in their industry. Leave with another story idea.
  99. Don’t overreport. You’re not going to be able to fit eight sources into a 500-word article.
  100. Learn to write to length. Less rewriting means time saved, and more income potential in the year.
  101. Every time you turn in an article, be ready to pitch another story idea.
  102. Land government contracts. Get qualified to bid directly or save the paperwork and connect with agencies that are bidding contracts — often, these are big projects at decent rates.
  103. Look for ongoing projects. Even regular blogging gigs can add up to big revenue, and let you start each month with some pre-booked revenue.
  104. Offer new clients that have the potential for ongoing work a one-time discount on a small, first project. Get that client in the door, make them love you, and line up a steady source of revenue.
  105. Enter free or low-cost writing contests — it gets your work in front of editors who might hire you.
  106. Write at your most productive and creative time of day.
  107. Do the writing-biz task you’re in the mood for now, instead of the one that’s “top priority.” You’ll be more efficient.
  108. Write blog posts in batches.
  109. Plan out blog posts with a scheduling tool such as WordPress Editorial Calendar.
  110. Put a “hire me” tab on your blog, so people know you want gigs.
  111. Remember your blog is a writing sample. Have a clean design, show you understand social media, and write every post like it’s a $1-a-word magazine assignment.
  112. Keep idea lists, so you always have more ideas to pitch if an editor asks.
  113. Outsource time-consuming tasks that rob you of productive writing time.

(Yes, there are a few affiliate links in there, for products I have used and highly recommend.)

What have you done to grow your freelance writing income lately? Leave a comment and tell us your tip.

74 comments on “113 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Freelance Writing Income — Now

  1. Nora Miller on

    Very realistic and practical tips right here. Thanks for sharing these tips.

    I guess we can also try to negotiate a contract before getting any other clients to make sure the rates are higher than what you usually charge.

  2. Nur Costa on

    You are awesome Carol.
    Thanks for all the effort you put into sharing all these tips.
    I am truly amazed on how valuable the content of your blog is. Thanks a lot, since you have helped a wanna-be-freelance-writer of 22 years old from Barcelona.
    Much love to your way!

  3. Angie Johnston on

    I have contact forms on a few pages of my two main websites, and they’ve yielded pretty significant results. Maybe it’s because they’re not on every page, but they work for me. I do have a link to my email on most pages, but that gets used less frequently than the contact forms. Just my $0.02.

    • Carol Tice on

      You know, every freelance business is a little different. A lot of study data shows many people won’t fill out those sort of contact forms, because we don’t believe we’ll get a response. Sounds like you’re a lucky exception to this rule!

  4. yochebed yisrael oubandawaki on

    Hi! Carol. I am known to most as Yochi. I have no experience with writing or logging on to these blogs, other than writing a few poems, and songs at home through out the years. However my financial circumstances has forced .me to find work I am fed up with being laid off of temp jobs and not being able to foot the bills. Not much advise or leads often catch my attention. But I want to let you and the gentleman that led me to you. The owner of Make a living writing for being so inspiring and helpful in my search. 🙂 Signed Yochi.

  5. Darlene Strand on

    I read ‘all’ 113 rules. I’m convinced I do need to recognize my ‘issues’ and to set them aside, so I can start again with a clear head and do better writing. Just want to be good enough to interest my Granddaughter to writing and make a little living for herself while she attends college!

  6. Julia Weston on

    I want to thank you for two things. No, three. First, because I watched your interview with Guy Kawasaki, I decided to pursue indie publishing (I’ve written two books but lacked the confidence to pursue traditional publishing and lacked the knowledge to pursue the indie path). Second, because of several of your posts, I’m moving toward becoming a freelance writer – and actually telling people about it lol! And finally, thank you for this list. I appreciate what you do; you’ve helped me a great deal.

  7. Anja Emerson on

    I think all of these are great tips that can really help any freelance writer earn a lot more. It’s quite a comprehensive list too, I can’t figure out if there’s anything more you could add to it. It really does touch on all the key aspects that can boost your income: self-promotion, time management, making good business decisions etc.

  8. Helene Poulakou on

    Another idea:
    Create a video — e.g. something about your favorite topic, an excerpt from an essay/book/etc you’re working or have worked on, something short that highlights your writing skills (and, why not, your script writing abilities) — upload it on video hosting sites, and promote the heck out of it.

  9. Ry Mas on

    Thank you for this awesome list. I really appreciate your efforts to empower your fellow writer. I am finding so often in this business that I have not because I ask not. You remind me to keep asking for the work. You also remind me that “Damn, I’m Good!”
    Thanks again and much continued success to you,
    Ry Mas

  10. Peter Wise on

    Wow….the most comprehensive list ever – chock-full of great tips, thank you. I think anyone following even 10% of them will be a much better freelance copywriter.

