I know why you’re reading this.
You’re exactly where I was about a year ago: Feeling lost. Wondering how you’ll find success as a freelance writer.
Ready for some good news?
You can make serious income from writing work. I’m talking “pay your bills and still have plenty left to support your Whole Foods addiction” money here, people.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it — I had to hustle like crazy at first to make it happen.
But once I understood the process, the money started pouring in, and I made more than $5,000 in my fourth month as a full-time freelance writer.
How, you ask?
Good question. Here’s what I did:
1. Set crazy goals and worked hard to achieve them
Full disclosure: I didn’t exactly choose to become a freelance writer.
I got fired from my full-time job, and suddenly having no source of income motivated me to make freelance writing work for me.
I knew it was going to be tough, but I was confident in my ability to succeed. So, I told myself that I’d out-earn my previous salary within four months.
Deep down, I knew it was a crazy goal. But I set it anyway, told myself that it was achievable, and woke up every day with the drive to make it happen.
And it did happen. I got fired in April 2015, and four months later, made $5,172 from freelance writing work in August 2015 alone.
If I’d allowed myself to be held back by a negative mindset, it wouldn’t have happened.
Set an income goal that seems crazy to you but is still achievable. Having a clear goal to work toward will help you grow your business quickly.
2. Picked a niche
I worked as a B2B copywriter for IT companies for a while before I became a freelance writer, so I chose that as my niche.
And you better believe I plastered “B2B Copywriter for IT Service Providers” all over my freelance writer website and social media profiles.
Because a freelance writer known as an expert in a specific niche usually gets more high-paying clients than one who isn’t.
Think about it. If you were hiring a writer, would you want to work with one who specialized in your industry or one who wrote all sorts of content?
You’d want the specialist. Every time.
Your potential clients feel the same way. So pick a niche, and start marketing yourself as an expert in that niche.
Keep in mind that you can pick multiple niches if you want — the specialization part is what’s important. And you don’t need a crazy amount of expertise on a topic to make it your niche. As long as you can deliver what clients need, you can learn as you go.
3. Built a strong freelance writer website
I had a basic portfolio website for a while, but I knew that wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to make serious money as a freelance writer.
So, I learned everything I could about WordPress and built a freelance writing website.
Seems like common sense, right?
It is. Lots of writers do have a website.
They create their website from the perspective of a desperate job-seeker who is writing a resume — not an expert business owner who knows how to get results for clients.
Those writers might as well give themselves a neck tattoo that says “PLEASE UNDERPAY ME.”
I know that’s harsh, but it’s true. Clients tend to make assumptions about your value based on your website.
I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that hold other freelance writers back, so keep these tips in mind when you’re creating your freelance writing website:
- Write your website copy in a way that brands you and attracts your ideal clients. My website has the word “badass” right in the headline because that’s how I talk. That kind of tone sets me apart, and I’ve found that my audience (B2B business owners and marketers) appreciates the straightforward approach. It might offend some people and drive them away, but it doesn’t matter — those people wouldn’t be the right clients for me anyway.
- Leave out meaningless adjectives, and speak directly to the client’s needs and pain points. No more wasting valuable space on your site talking about how “disciplined” and “passionate” you are as a writer. Clients don’t care about that they care about what services you can provide for them.
- Choose a clean design and make sure your site is user friendly. Avoid cluttering your site with unnecessary images and giant walls of text. Instead, use white space to draw the reader’s eyes to the important points. And if you want to find out what people really think of your website, try a free user testing tool like Peek.
Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes. What are they really looking for when they hire a freelance writer like you? Use your answer to guide you when you’re creating your website.
4. Cold-pitched my target audience
Several years ago, I worked as a door-to-door salesperson.
That’s right — I had to knock on people’s doors and try to sell them cable and internet services.
My salary was so low that I depended on commission to pay my bills, so I had to hustle.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking:
No wonder you recommend cold pitching. It must be easy for someone who worked in sales!
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it’s not easy.
But is it worth it?
In fact, cold pitching helped me earn $800 in my first month as a freelance writer.
Now, I didn’t just send pitches to random businesses. I mostly used LimeLeads, a huge database of leads, to look up B2B/IT businesses in my niche.
But you don’t have to use LimeLeads — you can find potential clients using social media and Google. Then, send each of them a tailored pitch.
Here are a few tips that’ll help you write effective cold pitches:
- Include a link to your freelance writing website in your pitch. Your site should have your niche defined in the headline so that potential clients know immediately that you specialize in their industry.
- Focus on how you’ll get results for the company you’re pitching. Don’t talk about yourself too much in your email. Instead, talk about how you’ll help the company get more customers, build their audience, etc.
- Avoid pitching like you’re a desperate job seeker. Instead, write like you’re a confident business owner (because you are!), and you’ll be able to demand respect and higher rates.
Keep in mind that you’ll get rejected tons of times — that’s just how cold pitching works. Most of the cold emails I sent at the beginning of my career were ignored completely.
But after a while, I started getting responses. Some of those turned into clients.
So don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. If you approach cold emailing correctly, you will be able to get new freelance writing clients from it.
5. Outsourced strategically
I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve always hated editing.
Mostly because I’m a perfectionist, which makes self-editing is a huge time suck for me.
I realized this early on in my freelance writing career, so I started paying an editor to look over all my work, even though I was a broke newbie.
Yes, outsourcing costs me money, but it saves me far more money in the long run.
I think about it like this:
Editing doesn’t make me any money or help me grow my freelance writing business. When I cut editing out of my workday completely, I open up more time to work on tasks that make my business more profitable, like writing or marketing.
Figure out what tedious tasks you can outsource to make your freelance writing business more profitable.
Time is money when you’re a freelance writer, so you need all the time you can get.
6. Rejected low-paying clients
When you start out, it’s tempting to take whatever work you can get. And if you don’t have any connections, you may have to settle for some low-paying clients at first so you can pay the bills.
But you shouldn’t do it for long.
Because filling your schedule up with low-paying writing work takes away the free time you could spend marketing yourself to high-paying clients. And before you know it, you end up caught in a vicious cycle of accepting whatever pay you can get.
Here’s a better idea based on what I did to grow my income quickly:
Figure out the bare-minimum amount of money you need to survive every month. Once you’re making that amount from your low-paying clients, stop accepting any new low-paying work and spend all of your free time working on marketing yourself and pitching to high-paying clients.
That way, you can avoid getting stuck in a rut and start growing your business —and your income.
7. Built a strong social-media presence
First of all, realize that you shouldn’t immediately expect a flood of high-paying clients from social media. You’ll have to spend some time building a presence and making connections first.
Here’s a three-step process I used to land clients through social media:
- Connect with target clients. For example, if you specialize in writing blog posts about marketing, you might connect with content marketing managers at marketing agencies. They’d be the people most likely to give you work.
- Start liking and commenting on your target clients’ posts. By doing so, you’ll start building relationships with potential clients and get on their radar.
- Send a client-focused pitch. If you do this after you’ve built a relationship with the potential client on social media, it works like a charm. Be personable and talk about how you can help their business in your pitch. Even if they don’t hire you right away, there’s a good chance they’ll keep you in mind for later or send you a referral.
I know it’s tempting to send sales pitches to potential clients the moment you connect with them, but don’t do that. You’ll find those clients much more receptive to working with you if you’ve spent significant time building a relationship with them.
Which of these tactics will you use to increase your freelance writing income? Let’s talk about it in the comments section!