Want to earn more as a freelance content writer? Then stop talking about “the writer lifestyle” and look at it like a business. Because there are many way to carve out a higher paying niche in writing.
While content mills can provide you with a way to get started (and quickly reload your schedule if a regular client cancels), here are eight ways to move up into higher paying work…
Understand The Client’s Business Problem
As of this moment, you are no longer in the content writing business. You are in the problem solving business, the solution to which happens to be a freelance writing opportunity.
High paying writing jobs exist to solve a larger client problem. For example, that guest post you just cranked out? It helped someone rank their dental practice on Google, bringing fresh customers in the door.
All other things being equal, focus on projects which create substantial value for your clients.
Find Unique Ways to Add Value
Unfortunately, the market for freelance writing is extremely competitive. So while that dental client may have made a few hundred bucks from that guest post, at least one of my competitors was happy to write it for $50. Which puts a limit on how much we can charge for the work.
Unless, of course, we’ve got something unique to bring to the project. Maybe we’re a dentist too. Or have written a few hundred dental posts, which were published on leading dental blogs. In that case, we’ve got more room to set the price, since we’re clearly better than most of the alternatives.
This is particularly true for clients where the cost of failure is especially high. For example, one PR agency paid a content writer 4 X the market rate due to their expertise in a specific industry. This was due to trouble with the client: a run of bad content from the last writer had almost gotten the agency fired, so the expense was justified.
Which leads us to our next point…
Master A Writing Niche
Every highly successful freelance writer I’ve met had “a thing”, a specific writing niche where they had honed their skills to a fine art.
The real advantage of focusing on a niche is you can execute better. You’ll know what the typical client wants and can focus your pitch on those points. You’ll write faster, since you’ve worked on similar projects before. And you’ve already done your research on the topic, which saves time.
These writing skill advantages will compound across the course of your freelance writing career, giving you a huge edge in pursuing business in your niche. This can also be used to get momentum for other projects in your niche, such as building your own websites, consulting, or expanding into doing content marketing for clients.
Narrow niches work best. You’re not a medical writer, you specialize in a specific condition. Technical writer? Specific platform or process. Grant writer? Specific agencies & grant types. Creative writer? Genre or scene type. Trust me, the people that hire for creative writing jobs are looking for very specific stuff in their job listing.
For those of you who use a writing platform or job board to find clients, investing in learning a niche is an effective way to set yourself apart. Remote writing jobs usually get a ton of applications from generalist writers; lead your pitch with mention of relevant projects and include a writing sample to escape the cattle call.
Invest In Your Pitch
Speaking of which, most freelance writing job applicants have horrible pitches and job board profiles. I’ll boil it down: Less is More.
Highlight three utterly compelling reasons to speak with you (trust me, “plagiarism free work” will never be on my list) and ask for the order.
Seriously, it works….
If you ever get the opportunity to work as a proposal writer, take it. That’s a great edge to have in this business in terms of knowing how to hone your pitch.
Be Utterly Reliable
This is just basic math. We operate in a business where only a tiny share of your pitches will land freelance writing work but a happy client can rehire you for writing projects dozens of times. Really happy clients will refer you to friends (more writer jobs!) .
So focus on creating really happy clients.
This isn’t complicated – for adults. Do what you say, Say what you mean. Follow the golden rule. Deliver on your commitments. Check your work.
A subscription to the paid version of a tool such as Grammarly might be in order. Why lose points with your clients over easily prevented errors?
The payoff? The opportunity to earn as much as twenty times more in billings per client. From the publisher side, finding a good freelancer is a rare treasure. Most of my large clients started as a “small test” assignment or online writing job posting which blossomed into additional freelance work. It’s a great way to grow a freelance writing business.
That 2000 word article that you just wrote? The sad reality is most of the readers are going to skim it, at best…
They’re going to focus on the headline, the titles, the pictures and captions, and a couple of calls to action in the piece. That’s where most of the real money from publishing the article will be made.
And someone, somewhere down the line, is going to try to convert that attention into sales. That’s where the copywriter comes into the picture.
A copywriter polishes content to encourage the audience to take action. This is usually measured, in terms of click through rates and sales, to help improve how much money is made from a piece.
Getting double the people to click? Doubles the revenue from your article. And likely quadruples the profit, since there is a cost to publish things.
Content writers who can show clients they know how to quadruple the performance of an article get paid (a lot) more than writers who don’t.
Invest in SEO Tools
Mention Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to most writers and they’ll grimace. Most of them are “too good” to get into the weird details of ranking websites on Google. They’re creative!
Or worse, they’ll run their copy through some free tools and tell the publisher that everything is SEO optimized. And highlight this on their freelance writing gig page on Fiverr or social media. Which makes publishers grimace, since many of the free SEO tools are utter garbage.
Returning to the theme of creating client value, I should mention that the primary goal of most articles is to help a website rank on Google. So achieving success in this whole SEO mumbo-jumbo is actually an important goal for the client. And thus, possibly… a good goal for you as well?
This opens up an interesting option if you’re in a high paying freelance writing niche, especially if you already publish your own website. Why not go ahead and invest in paid SEO & content tools?
It doesn’t take much to move the needle. Maybe spend $100 per month on some basic tools like SEMRush (keywords & competitor analysis) and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.
That’s more than enough to show higher end clients that you’re serious about ranking their website on Google… and worth paying extra. This also positions you to start going after content marketing projects, with a broader scope of work.
Rank Your Own Content Website
The ultimate test. Eating your own dogfood. Using your own content to rank a website on Google, which you can share with your clients.
My one tip: it’s not about you. Focus on a relevant topic for your freelance writing niche, which the client will immediately associate with their needs.
Seriously, my best closing tool for pitches is a lead generation website I set up for a similar industry. I ask the client to Google the keyword.
That usually does the trick. Another happy client.
One other benefit of running your own websites. This gives you a chance to learn WordPress and Google Analytics, along with running tests on headlines and copywriting. All of these are opportunities for to get more (highly paid) work.