Wednesday, August 29, 2007

POST #4: 40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career

PUBLISHER NOTE: If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know about the upcoming freelance writing seminar in October. Details.

Many have inquired about what will be discussed at the seminar. So, in order to answer your questions and to get you prepared for what to expect, I've started a series of posts entitled "40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career."

To start at the beginning, click here. And, welcome to the blog. Now, on to today’s post . . .

How to Make “Good Money” as a Freelance Writer

Do you want to be broke when your business "grows up?" In yesterday’s post, we discussed how to go about choosing a target market -- a lucrative one that won't leave you broke. In my opinion, the most important part of that post was the following:

Target lucrative markets: Not every interest you have will make a viable niche market. This may be because they are not willing to pay for your services, don't need your services and/or there aren't enough of their type to market to.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT POINT! With your list in hand, choose markets where: a) your services are needed on a continual basis; b) your asking price can be met with relative ease; and c) there are sufficient numbers to market to.
Before we delve into this further, there’s one thing I want to share with you from my own personal experience. That is, you will never make “good money” as a freelance writer until you let go of the starving writer’s mindset.

Working "Beneath" You: A Personal Lesson

To expound upon this, when I first started out -- and years into my career, I didn’t consciously have this thought. I don’t think most freelance writers do. But, we have been so conditioned by society to think of freelance writing as a “low-paying, scratch-out-a-living existence” that we price our services too low, or do too much for too little.

It took me years – and I do mean years – to realize this. Once I realized my worth, I stopped taking on projects that I felt didn’t pay me enough.

If you continually work beneath your worth – no matter what your profession – you will eventually become disgruntled and unhappy. While you make think that it’s “the project at hand,” or “the client that drives you nuts,” this really is not what it is.

Want to learn exactly what to do to earn $100, $150, $200/day or more as a freelance writer, editor and/or copy editor? Inkwell Editorial's upcoming Freelance Writing Seminar will tell you how. Details. It's a career anyone who can read and write can start -- with the right information.
It is the fact that you feel that your true worth is not being recognized. And, while money is not everything, if this is how you choose to make your living – then getting paid your market worth is not only essential to paying your bills and taking care of your family, it’s essential to your sense of self-worth as a professional.

While I will occasionally take on a project that I know I should be getting paid more for, it’s infrequently enough that it doesn’t eat away at my soul.

My overall point here is to get you in the right frame of mind from the beginning. If you’re just starting out, you may have to do some low-cost and/or spec projects to get some experience, references, etc. But, stop doing this very early on. Don’t make a habit out of it because, trust me, after a while, it will wear on you.

Now, on to the meat of today’s topic – how to make a “good living” as a freelance writer.

FYI, the reason good living is in quotation marks is because this means something different to every person. Only you know what works for you. While $30K may be fine for one freelancer, another one may need $55K for it to be considered a good living.

As mentioned above, the most important thing to do when deciding how much you need to make is to choose markets where: a) your services are needed on a continual basis; b) your asking price can be met with relative ease; and c) there are sufficient numbers to market to.

All three of these things must be in place. This is why I like to work with business owners. They know the value of a service, there’s no bargaining back and forth and, as is evidenced by your local Yellow Pages, there are plenty of them to market to.

7 Standard Rules for Getting the Rate You Want

1) No bargaining: Would you go into The Gap and ask them, “Would you take $45 for these jeans instead of $60?” No, you wouldn’t because they’d probably look at you like you were crazy.

So, why be so quick to haggle with potential clients? You’re not just a “freelance writer.” You are a business, just like The Gap. They have overhead like salaries, marketing, rent, etc. to pay for. Well, so do you.

And, you don’t have to say this to clients – it’s all in how you present yourself and your business. Present a professional image, and the majority of clients won’t even dream of asking you to cut your rate.

NOTE: Now, I do believe in giving discounts – eg, for first-time projects, for bulk projects, for continuing projects, etc. This is akin to sales and/or promotional campaigns in a retail store.

2) Target a “Savvy, No Nonsense” Market: And, what I mean by this is, a market that is accustomed to dealing with businesses, not “just a freelancer.”

This is why I like targeting businesses. When they contract a service, they already know what their budget is and if they can afford you. They will usually give you a yes or no very quickly – and won’t string you along with “maybes, if you cut your rate, when the next client pays, etc.”

They will deal with you as a business because they recognize the value you bring to their business. This brings me to my third point . . .