  11. Norma Shephard on

    Great tips, but I have a question. My niche is vintage costume so most of my posts necessitate photographs. This slows me down. What are your thoughts on photo-driven blog sites?


  12. Sheena on

    I love gratitude practices because they absolutely work to change our lives. I also make a point to be grateful every time I receive a new client or have an article published, no matter what.

  13. Katherine Swarts on

    Recommended reading (first published over 80 years ago but still classic): Dale Carnegie’s _How to Win Friends and Influence People_, which shows you how to get in tune with what potential clients (and others) really want from you. Happy clients make for better referrals, more repeat business, and more money.

  14. Diane on

    Hi Carol,

    I would like to thank you for this post. I’ve been working 14-16 hours a day writing for the mills, just to get enough to scrape by. I was afraid to try something different with hubby out of work and no health insurance. But you have inspired me to break free. After reading your post, I googled some of the articles I wrote and found a few of them on Fortune 100 websites – unedited. Apparently, I am worth more than the $4 to $10 payment I received from the mill.

    I’m going to work on a plan to gradually get away from the mills. I cannot outright quit because even scraps are welcome right now. Will you please tell me your opinion about writing for residual income? Not a content site (your #21), but if I started niche sites on my interests.

    Again, thank you for this post.

    • Carol Tice on

      Thanks for making my day! Be sure to use those quality reprints of your mill clips on your writer website and in your portfolio.

      I think of residual income sites as another type of mill, where they pay you pennies per ad clicks you get. Which for most writers doesn’t ever add up to much…and those sites go out of business, too.

      Monetizing your own niche sites around interest areas is usually another field, unless you’re going to do micropayments per blog post or something. Few people are earning residual income off their own niche site, as that model is based around getting millions of pageviews, which you’re unlikely to do. But you can earn from creating and selling your own products, and from affiliate selling other products…which is what you see me doing here.

  15. Evergreen Rajib on

    it was really hard for me and i never thought i can read all of them. But i read out all of them. I hope i can maintain 70% of them. I’m a beginner. Just getting paid for 50-100 words articles/blog from .50$-3$ according to where i post it. I’m not that much good in English. So i have to improve my basic knowoledge first. What will you suggest me for that? And how to write an article in 50-200 words about a thing/product that i never used or i dont have any idea?

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Rajib —

      I’m not recommending anybody try to do all 113 of these at once!

      I don’t recommend that you spend your time writing articles about products you’ve never used, without ever talking to someone who has. It’s not going to pay very well.

      If you want to write in English, you’ll need to improve your fluency. In the meanwhile, why not consider writing in your own language, for large companies and publications? It’ll probably be a better way to go.

  16. Travis Newville on

    I am a freelance writer and was wondering about how to put myself out there more. I have a website, a twitter, and I write daily. What’s the best way to initiate the sale of your work? How do writers go about getting someone to buy their work?

    • Carol Tice on

      Lots of different ways, Travis — the list above should give you some ideas, as should the free report subscribers get around here — 40 ways to market your writing.

      There’s no one best way to do it — depends on your life experience, writing experience, and the type of writing you’d like to do for pay.

  17. Ivin Viljoen on

    Hi Carol,

    Not to be funny, but biggest thing I ever did to boost my freelance writing income. Get a job. I don’t know what all the fuss n hype among writers is about getting a job?

    ‘My writing skill will collapse.’ Or..

    ‘I wnt have enough time to write.’

    Blah blah blah fishpaste. If you really want something, you’ll make it happen.


    Oh. Ps. I study night times too. Not to gloat. Just to show: it can be done, if you really want it.

  18. Mitch Mitchell on

    Wow, that’s a fairly aggressive list. I like a bunch of them, but some of those are kind of scary I must admit. You might want to look at #4 again; I think something’s missing. lol Anyway, my favorite is #20, which I did for a short while and, oddly enough, felt dirty while doing it, so it didn’t last long. That and getting paid $7.50 per article was driving me nuts.

  19. Timson on

    Great list to cover the basics of promoting your freelance writing services. I never thought of writing one to promote my writing services though, what a great idea. I think I’ll try that very soon, thanks for the tip!

  20. Terri Huggins on

    Great list. I especially love number 99 “Don’t overreport. You’re not going to be able to fit eight sources into a 500-word article.”

    I definitely used to be guilty of this. I would convince myself that I was better safe than sorry when digging up lots of sources. I then found this wasn’t very productive because I ended up wasting too much time finding stuff that would never fit in the article.

    I’ve since implemented a new tactic to follow: Find two sources for every 500 words. So far it’s been working wonders for me.

    • Carol Tice on

      I was the worst at this when I started out! I was always doing a book’s worth of research for an article.

      I might get 3 sources into 500 words, but that’s about the limit…and now I don’t waste people’s time if they won’t end up in the story. Really it’s a win-win — both saves you time and lets you earn more, and doesn’t burn bridges with sources.

