4 Critical Steps that Scaled my Writing Income
Without spending money on e-books, marketing, and courses
When I made the choice to quit my real estate career and pursue freelance writing full-time, I — like many — knew that I had to scale very quickly. I also knew that I didn’t have time to take courses, nor did I have the funds to pour into marketing.
Here’s what I did instead:
1. From my very first month as a freelance writer, I never accepted anything that paid less than $.10 per word
Let me be clear: I do not advocate that writers write for as little as $.10 per word, but I know that new writers need to start somewhere. I also know it can be challenging to find clients willing to pay more than $.10 per word when starting out since new writers understandably have limited experience/portfolio content. But, please, never accept even a penny lower than $.10 per word.
Here’s what happens when you charge more:
I turned down every writing opportunity that paid less than $.10 per word my first month (and successive months) as a freelance copywriter. There were companies that offered to send me consistent work over a long period of time, but I still turned them down.
Instead of taking on low-paying writing roles, I used that first month to apply for higher-paying positions. As a result of the time I put into finding clients who paid me what I was worth, I scaled very quickly, helping me reach $8,000/month in under a year.
I know that work can be scarce sometimes, but if you want to scale your freelance income, you cannot write for less than $.10 per word.
Writing for pennies significantly undervalues the copywriting industry as a whole. Would an attorney ever charge $5 an hour? Absolutely not. Why? Because attorneys understand the value they bring to their clients.
As writers, we need to have that same mindset. A company that has clear, compelling copy can accurately articulate their products or services to prospective customers, increasing their overall sales. Not only that, but companies that implement a strong content strategy are more likely to rank in Google when customers search for related content (more on that
As writers, we are helping companies achieve their content strategy goals, which has a monumental impact on their sales and growth overall.
Your writing brings power to companies. Never undersell yourself.
Can I still charge more if I just started freelancing?
Absolutely. If you are just starting out as a copywriter, the client does not need to know that your experience is limited (unless they ask). If your writing is strong and you have put together some writing samples, they probably won’t even care how long you have been freelancing. All they want to know is 1) Are you a good writer? 2) Are you easy to work with/do you respond quickly? 3) Will you adhere to deadlines? The length of time you have been freelancing is secondary to them if you can hit all of these points.
When you accept an offer for a lowball bid — especially something that pays less than $.10 per word — the client assumes you’re not experienced or, even worse, desperate. Also, the more you charge, the more time you will most likely end up spending on the piece, leading to less revisions and a happier client.
2. When sending proposals, I always include 3 pricing tiers
When sending a proposal to a client, I always include at least three pricing tiers that include varying levels of revisions and due dates. Here’s an example of what you would send to the client (the numbers here are arbitrary, of course):
Option #1: $200 for a project with one revision and a two-week deadline
Option #2: $400 for a project with two revisions and a one-week deadline
Option #3: $600 for a project with three revisions and a 4-day deadline
Here’s the part that’s interesting: when presented with different pricing tiers, clients always opt for the most expensive option. This makes sense, as a smart business owner understands the importance in revising a piece several times (and wants it back in the shortest timeframe possible).
3. I learned everything I could about search engine optimization (SEO)
As writers, we must have a strong understanding of SEO to deliver greater value to our clients. If a client is going to start a blog, there’s no point in doing so unless that blog is optimized for Google. If you understand how to do keyword research, write meta data, etc., you can charge more for your writing and can leverage your knowledge to become an SEO consultant. You can then charge hourly or put a monthly retainer in place for the SEO research you do, further increasing your income.
Here are some great sites to learn more about SEO:
If you’re interested in learning more about how to do keyword research for SEO, check out this article I wrote:
4. I took on other projects related to copywriting (but not writing specific)
Finding clients who have regularly recurring work can be a challenge. It may sometimes be necessary to take on work that is writing-related but involves other skills as well.For example, I recently took on a project where I redesigned a website and re-wrote portions of the site. So, although there was a technical side of the project, I was still utilizing my writing skills.Whatever your skillset beyond writing is — photography, graphic design, web design, social media, video creation, proofreading/editing, Photoshop, designing e-blasts, etc. — use those skills in tandem with writing to boost your income.
Other ways to keep clients happy:
Never push back on revisions (unless the client is asking for more revision rounds than they paid for). I have had many clients tell me horror stories about former writers they worked with who refused to make revisions they didn’t agree with. If a client wants you to change an aspect of an article, just do it — even if you don’t agree with the edits they want you to make. The easier you are to work with, the more likely your clients will be to send you recurring work and refer you to their colleagues.
And, of course, never miss a deadline and always respond to clients as quickly as possible.
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My name is Amanda Sapio and I am a freelance copywriter with 8+ years’ experience as a writer/editor.