Have you ever wondered what sets freelance writers like Elna Cain and Jorden Roper apart from others?
How did they become successful freelance writers while others are struggling to find work or quality clients?
Becoming an in-demand freelance writer is more than just being able to write well and understanding SEO. Sure, those things are important but there’s much more to it than that. In fact, there are many habits and strategies that impact becoming a successful freelance writer.
In essence, writing talent needs to coincide with hard work, persistence, and a little bit of business savvy.
I’m guessing you’re here because you want to learn what it takes to be successful at freelance writing. Well, you’re in luck!
Get the scoop on the secret to becoming a successful freelance writer below.
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Define Your Niche
While it’s great to be versatile, high-paying clients don’t want to work with a generalist. They want to work with an expert that’s going to drive results for their business.
In other words, high-quality clients prefer to work with a writer with a clear niche.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you need a professional website and a logo that captures the personality of you and your business. You have a clear vision of what you want your branding and website to look and just need to hire someone to execute it.
Freelancer A: Clearly has experience with branding and web design, but their portfolio is all over the map.
Freelancer B: Has similar experience with branding and web design but their portfolio seems to be geared towards developing branding and web design specifically for freelance writers.
Who would you choose, Freelancer A or Freelancer B?
Chances are you’d choose Freelancer B because they’ve positioned themselves as an expert in exactly what you need.
Is Freelancer B better than Freelancer A? Not necessarily.
Freelancer A could have been just as great at designing your website as Freelancer B. The difference is Freelancer B marketed their expertise at developing websites and branding for freelance writers.
Marketing yourself as an expert capable of delivering results establishes trust with potential clients. Instead of being a generalist, focus on building a reputation as a results-oriented writer in your niche.
If you’ve joined any Facebook groups for freelance writers, you may have noticed one question that gets asked over and over again.
“How much should I charge?”
A lot of new freelancers fall into the trap of thinking they need to set lower rates because they don’t have much professional experience in the field. I made the same mistake when I was starting out, too.
Believing I shouldn’t charge what I thought I deserved held me back for a long time. It wasn’t until I quit searching for jobs on Upwork and started working with my first REAL client that I realized my mistake.
One of the biggest tips I can ever give is to not undervalue yourself as a writer.
On that same note, don’t ever feel like you need to discount your services just because a potential client asks you to. They may tell you “X freelancer offered to do it for $X less than you.”
That’s fine, let them.
People who ask you to do your job for less don’t value what you do and they are not the right client for you. Plus, those are often the clients who intentionally scope creep down the road or skip out on payments.
As long as your rates are in line with the market and you believe they represent the value of your work, don’t feel like you have to charge less.
Get Comfortable Pitching
While I wish I could tell you that by simply making the decision to become a freelance writer, you’ll have clients beating down your door, that’s just not true. Finding quality clients as a freelancer isn’t easy, especially when you’re new to the freelance writing game. The best piece of advice I can give you here is to get comfortable pitching whether it’s a cold email, replying to a job posting, or a word-of-mouth referral.
Knowing how to sell your services is half the battle and becoming a successful freelance writer means learning how to pitch potential clients the right way. That means refining your cold emailing strategy by testing various formats, subject lines, copy, etc. and crafting pitches in a way that helps you stand out against other cold emailers.
Always Follow Up
Knowing how to craft the perfect pitch is just the start. You can’t just send one cold email and expect to hit the jackpot. No, my friend, there’s much more to it than that. It takes an average of five emails to close a sale. FIVE! Yet, only 30% of freelancers are following up after their initial pitch.
By simply sending one follow up email, you’re one step ahead of 70% of people pitching that same person. Not to be dramatic, but failing to follow up is like leaving money on the table. Becoming a successful freelance writer means always following up; it’s how you land high-quality, invested clients and scale your business.
Build Your Credibility
Establishing credibility can seem like an impossible task, but it’s so important to becoming a successful freelance writer.
- Credibility opens up more opportunities for business growth
- It shows you’re a serious business owner in it for the long haul
- It can convert your audience to clients
- Encourages high paying clients to work with you
Most importantly, credibility inspires trust.
Clients want to know you’re trustworthy, credible, and can add value to their business.
Provide an Incredible Customer Experience
While one-off or short-term projects aren’t necessarily a bad thing, having a roster of long-term clients is a must-have for becoming a successful freelance writer. Long-term clients ensure that your workload—and income—is steady from month to month, which makes the experience of freelancing full-time a lot less stressful.
