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3 Things You Need to Do to Increase Your Freelance Writing Income

Today I was digging through my content archives, and I found some old articles that triggered a lot of memories from my early days as a freelancer. See, I didn’t start off charging $500 bucks a post. I wrote a lot of content for free and I even joined a (*cringe*) content mill — the now defunct Examiner.com.

Oh boy. If I had a time machine, I’d go back a few years and tell my past self to stop undervaluing my work and start taking steps towards a more profitable freelance writing business.

But time travel isn’t a thing yet, so I thought I’d just share those lessons with you. Here are some of the things I learned in the process of increasing my freelance writing income. 

1. Go out there and find clients

You won’t land good gigs on content mill websites. Freelance platforms such Upwork might send decent clients your way. But top tier clients — those who are willing and able to shell out good money for your services — aren’t on these sites.

I handle content marketing and strategy for a few companies. In this role, I’m tasked with hiring freelance writers as well as other contractors, so I’ve been on both sides of the freelance hiring and negotiation process. 

Here’s what I can tell you about it: if I want something done cheap,  then I’ll turn to a site like Upwork. But if I need something that’s well-written and insightful and I have a large budget to work with, then I’ll take the time searching for the right candidates.

I’ll peruse freelance sites to find the best fit. I’ll go through my inbox and find writers who have gotten in touch with me in the past. I’ll reach out to my industry contacts and ask for referrals. I might even search the web for amazing pieces of content and touch base with the authors who wrote them.  One thing I won’t do is look for writers in content mills and freelancer platforms.

What does this mean for you? It means if you want to land top quality clients, you need to put yourself out there. You need to:

In short, don’t rely on a platform or low-quality content mill for gigs. Go out there and be more proactive about finding clients.

2. Don’t to be a generalist

When I first got into freelance writing, I decided I could write about anything — and I kind of did.

I wrote blog posts and landing page for a solar panel business, my wedding DJ hired me to update his website, and I my friend’s dad even paid me to update his website about — wait for it — chickens.

I don’t regret doing those jobs. But looking back, I realized that I would’ve been able to charge more if I had chosen to write about just a few topics that I was genuinely interested in.

If I had done that, I would’ve built an impressive portfolio much sooner, and it would’ve been way easier to charge higher rates. Because here’s the thing: people who specialize not only get paid more, but clients actually prefer industry specialists.

Anastasia Sidko, the Content Manager at SEMrush, told me:

“Between two freelancers with equally good writing skills I’d choose the one who has experience in creating texts on the topic that I need. It is especially important when it comes to technical or very specific texts — deeper knowledge of the subject would be a significant advantage for the writer.”

Molly Berry, the Community Manager at Skyword, said something similar in our interview:

“Identifying your niche is really important. Some people think it might be advantageous to call themselves generalists or say ‘I can write about anything’ or ‘I can research anything,’ but in the content marketing industry, we’re not looking for generalists. We’re looking for people who have specializations.”

Follow their advice and find your niche. You don’t have to be married to it, by the way. Just decide on something to focus on for now, and go from there. 

Devoting my efforts to a few select industries and content types enabled me to hone my skills, become an expert in that space, and connect with a lot of great clients.

3. Not an expert yet? You don’t have to do all the work

Maybe you’ve already chosen a niche, but you don’t consider yourself an expert yet. Or perhaps you’re struggling to write an article because you don’t have the expertise or the experience in that field.

I’ve been there. When I first started writing about the retail industry, I was a little stumped because I had no experience in the space. As a consumer, I was fascinated with the industry, but I never held a job in retail.

So how did I come up with great retail-centric content?

One word: Research. Lots of it. I spent a ton of time on Google and on industry sites collecting stats, insights, and examples that I could use in my articles.

This method worked great, and it’s something I continue to do to this day. But it’s not the only way to produce expertly-written articles.

One other thing I did that helped me create great thought leadership posts (without actually being an official “expert” yet) is connecting with other thought leaders and influencers, and incorporating their insights into my content. I used a website called HARO (short for Help a Reporter Out) to find professionals that I can interview and quote in my articles.

Doing this resulted in great feedback and positive outcomes all around. I was able to produce insightful, high-value posts which made my clients happy, and the experts that I worked with were thrilled because being included in my articles meant more exposure for them.

Here’s the main takeaway here: you don’t have to be fully-fledged “expert” to write expertly-written content (and charge top rates). If you’re just starting out in an industry or niche, then find other experts to include in your articles.

Talk to them. Quote them. Learn from them.

Do this right, and you’ll produce high-value content, keep your clients happy and (hopefully) build a flourishing freelance writing career.

Final words

Be proactive with client hunting, choose a profitable niche, and produce expertly-written content. Do these things well (and do them consistently), and I guarantee that you’ll never become a “starving writer” ever again.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. What freelance writing lessons would you share with your past self if you were given the chance? Comment below and let me know!

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Francesca Nicasio

  • Raquel Stone

    How did you go about picking your niche? I am not an expert on anything, which is why I am having such a hard time inching down.

    • Hi Raquel — great question. You don’t have to be an expert in an industry to write about it. But you need to have a genuine interest in that field and be happy to learn about it.

      Like I said above, you don’t need to be an expert to produce expertly-written content. When I first started writing about retail, I didn’t know much about the industry. But I was willing to learn, and now it’s one of my favorite things to write about.

      Here’s another example: years ago, I decided to be a writer for tech companies. I’m not, in any way, a tech person. I’m not an engineer at I haven’t (at that point) worked for a tech startup.

      BUT, I was genuinely interested and fascinated with that industry and I was constantly reading blogs like TechCrunch so I always knew what was going on in the tech world.

      I suggest you do the same. Start with topics that you’re genuinely interested in. Explore the market, and see if there any potential clients that you can work with.

  • Blogging is my niche. One of them, anyway.
    From what you know about me, what would YOU say my other niches are? (Other than freelancing?)

    I’m not one to look for work… it just finds me, somehow!

    But if I wanted to do more writing (my focus is currently doing editing work), what would YOU suggest?

    • Hi Lorraine! Aside from blogging, I think you could potentially branch out to internet marketing and advertising. You could write about how people can drive traffic through their website using various digital marketing tactics (e.g. adwords, social media, influencer outreach, etc.)

      Other suggestions:
      – Personal development (i.e. “activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents, and improve quality of life”)

      – Small business / entrepreneurship (i.e. you have experience being a solopreneur, so this could also be a good fit!)

      – Networking (you’re so good at connecting with people, so again, this could be a good fit for you)

      Hope this helps!

      • Yes, this does. Thanks!
        I wear so many hats and have so much going on in various niches that it sometimes is hard for me to look at myself objectively!

        Thanks for the compliments too. 🙂

  • That’s a great post!

    I went through the same thing. I really like the idea of interviewing experts and start learning from them. This is helpful.

    Hunting clients isn’t easy task. Would that be OKAY if we write posts for our blogs or sites and mention the experts? Will that work?

    – Arfa

    • Glad you found the post useful, Arfa. Yes, it should be ok to mention experts on your blog. Just be sure to properly attribute their content and link to their site. 🙂