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How to Make 2x More Money as a Writer

Posted By Guest Blogger 10th of June 2015 General 0 Comments

boss-fight-stock-images-photos-free-old-typewriterThis is a guest contribution from Puranjay Singh.

Around six months ago, I quit my job to make a living as a writer. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my work; it was just that I wanted to travel and needed the freedom of freelancing. I didn’t know a lot about writing, but I knew I could turn a phrase or two.

Besides, how hard could it be?

The answer: very hard. Freelance writing is a hyper-competitive industry where you are fighting against thousands of writers for the same jobs. Sheer writing skills count for nothing, degrees for even less. Add writers willing to underbid you, and you have a recipe for total disaster.

To succeed, I had to go against a lot of conventional advice. I had to change the way I approached my writing. I also had to bring in all my years of marketing knowledge to get the jobs I wanted.

In the process, I ended up making 2x more money as a writer.

Here’s how you can do the same.

Think Like a Business Owner

I started my freelance writing career like most others – I found gigs online, wrote long cover letters highlighting my education, then waited patiently for a response.

I won a grand total of two jobs this way. My proposal to job conversion rate was an abysmal 4%. Clearly, this was no way to replace a full-time income.

It took weeks of despair and error before I realized my approach was completely wrong. I was thinking like a writer, not like a business owner.

I took a couple of days off and thought hard about why businesses wanted to hire me in the first place. Obviously, it wasn’t because I had read all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets or knew five different synonyms for ‘tempest’. No, they wanted to hire me because they had a business problem and needed a solution.

Ultimately, this problem boils down to two things:

  • Businesses need high quality marketing content to sell their products and services.
  • Businesses don’t have the time or expertise to create this content on their own.

When you sell yourself as a writer, you are only solving half of the problem (creating quality content). A business will still have to invest time and effort into training and monitoring your writing in order to meet its business goals.

To the business owner, thus, a writer is a cost center, not a revenue center.

Top marketers and consultants know this. This is why they always sell themselves as solutions, not as mere skills. Instead of talking about their education or their experience, they talk about how they can help a business make more money and have more free time.

In other words, you must be more than a writer. You must provide solutions.

This is the bedrock of a successful freelance career. Once you adopt this thinking, you will see opportunities where none existed before. You will become an asset to every business you work with, not just a replaceable writer.

Once you’ve adopted this strategy, you can work on some tactics to get better paying clients.

5 Ways to Get Better Writing Jobs

These are my top five tactics to increase freelance writing income:

1. Position yourself as a premium provider

When I started my freelancing career, I was convinced no one would ever pay me over $10/article. It wasn’t that I was bad writer; it was just that I hung out on internet marketing forums where this was the going market rate.

I then learned about top content marketers charging big brands $150+/hour to create content. You couldn’t tell my $10/hour article from the $150/hour blog post. The only difference was in the way we had positioned ourselves.

“Positioning” is marketing speak for how a brand projects its solutions with respect to competitors. This is why Rolexes start at $20,000 and why Apple can charge twice the going price for a laptop.

Positioning is also crucial for freelancers. When you sell your services for cheap, you attract cheap clients. By marketing yourself as a premium service provider, you can often charge 2-5x more for the same work.

A few of my favorite positioning tactics are:

  • Increase rates. Just as people naturally assume more expensive items on a menu are better, they also assume more expensive freelancers know more.
  • A carefully crafted, well-designed brand presence can give your service a ‘premium’ perception.
  • Selective clients. Showcase your best clients on your website/portfolio. This can also be websites you’ve been featured/mentioned in. Recognizable brand names have a multiplying effect on your own brand.
  • Function like a business. Register as a LLC, use professional billing tools, have a standardized onboarding process (more on this below).
  • Professional imagery. Use professionally portrait shots on all your social media profiles. It just makes you come across as more savvy and serious about your work.

2. Don’t market yourself as a writer

Writers occupy the bottommost rung in the content marketing ladder. Sure, they are important, but unless they work themselves into an editorial/managerial role, their responsibilities are as limited as their earnings.

This is why I market myself as a content marketer, not a writer.

As a content marketer, I have a lot more responsibilities – I have to come up with a content plan, create content, then help marketing distribute it. But because it requires more skills and knowledge, it also pays way more.

You don’t have to sell yourself as a content marketer, of course. You can be a blogger who runs a startup’s entire blog independently. You can also be a copywriter who helps businesses sell more with conversion-oriented copywriting.

Your main objective is to get off the bottommost content marketing rung. Once you do that, your income will go up automatically.

