How did your freelance writing business fare in 2015?
For most people, a new year presents an opportunity for a new start. With much firmer resolve, you can tweak aspects of your business to guarantee maximum results, and you can double your efforts to ensure you’re on track to succeed.
What successful freelancers know, though, is that the key to success goes beyond just taking action. To succeed, you have to take the right actions in the right way. That’s why I’m here for you!
If you want a successful freelance writing business in 2016, here are some tips to help you start with a bang:
1. Work on Your Skill Set
As a freelance writer, you become more valuable when you gain new skills.
Here’s what Clement Lim, a student of mine, who recently landed a job as a content marketing strategist (because he broadened his skill set and became more than just a freelance writer) had to say: “Going the blogging route has been a lot tougher than just throwing up a basic writer’s website. I’ve had to learn about WordPress, SEO, link building, social media marketing, content marketing. But the toughest route is often the most fruitful. I now have a range of skills that I can market to clients.”
If the only thing you can do in 2016 is write blog posts or web articles, you’re in for a shock. Unless you work on your skill set, 2016 will be a struggle for you.
Businesses – at least the ones that pay really well – no longer want a “freelance writer,” they want a “content strategist,” a “content marketer,” an “expert” who can help them get results from their content.
Learn to blog, learn a bit about SEO, learn a bit about social media, know how to use basic CMSs like WordPress, and you’ll be well positioned to earn more as a freelance writer.
2. Niche Down
As a freelance writer, you’ll start earning more once you realize that you can’t serve everybody. Most freelance writers make the mistake of trying to appeal to everyone, and as a result they attract nobody. Instead of getting high-quality clients, they get low-quality clients, who see writing as a commodity. They get clients who don’t value their work, because these clients see nothing special in what they are doing.
You’ll enjoy the following advantages when you niche down:
- You can command better rates since you’re now working for a select, qualified group of people
- You attract more clients because your message easily resonates with your target market
- You attract more clients and command better rates because, by niching down, you have significantly reduced your competition. You’re no longer competing with all “freelance writers”. Instead, you own your place in a limited, specific field, where clients value premium work.
Almost always, freelancers have reported an increase in income by niching down. This case study by Ramit Sethi is a good example; Paige was able to increase her rates and double her number of clients by niching down.
You can niche down by focusing on a specific industry, or by specializing in one particular service, or on a core group of services.
3. Reposition Yourself
Perception matters a lot, and the perception most people have of freelance writers is that they can get work done at a cheaper rate. Freelance bidding sites like Upwork, Guru and Freelancer aren’t helping matters either. By repositioning yourself to be more than just a “freelance writer” you can command better rates from your clients.
Instead of calling yourself a “freelance writer”, you can market yourself as a “content strategist,” “content marketer,” or other terms that better communicate the value you can deliver to your clients. Many people will easily pay a content strategist $500 for an article, yet they will balk at the thought of giving a freelance writer “$100” for the same work.
4. Create a Website
As I explained in my article on how to create a writer website, one of the top questions potential clients ask me when I send a cold pitch is, “Can we see your website?”
Your website can speak volumes about you. It can showcase your expertise, it can showcase samples of your work, it can include social proof, and it can feature your rates.
If you haven’t already done so, read my article on how to create a writer’s website. If you are undecided about where to host your website, here’s a comparison of dozens of web hosts based on performance.
5.Create a Blog
I’m a huge advocate of blogging, and it is how I’ve gotten most of my clients. If you don’t yet have a blog, you need to revise your strategy as a freelance writer.
Here are some reasons to create a blog for your freelance writing business in 2016:
- It helps you showcase your work
- It demonstrates your expertise and consistency; if you can blog consistently and clearly, you can write well for your clients too
- It can serve as a source for clients. Over time, Google and other search engines will rank your blog articles for relevant terms and people will link to your content. This will lead to more people reading your blog, and it will eventually lead to more clients for you.
6. Experiment with a Routine
I’ve noticed a trend with my most successful months as a freelance writer: I make the most money, and I feel the most fulfilled, whenever I stick to a routine – especially one that involves waking up and starting work very early in the day.
