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How I Went from Earning $12/Article to $250/Article

Guest post by Sarah

If you’ve read the bio on my new website, “Write Your Revolution,” you already know that web content writing is a career I stumbled into by accident.  I never set out to be a professional writer (in fact, I hold a nearly-worthless degree in Environmental Studies), but when a former website flipping client asked me to consider writing content for the stable of niche sites he owned back in 2007, I jumped at the opportunity.

I started out at pretty “bottom of the barrel” prices – making just $50 for three 500-word articles.  At the time, I was ecstatic.  I was only earning about $12/hour at my day job, so the fact that I could pick up half a day’s salary with a few pages of content represented a huge shift in my ability to pay my mounting post-college bills.

Over time, though, I started to notice that there were distinctively different tiers of web content writers.  There were the foreign language writers earning a penny a word, there were those of us in the middle range that weren’t doing much better financially at $10-20/article, and then there were the top tier writers – those who routinely earned as much as $200+ for a single web article.

At the time, I figured that my odds of ever reaching these top income levels were pretty small.  Surely, these writers came from extensive journalism backgrounds with vocabularies bordering on PhD level.  While I’m certainly a good writer, I’m not the greatest when it comes to technical grammar – so I put the idea of ever earning more than $20 for an article out of my mind and continued to plug away as a middle-tier writer.

But in 2011 – fed up with the latest in a string of unrewarding, unfulfilling day jobs – I decided that I wanted to make web content writing my full-time career.  In making this decision, though, I recognized that I couldn’t go on earning $12/article if I wanted to make a full-time income without going crazy (FWIW, making $50,000/year at $12/article means writing roughly 80 articles each week – ouch!).  I had to break into the top tier of writers, once and for all.

Now, I’m going to jump ahead to the end of this story for a minute.  I was ultimately successful in my goal, quitting my day job after seven months of pounding the pavement as a writer (instead of the full year I’d initially predicted I’d need).  I now have a client that regularly pays me $250 for 500 word articles and a few others that pay a minimum of $100/article, depending on the length and complexity of their projects.

I was also able to leverage my web content writing experience into a full-time gig with a marketing agency out of San Francisco, which pays more than double the salary I received at my last regular day job.  As a result, those $250/article side projects represent extra money in the bank – or a nice night out on the town when my husband and I feel like it.

While I’m proud of what I accomplished, I’m not telling you this to brag.  Instead, I’m sharing my experiences in this article because I want you to know that it is possible to make a comfortable living as a web content writer.  Again, I’m by no means an excellent writer – if I can make the transition, you can too!

If you’re interested in making the leap, there are a few words of wisdom I can offer in terms of the tactics that I believe helped me to go from $12/article to $250/article.  I hope you find them useful when it comes to getting out of the grind that is working as a middle-tier web content writer!

Find your marketing angle

One of the most important things I did to help grow my writing business was to come up with a unique marketing angle that helped to both demonstrate my expertise as a web content writer and to set my writing services apart from other applicants.

When I started looking for ways to take my writing career full-time, I went back and tallied up all the articles I’d written so far – and was surprised to find that I’d written well over 1 million words for publication online.  Adding this marketing angle to the applications I sent to clients immediately set me apart from less experienced writers and helped prospective employers to believe that they could trust the quality of my work.  After all, if I wasn’t a good writer, I never would have received the repeat business needed to reach this major milestone!

I can absolutely – with 100% certainty – say that positioning my services in this way made a huge difference in my ability to attract new clients and secure new contracts.  But if you don’t have this type of extensive experience, don’t worry!  There are hundreds of different marketing angles you could adopt, depending on your own personal strengths and experiences.

For example, have you run your own affiliate or niche websites?  Plenty of clients will welcome the chance to work with writers who understand what it takes to make a site successful.  Or, do you have extensive knowledge of a particular subject based on past career experience (for example, in the financial or legal sectors)?  Customers will jump at the chance to work with writers who can handle in-depth topics more effectively than generalist authors.

The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to sell yourself.  Tell clients why they should work with you and not another writer – and don’t be surprised when they respond with job offers.

Look for professional clients

When I first started as a writer, my clients were primarily niche site owners who needed content for SEO purposes.  And while I loved working with small business owners in this way, the reality is that average compensation in this field is particularly low – due in large part to the fact that content quality was rarely a top priority for these article farm websites.

As a result, a big part of taking my earning power to the next level was seeking out clients that actually valued well-written content (and were willing to pay for it).  My biggest success came from taking on a handful of marketing agency clients.  Not only were these customers used to paying higher offline rates for written content, they represented a constant stream of business, due to their steady supply of new customer campaigns.

Although I did take on a few “real world” clients (which was scary, as I’m way more comfortable interacting with people online!), plenty of these professional clients are now soliciting writers online.  Make it a priority to apply for these opportunities whenever you encounter them on freelance job boards, as they represent a great opportunity to increase the rates you command as a web content writer.

Apply for any high-paying opportunities you encounter

On that note, one final piece of advice I’d like to share with you is to avoid psyching yourself out over opportunities that you believe to be above your level.