3. Operate as a business, not as an individual

I understand this is something many of you will be uncomfortable with, but branding yourself as a business, not just an individual, is the true secret to unlocked 2x higher rates.

Why?

Because businesses hire individuals, but work with other businesses.

I’m not saying that you should get an office and hire employees. I’m saying that you should operate with the rigor and professionalism of a business.

For example, every time I get a new client, I invite them to Basecamp. This serves as our project management tool throughout the duration of the engagement. Besides streamlining our communication, it also tells them that I am serious about the success of their project.

There are a lot of ways you can show off your professionalism, such as:

  • Registering as a business. LLC registrations cost as little as $149.
  • Using branded templates for content plans.
  • Onboarding new clients with a branded ‘welcome’ guide.
  • White labeling software, such as WordPress theme backend.
  • Sending professional invoices through tools like FreshDesk.

When you do all this, you tell the customer that you are a professional, experienced veteran, not just a dabbler who started a few months ago.

4. Be a specialist, not a generalist

There is a simple rule in business: you get paid more for knowing a lot about one topic, than knowing a little about a lot of topics.

Readers of ProBlogger should understand this better than anyone else. Darren has made a habit of talking about the importance of niche selection. If all things are equal, a niche blog will become far more successful than one targeting a broad topic.

You must approach writing the same way. Don’t pitch your ability to write about “any topic under the sun”. Instead, pitch your expertise in writing about “marketing, SEO and social media” or “DIY and home décor”.

You can also target specific clients, such as small businesses only or startups (like I do).

Sure, this constricts your market, but you also get access to far better paying gigs.

5. Choose higher paying writing work

Author James Patterson made $94M through book sales in 2014.

Screenwriter Shane Black netted $4M for writing the script for The Long Kiss Goodnight.

David Ogilvy wrote copy for much of his life. The company he founded today does billions of dollars in annual revenue.

The point is: writing is a vast industry. It includes everyone from the $2 article rewriter, to the author earning a $1M advance.

The key to unlocking higher earnings is to target higher value work.

For example, few businesses will pay over $100 for a blog post. However, the going rate for a whitepaper is easily over $1,000, for the same number of words.

In business, the perceived value of any content is directly proportional to its impact on customer acquisition. While blog posts are good for traffic, they seldom directly lead to sale. Whitepapers, on the other hand, are typically offered only to a handful of qualified leads

Thus, there is a higher chance of converting a prospect into a customer after she reads a whitepaper. This is why whitepaper creators tend to get paid more than blog writers.

It’s the same with website copy. Good copy has a direct and immediate impact on conversion rates. Copywriters, hence, can often get away with charging businesses upwards of $200/hour.

This is the easiest way to increase your earnings as a writer: write more whitepapers, eBooks and website copy, fewer blog posts and articles.

Your Turn

Building a freelance career doesn’t have to be hard, nor does it have to be underpaying. It takes a few shifts in thinking and approach to get the kind of jobs you truly deserve.

It’s now your turn to adopt these strategies to get the results you want. Start by thinking like a business owner, targeting the right kind of jobs and branding yourself as a premium service provider.

Then share your results and queries in the comments below. I’ll be happy to help as much as I can.

Puranjay Singh is a writer and content marketing consultant. He is passionate about helping small businesses run result-oriented content marketing campaigns. Drop him an email at [email protected].

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Comments
  1. really informative post and great tips……. thanks for sharing

    • Hello Rahul, truly, the post has lots of great tips for making more money. Singh did a great job. When I started writing in 2010, I had this mindset that my blog is just that – blog. I never considered it an integral part of my business. But while listening to Michael Hyatt, I learnt that thinking like a business person is the only way to differentiate yourself from writers, authors and even bloggers.

  2. Puranjay,

    Easy: Charge twice as much! ;)

    All jokes aside, this was a nice read, because I lived through learning it all, too. I hope some newbies read it, and PAY ATTENTION because it is great advice that I had to learn the hard way.

    It’s worth it to charge more just to weed out the abusive and clueless potential employers, and so many people.

    Now, I do some things differently than you, for example, I do market myself as a writer, but that’s a conscious choice that helps me reach the clients I want; everyone needs to sell themselves in a waythat appeals to the people they want to work for.

    Like I said, great article, with some solid, solid, advice. Thanks!

    Connor

    • Thanks Connor.

      Sometimes, it really is as easy as charging twice.

      Believe me, I’ve tried it – approached two similar gigs but quoted a higher price for one. Got the more expensive gig.

