Freelance Writers: How to Attract High-Paying Clients – Even as a Newbie

Unless you’ve been lost in a jungle with no cell reception, you know that the first presidential debate was last night. It was moderated by Lester Holt, whose parents by the way, emigrated from Jamaica – the country I, as an American, currently call home. Woot! Woot! Go Jamaica! But I digress.

It Doesn’t Take What You Think to Succeed

I was reading an interesting Washington Post article on Mr. Holt today and was surprised to learn that the host of the NBC evening news never graduated from college?! Really! I was even more astounded to learn that Peter Jennings not only never went to college, he was a high school dropout. And they’re not the only “big name” journalists who don’t have what some may deem as “proper qualifications” for their jobs. The article stated:

Apparently the secret to becoming a big-time political anchor is not graduating from college. “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd never finished his studies at George Washington University. … The late ABC anchor Peter Jennings never even went to college, dropping out of high school.

Holt left California State University-Sacramento after two years to work at a radio station in San Francisco.

Say what?! I know, lots of exclamation points so far, but these facts just floored me. Holt’s parent’s faith didn’t waver in their son. They said that they believed he would “go far with hard work and talent.” It just goes to show, it’s not where or how you start, but how you prove your mettle. This got me thinking about freelancing.

How to Land High-Paying Freelance Writing Gigs

Freelance Writers Earning $2,000 to $10,000/Month — in Mere Months

Now let me first say, I have no problem with starting at the bottom. I’ve done it in practically everything I’ve tried, including online writing. But I’ve also seen freelancers who start out – and within a few months, were earning “I’m-able-to-work-from-home money”, eg:

From $200 to $2,000 per month in four months: “I searched for full-time office positions, but also put a lot of my time and energy into freelance writing. In four short months I went from making $200 to $2,000 per month (a 1,000% increase!) writing from home.”

From pithy SEO articles to $3,000/month: “I made my first dollar online submitting an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) article – a type of article that puts SEO ahead of readability. A few months after that, I was making $3,000 per month.”

From no experience to $4,000/month – in one month! “I went from an empty Elance profile to making over $4,000 in my first month working as a writer online, all without an ounce of freelance writing experience.”

From $0 to $5,000/month in four months: “I got fired in April 2015 … I built a $5,000/mo freelance writing business in 4 months.”

$10,000/month while traveling the world: Yep, earning five figures per month is possible as an online writer!

As these examples highlight, you don’t have to spend years toiling away in the trenches for pennies (like I did) as a freelance writer. It’s one of the few work-from-home businesses you can start for $0, and be earning four or five figures in months.

A 6-Step Plan for Landing High-Paying Freelance Writing Clients

I know, because I’ve done it – and many others have too. So what’s the secret? How do you do it? Following are six things you must do to attracting high-paying clients … right from the very start of your freelance writing career.

1. Select a High-Paying Niche

In the example above, the guy who had no experience and earned $4,000 on Elance (now Upwork.com) was an accountant.

In the example of the young woman who built a $5,000 per month freelance writing business, she flat out states, “I also picked a narrow, high-paying niche: Writing copy for IT service providers and technology companies.” (bold emphasis mine)

In one case, the freelancer had the background in the high-paying niche. In the other case, the freelancer cultivated the skill. The freelance writer who cultivated the skill also stated that selecting a high-paying niche is one of the most important things she did to grow her income so fast.

So niche is critical to attracting high-paying clients. Some niches are just naturally primed to pay you more. A fashion blogger – unless you’re Anna Wintour or Andre Talley – is simply not going to be able to command the same rates as a medical or legal or technical copywriter.

2. Show’em!

Once you decide on your freelance writing niche, you’re going to have to prove to potential clients that you can deliver the copy they need. And this means writing samples.

One of the wonderful things that’s happened in freelance writing since I started in 1993 is that you don’t need a “writing pedigree” like you used to. Before, clients wanted you to have magazine or newspaper experience, or a journalism or English/English-related degree.

We’re in the age of content marketing, and although a writing pedigree is nice, it’s not a requirement. If you can prove that you can write for the audience your prospect wants to reach, you can land high-paying freelance writing gigs.

One of the best ways to do this is to create in-depth, skyscraper-like content. Even if you have zero actual experience, if you have three, four or five, in-depth writing samples like this, it shows – literally in black and white – your writing skill.

Also, content like this demonstrates so much more. It highlights your research ability, brand awareness, understanding of demographics, SEO knowledge – and so much more. It’s better than a 400, 500 or 600 word article – which I used to recommend as portfolio starters.

