If you’re a working freelance writer, I’ve got a question for you: Would you like to earn twice as much money from writing as you do right now?
(I should clarify that I mean without working twice as hard.)
Who wouldn’t, right?
I’ve been helping freelance writers double their income for many years now, and here’s what I’ve learned: Earning a lot more may be easier than you think.
There are a few basic changes to how you run your writing business that reliably boost writers’ income.
What small steps make a big difference? Here are my top five tips for quickly doubling what you earn from writing:
1. Stop and analyze
Many freelance writers are caught in a gerbil-wheel trap. You spend every minute frantically doing current client work and checking online job boards trying to land more gigs. You’re barely earning enough to pay bills, so there’s little free time.
There are zero minutes spent reflecting on the big picture. Where is your writing biz headed? Who would you really love to write for, and how can you position yourself to get there?
In the world of entrepreneurship, this is called working in your business instead of on your business. You’ll need to stop the busy-busy and take stock of your direction to make course corrections. If you’ve got even a single hour, you could reflect on what’s happening and potentially chart a new course.
Question: When was the last time you made a list of all your clients, how much you make from them on an hourly basis — and where they came from?
Do you see any patterns in your marketing of where better-rate clients came from? Worse ones? That may show you it’s time to stop checking online job boards, and time to do more proactive marketing, or to double down on LinkedIn networking. Or perhaps one industry niche is paying better than your others, and you should troll for more work in that area.
Stopping to do a client analysis can help you see where you’re wasting time, which clients should be dropped, and which asked for a raise.
2. Drop the biggest loser
Once you know who your worst client is, lay plans to get rid of them.
Writers often stay trapped at a low income level because they fear change. “I love writing for client X!” writers tell me, even though the gig works out to under $20 an hour. Bulletin: That client isn’t loving you back.
Somewhere in your client list, there’s probably a client that should be cut loose, to free up marketing time to find better prospects.
Use the time you save to find a better client. Once you do, drop the next-biggest loser. And so on. This simple process of swapping out lower-paid clients for better ones is the main technique I used to build my own business to six figures — right in the middle of the last big economic downturn.
3. Create (or strengthen) your inbound funnel
Are great clients finding you online? Whether it’s from a LinkedIn profile or your own writer website, a thriving writing business gets inbound clients who see your work and contact you. You should wake up in the morning and find emails, InMails, or Messenger notes from good prospects.
If that isn’t happening for you, it’s time to build or improve your online presence. I’m currently teaching a bootcamp for new freelance writers, and I’m blown away by how many have fewer than 100 LinkedIn connections. Give the Internet a chance to help you find clients on autopilot!
Consider making network-building and site improvement a weekly goal – it can pay off in less active marketing you have to do. And we all want that, right?
If you’ve got a writer website but it’s never gotten you a client, it’s time to optimize it. Have you given SEO any thought, and are you getting found for the keyword phrase you’re targeting? It can be worth investing a little time to make sure you come off professional, and it’s clear what type of clients you want.
Remember, most clients are searching for someone who knows their thing. They’re Googling for an Atlanta healthcare writer, or a freelance cryptocurrency writer. Something like that. Be sure to think like a client and communicate your expertise.
4. Identify ideal clients
If your marketing is all over the place, it’s time to focus. One of the best ways to do that is with an ideal-client exercise. Here’s how:
Close your eyes and imagine your ideal freelance writing life. Who are you writing for? Is it Vanity Fair? IBM? Think big and make a list of at least 10 dream clients.
Next, ask yourself this: What clips would impress those clients? Who would be a good stepping stone down the yellow brick road to that Emerald City?
For instance, if you want to write for Forbes, you might pitch a piece to your city’s business magazine or weekly business journal, to start. Aligning current prospects with ideal clients helps you quickly assemble a portfolio that’ll impress the right people.
Stop taking any and all gigs that come your way, and writing about everything under the sun. Instead, build a path that leads directly to your best writing jobs.
Sometimes, this exercise will even lead you to realize you should pitch dream clients right away! I’ve seen writers pitch and get hired immediately by dream clients, once they did the ideal-client exercise and realized they had the portfolio to go for it.
5. Raise your rates
There’s a bottom line that if you want to earn more, you have to charge more.
Start figuring out how you’ll do it. Hint: You’ll need to target clients that have real money and understand our value — bigger-circulation magazines, larger business and websites. Generally, these gigs aren’t sitting around an online job board.
Make sure you know what you’re earning on an hourly basis (even if you charge project rates, like you should)…and keep inching that figure up.
If you don’t have the stomach to ask existing clients for a raise, be sure to bring in new ones at higher rates. If you’re not raising rates, you’re not keeping up with the rising cost of living.
I speak as someone who’s paying $7,000 for braces on kid #2 right now, that cost $5,000 with kid #1, about 5 years ago. The price of everything else is going up, and raising rates shows you’re professional and value your worth.
Once you’ve done the client-analysis process and realigned your actions to suit your goals, make a date with yourself to repeat it every six months- one year. Your client base will change, as will your best actions to grow your income.
We don’t tend to hit new earning levels without a goal. Set yours high and even if you fall short, you’ll be earning way more than you did before.
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