Pitch Your Dream Clients: October Income Report from Nicole Dieker

Pitch Your Dream Clients: October Income Report from Nicole Dieker

When you started freelancing, did you have a vision of where you wanted your career to go?

Does your current career match that vision?

Today, we’ll look at a reader’s question about pitching “vision clients” and discuss why your freelancing vision might change over time.

First, my numbers for October:

Completed pieces: 61

Work billed: $11,734.33

Income received: $11,774.81

In October, I earned over $10,000 in freelance income — a new milestone — and I should earn over $10,000 in November as well.

These earnings are due in part to a large project that’s scheduled to complete by the end of the year, so I don’t anticipate $10K monthly earnings being “the new normal.” However, it’s a nice temporary normal.

What am I doing with these high earnings? I’ve paid off my last outstanding debts, I’m putting aside a little extra for taxes and I’m saving as much as I can for the future. Freelancing is unpredictable, so I want to be prepared for income downturns, as well as upswings. It’s what the financial advisors would recommend, right?

Advice on pitching higher-paying clients

On the subject of advice: A reader recently asked if I’d give some advice on pitching higher-paying clients as well as pitching what she called “vision clients:” the clients or publications that represent where you want your career to go in the future.

I have a lot of advice on pitching, so I’ll start with two links. If you’re looking for advice on how to write a pitch, please check out my Write Life “Pitch Fix” series, where I workshop real pitches from writers and make those pitches stronger.

If you’re looking for a specific and actionable guide on getting better clients and earning more money, I wrote an ebook for The Write Life called “Get Better Clients and Earn More Money.”

(Seriously. It’s worth reading.)  

But let’s look closely at this reader’s questions: how do you pitch higher-paying clients, and how do you go after those clients that represent the next stage of your career?

The short answer is that you pitch higher-paying clients the same way you’re pitching your current clients. You craft smart, tailored pitches that focus on how your skills and ideas can benefit that client’s audience. You also highlight your previous work to prove that you can deliver a quality product.

I often reference Shane Snow’s video “Hacking the Freelance Ladder” for a great analysis of how a writer can use the clips and connections they build with their current clients to move “up the ladder” to better-paying clients. (Watch the video. It’s so good.)

From my experience, the first steps on the ladder are close together, and don’t always represent a significant increase in pay; I remember feeling like it was a huge deal to go from 3 cents a word to 5 cents a word, for example. As you continue to build your freelance career, the steps on the ladder might feel more like jumps; instead of getting $100 more per piece, you might get offered $500 or $1,000 more per piece.

As I moved up in my freelance career, I spent less time pitching potential clients and more time working with clients who had contacted me. When you’re pitching a client, they have most of the leverage; although you can negotiate, you often have to take or leave what they’re offering. When a client reaches out to you, you’re the one with the leverage and they’re the ones who have to take or leave your rates.

Finding your “vision clients”

Which brings me to those “vision clients.”

Here’s one of the hardest truths about freelancing: you might have a vision of where you want your career to go, but there’s going to be a lot that you can’t predict. I would never have guessed that my primary freelance beat would end up being personal finance, or that I would become an editor, as well as a writer. I didn’t plan to earn much of my income through content marketing, either; when I started freelancing, I didn’t even know what that term meant.

If you had asked me who my “vision clients” were four years ago, I probably would have named a few highbrow publications that focused on intellectual and cultural commentary. As it turns out, my greatest freelance success has come from the areas where my skills match a client’s vision; in my case, my willingness to be open about my finances and my earnings, or my ability to quickly research and analyze a subject in a way that is interesting to a client’s target audience.

So here’s my advice: if there’s a client or publication that represents where you want  your career to go, absolutely pitch them. But pay attention to the clients and publications that are interested in you, even if they might be taking you in a slightly different direction. Sometimes your career might not match your vision — and that’s a good thing.

Four years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the career I have now. I didn’t know the freelancing industry well enough to know which opportunities were available to writers, or which opportunities might be the best match for my skills. But I kept climbing the ladder, paying attention to which clients were most interested in my work, and my vision changed as my career grew.

Expect your vision to change as well. That’s the best advice I can give.

What was your first “freelancing vision?” How close or far away are you from that original idea?

Filed Under: Freelancing


  • I’ve taught “Succeeding as a Magazine Writer” for over 20 years (off and on) and I’ve found there are an amazing number of ways magazine work keeps expanding. It’s not dead, folks. There are still print, but of course online, magazines. There are newsletters. Case Studies/White Papers. Blogs. Web content and Webinar handouts.

    List goes on. And if you have a specialty (mine has always been the healthcare field), there can be amazing dollars. (‘Course the small fees still exist…and even some of those can actually pay.)

