Four Strategies to Make More Money with Your Freelance Writing
By Nick Usborne for PWA (Professional Writers’ Alliance)
As web copywriters, we can almost always increase the money we make ― from almost any freelance writing assignment we accept.
The strategies outlined in this article are for everyone! New copywriters can start right away to think just like experienced copywriters, and jump into the driver’s seat without delay.
Expand your projects by using these strategies and you can negotiate larger and more profitable engagements every time.
There are no hard and fast rules about how we should negotiate with clients, so even as new copywriters, we need not appear timid and grateful for the work we receive.
We must become proactive and get used to thinking in terms of taking control of our businesses.
When we sit firmly and comfortably in the driver’s seat, we get used to deciding the kinds of clients we work with, the kinds of projects we accept, and what kind of fees we will charge.
Only then will we maximize our chances of greater success and of making the kind of money we really deserve!
You don’t need to adopt every one of the following strategies immediately ― that might be a bit frightening. But start to think like a true businessperson, put on your business mantle, and follow just a few of these strategies to begin with. Then you can add more as you become comfortable with this way of thinking and operating.
You will find that you will experience greater success almost all of the time.
Four Smart Strategies to Make More Money with Every Freelance Writing Job You Do… Plus Some Extras
Copywriter A has just landed a great copywriting job to write a homepage for a brand-new client. He is mighty pleased with himself because he is adding some extra dollars to his monthly income.
Copywriter B has also landed a great copywriting job, again to write a homepage for a new client. She is also adding dollars to her monthly income, but she will be adding much more than that by the time she is through.
What’s the difference? How could this happen with two very similar copywriters and two very similar assignments?
Copywriter A did a good job ― exactly what his client wanted. He happily received his check, and hurried to the bank to deposit it so he could pay his utility bill.
However, Copywriter B, before embarking on the job, took time to explore the existing website, saw some areas where her client could improve his site, and then she had a conversation with him.
She asked him about his business goals and how his website will help him to meet them. She also asked about the purpose of the site in the mind of her client. And, she asked many other questions that gave her a clear idea of what her client really wants, and the direction he is heading with his business.
In the course of the conversation, Copywriter B’s new client realized that he will be able to get more visitors, more conversions, and therefore more sales, if he adds a few simple extras to his marketing strategy through his website… perhaps a strong sales email followed by a series of email autoresponders, maybe a regular newsletter for his clients. And, he is now seriously thinking of putting a video on his site as well.
He hadn’t thought these things would be particularly useful. But when Copywriter B made the suggestions to him, backed them up with some research to show results and illustrate their power, he saw the benefits of each of these strategies, and jumped at the chance.
Which one of these copywriters are you?
Do you accept a job, clutch it close, and run gratefully off to your computer to get started?
Or, do you take a few minutes in advance, assess the site and the extras you could offer for the client’s benefit, and then propose them?
Which copywriter do you think is increasing the value, making the most of the opportunity, and building long-term work, while helping her client grow his business? And, which one is ultimately putting more dollars into her bank account?
Of course, it’s Copywriter B!
Copywriter B is taking control of the work, and she is firmly sitting in the driver’s seat of her business.
I’m about to tell you how YOU can be right there up front, too ― in control and driving your income, and therefore your business, in the direction YOU want it to go.
I will tell you how to assume the driver’s seat with every assignment you accept.
So, I invite you to read on, see where you fit ― or where you’d like to fit ― and how you can use the following easy strategies to take control and make more money with your freelance writing work.
You’ll increase the money you make from every project you do!
Find Freelance Writing Clients Who Value Good Work
There are many possible clients out there looking for you. And they are all different: some will want to get your work as cheaply as possible, others will be curious ― teetering on the brink of a decision ― taking time to ask lots of questions, and requesting ample proof that you can increase their ROI ― and how it’s done.
And then there are the other companies… they already know the value of persuasive copywriting that gets results, and they are willing ― even eager ― to pay you what you deserve for your skills and abilities.
So, how do you find them?
Here are some examples of the kinds of companies that understand your value as a copywriter ― they have total “get-it-ability.”
These are the companies that historically have always clearly understood the value of well-written, persuasive sales copy.
