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!
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.