Shorter articles like these are still good to have in your portfolio, but alongside more in-depth content, which illustrate your writing skill so much better.

3. Learn How to Write for Today’s Consumer

We’re in the age of content marketing. The very definition of it, according to the founder of the well-known Content Marketing Institute is to sell, ie: …

“… a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

The bolded italics are mine. Content marketing in today’s world is what newspaper, radio and TV ads were to our parents. Today’s consumers don’t like or want to be “sold to.” They want to know why they should buy; what’s in it for them; how it will help them. In short, they want to be told the benefits, not the features (eg, we’re the lowest priced, best, biggest, etc.).

Today’s freelance copywriter needs to know how to tell a story; to appeal to the psychographics of a modern consumer who’s bombarded with so many messages that they are auto-programmed to tune out.

Good writing makes a connection; it evokes a feeling; it gives the reader something to hang on to and a reason to take action. THIS is the gold that you can charge a shitload of money for as a freelance writer.

If you don’t remember anything else from this post, remember this.

4. Get in Front of High-paying Clients

Once you’ve done all the above – along with getting a web presence – then it’s time to start reaching out to prospects. There are many ways to do this, of course.

I prefer emailing. Some prefer cold-calling. Others prefer in-person networking. Then there are referrals; leveraging high-traffic platforms like The Huffington Post; creating a niche-specific blog; joining a Chamber of Commerce; and reaching out via social media (specifically LinkedIn).

What you DON’T want to do is troll the low-paying places. I have nothing against places like Craigslist ads where lots of lower-paying gigs are advertised. But, you’re highly unlikely to find a client willing to pay $200 or $300 for a 400-word blog post in places like this.

Most high-paying freelance writing work comes from reaching out to high-paying clients directly.

5. Learn SEO

I say this all the time because it’s true – thanks to content marketing, there is a ton of work for skilled freelance copywriters. And the vast majority of them want you to have at least a basic understanding of search engine optimization (SEO).

You need to know things like what keywords are; how to write “link bait” content; what long-form content is; what on- and off-page SEO tactics are; best practices for online marketing; how social media fits into the SEO landscape; etc.

Learning SEO is not hard; there are just a lot of moving parts – that Google likes to fuggle around with frequently … just to drive you crazy it can seem at times.

Inkwell Editorial’s SEO copywriting course is in plain English (not “geek speak”) and it gets you up to speed quickly on what you need to know about this type of writing. You’ll be able to confidently “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” of an experienced online (SEO) writer after going through it.

Once I learned it, it literally opened up a whole new world for me because it taught me how search engines worked and how to effectively market online.

6. Harness Your Fears

On my Twitter account, for the last few months I’ve been posting a “Self-confidence quote of the day.” The reason I started doing that is that in all the years I’ve been blogging and of all the questions I’ve received, the number one thing that I see holding wannabe freelancers back is a lack of self-confidence.

Belief in self is sorely lacking in a lot of people these days – and it breaks my heart. As I say in this post:

Lack of self-confidence is really just fear. Fear of failure, fear of SUCCESS (yes, success); fear of not being good enough; etc. … Until you overcome this, you will have a hard time succeeding at anything. [See section entitled “What’s Really Blocking Your Freelance Writing Success?“]

One of my upcoming quotes is “fear is the mind-killer.” It’s by Frank Herbert, an American science fiction author of the “Dune” series. Following is the full quote from which that was taken:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Don’t let fear paralyze you. As Herbert so eloquently writes, let it “pass over and through you.” It should never take up permanent residence in your spirit because if it does, you’re doomed before you even begin.

Nothing kills dreams like fear. And if you don’t believe in your worth (self, financial, emotional, physical, mental), who will?

Have Your Say

I’ve gone from writing $15 blog posts and $25 keyword-driven articles, to now charging hundreds of dollars for even simple blog posts. And you know what?

The effort to land higher-paying clients is not that much more than it took to get the lower-paying ones. I built other income streams (self-publishing; internet marketing) to inoculate myself against dry spells as I kept increasing my rates and marketing for those higher-paying clients. But that was my journey.

Have you started low and now charge much more as a freelance writer? What was your journey? Please share in the comments section below.

P.S.: Know a Bit about Online Writing & Just Need a Little Help?

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    1. Solid suggestions here. Thanks for sharing.
      Jennifer Brown Banks recently posted…5 Things You Must Grant Yourself Permission to do to Become a Fully-realized WriterMy Profile