Recurring Revenue: The Key to an Awesome Freelance Writing Career

Recurring revenue
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So you decided to quit your job to become a freelancer. You had big visions: being your own boss! Creating your own schedule! Earning money doing what you love!

Only… a few months later, your life looks nothing like what you’d pictured. Instead of Skyping with high-profile clients from some exotic cafe, you’re answering poorly paid job ads from your parents’ basement.

If this sounds familiar, listen up: I’m about to let you in on a solid way to get yourself off the feast-or-famine freelance treadmill.

It’s called recurring revenue.

In other words, clients who hire you to work for them on a regular basis: say, one project every day, week or month, which means getting paid by that same client again and again.

Why recurring revenue rocks for freelance writers

Here’s why this business strategy is so important for those of you who want to earn more — and stress less — as a freelancer.

It makes your earnings more predictable

Not knowing where your money is coming from — or how much you’ll earn — is neither fun nor sustainable. Recurring revenue allows you to predict your monthly income, which makes it easier to create a budget and assess how much more work you need to meet your goals.

Even if that recurring client represents only 20 or 30 percent of your total monthly revenue, it’s nice to know you can expect that regular paycheck.

Your stress levels will go down

Financial stress is often the number one problem for freelancers — especially for those who are just starting out and might be used to receiving a steady paycheck each month. Having recurring work and knowing you can pay your bills on time removes a huge amount of stress from your shoulders, which means you can actually enjoy the flexible lifestyle you’ve created.

You can focus on working, instead of pitching

One of the biggest benefits of recurring revenue is you don’t have to spend all your free time searching for more work. More time doing the work — rather than trying to win it — means more money in the bank. Most freelancers also tend to enjoy working more than pitching, so this approach could make you happier in that regard, too.

You’ll find higher-paying gigs

When you have a steady income, the time you do spend trying to win work can be focused on higher-paying writing gigs. Since you won’t be forced to take on projects just because you need the cash, you’ll gradually cultivate a stable of well-paying clients, leading to a lot more money as the years go by.

You’ll foster meaningful relationships

When you’re working with the same clients month after month, you’ll inevitably foster deeper relationships. Not only does this allow you to do a stellar job because you’ll better understand what each client wants and how to help them, you’ll also learn, over time, how to complete your projects more efficiently.

Even better, these types of relationships often lead to more work from those clients or from other people in their networks.

Tips for generating recurring revenue

Finding recurring work is similar to landing one-off freelance gigs; it just takes a little bit of extra effort.

The first step is to develop a system for pitching and landing prospective clients. Impressing clients into hiring you on a recurring basis requires more time and effort, which means you need to be efficient with your inbounding process.

Every time you get a new gig, look at it as an opportunity to win a recurring client. Make sure your work is excellent, submit it before the deadline, and if you can, find a way to add an extra 10 percent of effort to really make it shine. Give that client reason to want to hire you again!

If it’s a reported story, interview a first-person source rather than just quoting an article you find online. If you’re writing a blog post, format it to match other posts on the blog, so the editor doesn’t have to do that himself after you turn it in. Whatever the project is, going above and beyond the basic requirements will help you stand out in a sea of other freelancers.

Once you’ve proven your skill and reliability on a few one-off projects, let your client know you’d like to be considered for ongoing work. Here’s how to land recurring blogging jobs, for example. If they can’t hire you right then, don’t fret. Stay in touch with the client via social media and email, and hopefully they’ll think of you the next time a recurring opportunity pops up.

On all of your projects, strive to demonstrate your value, and you’ll soon be on your way to recurring revenue — and a successful freelance business.

Do you have any recurring clients? How’d you find them?

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Alexis Grant is founder of The Write Life. A digital strategist and entrepreneur, she blogs about alternative careers. Alexis also runs a content marketing company that specializes in managing high-volume blogs.... .

alexisgrant.com | @alexisgrant

Alexis Grant
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Comments

  1. Alexa,
    Great reasons to land recurring clients! When I first started freelance writing, that was always my goal – to land a blogging gig that needed consistent content.

    While this is the type clients I have currently, I found that even this doesn’t always lead to a consistent income. Some of my blogging clients lessened their content needs from 4 posts a month to 1 post a month, while others stop their blog all together.

    I’m learning, though, to always be marketing and understand content needs change.

    Elna

    • You bring up a good reason why lots of freelancers diversify: because budgets can get slashed, and sometimes that means losing revenue you’ve counted on. Good for you for being flexible and learning/changing along the way.

  2. Hi Alexa,

    In a similar vein to what Elna says above, reaching out to businesses to write their social media content is a good way to secure recurring revenue. Agree to a certain number of posts per week/day and a fee to be paid monthly. As long as you produce reliable work of consistent quality, the revenue will keep coming in. Also, because it is the same amount every month, they are also more likely to set up a direct payment system and forget about it.

    Aoife

  3. Great article, Alexis! I have two reoccurring clients and a new client I plan to turn into a reoccurring one. I stumbled into freelancing by accident (novelist), but found I really enjoyed it.

    I continually pitched ideas for sections of their magazine publications and soon they were emailing me before I pitched. My new client used to work for an existing client so was familiar with my work. I was fortunate because she came to me.

    I answered a request for articles for my second client. She wanted to met in person, we hit it off, and they became my next reoccurring client.

    Studying the client, pitching, confidence, and relationship building has worked best for me.

    I still work full-time, but I’m shifting to freelancing (along with novel writing and entrepreneurship) only in a few months. So excited! I’m getting all my systems (thank you, Alexis) and possible clients list in place so I can hit the ground running when it happens. I have specific financial and professional goals to reach and I can’t wait to get started!

  4. Did an email marketing campaign a while back and landed a monthly blog contract with a personal training business. After a couple of months, they asked me to rewrite their website content. More work, more money! One-offs are great when they pay well, but recurring clients are best for a predictable income and often lead to more work. Thanks for the tips.

    • Such a great point, Evan — It’s easier and often more lucrative to land more work with an existing client than to find a new one. Hope that web copy job is a fun one =)

  5. I wish that I could afford your course but not at this time monies scarce

  6. These tips will prove highly beneficial, Alexis! Thank you so much!

  7. This is great thank you for this article. My first freelance gig was a five hour per week ongoing client that pays well and is very well known in their industry. I’ve just started freelancing two months ago and I’ve had this client about 6 weeks. I want to talk to them about referring me to others in their network but I’m waiting to “prove” myself worthy first. How should I go about asking they keep me in mind as a recommendation?

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Brianna! I’d say six weeks might be a tad early, since you’ll want to make sure your client knows you’re consistently doing high-quality work first. What kind of feedback are you hearing from the client? If their comments are very positive, you might be able to ask sooner; if they’re more neutral, I’d focus on knocking this client’s work out of the park before asking for referrals.

      I’m sure other writers will chime in here, and I’ll look forward to hearing different opinions. How long do you wait or what signs do you look for before asking for referrals?

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

      • Thank you for your reply and for your honesty Heather. My client has been quite enthusiastic but I do feel waiting is my best choice right now. You just confirmed my gut instinct.

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