They look for results, and they know the value that small, subtle changes in the copy can have on their bottom line. They know how a slight change in layout, a few added words, or a P.S. can make a difference of thousands of dollars to their bottom line.
Direct Sales Online
Here is another group of people who usually get it. And, because they sell a broad range of services and products online, they are able to see and record immediate results from their online sales strategies.
Many of them understand that it is not about the design and glitzy technology that pops up onto the screen (that kind of approach doesn’t work for more reasons than just its flashy appearance), but it is about the words. It is about the ability to persuade the visitor to click the button: ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Sign Up Here.’
Online sales companies, on the whole, understand that they need a variety of complementary strategies working together to increase their revenue results.
So, when you suggest an email marketing strategy, or a series of email autoresponders, for example, they know what you are talking about and will pay you accordingly.
Professional Marketing Groups
You will come across a broad range of marketing expertise and sophistication in Professional Marketing groups, and you will need to determine where your particular prospect fits along the spectrum.
It should be clear within a conversation or two whether your prospective client company has a good mix of technologists and experienced marketers who understand the importance of copy and copywriters.
Once this is evident, you are off and running, and they will usually be a pleasure to work with.
At other times, you won’t find out until you have accepted, and already started the project, that your client isn’t too high on the “get-it-ability” scale.
You, the copywriter, are placed at the end of the line and may be asked to “just write the copy” after the designers, coders, and technology buffs have all done their part first.
Being brought in almost as an afterthought can make it difficult for you to work with these clients, so you must know how to assess and understand your prospect before you accept the assignment.
Once you do, you can make intelligent decisions, and therefore make your life as a copywriter very much easier from job to job.
“Get-it-Ability” ― or Understanding the Value of Good Copy
You might think you can’t play with the heavy-hitters in technology groups who tend to consider themselves high up on the power list. But, you’d be surprised at how many of these companies are light on copywriters in their ranks.
With the advent of computers, the creators invented and developed all the technologies ― and promptly forgot about the copywriters!
So, they need you ― whether they know it or not.
Use all the skills of persuasion you’ve learned to get that message across and land them as clients.
If, on the other hand, you are retained ahead of ― or at least at the same time as ― all those technical folks, you know they get it. You can be confident that your expertise will be respected and valued.
- When you are prospecting for assignments, make sure you deliberately choose clients who understand your worth and are willing to pay you accordingly.
- When you are starting out, you might tend to be grateful for whatever work you can get, but learn to be critical in your decision-making and, after your first few assignments (and some examples in your portfolio), hop right on into that driver’s seat and be more discerning about your choices of client.
- And once you have found the right companies, nurture them. You’ve worked hard to find your right match ― now do everything you can to keep them!
Target Projects with Big and ImmediatePayouts for the Client
When your client can measure immediate sales results, he takes you, the copywriter, seriously ― he sees what you can do for him and he values the skills you bring to him.
Here are some types of projects that show fast results:
Direct sales of high-value products and services
A particular company may ask you to write a couple of different kinds of copy for their website. For example: a consumer electronics company might ask you to write a series of “how-to” articles about their products.
That same company could also ask you to write a sales page and a couple of landing pages for a brand-new camera for which they will have an exclusive 30-day marketing blitz.
Which one has the most value?
Clearly, the sales and landing pages for the camera have more immediate value to the company. And, because they are looking to increase immediate sales, you can suggest further tactics to expand the scope of their strategy, such as a series of email autoresponders.
The “how-to” pages contain content. They may bring traffic to the site, and the information is interesting and useful, for some readers. But it’s simply that ― content copy with little outcome value for the client… and therefore not as significant to him. Or to you!
Subscription sign-ups for products such as newsletters, e-books, and reports
Products such as newsletters, e-books, and reports on the whole contain content. They are not used as urgent and immediate sales tactics and they are often sold or given away as freebies.
But, because these readers have signed up for the subscription or download, they have, in effect, given their permission to be contacted ― tacit or otherwise.
So, your clients will be growing their contact lists and, once they have built trust and credibility in the minds of their readers with lots of good content, they can add some moderate sales copy and, of course, use the generated list for other marketing purposes. These types of revenues tend to come in more slowly for your client.
