From time to time, I will invite people that I think will make a positive contribution to the Work Online community. This is one such moment. Here’s a guest post by Chitraparna Sinha, a talented freelance writer that has managed to slash her website’s Alexa ranking in half in just a few months.
“I sell words” – that is my opening line to the proverbial “what do you do” question.
After 6 years and uncountable hours spent at the desk hustling, I conclude that freelance writing is indeed the toughest way to earn money online!
You may possess excellent writing skills but it is never enough.
Why is freelance writing so tough?
You begin with the passion of Achilles, determined to win the Trojan War. While Achilles did win, your perseverance frizzles with time, and you end up twiddling thumbs, wondering about the reason for not getting enough clients, not earning enough money, not getting enough recognition and the list goes on!
You may be an awesome writer but if the skill and knowledge does not turn into $$$$, you have a serious problem. As with any problem, one needs to understand it from all perspectives to reach a beneficial solution.
Let us look at freelance writing from two perspectives – the client and the writer.
Freelance Writing: The Client Chronicle
When a client wants to hire a freelance writer, this is exactly what goes on in their mind.
1. Show me the Money!
No matter whether a client wants to pay $5 or $500 for an article, they are looking for a return-on-investment (ROI).
The ROI complicates matters a lot. How does one define a ROI? Each client will have different parameters. I know one client who had offered to pay $100 for an article only if my article got 100 comments! How weird is that? How can anyone guarantee such a thing?
Whether you are writing blog posts, articles, press releases, website content, an eBook or anything else, the client will look for a good ROI.
Here are some typical ROI expectations:
- If you are writing a blog post, the client may expect email subscribers.
- If you are someone famous and influential contributing something, the client may expect higher domain traffic and engagement.
- If you are writing articles, the client may expect higher click-through rates (CTR).
- If you are writing website content, the client may expect better readability.
- If you are writing an eBook, the client may expect better sales.
…and so on!
In short, the nature of the writing determines ROI expectations. Also, the impact and social following of the writer may be an indicator of ROI too.
It is a two-edged sword!
Jon Morrow, a well known established writer, charges $1000 per blog post. Amazing, isn’t it? Why do clients pay him? First, his name carries influence and engagement, and second, his content rocks! The client recovers the investment soon enough. You and I may not be of Jon’s stature. Not yet anyways.
The moot point is clients’ seek justification of their investment. Anyone will! If the client is investing $50 for your article, the investment should not go waste.
There is no second, third and fourth point here. The ROI is the sole factor for any client. If the writing skills match the expected ROI, you are hired!
Freelance Writing: The Saga of a Writer
In short, freelance writing is trading hours for money. It is not a method of generating passive income.
If you do not write, you do not earn.
The saga of a typical writer unfolds…
1. You neither gulp nor spit it out!
It is essential to maintain a steady inventory of clients. In the process, freelance writers are sometimes saddled with many projects that they neither have the time to complete nor the confidence to refuse it. Who wants to refuse money? No one! However, too much unmanageable work soon leads to burnout and a disinterest towards writing. Lack of management impacts freelance earnings negatively.
Unless you’re outsourcing, you can write only a certain number of words daily, right?
- Deal with one project at a time.
- Learn to refuse.
2. You personify Hamlet.
“To be or not to be” is the crux of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The lack of action is the eternal dilemma. Writers do procrastinate. It could be because you are feeling lazy, feeling unmotivated, feeling depressed or simply just ‘not in the mood’ but procrastination proves to be costly.
Writing is a solitary profession.
- Learn to motivate yourself. Read inspirational books.
- Get rid of the “I will do this tomorrow” syndrome.
…or, see your freelance writing career getting ruined.
3. You sell writing skills for pennies.
After all, something is better than nothing. You were thinking this, right? For arguments sake, let’s say, you do accept $10 or $20 articles in the beginning of your career but honestly, two years down the line, do you still want to write $20 articles?
I realise it is easy to advise, but believe me, never sell your writing skills for pennies. You can do it just to test the market but start upping rates based on projects and required expertise.
Do not compromise with your mode of livelihood.
If you do charge appropriately, heed these words:
- Be a good researcher.
- Be a good writer.
- Know how to pitch.
- Show off your experience.
- Understand the mind of a client
….and soon, you will be laughing your way to the bank.
4. You suck at client hunting.
If your job applications do not elicit any response or fewer responses, there is something terribly wrong. Client hunting is a skill no one can teach you. You need to learn it ‘on the job’. There are resources which are of help but ultimately, it boils down to your gut feeling.
At least, that is how it works for me.
- Take a deep look at your job applications. Are they tailored to client requirements?
- Improve your resume.
- Start an online portfolio.
- Revise writing rates and make it competitive but do not undersell. Underselling leads to dissatisfaction in the long run.
Read blogs maintained by established freelance writers. Most of them offer tips on pitching to clients.
Freelance writing is a lonely profession.
It is difficult to earn a steady income if you do not have the right mindset, contacts and the skill to understand the requirement of prospective clients.
As I say, it is not easy to sell words. You need to possess strong convincing skills.
Do you have that?
+Chitraparna Sinha is an experienced freelance content developer and the founder of EsmeeNetwork, a virtual classroom reaching out to teach new freelance writers ways to create sustainable freelance income. She also connects with content seeking startups and businesses to provide content development services and marketing strategies.