How One Freelance Writer Got a 600 Percent Raise
Carol Tice | 46 Comments

Freelance writer charts a big raise in her incomeBy Bree Brouwer

I used to think pro freelance writers were crazy when they said you should drop your lowest-paying client to make room for one with a bigger budget.

“Don’t they remember what it’s like to have student loan bills come due?” I thought.

But now I realize they were right.

It’s completely possible to drop a bad client and get a better one instead. Here’s how I did it.

How I Met Bob (and Bill)

This past spring, a friend recommended me to her friend Bob (no, that’s not his real name) to do blogging for his company.

Bob couldn’t pay me my $50 per 500-word-post rate, but I agreed to do $30 for 300 words because he had connections to the entertainment industry, where I wanted to get more freelance work. Bob was a nice guy who was impressed with my writing, but I wasn’t happy with my rate.

In July, I attended a new media and gaming convention in Austin, Texas, where I met the owner of a mechanical keyboard company, Bill (nope, not his real name, either). He said he was interested in hiring me, but didn’t have work at the moment. We kept in touch over the next few months.

How I Dumped Bob for Bill

Meanwhile, I went to Bob and told him I wanted to renegotiate our 2-month contract, which was now over. I was honest by telling him I was commanding higher rates than he was paying me, but I’d be willing to negotiate since he was easy to work with.

Unfortunately, Bob came back and told me flat-out he couldn’t even afford to pay me $40 a post. This was after I put together an entire content strategy proposal for him, which he’d also rejected even though I was charging far below the going rate of most professionals.

I realized Bob would never be a good long-term client, no matter how nice he was, because he simply didn’t realize the value I was providing.

I told Bob I’d submit my last post, and it was a pleasure working for him so I hoped he’d let me know if his financial situation ever changed.

Days later, Bill contacted me, saying he needed blogging services.

After an initial phone call, Bill agreed to pay me $175 per 500-word blog post with three social media status updates.

Only a few days after dropping Bob, Bill sent me the $175 per post contract in an email.

Simple as that.

How to Find Your Bill

It might seem impossible that in just 72 hours, I jumped from $120 a month with Bob to $700 a month with Bill (almost 600% raise). You’re probably thinking I’m crazy for dropping a client before I had a new contract signed, much like I thought Carol and other pro writers were when they told me to do it.

But it’s not — you just need to be courageous enough to dump your Bob so there’s a space for better-paying Bill to come along.

Have you dropped a low-paying client? Tell us in the comments below how you did it.

Bree Brouwer is a freelance blogger, content marketing writer, and content strategist.

46 comments on “How One Freelance Writer Got a 600 Percent Raise

  1. Kristi Valentini on

    I was writing two blog posts a week that I had to do research and interviews for, find pictures, promote via social media and post into a content management system for $50/post. That gig ended up taking 8-10 hours a week for me to accomplish and I realized I was working below minimum wage!

    It certainly helped me build clips, but I finally realized after six months that if I continued with the gig, I would never have time pitch national magazines for more lucrative assignments.

    I quite the gig and started pitching magazines again. Within a month or so, I landed my first, national magazine assignment and earned $750!

    I definitely agree with your post Bree that you have to correctly value your time and talent and make room for better paying gigs/clients!

    • Bree on

      Wow, Kristi, you’re making me feel lazy now. 🙂 My next goal is to drop my next two lowest-paying clients and focus my time on pitching magazines as well as contacting more companies about writing for their blogs. So I’ll be dropping my Bobs before I have future Bills, but as a lot of other freelancers have pointed out already, sometimes you have to do that to find your time and sanity.

      • Carol Tice on

        Exactly. There’s always that one client that’s such a time-waster…they’re annoying…the hourly rate sucks…and if you don’t get rid of them, you don’t move forward. They’re sucking so much energy and they’re so aggravating you’re drained, and you don’t send those queries out.

        Dropping them is like dropping that sandbag of ballast overboard when you’re in a hot-air balloon. Then, you just soar.

  2. Annie Sapucaia on

    What a great post (just found your website)! Though I’m a translator and not a writer per say, this lesson applies to my business as well. I do agree with Chip though that dropping Bobs does not cause gaining Bills directly – hard work focused at “Billing” is what does it, and dropping the Bobs frees up time to do that.