Landing pages and sales pages
When your client has a product or a service to sell, sales and landing pages are invaluable to him. You can be sure he understands the power of a well-written landing page and the potential income it will stimulate for his business. If you write well, and can demonstrate results quickly, you will be paid handsomely for your work.
Promotional emails for products and services
A series of emails can be very valuable to your client, and can result in a high percentage of increased sales within the first three or four days. Prove that you write good email copy that brings in fast sales, and he will be happy to pay you what you are worth.
When there is a choice between a job that won’t show much of an increase in revenues, and a job where increased income can be immediately and recognizably measurable, which project would YOU target?
Expand the Scope of Every Project
If you are a newbie copywriter, don’t be like many others and be passive and grateful for each little project that comes your way. Put on your professional persona and, like our Copywriter B, look beyond and see how you can support your client to realize more results.
In the process of helping your client achieve, you will benefit also… just watch the level of your own income increase!
Think about hamburger joints: “Would you like fries with your hamburger?” or “Would you like the combo today?”
McDonald’s knows how to sell more ― and we can, too ― by using exactly the same strategy!
Not one email, but five
When your client asks you to write a single sales email ― think about how you could expand the scope and develop a broader strategy from that one email.
Don’t just make a suggestion to your client out of the blue, but think carefully first. Once you have a preliminary idea about how you might expand one email to a series, talk to your client.
Ask her open-ended questions about the purpose of her email, by saying something like: “Tell me about it… what you are selling? What are you trying to accomplish by sending out this email?”
Once you know her intention, you can suggest how a series of emails or autoresponders could incrementally increase her results. You can say: “I’d love to write your email, but you know, I think you’d have a much better result if you had a series of five emails, and here’s why…”
Do you see what happened there? You put yourself deliberately in the driver’s seat and, yes, YOU were in control of the negotiation!
It’s far more efficient to write five related emails for one client than to write five emails for five separate clients. You are familiar with the product or service, you have much less administration dealing with one client as opposed to five, and most importantly, you are not spending five times as much time generating leads and then converting them into clients!
Not just the landing page, but also the PPC campaign
This is a similar situation to above. Suppose a client asks you to write a landing page for her. It’s a good job ― and it will pay you quite well.
But, think about it… how could you expand the scope?
- You could ask your client how she is going to drive visitors to the landing page.
- You might then suggest that the landing page and the drivers, such as PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads, do so much better if they are connected.
- By being related (i.e., written by the same author ― YOU!), there will be a smooth transition and likely a much better conversion rate.
Of course, your client can hire whom she wishes to write those ads, but when she understands the principle of association, she will most likely give you the go-ahead and you will both reap the benefits.
Once more ― you’ve expanded the scope! And at the same time, you have gained the respect and, very probably, the loyalty of your client.
When you show her how well it can work ― and when your writing makes it work ― you’ll become her go-to copywriter for more of her copywriting projects.
She’ll trust you and come back for more!
Not just the homepage rewrite, but a full site analysis
There may be several considerations that indicate a strategic site review. The following two will give you an idea of how to expand a single project.
Invisible PPC ads
Let’s return to those PPC ads for a moment ― you may see that your client is buying PPC ads, yet you can’t find his website when you Google the company name. Those PPC ads, which cost your client good money, are clearly not working for him.
What you need to do is explain to him that you know how to increase his organic placement chances with search engines ― and to do that, you would use some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies on his site.
Of course, you wouldn’t just haphazardly add keywords and phrases onto the site with no planning; you should really take a good look at the site as a whole ― at least several pages in the first couple of levels of copy.
Here is where you propose that a logical way to approach this is to analyze the site and perform a strategic audit.
There’s plenty of time for a rewrite…
It’s not always an easy job simply to rewrite the homepage on a website. For a start, it’s often not urgent in the mind of your client. And for another thing, a homepage rewrite would not necessarily deliver measurable additional revenue for your client within 30 days.
In addition, if the homepage is for a large company, you may also have a situation of “too many cooks”… There are often many people involved ― each with a stake in the homepage, and all from different departments.
They all have their opinions about what they want to see on the homepage, and they are all different. Each one feels that he or she is the most important person in the group.
Writing landing or sales pages is so much easier because you are usually dealing with only one person, or one department.
