The web runs on content, and with more than 300 million websites on the internet today, there’s always a need for new articles that will help a site get noticed and gain authority in the search engines. As a writer, this represents an incredible opportunity, as many of these website owners are too busy with their professional projects to generate the consistent flow of content needed to stay on top.
Unfortunately though, more than one promising freelance writer has been discouraged by the low rates offered for website articles on popular freelance portal sites like Guru or Elance or by website owners who don’t understand the value of good content and offer as little as $.01/word as compensation.
We’re not going to mess around with these laughable rates. Instead, if you want to earn the big bucks as a freelance web content writer, check out the following tips on how to get paid top dollar for your articles:
Improve Your Skill Set
Let’s face it – you’re not going to get the best paying writing jobs if your articles read like they were written by an elementary school student. You don’t need to be the second coming of Shakespeare to get the highest paying jobs, but you do need to have a good grasp on basic spelling and grammar rules.
So if it’s been awhile since you’ve taken an English language class and you feel like your writing skills are a little rusty, consider the following tips to improve your natural abilities:
1. Read language and grammar books – I’m not talking about picking up that dusty old text book from your 11th grade English class – there have been plenty of books written in the last few years that actually make these subjects interesting. For starters, pick up “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss and “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. You also can’t go wrong with the occasional read-through of Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style”.
2. Check out a grammar podcast – Grammar Girl’s regular language-learning podcast makes improving your writing skills easy and fun with quick, easily digestible tips packed into a fun format. Listen regularly, and you’ll be amazed by how quickly your writing skills improve.
3. Practice, practice, practice – Writing is like any other skill. Although some people have a natural talent for writing, most of the people working as professional freelance writers have achieved their success through hard work and practice. Set a writing goal to write a certain number of words each day (500 words is a great place to start) and you should start to see an improvement in how well you write and how quickly you’re able to meet your word goal.
Build a Kick-ass Portfolio
Once you feel confident about your writing skills (and again, remember that you don’t need to be the best writer ever in the history of the world to find work as a freelance writer), it’s time to put yourself out there. And in the world of freelance writing, that means putting together the portfolio of work you’ll show potential clients when you bid on their projects.
If you have paid freelance writing work, that’s great – obviously, that content should be included in your portfolio. The exception to this is that if you’ve written the content as a ghostwriter, you’ll need explicit permission from the client to include it under your name.
But even if you don’t have any paid writing work to your name, you’ll still need a portfolio to show clients your skill set, so it’s time to get creative! Some options for finding opportunities to build your portfolio include working with non-profit organizations in your area that need content written, offering to do writing work for free in exchange for a testimonial or even just making up writing assignments to show a future client how you’d handle the project.
Price Your Services Right from the Start
Once you’ve got your portfolio together, the next element you’ll need to nail down is what you’ll charge clients. There are a couple of schools of thought on how to do this…
But first, you need to understand that there are some limitations when it comes to pricing for freelance web content writers. Typically, the lowest quality writers (who are often found overseas, writing in a non-native language) earn between $1-$3 a piece for a 500 word article. Beginning writers or those with beginning-level skill sets can earn $5-$7/article, good writers typically make $10-$20/article and the best writers can earn $30+ for each page of content.
Obviously, these rates aren’t set in stone (as there are plenty of good writers earning much less and mediocre writers earning much more), but realistically, even if you’re the best writer out there, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find clients who will pay the $100 or more per article that would be comparable to offline freelance writing.
With these rates in mind, there are two schools of thought on how new writers should price their services. The first says that new writers should price their content on the low end and increase their rates as they build their reputations. The second argues that good writers should price their services at the correct level from the start and put more energy into seeking out clients that will pay these rates.
If your goal is to get paid top dollar for your web content writing, the second strategy will ultimately get you there faster. Although many people think that they’ll start out low and bump up their rates as their client bases grow, this is often easier said than done. Clients that pay low rates do so for a reason, and you may find that the amount of people willing to write at this low rate means that you’re replaceable when you try to negotiate up to the rate you deserve.
So if you’re really a talented writer, price your services right from the start and invest your time in finding clients that respect your skills and are willing to form a long-term partnership at the rates you deserve.
Find Clients by Making Connections
At this point, you’ve got your portfolio put together and your prices set, but there’s still one thing missing… Clients to actually pay you to write!
Finding clients isn’t difficult, but finding the clients who will pay you top dollar for your work is a little more complicated. The worst thing you could do for yourself at this point would be to go hog-wild applying for jobs on Guru and Elance, as these sites tend to attract a “race to the bottom” style of writing where undercutting is encouraged and writing is paid for with pennies on the dollar.
Instead, it’s far better to focus on making connections with the type of people you want to write for, as plenty of lucrative writing opportunities can occur when you position yourself well within your industry.
For example, say you want to write for niche marketers – a group that has a permanent need for quality web content. To get on their radar, spend time socializing on niche marketing forums, blogging about niche marketing topics or participating in niche marketing chat groups. Make it clear that you’re a freelance writer in the industry, but don’t bludgeon people over the head with it. Be helpful, courteous and polite, and eventually, you’ll start to see business as a result of the relationships you’ve developed.
Take Your Earnings to the Next Level
Once you establish yourself as a high quality freelance writer, you’ll begin earning more and more business through “word of mouth” referrals. But if you want to grow your business even faster and earn even higher rates, check out the following tips on how to take your earnings to the next level:
1. Choose an industry specialty – Writers with an in-depth knowledge of a given industry are often able to command much higher rates than their “jack of all trades” peers, as the amount of competition for these highly-technical positions is much smaller. If you aren’t an expert in any field right now, why not start studying one that interests you? Medical, scientific and technical fields are great places to make a name for yourself as a skilled writer.
2. Bundle your services – Yep, bundling isn’t just for cable companies anymore… When you’re able to add more to the equation, you’re able to charge more for your articles. For example, if you write for bloggers, you can charge more by offering to source pictures, mark up posts with the appropriate HTML code and upload the post directly to the blogger’s site.
3. Branch into copywriting – Working as a freelance web content writer is a great entry point into the world of internet writing, but the real money can be found in copywriting (aka – writing to sell). It isn’t easy to break into this field, as it’s a highly-technical type of writing that requires an understanding of psychology and human emotional responses, but if you invest the time into developing this skill set, you’ll find that you’re able to make much, much more money than you can as an article writer.
Freelance writing isn’t nearly as glamorous as some books and movies would have you believe, but it can be a great way to earn extra money or even build a full-time job that gives you more freedom and flexibility than a traditional day job. By avoiding the traps that keep most beginning writers stuck in an endless cycle of $3 articles, you’ll find that this career can be rewarding on both a personal and financial level.