I hear of so many freelance writers who spend the majority of their time on incredibly low-paying gigs (think $25-50 per 1,000 words) for bloggers who are just looking for cheap labor.
These writers feel discouraged, frustrated, and somewhat used… and rightfully so. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can land reputable clients that pay well, even when you don’t have any prior experience. I know because that’s exactly what I’ve done over the past year.
Nine months ago, I had ZERO paid writing experience. Yet last month I made $6,800 through my freelance writing business alone. And I’m on pace to make more than that this month. That couldn’t be possible without landing some higher-paying clients (think $200-$700 per article).
In this guide, I’ll show you how I’ve been able to land those clients…and with minimal outreach. In fact, I’ve spent probably less than one full hour of time sending pitches in the last nine months.
But here are a few of the things that did help me land high-paying clients fairly quickly.
If you’re interested in a beginner’s guide to freelance writing, please see How to Become a Freelance Writer, which covers everything you need to know to get started.
1. Connecting With the Writing Community
No matter what industry you’re trying to break into, it’s hard to be successful on an island.
“It’s not what you know but who you know,” may sound cliche, but it’s, in many ways, true.
If you want to learn how to land high-paying writing clients, you need to surround yourself with writers who have already done so.
One of the first ways I inserted myself into the freelance writing community was by attending a blogger’s conference for people in my niche — personal finance.
When I attended the conference, I hadn’t even landed one freelance writing client yet. But I was determined to learn how to do it. I sat in on a roundtable discussion breakout session that featured five different 6-figure freelance writers.
I listened intently to all the tips that they shared and took detailed notes. After the session, I stayed behind and picked the brains of several of the speakers. I was determined to get my money’s worth from this conference.
Also, at the conference I had the chance to meet over 50 potential clients and give them my business card. It’s so much easier to make a lasting impression when you meet people face-to-face.
No matter what niche you’d like to write in, I can almost guarantee you that there are conferences that focus solely on that space.
Do a quick Google search to come up with a list of conferences that you think could be worthwhile. And set a goal to attend at least one in the next year.
Get on Social Media
To be completely honest, I have very little interest in social media when it comes to my personal life. But I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool for my freelance writing business.
Each week, I try to connect with more freelance writers, editors, and bloggers. I’ll share, retweet, and comment on their posts. The goal is to be someone that people in the personal finance space recognize because I’m someone that they’ve “seen around.” And whenever I can, I try to be helpful and answer questions that I know the answer to.
Why do all this? Because to be completely honest, only the lowest-paying clients are willing to hire a random, somewhat anonymous writer who responds to a ProBlogger or Freelancer job posting.
The high-paying clients are going to want to know you’re “legit.” And if they’ve seen you pop up on various social channels in your niche, they may be more inclined to give you a shot.
2. Learning How to Make Editors Happy
One of the first things that I did after going to the blogger’s conference last September was to take a freelance writer’s course.
This course gave me tons of tips and tricks for making editors smile. Doing these things consistently will give you an edge over other writers who are competing with you for jobs.
Here are some of the things that make high-paying editors happy.
Only Use Reputable Sources
When you’re writing a factual piece for a client, don’t just blindly repeat facts that you read on some random blog. That will get you fired real quick.
Instead, only use high-quality sources. In my niche, that includes government websites, banks, credit bureaus, and academic studies.
Also, if you quote the results of the study in your article, try to find the actual study itself rather than a news write up about it.
And if you really want to impress editors, add a “comment” in the sidebar of your document for each fact that you mention. In the comment box, include the link to the source. You can see an example below from one of my recent articles for the highest-paying client.
Include Internal Links
Internal links are hyperlinks in your article that lead to another article on the site. These are different than “outbound” links, which lead to other sites.
Internal links are good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They help drive more traffic to your editor’s site so you can bet that they love it when you include them.
As a fun exercise, try to identify internal links that I’ve included in this piece to other Vital Dollar articles.
It’ll usually only take you like 5 extra minutes to find a few articles from your client’s site to link to. But that’s 5 minutes of work that your editor can cut out of their day. And doing little things like will make editors never want to let you go.
Follow the Style Guide
Most of your clients will have some sort of style guide that dictates how they want articles to be formatted and the grammar rules that they adhere to.
Pay attention to the style guide. Here’s why. If write your article in exactly the format that the style guide prescribes, you’re going to save your editor a lot of work.
If you do things right the first time, they don’t have to go behind and fix them later on. Editors often deal with crushing workloads. So coming across a ready-to-publish article can be a huge relief.