3) Quantifiable Results: Offer quantifiable results to clients.

Remember the financial example I used in Post #2, using hard numbers to illustrate a point. Nothing sells like results a client can see in black and white.

While you can’t guarantee results, you can give them realistic examples of how your services can add to their bottom line – which is really all most want.

4) Examples: If you have “before and after” copy of a website you’ve redone, or an example of a brochure you created from scratch, or results achieved from a case study you did for a previous client – share this.

Don’t have any of this? Then, offer to do a sample job – eg, edit a few pages from their website, create a sample, one-page newsletter, etc.

5) Public Relations Magic: Most freelancers don’t do this, but it can work better than doing projects for free. What is it?

Get media attention for your business. This can range from a profile by a local newspaper, to being quoted for a story that runs in a national magazine.

Two or three pieces of PR can go a long way toward establishing credibility. Many times, this will be all you need to get your foot in the door. Place whatever press you get in a “Media” or “About Us” section on your website.

In tomorrow's post, we’ll talk about how to get some PR for your business – quickly!

6) Image: Another area many freelancers fall short in is presentation, as in company presentation.

The obvious things are a professional-looking web presence (and yes, you must have a web presence as a freelancer); brochures and marketing material.

An area that is hardly ever addressed is your tone when speaking with potential clients. And I don’t mean the sound of your voice. I mean the confidence that comes from, “You’ve reached a well-run, organized, professional business.”

I answer the phone as if I have 500 employees. And, like many large companies, I have a series of questions I go through that conveys that you’ve reached a professional business, eg:

i) What is the name of your company?
ii) With whom am I speaking
iii) How did you hear about “us” (Inkwell Editorial)
iv) May I have a phone number/email for additional follow up if necessary?

Now, you may feel uncomfortable asking all of this upfront – and sometimes clients won’t give you all the info (usually, you can at least get a name and company name).

But, this is less important than the impression you will have made. Even if they don’t use you, they will recall that you sounded like a real business, not just a freelancer.

Hence, they won’t be looking to pay you less than.

NOTE: Try to get in the habit of asking these questions because it helps you to build your database. No matter how brief the contact you had with a client – if they called you, then they are in need of the type of services you offer.

So, by getting this information, you can market to them on a consistent basis – and one day get their business – which leads me to my last point . . .

7) “Big Company” Followup: Not as in a thank you note with the project you turned in, but as in a company newsletter, a well-designed survey, custom thank you cards (eg, with your business name embossed on them).

Another lesson among the many that I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that, as small business owners, most of us take the “low-hanging fruit lessons” from big business. So, for example, we know to follow up. But, we don’t do it in a professional, “big company-like” manner.

We know to answer the phone without screaming babies in the background, but we don’t ask basic questions that signal “you’ve reached a business that knows what it’s doing.”

These are subtle signs that make all the difference in how you will be perceived. And, perception in business – and in life – is everything.

It leads directly to how much value clients will place on your services – hence, how much they will pay you for them.

TOMORROW’S POST: In Post #5 tomorrow, we’ll jump directly into how to get some quick PR for your business.

What do you think? If you have questions, comments or observations about this post, send them in. Email them to info [at]

Yuwanda (who is this person?)
Upcoming Features in Inkwell Editorial’s Newsletter

September 12: Gordon Graham. We ring in the “editorial season” by interviewing Gordon Graham, aka “that white paper guy.” Gordon writes and edits white papers and case studies. He charges $90/hour just to edit a white paper and a minimum of $4,000 to produce a white paper from scratch.

Now, do you see why I had to interview him?! Most freelancers don’t even dream of making this type of money. I can’t wait for this interview.

Missed the latest issue of Inkwell's freelance writing newsletter? The 8/15 issue featured an interview with B2B freelance writer, Meryl K. Evans. Want to break into this very lucrative market? Meryl's interview sheds some detailed light on how. Sign up to receive your copy to read what Meryl had to say.

Gain clients, web traffic and brand awareness. How? Let us interview you for our popular newsletter? Full details. Read the first issue here.

NOTE: As editorial is cyclical and slow during the summer, in July and August, the newsletter will be published once. In September, we go back to our twice-monthly publishing schedule. Subscribe today so you don't miss anything!
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1 comment:

Sharon Hurley Hall said...

I am really enjoying this series, Yuwanda. I think professionalism is key to the success of any business.