Today’s blog is a guest post by one of my fellow bloggers Ruth. Ruth is a freelance writer and blogs about genuine ways to make money online at RuthMakesMoney.com Ruth shares her top tips about being a highly paid freelance copywriter.
I’ve been a freelance writer for around 8 years now, and in that time, I’ve done everything from the soul-sucking content mill projects that make you lose the will to live, to working with wonderful clients who totally ‘get’ the value of a copywriter, and who are willing to pay several thousands of pounds for a job well done.
I suppose you could say that it’s all part of the journey. What I’ve learned though is that it’s very possible to earn a generous income from your writing, and you absolutely don’t have to work for next to nothing.
Along the way, I’ve cracked some of the secrets to being able to command premium rates, and they’ve helped me to continuously increase my earnings and make freelancing a sustainable and profitable career.
It’s probably worth noting here that my experiences are a little different to Jenna’s. Whilst Jenna mainly writes for magazines and their online counterparts, my own work has been centred about creating content for business owners.
Still, though, I believe that much of what I’ve learned is applicable right across the board, and if you want to get paid more for your words, this advice can help you to do exactly that. So let’s get stuck into the methods you can use to increase your freelance earnings…
1.Know that the rungs on the ladder only exist if you believe they do
To be honest, I’ve never really been into the whole positive-thinking, believe-it-and-achieve-it stuff that does the rounds in entrepreneurship circles online. But a couple of years ago, I came across something known as ‘leapfrog theory’ by Robert Ringer. It was a bit of a light bulb moment for me, and it’s something that’s stayed with me ever since, and helped me to increase my fees.
So here’s the thing… In the traditional world of work, we’re conditioned to believe that there’s a ladder that we need to climb. We need to pay our dues, work through the levels, and ultimately, wait until someone else deems us worthy of the next stage before we can take that jump. Leapfrog theory states that, “No one has an obligation—moral, legal, or otherwise—to ‘work his way up through the ranks.’ Every human being possesses an inalienable right to make a unilateral decision to redirect his career and begin operating on a higher level at any time he believes he is prepared to do so”.
The TLDR? You don’t have to wait for permission to raise your rates – and if you do, you’re going to be waiting for a long time. You can actively decide to jump right ahead of your ‘competitors’, and become the go-to writer in your niche. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be good at what you do. But how good your work is, and how in demand you are and how much you can charge, aren’t always directly correlated. The writers who thrive are often the ones who simply decide that it’s time to take their leap.
2.Shift your mindset away from being the hired help, and become the trusted expert
Fairly early on in my writing career, I’d jumped on the phone with a new client and I explained how I worked and the information that I’d need from him to move forward… So, you know, details about his business, his ideal clients, and so on. Then, he actually LAUGHED DOWN THE PHONE AT ME, and in a really patronising manner, told me that no, he was far too busy to do any of that, and all I needed to do was go away and write the content.
And listen, I’m quiet. I’m an introvert. I’m not up for any kind of confrontation in any shape or form. But in that moment, I knew that I simply couldn’t let a client relationship work out like that. He’d end up with content that missed the mark, and it would be a bad representation of my work. So I stood my ground with him, and politely but firmly explained that actually, we needed to do things my way.
He listened, and he ended up with awesome website content that got him a load of new clients. All’s well that ends well, and all that. But the point is that when you create relationships with clients where you’re the expert, instead of someone they’re just paying to do a job, you do your best work. You get more satisfaction. And you also get paid more. Coincidentally, you also make things much easier for your client… They WANT someone to take the reins.
This is a mindset shift as much as anything else, but there are practical things you can do at all stages of your working processes to really embody being an expert. Consider the tone of your pitches, how you onboard your clients, and how you get started with your projects.
3.Create your own passive income stream
Regardless of how much you might love writing, there’s no escaping the fact that when you’re firing out a ton of content, week in and week out, it can become mentally taxing. It can feel like a treadmill that you’ll never escape from, and if you’re not careful, you can burn yourself out. Having more freedom was probably one of the reasons why you wanted to freelance in the first place, so it makes sense to think about the longer-term and how you can create an income stream that isn’t so hands-on.
After a year or two of freelancing, I created my first passive solution in the form of a membership programme where I taught business owners how to craft their own killer content. That meant that I always started the month knowing that whatever happened, and even if I couldn’t write for clients for whatever reason, I’d still have all my bills and living expenses covered. Obviously, this gave me huge peace of mind, and it massively increased my earning potential.
What I will say here is that there’s a lot of hype around passive income streams, and much of it is fairly misleading. If you think that you can just knock together an e-course and retire to a tropical island, you’re going to get a shock. Launching something like this takes a lot of work, a lot of trial and error, and it’s a big learning curve. Ultimately though, it can definitely be worth it.
4.Know the type of work that will allow you to command premium rates
Much of my early work involved writing blog posts for business owners. And here’s the thing with that… Those blog posts were usually part of a wider strategy to drive traffic to their sites and increase brand awareness. But in most cases, those blogs weren’t directly monetised. So whilst they were a ‘nice to have’ for my clients, they didn’t necessarily have a really clear ROI that was directly traceable back to that piece of work.
That put a bit of a cap on my earnings. You could be the best blog writer on the planet, but when it’s something that just doesn’t have an ROI within your clients’ business models, it’s not going to make a great deal of difference. I quite quickly cottoned on to the fact that businesses will happy to pay a premium if it’s for something that has the power to make them a load of money. And it was at that stage when I threw myself into mastering direct response copy.
Direct response is basically anything that results in the reader taking action… Like a landing page that collects leads, or a sales page that sells on autopilot. These actions can be hugely profitable for businesses, so that means that there’s way more scope for getting paid higher fees.
I’ve spent a ton of time (and money, too) on getting up to scratch with direct response copy, and learning how to really create the kind of content that converts like crazy. Of course, ultimately you need to be able to deliver if you’re going to be charging premium rates. But the time and cash that I’ve invested have definitely paid off, and have given me a much more profitable business.
Direct response might not float your boat, but if you want to charge more, consider how you might be able to tweak or pivot your services so they’re highly desirable in your niche.
By making strides in these four areas, I was able to ditch the low paid content mill jobs for good. Which ones can you put into practice, and which do you think will make the biggest difference to your freelance earnings?