Guest post by Kelly James-Enger (@kellyjamesenger)
There’s plenty of advice out there when it comes to writing, but what if you want to do more than write? What if you want to write—and get paid for it? Then you must consider more than simply writing well—you have to be able to find and analyze markets, pitch ideas, research articles, and deliver what your editor is looking for. If you’re serious about making money as a freelancer, keep these six strategies in mind:
Go Where The Money Is
It sounds obvious, but I’m always amazed at how many new writers fail to pursue markets that pay. Yes, there are many markets that offer “exposure,” but there are many more that pay for freelance material. And a quick review of them reveals the difference—websites that pay their writers are almost always of higher quality than those that fail to pay for articles.
Both print and online markets typically have their writers’ guidelines listed online (most print mags have an online component). Check the guidelines to see what the market offers. If it doesn’t mention pay, it’s safe to assume it doesn’t.
Take the Next Step
You’re already getting paid for your work? Great! But as you gain experience, consider targeting higher-paying markets if you’re not doing so already. As you amass clips and experience, you’re better positioned to go after more competitive markets, so make that your new goal.
Reslant Whenever You Can
One of the mistakes I made as a new freelancer was to write one story at a time. I would come up with an idea, find a relevant market for it, sell the idea, research and write the story, and then move on to a completely new idea. I don’t do that any longer. Now I try to respin, or reslant, every idea I have. So, for example, I wrote a piece for a national health magazine about easy ways to de-stress. Then I pitched and wrote a story for a parenting magazine about how to help your kids de-stress. Then I pitched and wrote a piece for an online market on how exercise is a powerful de-stressor. Yes, each story is different but the basic information about the subject is the same, which means I spend less time getting up to speed the way I would with a subject that’s brand-new to me.
Get the idea? Always look beyond the one story=one sale mindset. When you come up with an idea, consider different angles and different approaches you can take, and which markets would be a good fit for them, and then pitch accordingly. This technique works for older stories, too—you may come across new research that makes the topic timely again, or gives you a new way to approach the subject.
Focus on Developing “Regulars”
As I said, one of my earliest mistakes was that I failed to reslant ideas. One thing I did very well, however, is the advice I give to both new and experienced writers: focus on developing regular clients. There are several reasons for this. First of all, when you’re already a known entity to a client, you’re much more likely to have your pitches read—and assigned. Second, your editor is likely to think of you and assign stories that you don’t even have to pitch! (About half of my work is this kind of assignment—when an editor reaches out to me with a story idea as opposed to me pitching her with it.)
When you get your first assignment from an editor, do a great job (obviously), and then pitch her with another idea. Make it your goal to turn her from a one-time client into a regular one. And even if you haven’t written for a market for a while, touch base every few months to say “hi” and remind her that you’re around. Even a quick base touch may result in an assignment!
Know Your Hourly Rate
When you write for print and online publications, you’re typically paid per word (or, in the case of blogs, per post). That number tells you how much you’ll make for completing the assignment, but it doesn’t tell you what you’re making per word. You may be surprised to learn that I write for markets that don’t pay that much per word; some markets pay as little as $0.25 or $0.30 per word. However, I know how long the stories will take, and that I can make close to $100 per hour writing them.
Here’s an example: I write for a regional parenting magazine that pays me $350 for a story of 1,400 words. At first glance, it’s only $0.25 per word, and since most of my markets pay $0.50-1.50 per word (or more), you might think I’d turn it down. However, I know that the stories only require a few quick interviews to research and write; they typically take me four to five hours to complete. Do the math—that’s a rate of $70 to $87.50 per hour, an excellent hourly figure.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for More
Finally, I tell writers to be brave. Ask for money, at least once in a while. (Trust me: editors never offer raises to freelancers without being asked.) If you’ve written three or four stories for a market, ask if the editor can boost your rate. If a market that’s new to you offers you a rate that’s below what you normally write for, don’t be afraid to counter with a higher figure. Back up your request with a reason—will the story take a lot of legwork? Does the editor need a tight turnaround?
Give the editor a reason to say “yes” to your request, and you’ll make more money for the story you’re working on—and for more stories for that client in the future, too. And that winds up to be more money in your pocket—and your bank account.
About the Author
Kelly James-Enger is the author of Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, a book for brand-new freelancers which walks you through 10 actual articles for different markets; how they were pitched, researched, and written; and includes advice on contracts and building your business from scratch. Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition is a freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line. And my newest book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, shows writers how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field.
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