Many writers start out writing as a hobby. This means they tend to take their writing, and fee structure, less seriously than professional writers. Many of us, myself included, got started doing spec work and other projects on popular freelancing sites. I worked for next to nothing and made countless revisions until my clients were happy.
While accepting these types of projects can be a great way to gain experience, polish your writing skills, and build up a portfolio, it’s not usually enough to live on. Therefore, it’s important for anyone who wants to make a living as a professional writer to take themselves seriously, and seek out clients willing to pay more for quality.
Here are four tips for securing well-paying clients and ensuring your success as a professional writer.
Ditch the mills
I know that it can be challenging to resist the siren’s call of content mills. They do pay, which is a step above unpaid work and guest posting. However, they don’t pay much, and certainly don’t pay enough to live on – even if you write full-time.
When we’re trying to figure out how to pay the utilities and rent, and struggling with suffocating student loans or poor credit and outstanding debts it can seem that a content mill job is at least a job, right?
All the time, sweat, and tears that you put into churning out quality thoughtful articles is being wasted as your finished articles get spewed into the chasm of the internet. Most of the time, you won’t even get a byline. This makes it impossible to build up a portfolio, develop a name for yourself as a prolific writer, and attract better clients.
If you are not yet ready to ditch the mills, do make a plan to start marketing yourself to better paying clients while you string along the old job. However, set a target date or financial milestone when you’ll be ready to finally leave the mills behind. Once you move on, you will wonder why you struggled in those types of jobs for so long!
If there is a genre of writing that you particularly enjoy, or are particularly great at writing about, market yourself as an expert in that kind of writing.
Do you love politics and current events? Find platforms that are seeking news writers. If you love writing about fashion and trends, be sure to seek out clients that want to outsource their blog or site to some well-researched articles in that genre. Do you love writing on financial and business news? Reach out to banks and other financial institutions to contribute to their blogs and magazines.
Once you specialise in a particular field you’ll be seen as an expert and can command a higher fee for your services. The more niche your writing becomes the more your clients will respect what you do and have good reason to pay you more. Your new clients won’t hesitate to pay you what your writing is really worth.
Consistently engage in continuing education and implement the tips and skills you learn.
There are hundreds of free online courses that will help you sharpen your writing skills. Even if you fell into professional writing on accident and don’t have a degree in English or literature, there are plenty of courses that can help you boost your skills in various niches.
Make time to learn something new each month. Also, be sure to share your certifications and course completions with your current and potential clients. This will boost your credibility and show that you take your job seriously. This show you will take your clients projects seriously as well.
Close The Deal
Okay, so you have a client that is gung ho about your services, and is not balking at the price – now, how to close the deal?
One of the best ways to do this is send over a professional invoice. Insist on a minimum of 50% of your fee in advance. If your client is serious about hiring you they should have no problem paying a portion of the fee in advance. This is fair to both of you. For many of my own clients I ask for the full fee to be paid in advance. However, I’ve earned the right to do so and now have plenty of high-profile referrals I can share to back up my claim that I do quality work on time and have never stiffed a client.
If you are just starting out your clients may be more wary. However, remember to never do work on spec, and be sure to outline the payment schedule and payment method. This is particularly important for those of us who often work with clients living in other countries. Always stipulate exactly which currency you want to be paid in, when, and how. This will save a lot of frustration and confusion down the line.
While it may be hard at first to ask people to show you the money, it will get easier the more you do it and clients will respect your thoroughness and professionalism. Free accounting programs like WAVE can help you organise your projects and send professional estimates, invoices, and payment reminders.
Breaking free of the content mills can be a daunting experience. However, once you make that break you’ll never look back. Work on developing your own brand. Market yourself to professional clients who are willing to pay you what your time, efforts, and writing is worth.
Interview potential clients and ensure they are your ideal clients. Don’t’ be afraid to turn down projects that you feel are not a good fit. Trust your gut. More than saying yes to everything that comes your way, learn to say no: trust that your ideal clients are out there, just waiting for you to get in touch.
About the author:
Zyana Morris is a health and lifestyle blogger and a featured contributor at Lifehack, blogher, healthable, inscriber mag, Fashion Industry Network, Nurse Together and many others. She loves to make people aware of the prevailing trends through her writings.