    • Bree on

      Actually, you make a good point, Annie — this experience isn’t restricted to just writers, or even translators. It’s something all businesses need to pay attention to. Scaling your business up just makes sense!

  3. Noeleen on

    This is inspiring indeed.

    I don’t have a Bob or a Bill but sure do wish to be paid for writing. At least I have THAT mindset!!

    Yet I understand the concept of doors opening, closing, leaving room for that new energy to come in. Very inspiring indeed.
    Noeleen recently posted…RESTRAINT.My Profile

  4. Matt Blake on

    Love it, love it, love it. I’ve done much the same thing, less relating to the low paying clients, with clients who always need things done immediately. Rush jobs, as I’m sure you all know, are the worst. They lead to mistakes, frustration and stress. I started, last year, telling clients that I no longer offer rush jobs. Everything has a time table and if the client failed to properly plan, or planned poorly, that doesn’t change my time table. The drop in my stress level has been amazing, and, since I was running about trying to handle rush jobs every week I had time to work on projects for my clients who did plan properly. I even had time to do more and better work for my ‘good’ clients. Bob’s come in all shapes and sizes.

    DROP THE BOBS,

    Matt
    Matt Blake recently posted…8 Things your sales letter must have to be effective!My Profile

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Matt —

      I’ve joined you in this. I used to be a rush specialist and made a lot of money that way over the years…but I’m at the point in my life where no amount of money makes me want to take your problem (being dysfunctional, poor planner, don’t know what you want until the last minute) and allow it to be my problem.

      I’m a planner kind of person and I enjoy working with other planners. Like you, I feel like there’s a lot less crazy in my life now.

      • Charmaine on

        As a dear mentor of mine used to say “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” (She actually told me who originally said that but I forget.)

    • Bree on

      And sometimes it’s not even the rush aspect of it. It’s just the poor planning/organization in the follow-up on the client’s part. I had a well-paying client ($200 a week for 2 500-word posts) who simply never answered her emails or phone calls until the deadline she’d imposed on me was past, and then complained that I wasn’t writing to her company’s standards and that she had to spend an hour or more editing my work.

      Well, maybe if you answered my questions about what you wanted in the emails I sent to you time and time again, you (and I) wouldn’t be so frustrated with the whole situation.

  5. Shauna L Bowling on

    I dropped a couple of low-paying clients after working for them. The work was steady, payment was on time but the pay was ridiculously low. I dropped them with no other leads in the bank. Over the last few days I’ve been approached by someone who wants me to write for her company. I gave her a quote and she came back with a low ball offer. I let her know I’d be willing to meet her in the middle until her budget opens up but that I will not have conversion fees (she’s out of country) or PayPal fees for a non-verified payer come out of my pay. I’m still waiting to hear back from her.

    The point is, there comes a time that you have to respect your time and talent enough to just say no.
    Shauna L Bowling recently posted…7 Useful But Little-Known Facts About Kitchen Scraps and How They Can Improve Our EnvironmentMy Profile

    • Carol Tice on

      That said, I’ve never found asking clients to pick up your paypal fee is a winning strategy…have to build it into your quote. It’s a real turnoff.

      When you get lowball offers, to me the thing to do is move on. They’re rarely going to double or quadruple what they’re offering, or whatever it would take to get to professional rates.

      • Bree on

        Definitely just move on. The funny thing is, the low-baller Bob I mentioned above came back to me about a month later and asked what I could do for his company for guest blogging. At that point, I was commanding $200 a guest post (picking blogs, pitching, and placing/writing). Since I knew Bob was always trying to pay me less than others, I didn’t back down and stated my $200 per post fee. He said he’d get back to me. He never did.

        • Carol Tice on

          I think it’s a big milestone in a freelancer’s life when they realize that just because someone offers to pay you some pittance to do some project, doesn’t mean you should say yes.

          Plenty of crummy offers are out there! It’s up to you to draw healthy boundaries and take the clients you want, who treat you right.