So, here’s a way to mitigate the homepage rewrite issue:
While acknowledging that the task alone is clearly trustworthy and important, and you are quite capable of doing it, suggest that the homepage is not isolated, and it is clearly and strongly connected to all the other pages.
Therefore, what you have done for some of your other clients is to suggest they take a step back and look at the site as a whole.
You then offer to review the homepage and the second level pages ― and perhaps even some important third-level pages for your client.
You propose a complete diagnostic site audit.
Once your analysis is complete, it’s very likely you will need to recommend a broader strategy that contains some ideas to improve the performance of the site as a whole.
Now, at this point, the client could go and find someone else to complete this extra copywriting work, but chances are he will stay with you ― especially if you have demonstrated that you can very likely increase his bottom line substantially.
All of a sudden, you have increased your perceived value in the eyes of your client ― you have moved from being simply a copywriter to becoming a vital member of the team.
You are an idea person who adds value to the marketing strategy, and in the process you have become a Consultant.
Bingo! Your fees increase accordingly!
Be deliberate… think like a businessperson… determine the opportunity that’s in front of you… and act accordingly!
Estimate and Invoice Your Freelance Writing Projects Based on Value, Not on Time
When your client asks you for your hourly fee or your fee schedule, never estimate right then and there, and NEVER estimate on the phone.
Do that and you will inevitably find that you underestimate ― sometimes significantly.
Don’t bill by the hour
When you are asked your hourly rate for freelance copywriting ― don’t give one. Tell the prospective client that you bill by the project.
Why would you do this?
- Immediately when you quote an hourly rate, you open yourself to downward price pressure… and you lose control: “Well, Jane across town charges $15 an hour less than you, if you can’t match that, perhaps I’ll go with her.”
- If you are a beginning copywriter, you will take many more hours than a seasoned copywriter to complete a job; if you quote by the hour, your client might think you are somehow trying to pad your time and overcharge him.
- Then later, when you are more skilled in your profession, you will work faster and, if you are charging hourly, then you will almost always lose out on some earned income by completing a job in a shorter time, which then nets you a lower income than the job is actually worth.
(Get more information on freelance copywriting rates in our free report.)
Determine your perceived value in the eyes of your client
A new client approaches you ― perhaps he has heard of you, attended your webinar, read your books ― and he wants you for an important project that’s coming up.
- Suddenly, you are in the driver’s seat of your business ― you are worth more to this client ― because he wants YOU to do the job.
Estimate accordingly ― your perceived value is high.
If you are unknown to your client and you are contacting her via a cold call, or sending an email, your prospective client doesn’t know you or your work; she may not even have any work available at that moment. So, there is really no reason why she should hire you.
Your perceived value has decreased and you won’t land a job.
Determine the real value to the client of a job well-done
Let us return to the example of the “how-to” pages vs. the landing page for the exclusive camera sales strategy.
- The instructional pages are perhaps worth $500 to complete.
- The landing page is $5,000 ― 10 times the value.
Understand that the landing page, written well, is worth far more to the client than a simple “how-to” page, because of its ability to rapidly increase their bottom line.
The perceived value, and your fee, have increased ― significantly!
How to estimate
When a client asks you for an estimate:
Climb into your driver’s seat, put on your business persona, and tell him that you will get back to him tomorrow.
Repeat your mantra: “I am a valuable copywriter!” and then follow these steps. (They will be useful for you, particularly if you find yourself habitually underestimating.)
- Break the job down and research the tasks you will need to complete ― including administrative responsibilities.
- When the job is big and will go on for several weeks, make sure to add a line for administration (phone calls, emails, interviews, billing, etc.).
- Put your total aside and look at it every few hours.
- Rethink your total and revise it upwards if you think your first one was low (which you will!).
- Then go to bed and sleep on it. In the morning ― take one more look at it before you send it off. Invariably you will still think it’s too low and revise it up again.
Almost always, your final estimate is close to twice the initial one. And, almost always, your client will accept it.
Take care never to underestimate your worth! As long as the client understands your worth, a low estimate will jeopardize his confidence in your abilities, and could actually cause you to lose a job!
Yes… it does happen!
The trick is to keep the balance between a high estimate where you may get pushback from the client ― and a low estimate where you could lose your credibility.
This is why it is important to work with clients who understand the value of your skill and knowledge as a copywriter.