  21. Srinivas on

    Thanks for sharing this Carol. One of my favorite things about everything that you share write is that it’s so actionable. I’d imagine if somebody did 10 of these things they’d see some increase in their income.

  22. Jane on

    Really amazing! A great list here to convince new comer as well as regular writers. Thank you for providing useful tips. These tips will greately encourage those who are dipressed in their career and will give an insight for freshers..

  23. Varda Epstein on

    Great list of suggestions. I decided I’d take a deep breath and just try some of them. I exploited Google+ for the first time today and I’d like to put a hire me tab on my blog, but can’t figure out how to do that. Can it be done with blogspot? Anyone?

      • Susan B. Bentley on

        Killing the contact form was the new one for me that I’ve now partly implemented – given visitors the choice of email, phone, twitter, linkedin, or the contact form – I’ll see if success follows…

        • Carol Tice on

          I really recommend getting rid of the form altogether. Why? It’s impersonal and untrustworthy, so it makes people wonder whether you’ll be responsive. And NOBODY wants to fill it out.

  24. James Brown on

    Hi Carol,

    Another home run post! I read this list over a couple of times and then grabbed some markers.

    1. Highlight what I am doing.
    2. Highlight what I need to really improve on.
    3. Highlight new actions.

    For example on number 2, I make a few calls here and there. Today after reading the post and the new cold calling entry in your forum…I made a list of 30 to call tomorrow. I admit that I was putting it off, thinking to myself that it’s too close to Christmas, maybe my samples suck and the usual excuses.
    I did sign up for Ed’s course on emails and went through the first lessons, however I really believe cold calling still should be part of my marketing.


    • Carol Tice on

      I think both methods can be effective…depends on whether you’re the sort of person who will never pick up the phone, or the sort who will belabor a marketing email forever and never get it done.

      Bet you will get a lot of out of Ed’s class — I got to preview that and it’s got a ton of great resources and tips in it, plus the hands-on help from Ed.

  25. John Soares on

    Glad to see I’m doing most of these!

    The one that’s been very important to me lately is “Write blog posts in batches.” I recently spent a couple of afternoons at Noble Coffee in Ashland, Oregon, where I cranked out about 8 new posts under the influence of a major caffeine buzz. It feels good to know that I can now focus on my main writing projects without being distracted by a pending deadline for my own blog.

    • Carol Tice on

      I did something similar, though not at a coffeeshop — I took one whole day and wrote all the posts for this month, so that I can head out on vacation. It was just AMAZINGLY efficient. My vow is to do this sort of thing more, and have fewer days where I’m trying to tackle things for 4 different clients in a single day.

  26. Anthony on

    Great tips Carol! Some of these I’ve done (raised rates, buy Writer’s Market), and some I don’t get. Why do you advise “Kill that contact form, for instance?” I’ve seen many professional writers utilize the contact form as well as post contact information on their site. I would think that it would make it easier for potential clients to get in touch with you. Thanks in advance for any clarification you can provide.

    • Carol Tice on

      People hate those contact fill-in forms. They feel very anonymous.

      How many times have you filled one of those out and then never gotten a response? Yeah.

      I think they present a big opt-out for some prospects, and you don’t want to do anything on your site that’s a pushback like that and gives prospects a chance to decide not to contact you. Just provide your email address, or an email click-icon they can use to pop up your real email address, I say.

      I personally will almost never fill one of those out — I’d have to be pretty desperate to contact that person.

  27. Anne Wayman on

    16, stop doubting yourself, is my favorite. I’d add bookend writing/marketing chores that you don’t want to do or are hesitating for whatever reading – call someone and tell them you’re going to spend x minutes, do it, and call back, or if you don’t do it call back and admit that.

  28. allena on

    I’m too busy. But I sure in the heck don’t provide three free samples to anyone. And you may find it negative, but I feel that it’s helping the newbs to talk about this practice- this is not a regular, accepted practice. The EFA recently put out a position statement about it.

    • Carol Tice on

      I’m certainly not meaning to suggest that’s an acceptable practice! My point is writers spend a lot of time bemoaning the scams that are out there instead of proactively marketing their business.

      So if anyone was confused — DO NOT send free samples to Craigslist advertising markets!

  29. Cindi on

    Thanks for the list of practical advice! I’ve done many things to improve my writing income this year, but the top 3 are:
    1. Join Freelance Writers Den – this is the one place I’ve found that it’s okay not to know it all, but I’m still expected to do what I know. GREAT for me.
    2. Buy my domain name – as of Jan 1, my website will be MINE.
    3. Last but in no way least – WRITE regularly. The more I write, the more I make (amazing, but true!)

    • Carol Tice on

      Sounds like a great plan, Cindi. I’m certainly not expecting any writer to do all 113 of these things at once! Just wanted to offer a bunch of ideas so no matter where you’re at as a freelance writer, there are a few new ideas here.

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