Writing nonfiction may require a little less imagination than writing fiction. But if you want to become a full-time freelance writer, you may still find yourself making it up as you go along. Fortunately, there are some tried and true strategies that can help you launch a successful freelance writing business. Here are my top three pieces of advice for nonfiction writers who want to make real money.
#1 Don’t Chase Bylines—Pursue High Paying Clients
High profile publications may seem glamorous, but well-paid opportunities for newspaper and magazine writers are scarce. Editors often have hundreds of freelancers at their disposal. Many of these eager writers are happy to create content for very low pay or for the promise of “exposure” in a well-respected venue. Even established journalists and editorial writers are being asked to write for free these days. Steep competition creates an environment that makes it tough to break into the business without doing a lot of uncompensated work.
In contrast, most business owners know few freelance writers. When they find a good writer, they share that prized contact with their peers. Much of your writing for such clients will be unattributed. However, being paid well and treated with respect brings a different kind of satisfaction. Successful small- to mid-sized companies, business-to-business (B2B) firms, and larger marketing firms are often excellent clients. You can target these prospects in a number of ways:
- Through online networking on sites like LinkedIn
- At local events such as Chamber of Commerce meetings
- Via email, sales letters, or cold calling (if you have good sales skills)
- With your own website and blog, promoted heavily on social media platforms
- On freelance bidding sites (look for first time buyers who haven’t been jaded by working with low cost providers)
#2 Don’t Write Yourself into a Corner
Have you heard that the secret to freelance success is finding a very narrow niche and sticking to it? That’s not necessarily so. You need to be willing to evolve as a nonfiction writer if you want to stay relevant. Content that’s in demand right now may no longer command a premium price in the future. As a recent example, former public relations writers have found that the going rate for a press release has dropped by hundreds of dollars in the past few years. My advice is to expand your range of writing services while focusing on a narrower cross-section of high-paying clients.
Some freelancers claim that you must advertise yourself as a specialist in a particular type of content if you want to charge top dollar prices. However, the real secret to making excellent money without working yourself to death is getting consistent, well-paying repeat and referral business. You don’t have to charge $300 per hour when almost all your working hours are billable. You can charge a respectable but affordable rate for nonfiction writing in the business world and make a good living. Even high profile freelancers who brag about making six figures a year admit they still spend 50% of their time marketing to try to win projects or find clients who actually need their services. Your business doesn’t have to operate that way. When you are a versatile writer who can take on a broad range of projects for your business clients and their peers, you can scale back your marketing efforts and focus on performing paid work.
#3 Be a Truly Creative Professional
- Come up with a new spin on an old topic (sometimes over and over for years on end)
- Make connections that aren’t apparent to others (this is the secret to “thought leadership”)
- Uncover audiences your client hadn’t thought to target (so they can expand their business by selling to a new demographic)
Besides reliability and good communication, creativity is one of the traits your clients will mention most often when they recommend you to others.
Finally, you should understand that clients often need a business or marketing advisor as much as they need a writer. Even companies with millions in annual revenue may just be dipping their toes into the world of online marketing. They have no idea what they are doing. If you can at least point them in the right direction, you make your writing services more valuable. Build a strong professional network. That way, you can refer clients to other freelance experts as needed and establish yourself as a trusted collaborator in the process. When clients rely on you to help their company succeed, you’ll always have plenty of work.
What steps are you taking to market your nonfiction writing skills to high paying clients? Share your tips in the comments.
About the Author
Daisy McCarty is a self-educated writer and co-founder of Freelance Text, a professional services firm that specializes in web content creation. Since transitioning out of a seven year career in Corporate Procurement in 2008, Daisy has been using her negotiating skills to navigate to the higher levels of the online writing industry. Today, she mentors informally at Professional Freelancers Network, and offers formal one-on-one consulting services to freelancers who are ready to increase their income.
Photo courtesy of ddpavumba | freedigitalphotos.net