      Why? Because the guy thought I must know my work because I was 2x more expensive than any of the other applicants.

      And you’re spot on about charging more to weed out bad clients.

      FirstSiteGuide looks smashing by the way. Top notch content as well :)

      – Puranjay

    • Connor,

      Sometimes, charging 2x as much drives potential customers away. If e-Book publishers made it more enticing to buy by exposing the purchase link to people on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and discussion forums, they can increase the probability of earning more money from their e-book sales.? Don’t you agree ? :-)

  3. And if i am not a writer but i still want to make money online, I mean like reblogging or something

  4. Thanks Puranjay,
    I’ve thought about pivoting many times and all I end up doing is getting vertigo!

    I’ve set up shop as a freelance content provider for a while and need to rethink my strategies, so this article is right on target for me.

    How would you suggest someone market their services for writing ebooks? I understand the value of white papers from a business perspective, but ebooks I find hard to grasp their value from their end.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey David,

      Go one step back – why, when and to whom do businesses offer eBooks?

      (And I mean big businesses – think HubSpot, Marketo, etc. – not bloggers and internet marketers).

      For this, you have to understand the buyer’s journey. eBooks are typically offered to potential customers when they’re still considering a business’ solution, but haven’t taken a decision yet.

      Basically, eBooks are meant to prod a prospect towards making a decision. Like “Hey, you seem to be searching for a CRM tool. Here, check out this awesome eBook about all the cool things you can do with CRMs. If you liked this eBook, you might also love our CRM product”.

      Once you understand the role eBooks play the buyer’s journey, you’ll be able to create a much better pitch to your potential clients.

      All the best!

      – Puranjay

  5. Great info and encouragement!

  6. Just the pure section of selling yourself as the solution and not a passive was mind blowing.

    Interestingly enough, I have hired reputable writers on the low end of costs, well you get what you pay for, I was leaded by the impressive amounts of “jobs done” instead of the real solutions provided by the writer for other businesses.

    Now it seems I’ll need to re-write some or a lot of the copy or hire another one to correct/make new material.

    • I like to look at the results from those jobs done, not the number of jobs done itself.

      Did the content actually result in more traffic/leads? If not, then jobs done is useless.

      Hit me up if you need help hiring writers :)

  7. I have a simple question: what should be my first step towards getting a good freelance writing assignment. My skill set incorporates copywriting, copyediting, blogging, news writing, seo writing, and editing. Dont have money to invest at the present moment.

    • From the above, you’ll find that blogging jobs are the easiest to get. SEO writing is dead. The people still using ‘SEO optimized’ content are usually not worth working for.

      Here’s what I would do:

      1. Find a recognizable authority in a niche you like

      2. Offer to create top notch content for them, even for free

      3. Create a couple of high quality posts, then help them distribute it.

      4. Use the results from this content and pitch to other players in the niche.

  8. Good job! Another important lesson I’ve learned is that there are times you should always say no, no matter how much you think you need the work.

    • I’ve been guilty of doing that – taking on more work than I can handle.

      It’s important to remember Hofstader Law when accepting gigs: “It will always take longer than you expected, even taking Hofstader Law into account” :)

  9. I cant be a professional when i am still making money as a generalist , Being is generalist is what is making me a living ..But good article there !

    • My suggestion there would be stick with your bread and butter but start to angle yourself to the better paying jobs slowly.

  10. Great stuff, Puranjay.
    The problem with many writers is also a lack of confidence. When you tell them to go after the $100+ clients, they convince themselves that they are “not at that level just yet.” After all, all they’ve been writing are $10 articles, which further contaminates their mentality.

    But as you said, you often can’t tell the difference between a $10 article and a $150 article if it comes from a good content writer.

    Here’s another thing: At the bottom of the pit (where the majority of blog writers hang out, bidding for $10 gigs) there is obviously going to be a lot more competition.

    However, when you get yourself out of that crowd and only establish communications with $50 or $100+ clients, suddenly it’s like you’re all alone over there. You have much less competition.

    In addition, your client demands less revisions (if any) because they recognize your value more than the spoiled cheap clients who seem to want the world for a mere $10.

    Elvis M.

  11. So interesting and helpful. Yes, perceived value is everything. If you believe you’re worth it, so will others. Like advice given to all copywriters/bloggers, its not about what you want to write but what others want to receive, in this case bang for their buck. Thanks.

  12. Many businesses today still don’t understand the concept of effective content marketing. This is why clear and concise writing is important, simply because it adds to the reputation of any online business or blogger.

