8 Ways Freelance Writers Earn More By Setting Their Sights Higher

by Anne Wayman

good paying freelance writingRecently in a LinkedIN group and in two different emails to me, three people asked how to find freelance writing jobs that paid more than a pittance.

All three were feeling put upon by the number of low paying jobs they were finding and wondering if perusing a freelance writing career was worth it.

All three were looking for writing gigs through Texbroker, Elance and oDesk.

I don’t know how to say it more clearly, but if you keep working for the outfits that pay practically nothing, that’s exactly what you’ll earn – practically nothing.

If you don’t look beyond the low paying gigs you’ll never find the higher paying ones.

While there are people the low pay works for – like those who truly need only small amounts to supplement their incomest or those in countries with low cost of living,  most of us want more.

So how do you get writing gigs that pay more than the bottom feeders pay?

You aim higher!

Yes, you quit looking at the low paying jobs and start looking for those that pay more. You quite haunting the bidding sites or the sites you know offer tiny amounts and you begin looking at other sites, and even more importantly, in other ways.

Here are some ways to do that:

  1. You only apply for jobs that pay $x amount or more and refuse to come down. In the beginning that might be $10 instead of $5, but I’d suggest you quickly move beyond that. If you can get an article published for $5 you can probably get one published for $25 if you do the market search. See the category Setting Fees for help.
  2. You build a website with your own domain name that highlights the kind of writing you do best.  You put the web address on your business cards and on every email and anything printed… you do have business cards don’t you?
  3. You call your local weekly newspaper with two or three ideas and see if you can’t get an assignment or two from them. These are great credits and great ways to get known as a writer in your community. Often they pay $10 or $20. How To Get Started With Your Weekly Newspaper will help.
  4. You start talking to business people right in your own community to offer your services to write sales letters, brochure copy, website copy and all the other myriad writing any business needs. You find them through cold calling, or walking down the street or joining networking groups.  Use The Phone Book To Find Writing Clients may help.
  5. You read Writer’s Market making notes about which magazines, particularly the trade magazines, you can query and get a well-paid assignment from.
  6. When you accept an assignment from a magazine or a business or whomever you do your darnedest to get it right and meet the deadline.
  7. And when you’ve got a satisfied client you ask for both a testimonial and a referral. Or, if it’s an editor, you suggest a new article and ask them what they’d like you to write next.
  8. If the article is online, link to it from your website… if not, post as one of your samples. (Yes, it’s nice to ask permission.)

Look, earning a living from freelance writing isn’t always a simple thing. But it also isn’t a big mystery either.

The market for good writers continues to expand. Assuming you can write reasonably well, you can grow a career at it. You will have to work at it, and you will have to move out of your comfort zone.

It’s up to you.

How are you increasing your freelance writing income?

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth West January 27, 2012 at 11:24 am

Oh this is very timely. My day job was just eliminated. I did apply for unemployment and I have a short grace period due to a severance, but now I am forced to hustle. Now I also have time to really concentrate on pulling all your good advice together and getting a fee schedule in order, etc.

A blogger friend on whose site I recently did a guest post offered to forward my resume if he heard of anything decent. So that’s one networking possibility right there. I don’t feel as isolated as I did last time I was laid off. Viva la Internet! :)
Elizabeth West recently posted..Lose Your Job? Do These Five ThingsMy Profile

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annew January 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Welcome to freelancing Elizabeth. I’m sorry it was not at your choice. Glad you’ve got a grace period. Keep us posted.

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CyberForensicWriter January 25, 2012 at 7:05 am

These tips really work! I emailed the editor for my hometown newspaper with one story idea. The email was 2 sentences long and that turned into a $100 Sunday feature of around 1500 words. It’s a small newspaper but I felt they were an acceptable target to test the waters with. This was my very first article that I pitched to any editor anywhere and I landed it.

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annew January 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Good pay for a small paper. Good for you and to land something on your first pitch! Congratulatins.

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Thomas Willam Spychalski January 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I followed the small paper advice and now have assignments from that paper as well as being able to write a pretty fun opnion column as well.

The paper is given out for free twice monthly but despite that they offered to pay me seventy five dollars per issue, which is still that much steady income a month for as long as the job lasts.

Still need to move ahead but just wanted to share that the small newspaper idea has the potential to work. Plus, as this article says I can now say I am a reporter for a paper. I even interviewed the mayor of my small town over the weekend.

Imagine that. :-)

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annew January 25, 2012 at 11:59 am

Good for you, Thomas. And thanks for sharing that writing for small papers can work.

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Nick Kellingley January 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I think most of these tips are sound, and I too am a little depressed about the $2 article model until I remember that the vast majority of these articles are garbage.

While there are some good writers who cut their teeth on these projects, in the long run no-one who writes well has so little skill that they’re happy earning – what $8 an hour maximum? So they either quit or move up.

The vast majority of low paid work is hoovered up by ESL speakers and while the content may be OK – the writing is usually not. If that’s what clients want – they can have it, but not from me. I write for a living and I’m not doing bargain basement jobs that damage my reputation.