Oh, and this should probably go without saying, but make sure to proof and self-edit your articles before submitting. Consider taking advantage of tools like Grammarly or Hemingway to fix grammar errors and improve readability.
Editors from high-paying clients are expecting to fact-check your sources and fix minor issues here and there. But if they’re regularly having to overhaul your entire piece, they’ll find somebody else who will do the job right the first time.
3. Focusing on One Client at a Time
If everything you’re reading above sounds like a lot of work, well…it is.
But I chose to spend time on those things rather than spending hours each day sending out cold pitches to new publications.
For my first 2 months of freelance writing (November-December), I only had one client. And it was one of those clients that I referenced in the introduction. They only paid me $50 per 1,000 words.
But boy did I try to make that client happy. I strived to do everything to absolute perfection. From going the extra mile on the research-end to spending a few extra minutes trying to think of effective headlines.
You Never Know Who’s Seeing Your Work.
And then the funniest thing happened. The person that I would send my invoices for this client to reached out to me on the first of January. She wanted to know if I’d be willing to write for another site.
Let me clear, I had no idea that this person was an editor for another site (come to find out she was a virtual assistant who managed a TON of sites).
But because I was doing a good job for this first client, I got this job opportunity. And, oh yeah, it paid MUCH better than my first client.
Slow and Steady
Around this time, I finally had my first article published with a website that I connected with at the blogger’s conference.
This website is one of the biggest names in the personal finance space and it takes forever for articles to go live. But once that first article published, I was told that I was going to start receiving more articles per month from them.
So now I was up to 3 regular clients, PLUS I now had an “impressive” client that I could tout when I reached out to editors in the future.
For the next 2 months, I just tried to do the best I could with these 3 clients. And then all of a sudden the editor that I had been writing for since January referred me to two new clients that were willing to pay the same rate.
Now, I was up to 5 clients. And they were all sending me regular work. And with the exception of my first client, I was making a minimum of $150 per 1,000 words and a maximum of $450.
By focusing on one client at a time, I was able to consistently add clients without losing any, which is a big deal.
4. Helping Other Writers and Bloggers Out
At this point in my writing journey, I was feeling more confident. I was bringing in $2,000-$3,000 a month. But I still needed two or three more clients, and preferably higher-paying.
Landing Income By Giving Some Away
And I landed one client in the most unlikely of ways.
For my own personal blog, I was writing a student loan refinance company for a lender that was an affiliate. But as I started to write the review, I noticed that other sites were able to offer their readers bigger bonuses for refinancing than I was able to offer.
I didn’t like this and complained about it to the rep that I had been dealing with from this company. I told him that I wanted to be able to offer my readers the same deal.
But he was hesitant since my site wasn’t as large as some of the others. So I did something crazy. I reached out to the owners of two of the biggest sites (and ones that I respected) in the student loan space. I told these guys that I was going to encourage all my readers to refinance through their site and their affiliate links instead of my own.
Crazy, right? Yes, I know it sounds nuts, but I honestly wanted to put the best interests of my readers first.
Well, after I made this move, the refinance company finally changed their mind and let me offer my readers the same deal. And then guess what happened a month later? The owner of one of those sites offered me a freelance writing job (with a good pay rate).
Would this guy have ever seen my work if I hadn’t reached out about sending traffic his way? Probably not.
But doing the right and helping others has a way of repaying you in the end.
How I Landed My Highest-Paying Client
So now I was up to 6 writing clients. And my highest-paying client (the one that paid $450 per article) was starting to assign me more articles each and every month. I was now earning $2,500-$4,000 a month from this one client alone.
A few months after I started working for the client, I saw on social media that another freelance writer had just been assigned her first test article with them. There is a LOT of sourcing requirements with this client and she was worried that she was going to mess it up.
So I offered to have a chat with her over the phone about how to make the client happy. We talked for about half an hour. And then at the end she said, “Can I just say, this is a ton of work. I write for XYZ Company and they are so much easier to work for, plus they pay better!”
I said, “Say, what!? They pay better than $450 per article?” She said, “Oh yeah. You need to reach out to them.”
Then she proceeded to give me the name of the editor that I should reach out to. She also told me to mention in the email that I knew her.
I just landed that client this month and they pay $500-700 per article. So by helping someone else I actually ended up helping myself even more.
Do you see how all these points tie together? First, you network with people. Then you do excellent work and help others out.
And that makes your network grow larger. And the larger your network, the more high-paying opportunities that will come your way. It’s an awesome cycle.
So my encouragement to you is to start networking now so that you get your own success cycle started. Good luck!