  6. Charmaine on

    This really hit me: “This was after I put together an entire content strategy proposal for him, which he’d also rejected even though I was charging far below the going rate of most professionals. I realized Bob would never be a good long-term client, no matter how nice he was, because he simply didn’t realize the value I was providing.” DING DING DING DING DING! We have a winner… or more accurately perhaps, another loser? I’ve been writing for a guy who has the SAME problem, wants to re-write my stuff (or worse yet have me rewrite it) to match his unprofessional standards… and then wants torun it under my byline. NO NO NO NO NO! It’s SO HARD when money is so short but you’re right, these guys are really not worth working for and we’re better off without them!

    • Bree on

      Charmaine, I’m getting to the point where I’m not caring about the money anymore – if a client is going to view me as that worthless, I won’t give them my time, which is more precious than money.

      • Carol Tice on

        I know — I’d rather find a way to cut back my expenses and get rid of them now, if they’re really stressing me. The hit to your productivity is not worth it — have to look at the whole picture of your earnings and how having that loser around affects it.

  7. Jennifer Gregory on

    I have had the exact same experience MULTIPLE times. While you got very lucky that you didn’t have to market for Bill. I usually find that if I replace a few hours that I would have spent doing the lower paying client with marketing, that I can replace the client without fail.

    But it’s so hard to let a client go without one in the wings! But it works EVERYTIME.
    Jennifer Gregory recently posted…Finding the Best Contact for Content Marketing Writing Letters of IntroductionMy Profile

    • Carol Tice on

      Remember, you are covered under my Universal Comment Typo Forgiveness policy Peggy! We know what you meant and you don’t have to come back and pick at your own grammar. 😉

  8. Peggy Dallmann on

    I am still new to the den, and I am trying to find my way around. Are their dates for this class posted somewhere? I have looked through the resources a few times, and I have been unable to find any reference to when this class starts or ends, other then a reference to the fact that questions will still be answered after the holidays. I still don’t know if I want to sign up for it, but I don’t know when it will be too late to sign up. Can someone explain? Or does this not work like other online courses?

    • Carol Tice on

      Peggy — my pleasure.

      The Blast Off is NOT part of the Den. It’s a premium course I developed with Linda Formichelli. We’re selling an Audit version of it right now, through 5 pm on Friday. Class begins when you register and as we said, we support it through end of January.

      You get all the materials at once to work through at your own pace in the Audit. There’s nothing to attend live. And then there is a unique Blast Off forum that becomes visible after you register — you can’t see it now because you’re not in the class. But it’s similar to the other forums you’re used to on the Den, and is hosted on the same site.

      If you’re interested to take it, be sure to check your email and use your Den member discount code to get roughly 50% off! (Yes, nonmembers, Den members get lots of deals on my other stuff.)

  9. Chip on

    You have tons of great advice here – but this post is not about courage. It is about hard work and managed risk. Bill did not just “come along” when you dropped Bob. You went to a convention, introduced yourself, made a pitch, and when he said he had nothing for you at the moment, you stayed in contact with the him for months before he called.

    Meanwhile, you calculated your costs as a business person and raised your rates with Bob – a referral client you gained through more networking – based on what you need to be profitable. When he wasn’t able to meet your rates, you wisely moved on, knowing either in your head or intuitively that the work you had been doing with people like Bill (I assume you have other potentials like him on the line as well) would yield results.

    Dropping Bob was not crazy; it was really the most sensible move you could make. Even if Bill had not called with work, you already have a consistent habit of marketing, so dropping a low paying client frees you up to do more of what brings in better ones. I imagine you also figured that financially you could afford to lose Bob’s income for a while until a new client – based on your marketing efforts – came along.

    Telling people simply to drop their bad clients so new ones can appear looks inspiring but in reality is bad and dangerous advice, akin to the treacle offered in self-help books like “the Secret.” You did not wish Bill into existence, and manifest him through your courage. Bill was there because you did the work and already had him on the line.

    You know doubt earned more self confidence in your experience here, but The real lessons are about the value of working on your business as well as for it, and knowing when the time is right to move on to higher paying clients. You are a model for many of the concepts that Carol teaches here and in the den. You have a solid writer’s website, you obviously network, and you have the courage to believe in yourself. To say that you dropped Bob, and Bill suddenly appeared undermines everything you did to make that possible.

