How much are you worth as a writer?
If you assume that your value as a writer – and how much you can charge for your work – directly correlates with your skills, you’re in for a rough ride.
Often, you read about writers struggling to earn $10 for a 1,000 words article, and at the same time you read about writers earning hundreds of dollars per article. In fact, it isn’t unusual to see a writer commanding up to $20,000 for a piece. In a case like this, it’s easy to assume that the only differentiating factor is skill, but it isn’t. Of course, you have to be able to help your clients get results, or you won’t last. However, to succeed as a freelance writer, you must understand that your success will be influenced by two kinds of value, and both are equally important:
Real Value vs. Perceived Value
To succeed as a freelance writer, you have to understand the two kinds of value influencing your success:
1. Real Value: This is the actual value you offer to clients, and it’s what will result in consistent work for you. Real value involves you helping your clients get results, so much so, that they can’t afford to let go of you. This means they will happily tell their friends about you.
2. Perceived Value: Most freelance writers only focus on offering their clients real value, but perceived value is just as important. Perceived value is what your clients feel you’re worth even before they commission you to work on your first project with them. It is their overall perception of your worth, and it will often influence how much you can earn.
Generally, clients can’t know the value of your work until you’ve worked for them. Unfortunately, most clients will not allow you to demonstrate real value without first having a good impression of you – based on your perceived value. For example, a capable freelance writer with low perceived value might have to pitch 200 people before closing a deal while a freelance writer with high perceived value – capable or not – might have to pitch 20 to 50 people to close a deal. In this case, it’s not a question of whether you can get results but a question of whether your clients feel you can get results. Clearly, you don’t want to bank your business success on the feelings of random strangers from different parts of the world.
How to Empower Yourself: the Key to Charging 10 Times More, and Closing Freelance Deals Before Clients Reach Out to You
The key to lasting freelance-writing business success is to work on both your perceived value and real value. Make sure you’re offering substance to your clients, because the more your work contributes to their business growth, the more money they will spend with you. Also make sure you’re constantly working on improving your perceived value. We’ve all heard about the “Oprah Effect,” or something similar: a simple endorsement by Oprah, or some other celebrity, can turn a “nobody” into a “somebody” overnight. The same applies to freelance writing.
If you want lasting freelance writing business success, you must deliver value to your clients. More importantly, you must make your clients feel that you can deliver value before they interact with you. How do you do this? By establishing social proof!
Here are 5 Ways to Build Your Social Proof as a Freelance Writer:
1. Guest Blog: One of the best ways to build social proof is by guest blogging on authoritative blogs and publications. Freelance writing, for me, wasn’t as easy as it is for most people; I came from a non-native English country, so the odds were already stacked against me compared to native English writers. It also didn’t help that my country, Nigeria, had a kind of reputation for online scams – at least when I started. Thank God it’s much better now! Yet I easily closed major freelance writing projects, even in niches I knew nothing about. What made the difference? I benefited from the authority I’ve built by associating myself with authoritative blogs in my niche.
When clients see that my guest posts have been published on some of the biggest blogs in the world, my credibility is no longer an issue. If these major blogs, with editors and several phases of content vetting, can accept my article and feature me on their blogs, I knew what I was doing (they perceived).
One of the easiest, fastest and best ways to build social proof as a new freelance writer is by guest blogging. Look for big blogs in your industry, as well as media publications that everybody knows, and work on getting published on these blogs. You can then showcase your guest posts on these blogs to clients as samples of your work.
If you want practical tips on how to start guest blogging, read my ultimate guide to guest blogging.
2. Publish a Book: A-list copywriter Bob Bly credits publishing his own books for helping him overcome client objections and closing major deals. Whenever a client is hesitating, he simply tells them that he’ll ship his book to him/her, and that the client can make the decision to hire him after going through his work. This helped Bob overcome a lot of objections and eventually close more gigs.
Many freelancers have testified to the power of publishing a book to helping them get more gigs. Once you publish your own book, you enter a whole new league. Clients start to see you as an expert, and you can command premium rates.
The key here, though, isn’t just to publish any book. You need to publish a book that your clients will find relevant, and it usually works best if it is a physical book. If you can’t find a publisher, you might want to experiment with self-publishing on Amazon’s CreateSpace.
3. Receive an Award: You can also increase your perceived value by getting an award; if you’ve gotten an award as a best writer, or an award for performance, or something similar, be sure to showcase it to potential clients. It shows that that you’ve been validated by an external source, and it indicates that you’re credible.
4. Get Media Mentions: Media mentions can take your career to a whole new level. I was doing fine by using social proof from my guest posts, but I did better after I received media mentions. When I tell clients that I’ve been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Fast Company, etc, it becomes easy to charge them significantly more than I would have charged for the average article.
If you don’t know how to get media mentions, this podcast by Derek Halpern is a great start!
5. Showcase Special Results: Take a look at the following screenshot on the homepage of Karol Krol’s writer website:
For those who can’t view the above image, here’s a quick summary: “15,000+ tweets; 3,000+ likes; over 1,500 comments”.
In the above screenshot, Karol is demonstrating his effectiveness by showcasing special results. He’s telling potential clients that he’s gotten over 15,000 tweets, over 3,000 likes, and over 1,500 comments to his articles. This instantly communicates credibility, showing that Karol is someone who can write well and make content become big hits.
I also used something similar a few times last year, when my article for Search Engine Journal got thousands of shares and became really popular; I got the following message from Search Engine Journal editor Danielle Antosz:
Guess what I did? I leveraged this for more opportunities. In my outreach messages in October and November, especially to publications that I knew recognized Search Engine Journal’s authority, I showcased my “special result” by telling them that my article was the most shared article on a leading SEO blog for the whole of September.
If you’ve read my article on cold pitching, you will notice something similar from the sample cold pitch I sent. Just take a look at the screenshot below:
The special result I am referring to is my reference to the fact that “I run blogs that have been read by millions of people over the past few years.” That’s a special result, and I made sure to mention that.
We All Have to Start From Somewhere
When it comes to social proof, it isn’t unusual to see comments from beginner freelance writers like this, “I have not yet been published on huge websites like Forbes or Huffington post like you have. Do I still have hope?” Or this, “I don’t have a popular blog yet, can I still succeed as a freelance writer?” Indeed, these are valid concerns but you’ve probably heard the saying, “Rome was not built in a day.” Or this, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
For me, I started with guest blogging. I then leveraged my guest posts on those big blogs to get better social proof, and the rest is history.
No matter where you are starting from, you can get social proof. You can guest post for a major blog in your niche, you can self-publish your own book, and you can take other measures to boost your social proof and as a result, increase your perceived value.