In email conversations with the client that’s currently paying me $250/article, I was surprised to find out that only 10-20 people had applied to her job listing.  Really??  10-20 people??  In my relatively limited online social sphere, I know at least that many writers who are struggling to find well-paying jobs – so why on Earth weren’t there more people willing to put themselves out there for such a great opportunity?

But then I thought about it for a second and remembered that I’d very nearly passed up applying for this opportunity – assuming that I’d surely be beaten out by better, more qualified writers.  In fact, it was only on a whim of curiosity that I’d even sent in an application in the first place!

Here’s the thing, though…  If you insist on staying in your comfort zone – applying for jobs that pay the same measly rate you’ve always made – you’re never going to make more money as a web content writer.  You might be surprised how much you can make if you simply put yourself out there (and really, the worst thing that’ll happen if you apply and fail is that you won’t get the job – nothing lost, nothing gained).

Obviously, you shouldn’t apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for.  But if you’re confident that you can do the work, take a deep breath, take the leap and apply.  Someone much smarter than me said that, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – so jump in and take the shots needed to reach your highest income potential as a web content writer.

Any questions about these strategies or any of the other tactics I’ve used to grow my web content writing income?  Ask away in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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Sarah Russell has been working as a professional web content writer since 2007 and currently blogs about her experiences as an internet-based ghostwriter on the recently-launched “Write Your Revolution.”  Stop by any time throughout January 2013 for special “launch month” discounts on her money-making guide, “Freelance Writer Rate Multipliers,” which discusses even more of the techniques Sarah used to go from $12/article to $250/article.

Category: freelance writing

31 Comments on "How I Went from Earning $12/Article to $250/Article"

  1. Halina says:

    Great post! I can definitely sympathize with you, Sarah. I started out on content mills and was ecstatic when I received an article assignment that paid me $25. After I started freelancing full-time, such pay scales weren’t good enough because there was no way I could see paying my bills on ~$20K/year. Plus, I was working 10-12 hrs./day! I decided to market to biotech clients (since genetics is my specialty) and my pay scale went up dramatically. You discuss making $250/article- try $1K+/article for science. But until you try, you’ll never know how high you can go.

    • That’s awesome, Halina! I for sure don’t have the scientific background for that type of article (plus, I’m guessing more work goes into them than the ~1-2 hrs it takes me to write a standard web article), but now I’ve got a new goal to shoot for 🙂

  2. Sarah very superb article and I must say that you must be definitely having good skills which make you get so much money per article. Sarah I am a SEO content writer and I get very less per article So I just want to know that what type of articles you write currently? Sarah I am myself looking to become a better writer and earn better…

  3. Thanks for post this inspire article form where every newbie blogger can go ahead and achieve that things which he/she looking.

    • You’re very welcome – thanks for reading!

  4. Fantastic post, I am a writer and will one day want to go it alone, I have often thought that I couldn’t afford to live writing posts for $5-$12. There is too much work for the mind to cope with. Doing a few $250 articles would be great if people can get them. Well done on your success and I look forward to reading more of your advice, tips and posts about your success.

    Cheers
    Andi

    • Thanks Andi! Believe me, it is *totally* possible to get out of the cheap article rut – seriously, if I can do it, you can too.

      Best of luck with your writing career 🙂

  5. Eric says:

    Thanks for the ope, honest, and transparent information that was shared through your story. One quick question if I may, when you were applying for these jobs what kind of things where you submitting? Meaning did you have just a resume, portfolio, samples, or what would you submit to continue to try to sell yourself and your services?

    • Thanks Eric! For the most part, I’d submit writing examples from my own blog/websites so that potential clients could get a feel for what my work looked like in real time, plus a few examples of published work from clients that were comfortable with me sharing their content.

      Personally, I prefer to submit content that’s published in a live environment, rather than separate files people have to open (one less step for possible clients who receive hundreds of applications to take).

      I also have a separate website that describes my writing policies, approach, etc that I send along sometimes. I haven’t done a resume in ages, although I imagine that it might be necessary for writers in more technical or more competitive fields.

      Hope this helps 🙂

  6. Dean Saliba says:

    I have been thinking about raising my prices for a while but I don’t feel I have the ability to produce articles that would warrant a higher price.

    • Dean – what makes you say that? I only ask because I’ve worked with plenty of writers who absolutely can and should be charging more, but lack the self-confidence to ask for the rates they deserve.

      If you’re in that position, why not try simply applying for a job that offers a higher starting rate (as found on industry job boards)? If you get it, then you know you’re good enough to charge more.

      Or, if you really are facing quality issues, there are plenty of different ways you can improve your skill set. Practice writing sample articles, ask employers for critiques, study up on the technical side of writing – if you’ve already found paid work as a writer, chances are you have enough of a basic skill set to charge higher rates with some improvements.

  7. TERRIFIC post, Sarah.

    They say the biggest problem Moses had wasn’t leading the Hebrews from Egypt. It was first convincing them, after 300 years of slavery, they had the potential to be free.