One final thing – you don’t need to ask about providing links back to someone’s site – Google rewards them with link-love for it. It is a nice thing to do, but if you can’t get hold of that person – I’d do it anyway.
Nick Kellingley recently posted..Sex in China – Boyfriend/Girlfriend for Hire!My Profile

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annew January 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm

$8 as a minimum is still pretty low when you live in the US -

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HP van Duuren January 24, 2012 at 10:08 am

Although I once helped writing a Press Release for a Business that eventually resulted in an Article that was published in a Local Newspaper, currently I don’t usually do any actual Freelance Writing with writing for all kinds of clients and things like that,

‘I have also written some things
that have been published in
small scale publications, and even
in some big Glossy type Magazines…,’

Only currently I am mainly Blogging for example on my - Writer’s Lifestyle – Blog writing about Writing and Blogging while also (pre) selling products with doing Affiliate Marketing

(and on my - Home Business Lifestyle - you
will also see that I write about how Affiliate Marketing works.)

Now for what about the Increasing Income is concerned..,
that’s where – you – as a visitor to my Blog(s) comes into the picture, because I am somewhat counting on – you - to become so enthousiastic about the posts I have written on my Blog(s), (like my recent post about Greeting Card Writing for example) and about how you can also use Affiliate Marketing to Monitize a Blog, that you directly want to buy a Laptop – or any of the other wonderfull products – I (pre) sell
on my Blogs :)
HP van Duuren recently posted..Greeting Card Writing and Cartoons.My Profile

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annew January 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Well, yes, hp – but be careful when you comment – this is pretty much only a pitch for your site… I’ll let it stand, but the next one I’ll expect more of a comment on the article.

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Anne Woodman January 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

I hear what Claire is saying. One of my (excellent) writer friends got laid off from a major newspaper and started looking for freelancing opportunities a couple of years ago. She got excited when one looked good and told me about it–$1 per word, lots of topics. You could have heard a pin drop when she found out they really meant $1 per article. Talk about feeling under-valued! I do think, as Anne said, that you have to turn down markets and projects that don’t live up to your expectations in order to find viable opportunities.
Anne Woodman recently posted..Waiting for the Big EasyMy Profile

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annew January 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Exactly, Anne. Well said.

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ella January 24, 2012 at 7:42 am

I love your advice on talking to local businesses, i’ve done that in the past to increase exposure and it worked magically.
ella recently posted..3 Gorgeous Event Checklist TemplatesMy Profile

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annew January 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

yes, and it will work every time.

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Cathy Miller January 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Write on! Hard work and a heavy dose of respect for yourself. Increased visibility and networking takes time, but there are so many opportunities made easier through social media and the internet.

Focus in on what you want and take baby steps. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed. As much as I thought I had done that when I first started, I was not focused enough and I had to learn to appreciate my worth before I could get others to do the same.

Dann’s right – passion is the fuel behind your pursuit – be a bulldog.
Cathy Miller recently posted..Making a Date With Your BusinessMy Profile

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annew January 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Cathy, you can’t see me, but I’m smiling and want to say ‘right on!’ but that might date me. ;)

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Cathy Miller January 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I hid behind the often-used write on. ;-)
Cathy Miller recently posted..The Pebble Effect That Causes Big-Time Business ProblemsMy Profile

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annew January 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

I have trouble imagining that you every hide… ;)

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Bill Swan January 23, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I read your articles on under earning. And right now, as with any field, its all about what you are willing to “settle” for. Lately anything that looks less than a dime per word, or is a blind ad I just pass. Yes, it means far less emails coming in, and less work, but when the work does arrive I’ll be able to live on it.

I understand places like Elance and Odesk, and how site owners go there for content; but you will always get a cheap hammer if you buy it from the dollar store compared to a lumber yard.

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annew January 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm

At least in the lumber yard or the hardware store (both trade markets by the way) you can choose between a cheap hammer and a sturdy one.

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Claire January 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Anne, I followed the conversation with interest today. You are absolutely right. It concerns me greatly that these freelancer sites are pushing down the perceived value of content. Clients expect researched, well-written pieces for $2 or less. It’s an unsustainable model, and I would go so far as to suggest it’s promoting a sweatshop mentality. I don’t expect to get paid in diamonds and pearls, but I expect something I can live on.

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annew January 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I don’t think we yet know how this will play out. The better the English gets in say the Philippines and India, the more writing will be outsourced there. There are plenty of writing opportunities still for native speakers and those keep growing, but the whole globalization thing and the disparity of income around the planet is, well, interesting and we’re in the middle of it. Keep watching.

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Claire February 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Absolutely. I have some good clients in India who pay me reasonable rates to write technical content because it’s slightly out of the reach of a non-native speaker. I expect in time the non-native speakers will catch me up!

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annew February 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm

That’s interesting Claire, that you have clients in India – and yes, I’m sure the Indians will catch up.

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Dann Alexander January 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

How are you increasing your freelance writing income?

Answer – Through hard work, increased visibility and passionate pursuit.

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annew January 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

That works! Good for you, Dann.

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