The most successful writers are reputed for having a rigid routine. Most often, their routine involves getting up early and working – whether they want to or not.
If you want to build a successful freelance writing business, you’ll need to have a mentality that goes beyond, “I feel/don’t feel like working now.” Prepare a routine that you can follow in 2016, and stick to that routine – come what may. You’ll be surprised. You just might double your income!
7. Double Down on Quantity
Often times, we overemphasize the importance of quality so much so that we fail to realize that quantity matters too. There are over 7.3 billion people in the world today. You’re competing with that many people, so simply putting in your best work every once in a while won’t cut it! You have to be consistent, too.
Take a look at your most favorite people; actresses, pop stars, politicians, bloggers, authors, etc, and you’ll notice that they didn’t get where they are only because they did quality work. Quantity had a major role to play in their success as well.
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the concept of the 10,000 hour rule, in which research shows that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in most fields. Even people we feel are geniuses have put in their own 10,000 hours. Their talent wasn’t enough, they had to put in the time as well; they had to pay in quantity.
Just take a look at this recent email from Writers in Charge reader, Kaila:
When Kaila read my article about cold pitching, she realized the importance of quantity and immediately doubled down on quantity. She started sending more pitches (she sent 20 – 30 pitches a day!) and soon landed a long-term blogging gig at a price she’s happy with. That’s what it takes!
8. Raise Your Rates
Many freelance writers struggle with raising their rates, but expert freelance writers rely on this technique to boost their earnings. If you currently charge your clients $50 per article, raising your rates to $100 or more per article means that you can earn more without necessarily having to do additional work.
The New Year is often the best time to increase your rates; if you’ve always felt that you can’t “arbitrarily” raise your rates, you have an excuse now – in the New Year! Simply email your clients and tell them, “It’s a New Year. Prices are going up and the cost and standard of living everywhere are being impacted. I want to give you my best work this year, but I can’t do it at my old rate. Starting in the New Year, my new rate is $X.”
To be realistic, this is easier said than done; so here are some tips for you:
- Don’t suddenly double your rates. It’s hard to justify it if you suddenly start charging your clients double without a solid reason. Instead, increase it bit by bit; $50 per article can go up to $70 per article, then to $100 per article… until you finally get all your clients to pay your desired rate.
- Start charging your new clients your new rate. They most likely do not know your old rate, so they won’t need much convincing. In my experience, as long as the client is qualified, it’s very rare for a new client to negotiate my rates even if I quoted him double what I was charging older clients.
- Offer more to your clients. It’s easy to justify raising your rates if there’s an addition to what you offer clients; this could be how you package your services, a few add-on services, or something else that makes them feel that they are getting a bargain.
9. Contact Your Old Clients
Just as you have plans to rejuvenate your freelance writing business and take it to the next level in the New Year, your old clients have their own plans as well. During this period, businesses start to take their marketing more seriously. They are more receptive to ideas as well.
Take a look at your database and email all your old clients. You might have worked with a dozen clients in the past few years, or a hundred – it doesn’t matter – but, if done right, reaching out to your old clients can provide you with more work than you can handle in the first quarter of the New Year.
Something as simple as wishing them a happy New Year, then praying for the prosperity of their business, before finally letting them know that you’re available for work as a freelance writer can do wonders.
10. Save Your Way to Freedom
A freelance writer whose business decisions are influenced by desperation for money is a sorry freelance writer!
You know your needs. You know how much you spent in 2015, and you at least have an idea of how much you will spend in 2016, so start making adequate preparations to ensure that you don’t have to work in desperation in 2016.
Create a special savings account and set aside a percentage of every payment to go into that special account. You can save 20% of all your earnings, or 40%, it doesn’t matter, but make sure that you have enough money saved so that you are able to survive for a couple of months without client work.
Without the pressing need for finances, you can easily sidestep low-paying clients and avoid taking low-paying job offers. While this may reduce your income in the short-term – which, hopefully, your savings will protect you from – it focuses your attention on the right tasks, and on making the right decisions. This will ensure that you have a more successful freelance writing business in 2016.