    BTW, the website you may see? I just designed it myself. (I’ve done web content forever, but the design… .)

  • Nunnie says:

    If you’re an absolute newcomer to free lance writing, what is the best way to go about finding work?

    Thanks very much.

  • Tanya Corvia says:

    Hello Nicole, great post. Thanks for sharing it as it’s very inspirational and motivating to me as a new freelancer. Actually, I started on content mills in May of this year because I didn’t know there were other ways. I don’t make much money as competition is so fierce and pay is cheap, but it’s been something. However, my 2017 vision is to ditch the content mills and land me some real paying clients through pitching and blogging on my own site. Hopefully, I’ll get lucky. Anyway, just wanted to say thank you.

  • Anusha says:


    I’m just starting out and hope to find my way around !

    Hope to learn a lot from you .

  • Sam says:

    Thanks for sharing your actuals. It’s inspiring to ‘meet’ someone with that much courage. It also takes courage to not “kick against the pricks” (thorns). Your reputation will show your strengths, not your desires. Before you know it, they will merge, or you can afford to do both, lol.

  • CTET Result says:

    I think. it’s a huge income. I hope, you will earn more in future.
    Thnks for sharing your income report.

  • Sarah says:


    I found the video you shared from The Freelancer so insightful! I love seeing how other writers are succeeding.

    I also think vision plays a huge role in success. Just as you started with a vision at the beginning of your career, writers need to pinpoint their vision. Otherwise, they’ll be aiming at nothing. You can’t succeed if your target is the ocean.

    I’m glad you mentioned how your vision changed when you realized your skillset. I’m a new freelancer, and I already see my vision morphing into something I didn’t intend. It’s exciting, and I’m glad to know it’s normal!

    Your Loyal Fan,

  • I’m still pretty invisible as a writer. In the next year maybe I can get some “clients” of my own. There is so much competition out there and so many people want to pay so little, especially online. Know of a place where they are hiring writers for decent pay?

  • HI Nicole

    I find your column really inspirational. I have one question though: How many hours do you work a month? It sounds to me (maybe just because you don’t talk about it, which is fair) as if you don’t really do much else outside of writing.

    If I consider how much time I spend on kids, house, chores, etc, and we’re not even talking about just relaxing, doing sport, seeing other people, have a hobby, etc I don’t know how I will ever do 61 projects a month – that’s about 3 a day!
    Please tell me you can do this, and still have a life as well…

    • Nicole says:

      As I mentioned in another reply, a lot of the pieces I write are short—under 500 words or sometimes even under 100 words.

      I also write about four longform pieces (3000-4000 words) every month, and a handful that hit the 1200-word range.

      I work about 40 hours a week, but it used to be 50+ hours. I’ve worked hard to keep my workflow as streamlined as possible so I can get things done.

      • Thanks Nicole
        Am I right to assume that most of your work does not involve lots of research or interviews? That’s where I spend a lot of time. The actual writing is the fast part, gathering the information is the time-consuming part.

  • Anna says:

    My income is getting there too and I’m very excited about it. Good on you!

  • salim51 says:

    Thanks for the insights. This post gives me hopes of succeeding as a newbie.

  • Ann says:

    I’m in awe of your figures – I would love to make a small fraction of that. But as I understand you are now working for higher paying clients how come it takes 61 pieces to bill for 11,000. That makes it an average of around $180 a piece. And 61 pieces is a lot of work.
    Could you perhaps elaborate a bit on how the figures worked out .

    • Nicole says:

      Sure! The majority of my “pieces” are for The Billfold, where I post two short pieces every day plus some longer features. They range from 1500-word interviews to 60-word “Do 1 Thing” pieces.

      I also write about four longform (3000-4000) pieces a month, and a few other short pieces here and there.

      It is a lot of work! A standard 40-hour workweek, give or take.

  • Ashri Mishra says:

    I read your blog. It’s very useful for me.

  • Once again your monthly income report delivered. Thanks for inspiring those of us who make substantially less with our writing (zero) to keep at it. And congrats on your two big months!

  • Great Am Regular Reader of your Blog….. find it Glad your Income…. All the Best for your future and thanks for motivation Us.

  • David Throop says:

    Hi Nicole,
    Thanks for your email. It’s always great to see a freelancer do well, it provides light when I’m lost in the tunnel.

    I think the strongest point you make is the idea that we may need to pivot ourselves as freelancers. As you state, by focusing on what is working, who is hiring, and what type of content they need for their audience, we have a much better picture of the actions we need to take.

    It’s those actions that we receive the most results, the Pareto Principle, that we should be focusing upon.

    Now, if I could only focus…

    Thanks again for your inspiring, and challenging, words.

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