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How to Earn $100,000+/Year as a Freelance Writer: 3 Tips from a 6-Figure Freelancer

A Word from the Publisher: The following is a guest post from frequent contributor — and six-figure freelancer — Laura Pennington. I just want to ditto everything she says in this post. I freelanced “by the seat of my pants” for years before systemizing my business. Once I did, my earnings skyrocketed. And when I transitioned to writing mostly for myself (as opposed to clients), I planned that too.

My point: You can make money as a freelance writer by winging it – really good money. But if you want to build a high-paying, long-lasting career, it takes a different mindset – a mindset that includes thinking about all of the things Laura outlines here.

Now, over to Laura’s amazing advice.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Here’s the site’s affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

The Mindset of a Six-Figure Freelance Writer: Do You Have It?

I see too many freelancers stuck at the opportunity to make real money in their freelance business on a monthly basis consistently. Many of them prioritize well-paying clients and say things like, “If only I could just find someone who would pay me $5000 or $10,000 a month.”

A Well-Paying Freelance Client vs. a Valuable Client: Yes, There Is a DifferenceHow to Earn $100,000 -- or More -- Per Year as a Freelance Writer

While those clients are certainly out there (I know, I have them), they’re not always easily had and you could be disadvantaging yourself by focusing solely on that one magical client who could turn the tide.

This belief also has an inherent problem in it, ie, thinking that a well-paying client is always a valuable client.

Busting down this myth is extremely important if you intend to break through $100,000 or more as a freelance writer.

There’s a huge difference between a client that generates you money and one that is valuable.

I go through the process of regularly evaluating my clients in this manner all the time. This helps me figure out what’s working and what isn’t in my business, and it’s been instrumental in helping me not just boost my revenue, but increase it by more than 65% in 2017.

It might seem counter-intuitive that you’re going to let go of clients as you build your freelance business, but this is actually the hallmark of determining what no longer works for you and serves you as you grow your company.

If you’re starting to experience freelance business overwhelm or anxiety, there’s a good chance it has to do with your client load.

The truth is that as a freelancer, you are adding more experience, education and expertise to your bottom line all the time. If you have been a freelancer for several years working in a particular industry, you bring a lot to the table.

Do you know lawyers and doctors who see their income boost after years of custom training went through? You should be applying this same logic to your freelance writing career.

You get a lot of on-the-job training with each project you deliver to clients. And, there are also programs you paid for to enhance your abilities; books you read to become a better writer; research you did to learn more about your niche; etc.

Charging entry-level rates just doesn’t cut it anymore. At least, it shouldn’t. All of this on-the-job training should be reflected in your freelance writing rates, just like with any other profession.

While it may seem heart-warming to keep that client from three years ago who hired you at bottom-dollar rates, if they are becoming too challenging to deal with or simply won’t boost your rates, that’s no longer a relationship worth keeping.

Your on-the-job training should be reflected in your freelance writing rates, just like with any other profession. Click To Tweet

Becoming a Six-Figure Freelance Writer: 3 Things to Keep in Mind

Here are three key things to keep in mind as you evaluate your business for consistent and valuable cash flow from your clients; clients that can help you become a high-earning freelance writer.

Lesson #1: Figure Out Who Gives You the Most Opportunity

You need to think about who provides you with working opportunities, not just now, but in the future. The work has to be worth your time.

I recommend implementing a minimum to weed out people who aren’t the right fit as you grow. In my freelance business, for example, I first set my minimum at $200 per month.  I would not work on any client’s project unless it generated more than $200 in revenue on a recurring basis.

Over time, I raised that amount to $500 and then $1000. This helps you avoid taking on that project just because it seems so tempting or easy to complete.

Losing your focus from your truly valuable clients is detrimental to the growth of your business. Implementing a minimum can help keep that temptation away.

Furthermore, you might even find that some of the clients who really want to work with you will increase that minimum just to meet with what you are asking for. Talk about a valuable client! That shows they’re as committed to your business as you are to theirs. This is the kind of symbiosis you should always aim for in your freelance writing business.

While it’s not always possible, striving for it will make it a lot more likely to happen than if you never gave it a thought at all.

To avoid taking on jobs that impede your business growth as a freelance writer, set a project minimum to make every job worth your time. Click To Tweet

In order to know who gives you a lot of work, sit down and look at all of the clients you’ve worked with in the last 30 days. List the type of work that was done and put a star next to it if you enjoyed doing it. Then, list how much money that generated for you, either with a one-off project or overall during that month. Seeing this info in black and white will prove very valuable you proceed to the next step.

How to Let Go of a Client Who Won’t (or Can’t) Pay Your New Freelance Rates

Remember, if you do need to let clients go because they don’t meet your minimum and they’ve been with you a while, simply explain your rationale and remember that they may not take to kindly to you “quitting them.”

Why HostGator is the best web hositing company for freelance writers (IMO)

Almost every time that I’ve tried to end one of these relationships, the client has wanted to know why. Sharing something simple such as, “My business model has now changed and I’m no longer able to work on this project,” does the trick.

