It would be easy to read this blog and think that I’m all about money. I share my income, I talk about how to find high-paying clients and the importance of having a monthly income target. But the truth is, money doesn’t drive me. It never has. But what does drive me (and what money gives me) is time, freedom and flexibility. And that’s why I’m always going to share ways in which writers can boost their income.
5 easy ways freelance writers can increase their income
Money (or lack of it) seems to be a common thread in so many conversations I have with freelance writers.
Low pay rates, late invoices, kill fees, clients who can’t see the value of paying for good content – all these create financial woes for freelancers. The list goes on and on.
Although most of us love being freelance writers and getting to (hopefully) make a living from writing and arranging words, we still want (and rightfully so) to be paid fairly for doing the work.
So I want to share with you five simple ways that freelance writers can boost their income.
You might look at these and think they are easy solutions and I would agree with you.
They are easy in theory.
In practice? Not so much.
But if you can start doing one or more of these things regularly, I think that you will start to see your bank account shifting and your hope rising that it really is possible to earn a very decent income from doing what you love.
Ask for more money
Well duh, right?
It’s time to have the rates conversation.
I’m yet to meet a freelance writer likes talking rates with editors, clients or potential clients.
But it’s a necessary part of the job.
When you accept work from an editor (or client) and you find out what the word rate or project rate is (if there’s a ‘set’ rate), if it’s below what you’re looking for don’t be afraid to ask for more.
Did you know that most editors expect writers to try and negotiate?
They have budgets to work to and if they can get ‘good value’ from a freelancer they probably will.
I’m not saying that they are mean-hearted and stingy, but if it means they can shave 10c/word off a freelancer’s rate and then commission more content or keep to a very strict budget, they might just do that.
So it never hurts to ask.
You can say something like, “Do you have any room to move on that rate?”
Or you can say, “I usually charge between X and X for this kind of work. Do you have capacity to negotiate?”
Although it might feel awkward, editors do expect writers to raise the question. Especially if you’ve been writing for them for a while.
If you’re writing for clients rather than editors, then ask them what their budget is.
And don’t be afraid to let them know that you’re putting your rates up. I’ve found that the end of the financial year or the end of the calendar year are good times to do this.
With one client, I’ve raised my rates each year for three years in a row (not by a lot – by between $5 – $15/hour), but they always accept it. I must admit, it makes me wonder what they’re paying other writers when they agree to my rates so readily!
2. Ask for more work
I know, I know.
This sounds as simple as: you ask, you get.
I know it’s not that easy.
But letting your current editors and clients know that you have availability to take on more work can, well, work wonders.
In the past, when work has slowed down, I’ve touched base with clients who I’ve worked with but who I’m not currently writing for, to let them know that I have capacity to write content for them.
Nearly always it has resulted in them getting back to me with offers of work.
When I’ve had quiet patches, I’ve also done this with editors I’ve written for.
I send them an email letting them know that I have capacity to take on work in the next 2 – 3 weeks so if they’re in a tight spot with anything just to let me know.
I want to make this clear that I only do this for editors I have a good working relationship with – I wouldn’t do this with a new editor.
This works particularly well for the digital outlets I write for.
One thing that has often worked well is that I’ve said that in addition to my availability, I can also turn content around quickly.
One editor now emails me specifically because he knows I can (usually) juggle my time to do quick turnaround (3 – 4 hours) articles for him.
He pays a premium because he needs the content quickly and I can make some fast money.
3. Create room for high-paying clients
After my post last week on opportunity lots of you got in touch with me and agreed that saying no to the wrong opportunity wasn’t always an easy thing to do.
I think the thing is, unless you have space in your life for high-paying clients, then it’s unlikely that those clients will be able to find their way in.
I know that when I’m full up writing for clients who pay me less than I want, high paying work rarely comes my way.
Now, I’m not going to go all woo-woo on you, but I really do believe it making some space in your life for the things you want.
When you have the conviction and you do the work to back it up, you’re creating space for your ideal client to walk through the door (or in through your inbox).
So do it one at a time.
Ditch a low-paying, cruddy client (note, these don’t necessarily go hand in hand!) with the intention of filling their spot with something better.
4. Leverage your skills
Loads of freelancers have had past lives where they have qualifications, skills or experience in a number of things.
You may have been a volunteer counsellor when you were at university, you may have a degree in fine art, have worked in recruitment or you may have written a cookbook.
Think about the skills and experience you have and leverage those to find clients who are looking for writers with specific knowledge.
Only last week I was contacted out of the blue by a CEO looking for a writer who could write content for an early childhood practitioner audience.
I’ve always used my background in social work to ‘sell’ my services to potential clients, but I rarely emphasise the fact that I have experience in early childhood education. This CEO spotted my previous experience on LinkedIn and reached out to me.
It sounds like a great, decently paid opportunity, and it has definitely made me think how I can delve deeper into the different areas that I can highlight to potential clients.
5. Be productive
This is maybe the easiest to say and the hardest to do.
If you can write efficiently and are being paid by the word or the project (rather than the hour), then being productive is one of the best ways that you can start to boost your income.
For some of my clients, I can earn around $250/hour because – yes, those assignments are paid well to start with but it’s also because – I switch all my distractions off.
I take my phone out of the room because research has shown that even if your phone is turned off it can still be a huge distraction.
I grapple with distraction and procrastination all the time.
But I know that if I knuckle down and write hard and fast I can regularly can write a decent 400 – 600 word article draft in 2 – 3 hours and earn around $200/hour.
That’s not a bad return at all.
Like I said at the start of this post, money is not the main driver in my business.
But money is important, and when you’re reliant on generating your own income week to week and month to month, it’s vital to think about the different ways that you can boost your income and make more money as a freelance writer.
Long term, writers may want to up skill and learn how to produce audio or video, they may want to add photography to their skill set or they may want to connect with a related professional (e.g. a graphic designer) to generate more referrals.
But short term, I’ve found each of these strategies to deliver an almost instant monetary boost.
Do you have other tips or strategies you use to earn more money as a freelance writer?