    Freelancers should follow the lessons here and on other blogs like Renegade Writer. Do the work required to have a freelance career and not a freelance hobby. Learn from the example set by people like Carol, Linda, you and other guest posters here, and most importantly, take action and do the work.

    The real courage was in everything you did leading up to Bob’s dismissal as a client. The inspiration in this post isn’t in Bills magical appearance but in your willingness to do the work, and the example of the fruit that your work yielded.

    • Carol Tice on

      I’m sure Bree will have a response…but I think the whole post shows that that hard work IS what empowered her to be able to drop one client and feel confident she could replace him with better.

      Nobody’s advocating that people drop clients with nothing on the horizon and no marketing tools or effort in place. I’m a very conservative person in how I run my business, and personally, I often waited until I was overbooked and then identified and dropped the lowest payer/lowest value per year client.

      But when I have had situations where I simply HAD to drop a client because the situation was untenable, I do find a better client usually appears right away to take their place…there does seem to be something about clearing room in your life for something better that helps make that happen. But as you say, only in the context that you are running your business and out marketing, and have a lot of lines in the water.

      • Chip on

        I agree that the overall post itself is a wonderful example of how constant marketing and follow up enables us to move up when the time is right. The last paragraph and bold text just struck me as web-hype that missed the real takeaway value of the rest of the post. As several of the other commenters have mentioned, the process of getting in a position to drop the Bobs of the world is much more valuable than the actual decision to make room for bigger clients. After all that work, Bob isn’t even a speedbump.

        The second paragraph of your reply is the perfect caveat to the close of the post: “Nobody’s advocating that people drop clients with nothing on the horizon and no marketing tools or effort in place. I’m a very conservative person in how I run my business, and personally, I often waited until I was overbooked and then identified and dropped the lowest payer/lowest value per year client. ”

        The way you run your business, rather than appearing crazy or impetuous, dropping the Bob’s must feel like a weight has been lifted.

        One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my own life is to work on processes and trust that the results will come, to focus on direction and let the destination take care of itself.

        This is a great post on process.

        p.s. I think I’m going to use “Dropping the Bob’s” as shorthand for getting rid of unprofitable things in life from now on.

    • Bree on

      Chip, I appreciate you picking up this angle of freelancing, not just the impetuous one. Yes, you do need to be logically running a business, marketing, putting yourself out there. That is what will get you better clients, because most won’t drop out of the sky.

      However, there is a fine line, like Carol’s pointed out. Sometimes you simply have to drop clients when it’s a drain on your stress and time. It also helps that I’m religious, and I trust that if I leave my business up to the Higher Power, I won’t be left starving. And that’s always worked for me. Always.

      So I put in my work, and I trust that if a bad situation arises, things will fall into place. That’s how I run my business!

  10. Lori Ferguson on

    Such an inspiring story, Bree! Really happy for you. I, too, have had this experience. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to let go of a paying client, even if they’re not paying what you’d like to be making. It’s that whole ‘bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ thing, but like you I’ve discovered that if I screw my courage to the sticking post and make space for good things to happen, they do!

    • Bree on

      You definitely want to realize that making space will help you find more time to get those better-paying clients. Sometimes the “good” doesn’t come to you; you have to work to make the good for yourself, too.

    • Bree on

      Sofie, I actually sort of winged it because I hadn’t created packages for clients yet. But I charge $25 for 3 social media updates at this point. When it takes you 10 minutes max to write those 3 updates, that’s really not a bad rate. 🙂 Just make sure you write really good ones and use words that people tend to click the most with social media updates (like “new” and “you”).

  11. Kevin Carlton on

    Bree, I did exactly the same thing earlier this year. And it was a repeat of your story almost word for word.

    I parted company with a regular client in the morning. And by that afternoon I was working for a new one at nearly 3 times the rate.

    When you split up with a regular client like that it’s easy to panic – as if you’re staring into the abyss. But, in my case, I’d already got the ball rolling with a couple of prospects by then.

    And one came up trumps within a matter of hours.

    If you’re putting yourself out there then that empty space fills up remarkably quickly.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted…3 dangerously destructive writing habits every copywriter should avoidMy Profile

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