Do terminate the relationship as professionally as possible. For example, you might refer them to another willing freelancer who could benefit from this relationship, or give them a 30-day notice.

Note: If the client is difficult, I don’t advise referring them to another freelancer. You never want to refer prospects that you yourself didn’t enjoy working with, and no freelancer appreciates a referral that’s a pain in the neck.

Lesson #2: Determine Who Makes Your Life Easy

This is an easy way to eliminate what I call the duds off of your opportunities list as a freelance writer. You might have been working with them for some time because it intrigued you initially, or you love having a long-term client on your roster, but that doesn’t mean that they are growing with you as you grow your business.

Some examples of clients who make your life easy include:

  • Those who email you to thank you for your work
  • Those who are simple to communicate with and don’t bother you at all hours of the day and night
  • Clients who pay their bills on time
  • Clients who have been open to your rate increases over the course of your business
  • Clients who already provide you with referrals or powerful testimonials that allow you to land other work

Ironically, knowing who makes your life easy will also illuminate those clients who have been too difficult to deal with – and hence, can be easily eliminated.

Remember, unless the client is truly providing you with a meaningful opportunity to generate consistent revenue while doing work you love, it’s time to re-evaluate that relationship.

Lesson #3: Determine Which Existing Relationships Are Open to Growth

Now that you have eliminated the duds on your list or the people who simply no longer suit what you’re doing in your business, it’s time to consider which of your existing and remaining relationships are valuable. This includes asking questions such as:

  • Who can give me more work?
  • Which of these projects could be converted to a retainer?
  • Who has a valuable network of referrals?

Freelance Writers: How to Identify Client Referral Networks

There’s no one tried and true element that can help you identify the right fit for you. Recently, I took on a project doing something outside the norm of my traditional SEO writing scope. A Needed Service That Freelance Writers Can Easily Sell to Existing Clients

The reason for this is that the company I’m working for is paying a high hourly rate and has a referral network of more than 1,200 people for whom my SEO blog writing services are a perfect fit.

By establishing a meaningful relationship with this firm writing sales copy, there’s a strong chance that I may be referred to their own clients for the purposes of writing SEO blogs. And, since they were a referral from one of my existing clients and because they’re so easy to work with and pay their invoices quickly, this is an obvious fit to keep even if it seems outside the norm of my regular scope.

Likewise, I walked away from a $5,000/month freelance writing gig once because the client wanted me to be available around the clock. This is a prime example of how money does not always equal value!

Conclusion

Earning $100,000 or more per year as a freelance writer is not as hard as you might imagine. I hit that mark after 18 months – and have done so every year since. I don’t say this to brag, but to illustrate how if you approach your career strategically and put systems and processes in place towards that goal, it’s very achievable.

To this end, keep the following in mind …

Some clients may be open to giving you more work in the form of one-off projects or retainer work. This is extremely helpful as you grow your freelance business and is the true hallmark of a valuable client.

Retainer work and ongoing projects allows you to plan your income and assign out expenses or take time off accordingly. You should never underestimate the potential power of clients who enable you to do other things with your life.

To get closer to earning six figures as a freelance writer, move as many clients as you can to a retainer-based working releationship. Click To Tweet

Yes, we all want high-paying clients. But not at the cost of our sanity or integrity, right? So take a step back and consider which of your clients are valuable, as opposed to just high-paying, and trim your roster accordingly as you can afford to.

If you plan to earn six figures as a freelance writer, you can. And you know what they say about those who fail to plan, no?

About the Author: Laura Pennington is a freelance writer and owner of www.BetterBizAcademy.com, where she blogs about the freelance life and how to launch and grow a sustainable business model.

P.S.: “It’s Like Printing Money!”

That’s the way one freelancer described this bundled freelance writing course. It gives you all the tools you need to become a high-earning freelance writer. Learn how to enroll now and pay later so you can get trained and get started almost immediately!

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    Comments

    1. So, how do I get started? I’ve been getting your newsletter for a while and kept ignoring this, but after reading this, I’m ready to pursue this.

      • Alicia:

        It’s impossible to answer w/o knowing where you are as a potential freelancer, eg, what’s your background, what kind of writing you want to do, how much confidence you have in yourself (yes, this is VERY important), what your goals are, etc. Here’s a post you can start with. Complete those steps, and you’re good to go. If you need training in/on anything, get it and keep pushing ahead. The main thing is to get started — and that’s why this post is a good one to start with. It breaks down EXACTLY what you need to do to get started.

    2. What an inspiring story and awesome advice. Gets me fired up headed into 2018!

      Thank you, Laura and Yuwanda, for sharing this with us.

    3. I’ve been trying to raise my rates for years. It’s hard writing and marketing. How do you reach customers if you have very limited time? I find myself seeking work from lower paying web designers and SEO companies just to make ends meet.

      When I try to market to higher paying clients within my niche, people never contact me. When they do, they think my rates are too high ($45 per article). I feel like I’m burnt out and finding myself handing in assignments late because I’m overloaded with cheap paying assignments. Some days In feel like quiting and just walking away. I feel like I’m stuck with low paying clients and it frustrates me.

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