  13. Great article. The approach you are suggesting will really help people (if they listen.)

    I have one slight disagreement with this quote:
    “As a content marketer, I have a lot more responsibilities – I have to come up with a content plan, create content, then help marketing distribute it. But because it requires more skills and knowledge, it also pays way more.”

    It is not because being a content marketer requires more skill and knowledge. It is because you now have new skills solve a specific business problem. In your example, the business hiring you can save time and sell more because you have the distribution skills to get the content in front of the right people.

    • Very good point, I agree! Another way though for a writer to cut down on the amount of skills they need to acquire personally is to form strategic partnerships with other content creators. If your specialty is writing, but you feel weaker in the areas of distribution or repurposing written content, find a social media expert or a multimedia designer who is facing the challenge of quality copy, or lead generation. It adds value to what you provide, and you can expand your business without expanding your personal overhead.

  14. Well, that really give me a boost of confidence. I really think your guidance will help me.

  15. Great post. I have not imagine about such important ways a writers needs to follow. Lokking for more such post.

  16. I am going with the James Patterson approach Puranjay. I published book #34 yesterday and will publish 35 in a day or 2. I am releasing 1-2-3 a week depending on my mood LOL. I am doing the short eBook bit but was inspired by Patterson’s sick volume approach to writing. All his books are good too. Not just pushing them out there. And yeah, mine are pretty good too for my niche ;)

    I also charge hefty rates for blog coaching and freelance writing is going up and up. If you’re taking me away from my eBook authoring – or if I choose to step away – I am compensated generously for my time. Good tips!

    Ryan

  17. Solid advice here. I agree that “content marketer” sounds a lot more sophisticated than “writer”.

  18. It was an excellent read! I have a question though. Would it be advisable to create a website,a sort of resume-portfolio,to showcase my services and expertise as a content marketer? If so why,why not? Thank you!

  19. I am a journalist who often writes articles for newspapers. I am very interested in your article.
    Something that makes me interested in is you are talking not only about how to write articles, but at the same time you are talking about how to be a marketer. Writing articles which its content market the the determined business.
    Of course, this is not easy. But, you explained completely how to package the profession as writing article as a business. Thank you.

  20. It’s always a good idea to think big like New York City when it comes to running a business online and creating “lots and lots of content,” so search engines will continue to see your “entrepreneurial marketing transformation.” Whether a writer is creating lots and lots of content out of “inspiration or desperation,” there’s always the potential to make twice as times more money as a content marketer, simply because the search crawlers are always looking for [lots and lots of content]. :-)

  21. Puranjay,

    Sound advice for a new freelance writer. I find another key element to being successful is having a powerful writer website. A place to direct prospects that showcases your best copy and published works.

    Also, having a blog with high engagement and social shares as well as testimonials only makes you more valuable as a writer.

    Great tips!
    Elna

  22. really informative post and nice tips……. thanks for sharing

  23. Really very informative post. Great tips for writers to become more professional.

  24. It’s true that being a content marketer is a much more valuable job nowadays – but some writers just aren’t cut out for it. While I love the social media as much as the writing, some of my students just don’t want to do any social media for work (this HAS to be a generation gap!). It’s interesting to see, isn’t it?

  25. Hi Darren, I am systematically going through all of your posts one at a time and am learning an incredible amount! thank you for being so informative in your posts!

  26. Things seemed so much “easier” when I was a freelance magazine writer. You’ve given great tips here; I just hope that I can leverage them into making 2x more money as a writer. :-)

    Thanks.

  27. Puranjay,
    Thanks for this wonderful article. I like how you reframe what you do to succeed as a freelancer. Question for you: I write (and work) in the self-help or personal growth industry and often run across poorly written copy on what are supposed to be reputable companies’ marketing and promotional materials. How obnoxious is it to try to get work by offering to upgrade the quality of their written copy? If so, what would you suggest as the best way to go about it?
    Phyllis

  28. Great and wonderful post. I thank you. I can see where I am missing out–why I am not a successful writer. It starts with #1. I have some vague goals, and three articles to write each week, which I do. But I’m not going further. I’m staying with the three articles. Also, #2 is a tough one for me. I’ve not felt free to engage at forums. Don’t know why. Might be the old “what will they think of me if I post this”.

  29. I think all these tips are very spot-on. It’s all about your personal branding. If you make people think you’re worth the money, they will pay you. It’s also good to know your industry and your competition so you can price accordingly – and not over or under do it and alienate the client (or get less than you deserve!)

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