    So many writers don’t have the vision that they CAN move up. We’re all wrapped up in our negatives — “I don’t have a degree. I don’t have a good niche.” and on and on.

    But if you go after better clients, you can. Most writers won’t market themselves — that’s why they don’t earn more.

    I’m sure your inspiring story will be just what a lot of writers really need to read!

    • Thanks a lot, Carol! That means a lot coming from you 🙂

      And you’re totally right about being wrapped up in our own self-doubt. I was that way for a long time until I figured out that I couldn’t make a living off of what I was charging.

      It can be scary to make that leap, but I’ve found that most clients (at least, the good professional ones!) really respond well to writers who have confidence in the value they provide.

    • Chimezirim Odimba says:

      A great comment on a great post!

      We are limited by our experiences — Actually, our illusions. Every good writer can always charge more for the exact same work if he or she believes he/she deserves it. The internet has conditioned many writers to accept peanuts for the high value they deliver.

  8. H.A. Jabar says:

    I love to write about motivational and inspirational topics, and that article was full of both.

    i am glad to know that here is hope for the $12/article writers!

    • Hell yeah, there’s hope! If I can do it, anyone can 🙂

  9. Claire Hope says:

    Very informative post Sarah, and very inspiring also. I am constantly amazed by the ridiculously low rates that people offer for web content on the freelance job sites that I use. It’s really refreshing to know that the world of freelance web writing is still highly lucrative and I can harness my natural writing talents.

    Thanks a bunch for sharing!!

    • Thank you so much, Claire! It’s frustrating to see both employers offering such low rates and writers accepting them, but my experience has been that there are still clients out there who value the work that good writers produce (although you won’t find many of them on Guru or Elance…).

      Best of luck with your own writing projects 🙂

  10. Claire Hope says:

    Thanks to you too Onibalusi for making this refreshing and inspiring post available!! Wishing you the best in this new year.

  11. Great piece, it got me thinking on how to expand and also work on my niche i.e poetry with evry gut i can muster. thanks a lot

    • Thanks for reading 🙂 I’m terrified of poetry myself, so I’m glad there are others out there who are killing it in that niche!

  12. SuccinctBill says:

    Awesome post! I’m transitioning more towards online writing from my current career as a researcher and technical writer. Do you have any suggestions for someone that has been doing research and report writing for years? Should I aim more for white papers, ebook ghostwriting, or online content?

    • Hey Bill! Not sure I’m the best person to answer your question, as I haven’t done any technical writing myself (maybe others can chime in?), but here’s my understanding…

      There’s definitely freelance technical writing work out there, and pay rates seem to be generally good as far as web content work goes. Your past skills in this area could definitely be leveraged to help you attract new clients and possibly higher pay rates.

      As far as finding this work, if you visit my website, you can sign up for a list of 100+ websites that pay for writing. Specifically, check out the job board and paid job board options, as these sites tend to offer more technical writing opportunities than the other programs I have listed.

      That said, from my experiences, it seems that article-based web content writing projects are much more common and much easier to get. They pay less, but often take less effort to complete, so it might be a good way to get your feet wet with online writing. Again, your technical skills could come in handy here, as some web content clients need articles on more in-depth topics that generalist writers aren’t suited for.

      No idea if that helps or not, but best wishes for your online writing career 🙂

  13. Sally says:

    Great article Sarah. Great to hear that freelance writers are being rewarded for their talent and dedications 🙂

  14. Ravi says:

    Well Explained Sarah. I have just started my Blogging Career but the right now i am not thinking about earning money because i think it may harm my concentration over my writing. But still i want to earn good amount with my blogging. This article helped alot

  15. Khaja moin says:

    Sarah, your story is awesome I like story telling posts than normal ones.
    The reason is it fills my heart with confidence and mind with lots of ideas to increase my work.
    Everyone need this, as I see few of them stop learning or reading once they succeed. Which is not recommended, right Sarah?
    Anyway lots of thanks for sharing this awesome post.

    ~@Khajamoin1

  16. Perder Peso says:

    this is what I call Amazing Experience, from $12 to $250 per article. Sarah, I am absolutely amazed with your Online Writing Journey. I’m watching My daughter grow and I noticed that she have a talent, Writing Talent. I hope I can made her to be like you sarah, Thanks for sharing your Amazing Experience.

  17. vpp says:

    I love your story sarah. I currently write for a micro website but this is not enough for the work that is put into the research and writing of the article.

    I would like to know if you had your blog up and running before you started trying to get more in demand customers or did you set it up afterwards.

    Thanks

  18. Ken says:

    Sarah,

    Really inspirational. I have decided to stop grappling for jobs on bidding sites and use that time to market myself and the my service. Holding out! LOL…

    Ken

  19. jeulyanna says:

    Stories like this help me face reality head on – the reality of being rejected by high paying writing gigs. I’m afraid of rejection, so afraid that until now I remain at home with content mills. Your story just like Oni’s inspires me to the max.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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