Does it seem like freelance writers live in two different worlds? Sometimes, it can feel that way.
In one world, writers are excited if they can move up from $10 a blog post to $15. They write entire websites or e-books for a couple hundred bucks. I like to call this the Underworld of Freelance Writing.
In the other, writers land four- and even five-figure contracts with terrific clients to write interesting, fun projects. They get so many great offers, they can’t take them all. And they get paid $200 a blog post, or more, and $35,000 and up to ghost a book.
These writers can afford to take vacations. They have retirement accounts. They eat out. Why? Because they have an entirely different approach to their freelance writing business than writers who earn peanuts.
If you’re interested in earning real money from freelancing, let’s take a look at what makes the difference:
2 Things They’ve Got
Six-figure writers have two things going for them — a strong sense of self-worth, and a willingness (an eagerness, even!) to learn and grow.
If you believe you deserve to earn professional rates, and you are willing to find out what it takes to get real pay and good clients, then you’re on the road to earning a real living at this.
How can you get there, from where you are now?
It Takes a Plan
You could take years and years trying to figure out how to make freelance writing pay well. That’s basically what I did!
Or you could use a road map. One charted by writers who’ve already been there, that takes you step-by-step through the simple building blogs of creating a thriving freelance business.
Recently, I created a customizable Road Map course for my new mastermind program, the Freelance Writers Den 2X Income Accelerator. This program is for established freelancers who have been writing at least a year, and earned at least $15,000-$40,000 from their writing in the past 12 months. (And yes, we are opening up new masterminds right now!)
But I think the basic elements on this Road Map are useful to almost any freelance writer in thinking about how to take their business up a notch, whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been at this for years. Take a look:
Download the Road Map (PDF)
Under each of those headings, there’s a ton of content for Den 2X members — links, techniques, resources, ideas, strategies, and practical exercises for achieving that particular goal. Here’s a peek behind the curtain at the process of doubling your income:
It’s hard to map out a route to a better place if you don’t know where you are now, and how you got there. So all Den 2X students begin by analyzing their clients of the past year. Six-figure writers do this routinely, because they want to know what’s going on in their business, and how they can earn more.
How much did each client bring you, over the course of that year? How did you find this client? How much do you like writing for them? What’s your hourly rate with that client? Are they still a client, or was it a one-off job? Have they ever referred you a client, or given you a testimonial?
It can be a revelation to take a 12-month view of clients and their value to you, instead of thinking of what they’re bringing you this week or this month. Out of this analysis, we begin building a route to a higher income.
But before we can rev up the engines and zip down the road, there’s one important stop to make. We made it look like a roundabout because if you don’t do this work, you’ll just go ’round in circles and not make any progress.
To earn well, you have to believe you deserve that. I hear a lot of negative self-talk from writers, and that’s gotta go if you want to earn more.
In Den 2X, we take classic negative comments and recast them into affirmative statements.
“I’m worry that I’m bothering people when I send them a marketing email,” for instance, becomes, “Clients need my services.”
“I feel unqualified” becomes “I’ll behave professionally, so I’ll be treated professionally.”
Whenever you catch yourself running down your abilities, it’s time to rewrite that script.
Clearing the Way
Once you know what you need to change in terms of your client base, and you’ve got your attitude fired up, it’s time to make some basic business moves that get you ready to earn more.
You cut expenses, if you can, to enable you to drop low-payers and have breathing room while you look for better clients. You look at ways to get more work hours into the month, or ways to become more productive with the hours you’ve got.
Make plans to get rid of your lowest-paying client, as soon as you can. Ask current clients for a raise, if possible, or at least raise your rates for new clients.
The Fork in the Road
Once you’ve done those simple steps, there are two basic ways to earn more:
- Find more clients like the ones you have. If you’re just underbooked, or willing to work more hours, this may do it for you. This is easier than #2, because you clearly know how to get the types of clients you already have, and it probably won’t be too hard to get more of them.
- Find better clients. This means clients that not only pay more, but treat you better, and have more ongoing work for you. These are clients you’ll have to actively troll for — they’re not placing online job ads, or using bidding sites. Some writers need to have a deep think about the type of writing they’re going after and the industries they’re in…and may need to switch gears. Finding better clients usually means learning new skills, either in how you market or in types of writing you offer.
So far, in Den 2X, most writers are opting for this second option. If you go from a client that pays $100 an article to one that pays $1,000 — which I’ve seen happen — it’s such a major efficiency gain that life gets better pretty quick.
It’s well worth learning a few new tricks to double your income, right?
Easy Does It
Now that you’ve cleared the roadway of any clutter, you’re ready to get into gear with some basic marketing steps.
We begin with the easy stuff: Getting a writer website and LinkedIn profile that are set up to bring you clients while you sleep, a/k/a your inbound marketing machine. This will help attract those better clients.
From there, you go after low-hanging fruit — namely, asking everyone who already knows and likes your writing if they’d be willing to refer you. Marketing will never get easier than this, yet few writers I know do it.
Switch into Overdrive
Once you’ve got all that done, it’s time to get serious about proactive marketing. I know, you want to run! But six-figure writers do marketing — a lot of it, on a regular basis. Got to get your head around that.
What’s the best kind of marketing to do? The kind you’re willing to stick with.
Begin by learning all the options that are working today, and see what resonates for you. Will you send query letters? Go to networking events?
Whatever it is, the key is to do it in quantity. And not in a scattershot way, where you do a bit of this ‘n’ that, and you’re using seven different strategies. Pick two or three approaches, and go at them full bore.
We’re not talking about sending three letters of introduction this month — we’re talking 50, or 100. This is where most writers fall apart, because they don’t have enough support to stay on track and do volume marketing.
It’s a numbers game, so put a lot of lines in the water to be sure you catch enough fish for dinner.
Chart Your Course
Once you know who you want to write for, and how you’re going to market to them, it’s time to have a plan. That’s what we do in that final, orange section of the Road Map above.
Create a written plan for the next 1-3 months. Then, find a person — or group — to help hold you accountable for doing it.
From there, you want to roll for at least several months. Don’t give up too fast! Don’t worry about results yet (though most writers I know start to see some right away). Just go, go, go.
After 3-6 months, it’s time to analyze what’s happening. Never getting a query response? Maybe you need to learn more about writing those. Is your in-person networking paying off, but you never seem to connect with anyone on Twitter? Time to ramp up the networking.
From here, it’s lather, rinse, repeat.
Six-figure writers don’t sit around whining about how horrible it is to do marketing. It’s just part of their everyday life.
Keep going, until you have all the clients you can handle, paying really solid rates.
What’s blocking your road to higher freelance income? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
P.S. If you’d like to work this Road Map, join a mastermind of writers at your income level who’ll hold you accountable, and get one-on-one coaching time with me, check out my new Den 2X Income Accelerator program for doubling your income.