But how can you convert a new freelance writing client to a long-term client?
It starts with your very first point of contact. Whether that’s a discovery call or an email inquiry, how you start the client experience is important. In other words, you want to impress a freelance writing client from day one and continue to provide a stellar client experience throughout the project. Not only does this make you look super competent and professional, but it also increases the chance they’ll hire you again in the future—or better yet, sign a contract for a monthly service package.
Turn in Error-Free Work
When turning in work, always make sure it’s formatted correctly and as error-free as possible. Most freelance writing clients expect to have to format submitted work and check for errors. Save them the trouble! Going the extra mile will impress a freelance writing client because it saves them time. They’re also more likely to hire you again because they trust the quality of your work.
Even if you’re a great writer, I recommend using Grammarly. Grammarly has a free Chrome extension that checks the grammar, spelling, and tone of your work. Sounds like spellcheck, right? Wrong! Grammarly works whether you’re writing an email, a blog post, or typing in a Google Doc and it catches errors that a normal spellcheck tool doesn’t—it’s basically spellcheck on steroids. I’ve noticed my writing has improved so much since I started using Grammarly and I don’t have to worry about missing mistakes while proofreading.
Anticipate Your Client’s Needs
Chances are your clients are pretty busy, so they’ll appreciate your finding ways to make their life just a little bit easier. Pay attention to what they’re goals are and find ways to exceed their expectations.
- Identify potential problems and provide a solution
- Save them time by offering to find stock photos for a blog post your writing
- Listen to their feedback and incorporate it into future projects
- Turn in work in the proper format
If there’s a small way you can do something to simplify the process for them, it’s worth doing. It will teach your clients that they can count on you.
Know When to Say No
If you’re just starting to grow your freelance writing business, turning down work probably feels counter-intuitive. In order to grow your business, you need income. So, the thought of turning away work may make you feel like you’re going to throw up.
The truth is, becoming a successful freelancer writer requires knowing how to say “no.”
Being intentional about who you work with and what you do benefits your business. Doing so helps you enhance your skills and knowledge. It also helps to position you as an expert in your chosen niche and builds your credibility as a freelance writer.
It’s okay to say no when:
- The work doesn’t interest you.
- It seems too far outside of your wheelhouse.
- The pay doesn’t match the amount of work you’d have to do.
- The client is giving off too many red flags.
- You feel overwhelmed at the idea of taking on another project.
Learn How to Recognize Problem Clients
I’m just going to come out and say it; at some point during your freelance career, you’re going to have a run-in with a bad freelance client. It’s never fun to deal with but bad clients are everywhere. Some may be entirely too clingy while others ignore you like it’s their full-time job. But, there’s a big difference between a demanding client and a bad client.
A demanding client may be difficult to work with but they know what they want and when they want it. The likelihood that you’ll have to chase them down in order to complete their project or pay an invoice isn’t very high. On the other hand, a bad freelance client tends to be hard to reach and has no qualms about leaving an invoice unpaid.
The major distinction here is that you don’t trust a bad client—and let’s be real, trust is an important part of any business relationship. This is especially true for freelancers because we rely on our clients to be able to pay our bills.
The good news is that bad freelance clients often give off warning signs. The key is to know what red flags to look for so you can identify them as quickly as possible. And, if you happen to be in a contract with a trouble client, you need to know how to fix the issue or cut ties gracefully.
Phew! That was a lot of info to take in. Let’s recap real quick.
My top 10 secrets to becoming a successful freelance writer are:
- Define your niche and market yourself as a results-oriented writer in that industry
- Charge accordingly
- Get comfortable pitching (and learn to pitch the right way)
- Always follow up after sending a pitch
- Find ways to boost your credibility
- Provide an unforgettable customer experience
- Turn in work that is free of errors
- Learn how to anticipate your client’s needs
- Know when to say no
- Learn the warning signs of a bad freelance client, how to fix them, and when to cut ties
Got your own tips to finding success as a freelance writer? Leave them in the comments below!
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Katie Jenison is a freelance writer offering copywriting, blogging, and ghostwriting services. She works closely with home builders, remodelers, interior designers, real estate and property management professionals to help them create content marketing strategies, improve their digital presence, generate leads, and engage with their target audience. Katie also helps freelance writers and creative entrepreneurs pursue their dreams of working from home by providing tips and advice, business strategies, and writing tips on her blog, The Quiet Type. Download her free workbook, A Freelancer’s Guide to Setting Rates, here.