For guidance on what to charge, check out this free Copywriting Rates report.
Bonus Strategy #1: Build on Your Best Relationships
When you find good clients, work hard to keep them
- Remember this: it is much easier to keep a good client than it is to find a new one!
- Make it easy for your client to work with you, and
- ALWAYS get your copy in on time!
It is absolutely worth the effort to keep your current clients ― and far less work than finding new ones!
Expand your relationships within the company
- If you are working with, say, the Marketing Manager in a company, there may be others in the same company who need copy as well.
- Ask for a referral from your current client, and you will perhaps add more work within the same company in a different department.
Seek out similar companies you could work with
Once you get to know the products and services of one company, you can transfer that knowledge and information to another that is comparable.
- Your client benefits: You can get right onto writing his copy without him having to supply you with tons of reference material.
He will appreciate that you are a self-starter and he won’t have to hold your hand.
- You benefit: You shorten your up-front learning time significantly, and you can complete the work faster.
Not only do you increase your earnings from this new client, but you are freed up for even more work.
Bonus Strategy #2: Make it Easier for Your Client to SellInternally
Remember that you don’t always work directly with the final decision-makers or the money-folks. Your client contact may have others in his firm that he has to persuade (or even win over) to understanding your value.
Show them the money
Demonstrate that your work could increase their revenues in 30 days. You can even return later and show them the results.
This will make it easier for your client to get that essential approval signature.
Don’t be a drag on internal resources
When you are upselling your services and offering more (for example, proposing a site analysis instead of the homepage rewrite), be aware of the up-line permissions that your contact requires. Make it as easy as possible for him to get those signatures.
Keep it simple
If you can, keep your proposals to decisions your client is in a position to make. That way, you will simplify the process for him and build your relationship by understanding, and being sensitive to, his situation.
Bonus Strategy #3: Talk to the Person Who Makes theMoney Decisions
This level of conversation is not always possible, depending upon the size of the company and the chain of command. It may take a few discussions with your client to assess whether he or she has any financial decision-making capacity ― or none at all.
Through your conversation, you will get clues about the level of your client’s decision-making.
Sometimes you may become aware of another person on the periphery of the project discussions, and you will realize that this person is the “money-authority.” He is aware of your negotiations and he signs the contract.
Another time, you may recognize you are speaking only to an intern who has been tasked with finding a copywriter.
For you, there is a significant difference between the two.
Choose your projects
As you gain more information about the ranks of your clients and the company decision-makers, you will be able to make decisions and choices about which projects to choose.
When there is a choice between a decision-maker and an intern ― of course you accept the job from the decision-maker.
If you can, speak to those in authority. If this is not possible, return to Bonus Strategy #2 and make it easy for your client to “sell” your work to those who dispense the dollars.
CONCLUSION: Yes, You Can Make More Money Through Your Freelance Writing Projects!
We have discussed seven strategies that are used by freelancers who sit in the driver’s seats of their own businesses. You may not use all of them right away, but…
Remember: Get into the habit of always thinking of yourself as a businessperson and not just as a lowly copywriter.
V.I.P. (Very Important Points)
You sit in your OWN driver’s seat ― don’t let your client sit there
Say to yourself: “I am the boss of my business!”
Get into the habit of thinking of yourself as a valuable businessperson who has something of worth to offer:
Say to yourself: “I offer value!”
Look for companies with “get-it-ability” and respect for your work:
Say to yourself: “This client would do well to choose ME!”
Always negotiate with a positive attitude:
Say to yourself: “I KNOW what I am doing and I can help my client!”
Don’t apologize, and don’t grovel!
Say to yourself: “I can help YOU!”
NOTE: PWA (The Professional Writers’ Alliance) is brought to you by AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc.), and Nick Usborne frequently speaks at AWAI copywriting training events.
NICK USBORNE is an online copywriter and site optimization expert with over 20 years of experience online. During a career spanning 35 years in the marketing industry — offline and then online — he has worked with dozens of major companies. Nick is also a much-sought-after speaker and trainer. He has spoken at dozens of online marketing conferences, both in the U.S. and Europe. He is a widely read columnist, with his articles being published by ClickZ, iMediaConnection, AListApart, Business 2.0, MarketingProfs, and many other professional sites and