When I first started freelancing full-time, I didn’t really have a plan or a blueprint. I did, however have one objective:
Get clients. Pronto.
I proceeded to pursue this objective with characteristic single-mindedness. I’d send 10 to 20 emails to random companies every day, apply for everything on my two go-to job boards (ProBlogger and Contena) and say yes to anyone who got back to me.
Of course, I now know this was incredibly short-sighted of me. Sure, I got tons of clients. In fact, I consistently worked 50 to 60 hour weeks, often spilling over into the weekend. But my freelance income was so low I barely made enough to cover my expenses.
Back in January of this year I wrote a grand total of 50 blog posts, averaging 500 to 600 words each.
And I made £643.85.
Not good, eh?
Then, something happened.
The One Difference Between Low Paying And High Paying Work
In February, I landed an awesome new gig. And it was an eye-opener. I considerably reduced my workload. Cut down to 6 hours a day, in fact. I also didn’t work a single second at the weekend. Best thing of all? I had fun. And I made £3,150, effectively tripling my freelance income.
Just from that one job.
Now, this gig wasn’t harder than any work I’d done before it. In fact, it was actually easier. The client knew exactly what they wanted from me; and they gave me everything I needed to do the best job possible. Not only were they happy to answer all my questions, I also had an incredibly detailed brief to follow.
By contrast, most of my previous work involved a lot of guesswork.
So why the higher pay rate, you ask?
Not everyone could do this job. They needed someone with expert knowledge of the topic. Knowledge not everyone has. Knowledge I happen to have.
Which led to my epiphany.
The Lower The Barriers To Entry, The Lower The Pay.
There are thousands of writing opportunities out there, but many pay low rates.
In my experience, this is for one of the following reasons:
the topic is easy;
the job only requires basic or superficial knowledge;
anyone can apply, which leads to a price war.
Let’s face it.
Any good writer can whip up 500 words of reasonably original material about cat care or toilet seats.
On the other hand, not everyone can write detailed articles about finance or cybersecurity. They’re complex, technical topics; and it’s hard to make them engaging and to break them down in simple language everyone can understand if you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.
The same goes with writing certain types of copy like, say, landing pages.
It takes skill to write them in a way that gets results, i.e. that convinces people to sign up, buy, get in touch or whatever the client’s conversion goal is. It’s a skill not everyone has; and this justifies charging a much higher rate.
Bottom line: if you want to get paid well you need to find writing jobs not everyone can do.
Positioning Yourself As An Expert
There are two ways to find writing jobs not everyone can do:
specialise in particular topics; or
specialise in a certain type of writing.
The goal is simple. You’re positioning yourself as an expert – someone who knows the topic inside out and can help your clients get exactly the results they need, as opposed to someone who may or may not deliver.
While this may sound daunting, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Here are a few pointers:
1. Leverage your knowledge
You don’t need to look too far to find a niche. Tapping into what you already know is a great starting point.
Is there a particular topic you’re really knowledgeable about?
Perhaps it’s something you’ve studied or have work experience of. Or maybe it’s a subject you’re really passionate about and wouldn’t mind studying in further deepth.
2. Is it profitable?
Unfortunately, not all niches are profitable. Your chosen area of specialisation also has to be one there’s considerable demand for.
As a rule of thumb, the harder and more technical the topic is, the more profitable it will be. However, this is not to say you have to forgo your interests in favour of paying the bills, or vice versa. You need to strike a balance between something that’s profitable and something you enjoy.
But finding the right writing gigs by leveraging your knowledge is only one part of the puzzle.
Vetting Prospective Clients Before You Pitch
It’s all well and good to want to charge x amount for a blog post. But if your client cannot afford it – or doesn’t understand why they should pay that much for it – you’re going to face a steep uphill struggle.
There are two questions you should ask yourself before you pitch:
Would the client be able to afford my rates? and
Does this client understand the value I bring to the table?
Unless your answer to BOTH these questions is in the affirmative, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
Here’s how to find out:
Can a client afford me?
Finding out whether a client would be able to afford you is a question of simple mathematics.
Sometimes the answer is obvious. Solopreneurs and small local businesses are unlikely to have a big enough marketing budget to pay your rates, simply because their income is limited.
Ideally, you need to target at least a mid-sized company. You’re looking for someone that makes upwards of £1 million in revenue. This makes it a lot likelier that the company can afford your rates.
Does the client understand my value?
Of course, just because the money’s there doesn’t mean the prospective client is prepared to part with it.
Even in this day and age, some businesses still don’t understand the value of content marketing (or, for that matter, the level of skill involved). This means they aren’t prepared to invest a lot of money in it; and they’ll probably balk when you quote a high rate.
On the other hand, businesses that understand what content marketing can do for them will have no problem paying top dollar for quality. They know their investment will pay off, so it’s really a no-brainer.
Identifying clients who understand the benefits of content marketing is a bit harder to do than identifying whether they can afford you. However, as a rule of thumb, businesses who already have a strong online presence are much likelier to value content marketing, because they already do it and have probably seen the results.
Businesses with a more limited online presence, or poor online content will probably need some persuading.
How do you go about increasing your freelance income? Sound off in the comments below.