Don’t be a Victim of Success: 3 Tips for Freelance Writers

Posted on January 11, 2016 by Dan S
lechatnoir/Getty Images

lechatnoir/Getty Images

If you’re not careful, too much of a good thing can be bad when you’re taking more and more work as a freelance writer. Certainly, it is better to be the extreme where you have so many work opportunities you turn down jobs than be struggling to fill your workday. Now that your freelance business is thriving, you need to start thinking differently about how you run things compared to when you started. You’re a small business owner and your goals are to make more money and continue operating under a sustainable model.

Be Smarter With Your Time

It might hurt to turn down a good paying opportunity based on the habits you learned earlier in your freelance career, but doing so is necessary if you’re going to avoid becoming a victim of your own success. If that blog ghostwriting job you landed is paying you twice as much as the copy editing gig, focus on the one that pays a better rate. While the “bootstrap” mentality says you do as much work as possible, putting in 60 to 70 hours a week is probably going to start mentally draining you.  Now that you have choices, let the free market work for you and start taking the better paying jobs so you can put in fewer hours each week at your desk. Mental acuity is important for a freelance writer as pay is usually by job and not hours worked. If you’re drained, assignments will start to take much longer to complete and kill your hourly earnings.

Raise Your Rates

If you’ve ever wondered which of your clients likes your work, you can find out pretty quickly by raising your rates. If you are turning down work already, this will help nature take its course and direct you to the best paying work. However, you do not want shock your clients into abandoning ship by raising your rates too high, so it’s wise to make between 5 and 10 percent increases depending on your situation. You should also alert your clients of your rate increases a few months in advance to be professional. If you’re turning down more work than you take or you determine you’re very under your market value, it wouldn’t be out of the question to hike your rates 25 to 50 percent as a one-time thing. WritersMarket.com has a robust guide on pay-rate ranges that can help you determine if you’re asking too much or too little for your time. If you take work from an intermediary client, this is more of a mental shift for you: stop claiming that content that earns you $15/hr when you know you’ll be able to pick up $30/hr later. This also lets you help other starting writers build up their clientele.

Choose Assignments Based on Payout for Time Spent

Jobs and clients work on a pay scale by the job, but you’re working on an hourly rate. While you’re determining rates for an article with a client you will typically give them a per-word rate or a flat-rate based on the project. To determine your hourly rate, divide how much you earned in the previous year (or month if you do not have records) by how many hours you worked. Use this rate against how long it will take you to complete an assignment regardless of the wordcount to determine if you should take or pass on an assignment.

As a final note, you always want to remember your “bread and butter” clients as an important element to the sustainability of your business. If you lose work with higher-paying clients, having lower-paying but reliable clients in your portfolio will help keep your freelance business afloat. Do not burn bridges with these clients and look at continuing to do less frequent work with them as an investment in your freelance business’s security.

Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.


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