Move-Up Markets for Freelance Writers

By Carol Tice

After writing on my own Make a Living Writing Blog about how freelance writers should aim for making $100 an hour, I heard from many writers. Mostly they wanted advice on how to achieve more modest goals — just moving up from the $8-$15-an article level and perhaps making $30 an hour.

So that’s my topic for my first WM post of the new year — move-up markets. If you’re writing $15 or $20 articles now, you should be looking for $50-an-article clients who would allow you to slowly drop your lower-paying gigs and raise your average hourly rate.

Personally, I was approached by several folks at the $50-$100 an article level in the past few months…so I know these markets are out there.

The Los Angeles career magazine Working World pays $70 an article, for instance, and I was also asked to write for a section of AOL for $50 a piece.

To investigate move-up markets more, I spent the past few weeks trolling the online job ads for gigs that paid around $50-$100 an article. These aren’t ordinarily ads I look at, so I was surprised once I focused on this price point to find quite a few listings.

Obviously, this doesn’t include the many, many higher-paying gigs you could find by networking, approaching small businesses in your town, using social media to prospect, and otherwise aggressively marketing your business. This is just a selection of what I gleaned from a quick browse through online job ads.

The Nature Conservancy of Texas offered $200 for four 450-word columns a month — so that’s $50 an article, and more than $.10 a word.

StreetAuthority was looking for a freelance financial writer for $75 an article.

Not For Tourists in New York was looking for local writers to write $100 neighborhood descriptions, with pay ranging up to $500.

Life123 offered $50 an assignment for a “wide range of subject matter.” I can remember when nothing in general subjects paid over $20…interesting, huh?

Audio Academy was offering $100-150 a post for a music blogger (the job has since closed).

In addition to these, Writers Weekly lists many jobs at move-up rates….the issue linked here had quite a few, including $125-$300 from Alaska Business Monthly, and assignments from $75-$150 about hockey from Puck Life.

And over at All Freelance Writing each Tuesday, Jennifer Mattern posts job listings only for gigs that pay over $50 a post. What easier way is there to screen out the slave-wage jobs and concentrate on move-up markets? This week, for instance, one of her listings is B2B publisher BG+H, which pays $100-$120 an article.

Here’s what I’ve learned — the marketplace will not set healthy pay boundaries for you. There will always be cheapskates. You have to set the boundaries yourself.

If you entertain the notion of $15 articles, you end up writing them. If you turn down low-paying jobs as simply below your bottom asking price and keep looking until you find better-paying ones, you’ll likely end up being better paid.

Why doesn’t everybody do this? Because switching up can cause a short-term cash-flow problem while you get new clients lined up. You have to overcome your fear that you’re going to starve if you hold out for better gigs, or even spend part of each week prospecting for better assignments instead of writing your current cheap articles. Saying “no” to prospective clients — or to that oh-so-easy to access assignment page on a content mill — can feel harsh, scary, confrontational, maybe in this economy even a little crazy. But that’s exactly what you have to do to move up.

I’m polite with prospective clients who call and offer me $20 an article, or $50, or $70. I thank them for their interest, and let them know they’re not in my ballpark. I offer my rewriting services in case they discover the content they got cheap isn’t up to snuff, and encourage them to be back in touch when they can pay professional rates. I don’t go away mad, I just go away, and leave the door open. Try it — you’ll find that valuing your time enough to turn down lowball clients feels great. It also leaves room in your schedule for better-paying clients.

What’s your move-up goal for 2010, and how do you plan to achieve it? Drop us a comment and let us know.

This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.