5 mistakes that prevent freelance writers earning enough

The idea of working from home as a freelance writer is very appealing – you get to schedule your day your way, be your own boss, spend more time with family, and so much more. Yet many try to achieve the dream and fail – and head back to the safety of full-time employment all too soon.

If you’re stuck in that dilemma now, you should know that it doesn’t have to go that way!

As a content agency owner who’s worked with freelancers for over 10 years, here’s my take on the 5 mistakes that prevent freelance writers earning enough.

1. Not business networking

Nothing comes close to topping ‘word of mouth’ when it comes to getting work. If you think ‘word of mouth’ is limited to people who’ve used your service and tell others, that misperception is probably costing you a fortune. Referrals can come from anywhere, and the best way to start them rolling is by networking.

Networking is all about connecting and getting to know people. The more people you connect with, the more people will be able to mention you when someone in a room (or a social media group) asks, “Hey, does anyone know a writer?”

But that’s not all – enquiries that come from referrals are much more likely to convert to sales. They’re also less likely to try to haggle over your quote.

2. Under-estimating and under-quoting

If you have an ideal hourly rate, under-estimating the time involved in jobs you quote will ensure you don’t earn your goal rate. If you typically charge by word-count, chances are you’re not always getting paid for extra time spent on tasks such as image sourcing, research and topic planning. If you quote 10 hours of work a week at $60 an hour but under-quote by 3 hours, you’ve dipped out on $180.

3. Not charging enough

Are you under-valuing your skills or time? Can you find better paid work? Find out! And if you’re quoting low because you’re desperate for work you need to rethink that – some clients will equate the lower quote to a lack of skill or experience and feel more confident choosing someone who’s quoted a premium price. And that means you could be getting the dud jobs instead of the good ones!

If you’re working for awfully low rates, you’re probably also working for awful clients. As someone I know says, if you work for peanuts your clients will treat you like a monkey.

4. No add-on services to offer

The more skills you have the more services you can offer, and the better you can upsell your clients. And many services go hand in hand with writing – SEO keyword research, content planning, social media, infographics and image creation. If you don’t have these skills, consider learning something new to boost your income. If your focus is on offering blogging services, consider including image sourcing and topic planning. For website copywriting, keyword research is an obvious add-on or inclusion, but consider offering clients a content planning or content strategy workshop as well.

5. Finding one-off jobs instead of regular work

It takes effort to find any type of work. If you’re putting your time and effort finding people and businesses that need one-off jobs like website or brochure copy, you’ll be doing it tough. It’s time to be more strategic and seek out clients who need regular services like blog writing or newsletters/EDMs. And if you love one-off website copy jobs, then focus your efforts on connecting with website designers who can refer an ongoing stream of them to you, instead of trying to find yourself one client at a time.

When you’re networking, don’t be reluctant to network with fellow writers – they too can be a source of work. Many writers have a firm niche – they might specialise in tenders, grants, resumes, article writing, website copywriting services or even report writing. These writers will often be asked by clients if they do a different type of writing project for the company. Wrters will often turn away types of work they don’t enjoy or don’t have the expertise to do – but many will be happy to refer the client to someone they know who specialises in that format.

Happy learning and earning!

Article Writers Australia Pty Ltd | Website | + posts

Leonie Seysan is the Director of Article Writers Australia, and manages the team of professional writers and editors. She holds a Bachelor of Communications Degree (Media Studies) and has been writing professionally for over 15 years.

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